Hands On With The Upcoming Octopus Arcade Stick

I love a good beat ’em up and for the past week I’ve been going hands on with the upcoming Octopus Arcade Stick from TR Fight Stick for SEGA Dreamcast.

What makes the Octopus stand out, however, is how it is designed to be used with multiple different consoles and not just SEGA’s final games machine.

Plenty of retro gamers enjoy games across a multitude of different consoles, so it’s delightful to have a device that could easily plug into a range of different machines, despite its obvious leanings towards the Dreamcast.

With a vast array of fighting games on several generations of consoles, how well does the Octopus replicate the feeling of an arcade cabinet while delivering lightning fast performance that’s required in 2024?

I’ve been putting it through its paces to find out!

First Impressions Are Everything

Octopus Arcade Stick

First impressions on the aesthetics of the Octopus are solid. The unit itself is a pleasingly chunky block that suggests durability will be a major selling point. This prototype unit has a 3D printed outer shell, but the final product will enclosed within a injection moulded case.

The distinctive Octopus artwork adorns the top of the controller, and the candy pink buttons and joystick really pop. The artwork might not be to everybody’s taste, but TR Fight Stick have confirmed that the plates can be easily personalised with swappable designs.

Octopus Arcade Stick back

Those striking designs are printed on the same material used in traditional fighting cabinets for that authentic arcade feeling.

The top edge includes the output for the wired connection, the Start button, and a handy tournament lock switch to disable the Start button during competitions.

The Dreamcast VMU

Octopus Arcade Stick VMU

Sitting near the top of the unit is the built in VMU. In fact, the Octopus hosts 10 NexGen VMU memory cards with a beautiful LCD screen.

My face lit up when the animations for Soul Calibur played out on this thing. Seeing the sassy Ivy alive and well on that little screen is a joy.

The multiple VMUs are hosted on an internal SD card and will provide generous storage for all of your save data and profile settings. Exactly how the VMU will function with other platforms isn’t clear at this stage, but I’m hopeful TR Fight Stick include some fun visual flourishes whenever it’s plugged into anything other than a Dreamcast.

The VMU Switcheroo

One thing for gamers to consider is that switching between the 10 VMUs is rather cumbersome. If you’re used to administering combos in the best retro fighting games, then you might not struggle. But for many, swapping the VMU by holding 4K + 4P + Start and using the joystick to navigate different units is a bit clumsy. I’d like to see greater accessibility incorporated in the final product.

After this article was published, TR Fight Stick reached out to us and confirmed that the final product will incorporate an easier way to switch the VMUs following our feedback.

Octopus Arcade Stick

In addition to the VMU, the top of the unit is home to three buttons to activate the SOCD Remover function, switch between Analogue and Digital Modes and the Turbo button.

The SOCD Remover wasn’t active on my demo unit so I wasn’t able to test how well it operates during my playtime. When enabled it will aid competitive players to maintain movement accuracy when using the stick without accidental directional mishaps.

The Analogue and Digital Modes switch functions as expected, allowing players to choose between the two input modes when using the joystick.

Finally, the Turbo button has a simple programmable option to make any of the face buttons enter turbo mode, allowing for rapid buttons inputs when required.

Plays Like A Dream

Octopus Arcade Stick

My first foray into battle with the Octopus Arcade Stick was on Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast.

Honestly, I was a little skeptical at first. I’ve been burned before when it comes to new peripherals for retro consoles.

As it turns out, my fears were unfounded. From the moment my Dreamcast whirred into life, the Octopus was snappy and responsive.

Finding a controller or arcade stick that excels is a double edged sword. On the one hand, the minimal latency is a dream to experience but it also removes my primary excuse whenever I lose a round!

Octopus Arcade Stick

From what I can tell at this stage, I will have to just put the time in and practice my combos more as there’s no discernable latency introduced to gameplay thanks to the Octopus Arcade Stick’s bespoke wired connection.

The wired connection makes use of a modified Ethernet cable that ensures ultra-low latency, a necessity for anyone that’s serious about their beat ’em ups.

Feels Just Like It Should

It’s not just the wire that’s punching either, with that faithful arcade feel coming courtesy of authentic SANWA components.

I grew up seeking out the best fighting games in my local arcades and was almost always disappointed by loose buttons and slippery joysticks.

There were rare occasions when I’d find a new cabinet, unsoiled by years of abuse and button mashing. I vividly remember playing Tekken Tag Tournament in a well-known toy store in London back in the day and experiencing what a new arcade cabinet should feel like it.

The Octopus has that feeling too. Button inputs are tactile and responsive with the buttons perfectly positioned for me to unleash my favourite combos in Soul Calibur.

Octopus Arcade Stick

During my time with the Octopus, I’ve played with the stick on my desk but also on my lap. Playing with the unit on my desk felt comfortable and the stick stayed in place thanks to the two large foam pads on the underside.

Obviously the desk is a preferable set up but gamers who don’t have a suitable flat surface in front of their monitors needn’t worry about using this stick on their legs, as the whole thing is light enough to remain comfortable even during lengthy play sessions.

Action Packed Pedigree

Octopus Arcade Stick back

This prototype stick was sent to Dodo Towers from TR Fight Sticks’ HQ in Istanbul Turkey. This exciting new peripheral is the brainchild of TR Fight Sticks’ head honcho, Yunus Emre, who, in a previous life was (and I suppose still is) an award-winning stuntman and action director known for his work on James Bond movie Skyfall, among numerous other movies and TV shows.

Emre’s action packed pedigree shines through in the marketing of the Octopus. The CEO even stars in the minute long trailer for his new product where he goes hand-to-hand with a room full of ruffians before unveiling the Octopus Arcade Stick to a bewildered brawling enthusiast.

How Many CEOs do you see starring in their own product commercials… especially ones as amazing as this! Credit: TR Fight Stick

IndieGoGo Gadget Arcade Stick

Funding for the production of the Octopus Arcade Stick has come from an IndieGoGo campaign. TR Fight Stick originally targeted $12,000 to bankroll the new peripheral but had smashed through the original goal within six hours and currently has a whopping 687% funded at the time of writing.

Those gamers that have already backed the Octopus have taken advantage of a sizeable discount offered for early adopters, and the suggested $400 price tag may deter all but the most serious fighting game enthusiasts.

If you play beat ’em ups across multiple consoles, however, then the Octopus could represent better value than buying a new peripheral for each system.

The Octopus will be compatible with a range of consoles that will appease brawlers who like to play across multiple systems. Compatibility with Nintendo Switch, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, PC, Analogue Pocket Dock, MISTer FPGA and Steam Deck are already confirmed.

The new stick will also play nicely on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 thanks to a collaboration between TR Fight Stick and Brook Gaming.

I’m a fan of Brook Gaming’s previous PlayStation centric efforts and have used their PS2 Super Converter for a cheap and reliable wireless solution for years.

Octopus Arcade Stick

By exceeding the original fundraising target, the manufacturer hopes to provide functionality across even more retro consoles in time for the worldwide launch in June.

Thanks to the efforts of the IndieGoGo community, the Octopus will also now be ready to put up its dukes on the original Xbox, with Xbox 360, NEO GEO and SuperGun Compatibility all on the cards if the demand is there.

10% of the funding from backers will also go towards supporting earthquake recovery efforts in Turkey following devastating natural disasters in the region in February last year.

It’s (Mostly) A Knockout!

Octopus Arcade Stick

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time using the Octopus Arcade Stick over the past week. As a lifelong fan of beat ’em ups I can tell when a controller isn’t up to snuff, either in the materials used or if latency becomes an issue.

My experience with this prototype leaves me optimistic that TR Fight Stick will be able to bring the same high-quality user experience to other consoles and PC. I’m personally excited to take the Octopus for a spin with the upcoming Tekken 8.

The high cost of entry is going to be a concern for many players, but if TR Fight Stick can nail the integration with other platforms besides the Dreamcast, then my anxiety around the ticket price may subside.

I’m also not a fan of the awkward VMU switching, but hopeful that could be rectified before launch.

For now, the solid build quality, customisable face plates and that beautiful wired connection suggest that the Octopus is going to be a strong contender when it steps into the ring later this year.

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