Review: Hori Fighting Commander 3 PRO PlayStation 3 controller

Goddammit I hate to write that name. Why couldn’t it be called HORI Fight Pad 3?

This review comes out of necessity. There’s zero proper reviews on this controller outside OMGF B3S7 CONTROLLAR 4EVAH or the like. I’ve supported HORI’s products for a long time due their good build quality and decent pricing. At times they do something that they intent to be new and awesome, and at times they fail at making such a product.

I’m ditching FC3P pad against two other products; one of the cheapest arcade sticks out there (also made by HORI) and the Sega Saturn controller. If FC3P is as good as pretty much everybody on the Internet says, then it should come out as at least as good as the Saturn pad. I’ll be frank from the get go; this controller won’t replace your arcade stick, but we’ll see if it is a good alternative.

So let’s check what this little beast has going on.
The controller is unique in sense that it’s asymetrical. I know some people are going to miss the second handle, but I don’t. It gives a nice grip while allowing you to “piano” the face buttons, but also mimics the Saturn controller’s edges with excessive design. It’s not uncomfortable at all, but takes some time to get to. The placing of the buttons in this controller however rise a question which I’ll return later.

Turnable D-Pad, six-button layout, turbo mode, and changeable D-pad status. Also, four NORMAL shoulder buttons and not the triggery kind? Brilliant!

Let’s with functions starting from left to right. The D-pad can be turned from it’s upright position max. 20 degrees clockwise. In the image I’ve turned it about 9 degrees. The D-pad is without a doubt the best in the generation, as behind the controller you find a lock mechanism that decides how tight or loose it is. While the people who haven’t played a lot with the D-Pad won’t notice a significant changes with this, but personally I noticed that certain moves were easier to pull off when the D-Pad doesn’t go all bonkers. I’m looking at you, Dreamcast controller.

Finding the sweetspot for the angle is a tricky business. You open the lock with the wheel beneath the D-Pad, which feels somewhat mushy. Doesn’t affect the gameplay thou. It’s much easier to throw quarter-circles and half-circles when the D-Pad in proper position. The D-Pad itself is very good with nice concave shape, which allows your thumb to rest in there and do pretty much whatever you want with it. The surface is slightly textured which I like, and has a soft touched as opposed to your standard PS3 controller.

When compared to the Saturn controller the D-pad still feels a bit harsh. While the Saturn controller makes that small sound whenever one of the main directions is hit, FC3P stays silent. In general, you have to be more aware what direction you’re inputting with the FC3P. The disc shape of the Saturn controller also allows slightly better control over the simple D-Pad shape, as the whole area of thumb is there. Same amount of force goes for both. It’s hard to top the Saturn controller in general, and FC3P comes close, but these minor complaints puts it slightly lower in the Best D-Pad scale. However, seeing this is the best D-Pad since N64, there’s little to complain overall.

Disclaimer; I know pitching any controller against Sega Saturn controller is unfair as hell

When compared to an arcade stick, this D-Pad loses, at least when it comes to fighting games. Arcade stick is always better than a D-Pad.

Select, PS Home button and Start do what they should. There’s nothing to write about them. However, the DP-LS-RS dipswitch switch what the D-Pad really is. DP for D-Pad, LS for Left Stick and RS for Right Stick. This makes it possible to use with some games that don’t really support D-Pad or Sticks.

The Turbo function is what you’d expect. Press Turbo while pressing the buttons you want to be repeated. Adjust the speed with the dipswitch. Clean and cut, no worries here.

The shoulder buttons are an interesting entity, not because they’re anything special, but that there’s a switch that changed L and R buttons the other way around. The switch is located at the top of the controller and not visible in the pictures. The shoulder buttons are awesome because they’re basic and extremely working. For some reason I actually find myself using and enjoying them unlike with normal PS3 or 360 controller.

Now, the six buttons. Hooboy.
HORI decided to put the six buttons. The angle the buttons are to each other mimics extremely Saturn controller’s, but the buttons are slightly bigger, closer to each other. The shape and spacing gives an illusion of more room, but it really isn’t so. When holding it like a normal control the Square and Cross buttons feels slightly too far away, tiring your hand without a proper reason. With four buttons fighter like The King of Fighters XIII you can assign the attacks to the closest buttons to your hand, but there’s no real reason to look the fact that spacing is a bit bad. People with larger hands (ie. pretty much everybody beside the ladies) will find the spacing pretty comfortable. Actually, the spacing is explained by the fact that this controller was made for the US market in mind.

However, while holding the controller in your lap for piano play, the controller suddenly gets cramped and too small. It’s completely possible to play all the matches with this position, but it’ll take some time. At least the buttons are extremely awesome for this and offers far better controls and tactile feeling than any other control pad. If we put the arcade controller next to the piano method, we can see why arcade controllers are as large as they are; they offer more freedom of movement and space the buttons clearly and alongside the hand’s curve. The buttons are bigger and at better reach. With FC3P your hand is in a small slump while with arcade controller your hand basically rests on the buttons.

All in all, the tactile feeling in the buttons is as good as with the Saturn controller after some time getting used to them. However, the shape and no real distinction of what button is what lessens the usability. With Saturn the top row is different from the lower, and with the arcade controller you just know because arcade controllers. It also seems that these buttons are one-level pressure sensitive only, and some games didn’t even go past the title screen when tested on them, namely the newer 2D Bloodrayne. Damn, this controller would’ve been awesome for 2D games, but now the buttons won’t even make the game start.

Disclaimer; I know this arcade controller has shit buttons

Is the controller worth it?
If you do not have an arcade stick for your PS3 (like me) then this is an option. It offers far superior control over moves and methods than what a normal PS3 controller can’t offer, but it’s design has few minor flaws that limit its final grade. The biggest setback outside fighting games is that it literally doesn’t work with all games because of the action buttons. I’d believe this to be the foremost flaw in the design, but it has to be overlooked slightly because this is a fighting game controller specifically. You won’t be able to play games that need dual sticks to function either, but hey, most of them are pure concentrated subparity as it is so no losses there.

The idea in this controller is there, and the build quality and long USB cable do offer a fresh change. By all accounts this is indeed a decent controller. It won’t replace your arcade stick, but at least in fighting games this is the better game pad.

But y’know what’s the most single best thing in this controller? It works with Windows 7 (at least). Just plug it in and enjoy.