Hori has been in a roll with their arcade sticks this year. One of their major releases was the Fighting Edge line. A luxury-style stick while not being too expensive but still looking sleek and playable with Hori's own and well made arcade parts. Months after its release, Hori took the chance to give their other sticks, specifically the current Real Arcade Pro generation, that similar treatment for those who can't afford the Fighting Edge. The result is a mix of the old and new in the Real Arcade Pro V3-SA and VX-SA models. Is the bang enough for the buck?
The basic form factor is that of the same models as the previous series of Real Arcade Pro models for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The body has emphasis on width to accommodate different body types while the vertical aspect is short to allow a curved hand rest (instead of a more common flat rest). The body also features the helpful handles on both left and right sides. What makes the Kai models unique from the previous generation is the apparent Fighting Edge motif. It's all black with a minimalist but sleek art style, including the Kai kanji "改" meaning reform making the influence more obvious. Also added is a soft-leather foam on the bottom of the stick. It feels like a combination of the Fighting Edge's drawer-lining smoothness and the stability of felt material found on Qanba/Eightarc sticks. Compared to those, the Kai's soft-leather foam bottom works better than those two.
The control panel, now constructed of glossy sticker material, is that of the Taito Vewlix but for the Kai models, Hori took an opportunity to space the stick lever and the buttons a bit farther apart. The style is similar to that of Namco Noir arcade cabinet layouts. While it's not too noticeable when playing, it certainly makes a difference especially if your hands get in they way with each other. Now if you are playing a game like Tekken Tag Tournament 2 where movement requires some work on the lever, the spacing on the Kai models will prevent your hands from accidentally touching each. A subtle but efficient way to optimize a player's game. Unfortunately being the same exact model as the original Real Arcade Pro V3-SA and VX-SA models, the Kai series still has the issue of the start button just a bit away from the main buttons so mashers beware.
As a solution of sorts to the start button, Hori developed a new control panel on the top right of the stick. Start and the select/back button can be swapped in a flip of a switch. There isn't a disable option for those who prefer both service buttons off unfortunately. One of the other switches is an optimized turbo feature where instead of manual control over each button, it has simplified with a general switch and activation using the turbo button and the desired main button. While most players won't need turbo, the new version is more convenient than the original. Added in the control panel are the analog stick buttons and switches to swap the last two buttons on the playing panel for L3 and R3/LB and RB. While the analog buttons can be used for specific training options in some games, it can also act as a way to disable your last two buttons for those who prefer playing with the main six. The Xbox 360 receive a minor disadvantage by not receiving a d-pad/left stick/right stick switch.
The Real Arcade Pro V Kai models carry that Fighting Edge style in some aspects but it would have been better if Hori used more qualities of the luxury stick. With a glossy top panel, fingerprints will be noticeable so an extra cleaning cloth found on the Fighting Edge could have been helpful. Both versions come with full Sanwa Denshi lever and buttons, while Japan luckily receives the VX-SA with Seimitsu parts, but it should have been a good chance for Hori to use their own Hayabusa lever and Kuro parts.
Aside from what could have been better, the overall package is good enough to get a player's job done while featuring some welcoming upgrades. It shows that Hori is looking at the competition and willing to try different things. It's currently priced slightly more than the previous Real Arcade Pro generation and a bit less than the Soulcalibur V sticks. To answer the question early on in this review, for a non-dual modded stick series, the Real Arcade Pro V3-SA and VX-SA Kai models have enough bang for the buck.