Virtua Stick High Grade Review

by Mark Julio aka MarkMan

UPDATE: Thanks to PS3 firmware update 1.70, the VSHG now works with PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games!

With the arrival of both T5DR and Virtua Fighter 5 on the PLAYSTATION 3, fighting game fanatics have got to wonder… what arcade stick am I going to use when I go into battle? Granted there are a number of converters out there, but many people just want to plug in and start playing… Out of the three arcade sticks available for the PS3, the best deal out of the box has got to be Sega’s Virtua Stick High Grade. The VSHG retails at ¥7329 yen(about $62 USD) and is considerably cheaper than its direct competition, the Hori Real Arcade Pro 3(¥8379, about $72 USD).

The VSHG features the same arcade stick and buttons used in the official Virtua Fighter 5 arcade machine(Sanwa JLF-TP8Y-SK arcade stick and Sanwa OBSF-30 snap in buttons/OBSF-24 for Start). The stick is wired and plugs into the USB port on the front of the PS3(as a bonus it also works on PCs for emulators and MAME). The fact that the VSHG uses authentic arcade parts for both the lever and buttons immediately puts it as the forerunner for PS3 arcade sticks. The Hori Real Arcade Pro 3 does have a Sanwa arcade stick but it has generic Hori made buttons, but fear not Hori enthusiasts… a Hori Real Arcade Pro SA has been announced that features all Sanwa parts. The VSHG is slightly smaller than the typical HRAP stick and it is also heavier. It also has little rubber feet that prevent it from moving all over the place when placed on a table or on the floor.

One of the first things you might notice on the arcade stick is the layout of the buttons… Take a close look at the picture above, the face buttons are rotated counter-clockwise from the standard arcade stick layout. This layout enables Virtua Fighter 5 to be played just like the standard arcade button layout using the default setting on the PS3 game. Obviously if you’re going to be playing Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection you will need to remap the buttons in the options screen or you’ll have to do some rewiring… but more on that later.

The stick plays great. Until now, I’ve been using various converters and arcade sticks to play both T5DR and VF5. For most converters there is a few frames of input lag when playing, but when using the VSHG there is no lag and inputs are perfect. The stick plays like a dream for Virtua Fighter 5, after all it ain’t the “Virtua Stick” for nothing. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Japanese styled arcade sticks or Sanwa parts, the stick moves in full 360 degrees and is restricted by a square gate. It is a little loose and the little clicks you hear when moving the stick are the sounds of the directions being inputted. The VSHG works really well for T5DR as well… although it may take some getting used to as there have been some complaints going around about people having problems performing moves with 3 or more inputs involved(example Bryan’s 1+3+4 taunt or Jack-5’s f+1+2 used in juggle enders). It turns out that Sanwa buttons are a bit more sensitive than most buttons, but that isn’t a bad thing, it helps you become more precise in your physical input and helps improve window of error after continuous practice. For those of you that aren’t a fan of sensitive buttons, you’re in luck. The VSHG can easily be modified with other types of buttons such as other Sanwa types or even Seimitsu(as long as they are the same size; 30mm), although it is not recommended by Sega as it does void the warranty by opening up your stick. However if you do want to modify your arcade stick…

You will be greeted by this protective plate that houses the bottom of the arcade stick/buttons upon taking off the bottom cover. You will need a standard phillips screwdriver to take off the protective panel and the bottom plate of the arcade stick. Once doing so you’ll see this…

You’ll notice that the buttons each have their own colored wire and are connected using quick disconnects. This makes for worry free and solderless button swapping. Also for Tekken players, you can interchange the quick disconnects between buttons to make it the traditional 1,2,3,4 layout for T5DR. You may need to use pliers to remove the quick disconnect plugs as they are fastened on pretty tight. Changing the balltop to a Sanwa bat top or a different color/style ball top is definitely easy. All you have to do is hold the bottom part of the stick with a flathead screwdriver and simply unscrew the ball top off and replace it using the same method. If you want to change the entire stick mechanism, that may take more work and I’m certainly not going to help walk anyone through that. Just make sure you don’t lose any screws and close it up back tight if you do decide to swap out buttons/stick!

#1 Hori Real Arcade Pro 3 Virtua Stick High Grade
#2 Hori Fighting Stick 3 Hori Real Arcade Pro 3
#3 Virtua Stick High Grade Hori Fighting Stick 3

The Virtua Stick High Grade is definitely the best quality PS3 arcade stick out on the market right now, but to tell you the truth, in the end its all about preference. This stick is perfect for Virtua Fighter 5 and for Tekken 5: DR it has some issues, but if it doesn’t bother you, then keep playing… Just use what works best for you. Unfortunately the VSHG is not widely available in the US as of now, so you’ll have to import it or find one at an import store! You can always buy it today at Play-Asia !

Additional Pictures:

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Where to Buy:

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11 Responses to Virtua Stick High Grade Review

  1. Jimbo says:

    I have just bought it, for the price you say, the problem is I can’t use it in mame.

  2. B_Feck says:

    Mine works fine in MAME.

  3. polyh3dron says:

    Mine work perfectly in Mame.. I’ve done quite a few 3s rounds with them.

  4. MegaTroll says:

    I’m so lucky to have two(2) of this. You can hardly find one these days.

    Does anyone knows if this stick works with PS2 via USB?

  5. defcon says:

    i’ve got one and i love it to death. it’s like the next-gen version of the old school grey/yellow hori stick. total old -> new school appeal.

    the random failures at multi-button inputs REALLY, REALLY bothers me though. i notice this article points out that this is due to button sensitivity; conversations i’ve on irc suggest that it may be an issue with the VSHG PCB. can anyone confirm or relay their experiences in correcting the multi-button input issue?

  6. Bilal says:


    As far as I am aware, the PCB is needed to be replaced for multi-button input issue of VSHG. It isn’t related to sensitivity of buttons since people have been using custom sticks and/or HRAP with Sanwa buttons without any problem.

  7. segatasanshiro1 says:

    I recently bought a VSHG with an S engraved and I have absolute no problem with street fighter 4 and multi button input. This god like stick also works perfect in mame if you use joytokey (just google it)

    All in all i also love this stick to death, i would say it simply the best you can buy (with the street fighter 4 tournament stick; which looks ugly but plays as flawless like the VSHG)

  8. […] nothing about, make sure you check out this feature!  Seriously?  Hori Fighting Stick EX 2 over a VSHG and AIAB Custom?  You must be out of your […]

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  10. aurumraptor says:

    What’s the point of having the ability to modify the controller if it voids the warranty? It defies logic. Other than that, it’s a very well-built and durable stick (although I’d prefer Seimitsu over Sanwa parts, but that’s just me).

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