Interview with Custom Fightstick Guru Aaron Wright of SoujiStiks

March 15, 2011, By Christian Davis

If you have any fight game, but no fight stick, consider yourself an amateur. Having a fight stick is not only expected, but is also very eye catching. The standard controller is nice, but nicely designed arcade that can stand out from the others is a welcomed addition to the fight game scene.

There are a lot of custom arcade stick designers out there and it’s going to be tough to tell which are great and which need to be passed by. One guy who is considered great is Aaron Wright of Soujistiks.com. Unlike other creators, he makes his arcade sticks out of wood which is a welcomed change to normal arcade stick casing.

Soujistiks was created in 2007 to service both the casual and competitive fighting game community. Southern California raised, Wright had fond memories of the arcade scene and desired to recreate the experience for the at home gamers. Experimenting with a few for himself, he then expanded and began receiving commissions from others around the world.

Aaron was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions with us.

The one thing that sets you apart from other arcade stick creators is the fact that you use wood. Does that make your costs higher?

In some cases yes, but not by much. I do a most of my purchasing through wholesale lumber shops to keep cost down as much as possible, but depending on the wood types (exotics) that are used for a build it can affect the overall cost of your custom. There are however some real benefits outside of style to picking up an exotic wood stick, such as weight and durability that a lot of the exotic woods offer far exceed the additional cost incurred.

What kind of wood do you use?

That depends on my customers request for their custom, though my goal is to someday work with them all. Every wood type has its own unique beauty and characteristics which is in large part why I like to work with natural wood. As an artist I am a big fan of capturing things in the moment and the wooden cases are the perfect medium for doing just that.

How often do your customers choose to have their cases made of wood?

I would say 90-95% of my customer base seem to favor the natural wood or stained wood over other materials.

What’s the design process like for you?

Busy but a lot of fun. Typically a customer will make contact with a rough idea of what they have in mind for a custom stick. From there we decide on a wood type, button layout, and case size/design. Once that’s done it’s off to the lumber shop to hunt down the best possible slabs of the wood for the build and straight to my shop to be machined.

The finishing process used takes a few weeks to achieve that mirror finish synonymous with Soujistiks, so while that’s going on I’ll usually contact the customer to get all the details ironed out for the stick art. After the case has dried it’s just a matter of installing the internals, a quick photo shoot, and off to the customer to play to their hearts content.

Are you the only person making these or do you have help?

From start to finish Soujistiks is a one man shop. As a tradesman there is a bit of you that goes into every build, and that’s not something I think you can recreate when outsourcing  the work with these types of projects. A lot of the vet builders like Norris arcade sticks, Byrdo, and Bigpockets who were all big inspirations ran similar  1 to 2 man shops so I’m trying to keep with that same personable feel when you place an order. Though credit where it’s due my wife Jennifer is the dedicated shipping gal for the business and does an amazing job.

When it comes to the parts, which are your favorite?

The Sanwa Flash would be my favorite stick, with the Happ competition as a backup for that old school American cab feel.

Has there been anything you couldn’t build?

As a student of the school of glue and duct tape, I don’t believe in can’t when it comes to building things.

What’s the most extravagant stick you’ve made?

That would be the new Godhand stick retailing at 500.00. I wanted to put something out there for the more than casual gamer that would provide multi-console support and last a lifetime.

The casing is made from a block of highly figured Maple wood, and features a metal control panel insert drilled to exact arcade specs. Out of the box the stick is compatible with 360,PC, PS1, PS2, PS3,Wii, Gamecube, and several others with cables for 5 of the most popular consoles included with your purchase.

The case bottom also comes with a reinforced lexan bottom plate for inserting bottom art and has screw inserts for the feet.  I expect to have the first model available for purchase this summer so be on the lookout as there will be a special offer for the first 3 customers.

What are some of your favorite fighting games?

I’m a big fan of 3rd strike, and am eagerly awaiting the re-release. Outside of that SSF4, MVC3, and NGBC would be the other house favorites when I’m not building.

What’s the meaning behind your company name?

I’m a big anime fan and history buff, so Souji comes from the anime and mangas about the Shinsengumi. Stiks sounded catchy and gave me and excuse to repeat the company name when giving out the web address so I ran with it.

What would your dream arcade stick be?

An Ebony wood stick with a Sanwa Flash1 and a fresh set of OBSF-30RG Snap-in buttons. A bottom mounted slide out tray to  hold my pizza bites wouldn’t be frowned on at all.

What are the prices of your arcade sticks?

Prices start at $275.00 and top off at $500.00 for completed sticks. Blank cases range from $75.00 – $200.00

Last question Aaron, Is there anything you’d like to let the fans and customers know?

To my customer and fans I would say thank you for you very much for your business and continued support.  As a company Soujistiks will only continue to strive harder to bring you nothing but the best in custom fightsticks!

Find more of Aaron’s work at his website Soujistiks.com. Send him some kind words or even buy a stick!

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