The fighting game community loves a good arcade stick. When they release, it’s like Christmas, except we're all excited to start kicking the snot out of each other with a shiny new stick rather than open presents and wish good will to all. The Nacon Daija is one of the latest sticks to hit the market, and it’s one of the sleekest-looking peripherals we’ve seen in a while. But, it’s not all form over function, as there’s a lot to love about real-world use when it comes to the Daija.
When first unboxing the Daija - at least the white PS5 version we reviewed - you are struck by its space-age looks that follow the design language of the PS5 console itself. The stick is pure white with black accents and buttons, and it has rounded edges at the front and back that, along with the smooth, matte plastic give an air of classiness. It’s a weighty beast, but there are thoughtful additions all over the place, like the stippled wrist rest that keeps your wrists in place sweat-free, which means no longer dropping opponents in Dragonov juggles (that’s right. Tekken is the best fighting game; you can take your hadoukens elsewhere).
The Nacon Daika, die-hard fighting game fans will be glad to know, comes with Sanwa components, including buttons and sticks. For those not in the know, Sanwa is the Japanese manufacturer behind almost all of the components for arcade cabinets in Japan. This is something competitors like Hori have been criticised for, as they use their own proprietary buttons. So, for those who want the quintessential Tokyo arcade experience, you’ll find it here.
The case opens by pressing a button on either side of the stick. It also locks open with a satisfying click so you can get to all the wires inside - handy for throwing in replacement buttons while you’re at EVO or some other Tekken tournament (look, I’ve told you…) and something goes wrong. Likewise, the wires to the buttons are all colour coordinated and the inputs are clearly marked. Want to swap out some buttons for a snazzy new Sanwa colour combo? The Daija makes that easy.
The Daija also comes with tools that allow you to work on the stick and a bat top stick type in case you’re one of those people that plays with a Korean stick. You’ll also find the cable in here that connects the stick to your console or PC of choice. It’s a USB-C to normal USB and not some kind of proprietary design like we saw on the Mad Catz TE2+. This means if something goes wrong, replacing the cable is cheap and easy - and something always goes wrong when you’re gloating post-game.
Nacon has included all the usual suspects when it comes to functionality. You can lock all buttons except the stick and inputs so you don’t accidentally bring up console dashboards in the heat of the moment, you can toggle which analogue stick (or d-pad) the joystick controls, and you can access menus via the touchpad and options buttons. They’ve included a 3.5mm jack on the bottom to connect your headphones to as well, which is something often overlooked when it comes to FGC peripherals.
Nacon worked with fighting game legend Kayane to design the Daija, and it really shows in the small details. For example, when you’ve plonked the stick in your lap, the rubberised grip holds the arcade stick firmly and there’s no sliding around like can happen with other sticks. The rounded edges mean there aren’t any pressure points on your wrists to make you uncomfortable in long-term use. And, most importantly, there is zero creaking from the Daija, even when you really lean on it mid-fight as there is with fan-favourites like the TE2+. You can see Kayane’s experience on display everywhere and it’s fantastic.
I’ve mentioned the MadCatz TE2+ throughout and that’s because it’s been my daily-driver for years now. The TE2+ was the last clamshell-style tournament stick that was widely adopted by the FGC and certainly carved out a space for functional sticks that were meant to be taken to in-person LAN tournaments like EVO. Nacon’s Daija takes what was good about the TE2+ and polishes it to perfection. While Mad Catz’s TE2+ creaks; the Daija is solid as a rock. Where the TE2+ is outdated; the Daija comes with all the latest features like USB-C and a headphone jack. Whereas the TE2+ feels like a shiny plastic toy; the Daija is classy and refined.
The Nacon Daija takes everything you could want in a fight stick and bundles it into one package. Sure, it doesn’t set the world on fire in terms of innovation - but how ground-breaking can you be when it comes to using Sanwa parts? It’s a stick that - no doubt due to Kayane - looks at what FGC members need and polishes it to perfection.
If looking to purchase an arcade stick for your next tournament, you can’t go wrong by slipping the Nacon Daija into your backpack next time you’re heading out the door to compete at your next tournament. It ticks the Sanwa box, it ticks the customisable box, and it ticks the quality box - there really is nothing to dislike about the Nacon Daija, and it’s one of the most exciting sticks to come out in years.