You should buy a fightstick that is good and compatible with your console. More specifically, you should pay attention to:
This is the most important metric. You buy an arcade stick because you want to improve your game. This means that it does not matter how an arcade stick looks if it gives you the results you desire. Arcade sticks that perform well usually have good hardware.
First, you have to make sure that the arcade stick is compatible with your platform of choice. Generally speaking, you should look for an arcade stick with an average size and weight to make it comfortable on both your lap and a table. If you had to pick between lap and table, it is best to go with the arcade stick that is more comfortable on your lap because your lap is what you will consistently have to place your arcade stick on when you play outside your home. However, you might have a specific requirement such as small size and light weight.
Finally, although most arcade sticks have long cables, you might have a specific requirement if you like to sit a certain distance away from the TV. Some arcade sticks are actually wireless, but input lag and reliability are a concern for most serious fighting gamers.
Apart from the buttons, the highlight of an arcade stick’s performance is usually the joystick. Whether it is the Japanese style or the Korean style, and whether the gate is square or octagonal, it should be flexible. It should not rush back to neutral once you let go of the joystick after inputting a direction. In addition, it should not expect you to hit up or down perfectly in order to register an input in that direction.
What separates good buttons from bad buttons is usually how much bounce they have. You want the buttons to be pressed only when you mean to press them, not when you rest your fingers on them. In addition, you do not want to have to mash them to register an input. There should be adequate travel distance, and you should be given enough feedback that you actually pressed a button. Partially silent buttons are the way to go as they do not instantly reveal your inputs to your opponent next to you, but they are still minimally loud to the point that you receive an audio cue.
There should be plenty of space for you to rest your wrists. Whether or not your wrists are receiving support can make or break your arcade stick experience. In addition, the overall layout of the components should be optimized for your comfort. That includes the distance from the buttons to the joystick and their distance to the edges of the arcade stick and so on. The two most popular layouts are perhaps the Vewlix layout and Noir layout.
Many arcade sticks come with a compartment where you can store your cable and sometimes even more. Cables are either detachable or go inside the compartment while staying connected to the arcade stick. The reason you will see a lot of players wrapping their cables around their arcade stick is because of how inconveniently a compartment is set up. The best type seems to be when there is a button that allows the arcade stick to fully open, revealing storage space within. Otherwise, there may be a compartment with a magnetic door. If not, a standard door can be present, but it is usually at risk of breakage due to overuse. Some arcade sticks have handles that allow carriage like a bag.
Modding is quite popular. Some arcade sticks are easier to mod than others. That usually stems from the developers’ effort or lack thereof to make an arcade stick modding friendly, repairs included. Optimally, an arcade stick can be opened with no screwdrivers, buttons are not soldered directly onto the PCB or printed circuit board, and the artwork comes in the form of removable plexiglass. In addition, it is nice to be able to mod an arcade stick without voiding a warranty.
Besides the color of the joystick, buttons, and frame, a large factor that determines the aesthetic caliber of an arcade stick is the artwork on the top panel. The artwork should be nuanced enough but not to the point of distraction. In addition, the arcade stick should not scratch nor smudge easily.
You might have special requirements such as being free of animal products or products that have been tested on animals. There is at least one arcade stick that features leather.
The better arcade stick should always be chosen despite the potential difference in price with another counterpart. That is because better equipment can simply lead to more W’s on the scoreboard given the same effort. However, to be realistic, not everyone has an unlimited budget, so one should buy the best arcade stick that is affordable. If anything, one should avoid arcade sticks that are a limited edition due to their exclusive artwork when there may exist an identical unit that is much cheaper. Artwork is almost always changeable, although some arcade sticks make it hard to do so.