Razer Kitsune review: Is the next-gen Hitbox worth buying? cover image

Razer Kitsune review: Is the next-gen Hitbox worth buying?

The Hitbox, elevated. Here’s our review of the Razer Kitsune, an all-button fightstick of the highest quality–and highest learning curve.

One of the things I love about fighting games is that there's multiple ways to play. Comparatively speaking, it's one of the--if not the most--accessible esports genres out there. In what other type of game do players with vision issues, physical handicaps, hand issues, and more all still compete? And not just compete, but succeed. In reviewing the Razer Kitsune 'all-button' Hitbox-style arcade controller I found myself thinking about this adaptability in fighting games.

<em>Credit: Razer</em>
Credit: Razer

If you're confused by the 'all-button' moniker then allow me to use its street name: Hitbox. An underground favorite in the FGC for the past half-decade, this fight stick--minus the stick--is literally all face buttons. Yes, even the directional buttons for movement. And while this seems like it would be impossible to use, my experience with Razer's own iteration of the Hitbox design is one of freedom and ease of use.

Here's our review of the leverless Razer Kitsune which is $299.99 in Amazon.

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Editor's note: Razer supplied a review unit of the Kitsune for the purposes of this piece.

Hardware specs - Razer Kitsune

<em>Credit: Razer</em>
Credit: Razer

Here's some fast facts about the Razer Kitsune leverless controller that you'll want to know.

Price:
Size:
1.7 pounds, 296 mm / 11.66” (L) x 210 mm / 8.27”; (W) x 19.2 mm /0.75”(H)
Included:
3.1 m / 10.1 ft wired USB Type C to USB Type A cable
Compatibility:
PS5, PC (Windows) -- Not PS4
Features:
Cable lock, switch lock, moddable optical switches, removable top plate

Razer Kitsune review: First impressions

The first thing I noticed out of the box is the size of the Kitsune. Which is to say, its lack of size. Coming in under two pounds and a little under an inch in thickness, this Hitbox successor is astoundingly portable. This makes sense, as Razer PR told us in a call about the fight stick that their goal was creating a controller built to travel to tournaments.

This dedication to mobility shows, with a removable USB-C cord, button locks and a cord lock where the cord itself removes. This way, nobody has a hardware malfunction during a tournament and gets disqualified for an accidental pause or unplugged stick.

Along those lines, the sturdiness of the Razer Kitsune stands out. This is a strong, able-bodied device made of high-grade aluminum. Despite its size, absolutely no part of this controller feels cheap or brittle. That high price tag is certainly at work.

I also appreciate how the Kitsune is sturdy enough to be used either on your lap or on a flat surface. It's wide and big enough to support laying your wrist and hand on the stick itself. This is important, as the biggest hurdle this controller faces when it comes to my own style of play is also my darkest secret.

Razer Kitsune: Fightstick vs Hitbox

<em>Credit: Razer</em>
Credit: Razer

A not-small amount of the community will say that playing on a fightstick is the only way to go. However, I'd point to the likes of the french player Luffy winning the Street Fighter IV EVO tournament in 2014 while using an OG PlayStation controller.

So, the burning question: How weird does it feel to use four face buttons to move, in lieu of a stick? Not at all, if I'm being honest. For three of the buttons--back, down, and forward--the motion is as natural as gravity. In the case of performing special attack motions in something like Street Fighter 6 it's easier than rolling an analog stick.

After all, a fireball motion on the Kitsune is literally just pressing three buttons: Down, forward, punch. No down-forward, no messiness in the heat of battle of wildly grinding out the needed motion. In many ways it feels like doing Mortal Kombat's own dial-a-combo where all the inputs flow one after another.

However, the tricky part is working that up button into the mix. Sitting at the thumb of the left hand, it's a new thing as a long-time fighting game player to think about having what is basically a jump button. In these moments I felt like a dog trying to walk on its hind legs. Such is That Hitbox Life.

Learning to walk with the Razer Kitsune

Suddenly, I had to think extremely hard about the act of jumping in with an attack. The Razer Kitsune is a test of your hand-eye coordination, but also will reveal just how ambidextrous you are--or aren't. However, the hilarious flipside of this is that I found myself playing better on the 'player two' side of the screen than I ever have in my life.

After all, think about the motions of waving with just your fingers. I don't know about you, but performing this motion in reverse is not a natural movement that I find myself doing in daily life. And while this wave motion is simple, fast, and efficient one direction, doing it in reverse is cumbersome. And so is the case of trying to do in-game motions like a 360 spin required for the likes of Zangief's Spinning Piledriver.

<em>The Spinning Piledriver motion input.</em>
The Spinning Piledriver motion input.

It takes some practice, as well as cognisance of the motion you're trying to input. Funny enough, the ease of this did absolutely change on a game-by-game basis. The first fighter I tested with the controller was Ultra Street Fighter IV, as it's the game I have the most hours played. Attempting to play my main, Hakan, brought some frustration upon first blush. I found that I could only pull off his own 360 input moves from one side of the screen--the player two side.

With practise, moves can be performed quicker

<em>Credit: Razer</em>
Credit: Razer

It did take some work to eventually get it down, but the point stands that using the Razer Kitsune may require you to relearn (and undo) a lot of muscle memory. And at $300 USD we're talking a pretty big sunk cost fallacy for some folks. After all, a Hitbox type of controller may not be for everyone.

However, I found these motions much easier to pull off in Street Fighter 6. Odd? Not quite, as it's well known that Street Fighter IV is far more punishing in regards to input delay, latency, and frames. By the end of the week I was back to pulling off command throws with Mannon. In the case of SF6, I actually found it far easier to pull off the likes of Drive Rush cancel combos, probably the most difficult thing to perform in the game.

In general, using the Kitsune made almost all of my motions feel far more accurate, even in the heat of competition. That's far more than I can say for all the times I've mashed out a bunch of motions on a pad controller and hoped for the best.

Mileage may vary: PC

<em>Credit: Razer</em>
Credit: Razer

While built specifically for the PS5, the Kitsune is usable on Windows PC. However, I struggled to get the controller to work properly outside of Steam. This included an attempt to test the controller via fighting games on XBox Game Pass and GOG. In the former, Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition wouldn't even recognize all of the button inputs.

All that said, it worked wonderfully with every emulator I tried. Take that how you will.

Verdict: Razer Kitsune

Take it from a lifelong fightstick skeptic: The Razer Kitsune is the real deal. While the learning curve did feel bad in the moment, I absolutely love how the hardware performs. Moreso, it's just nice to have a fightstick that doesn't take up a massive amount of space while also doubling as a potential bludgeon, should thieves come in the dead of night.

However, this freedom of movement comes with one of the steepest learning curves possible when it comes to hardware. An expensive device as Hitbox controllers go, the Razer Kitsune is a beautiful and impressive piece of tech. But to get the most out of this leverless wonder you'll need the proper time, dedication, and maybe even a physical therapy session or two.

If you're considering the hefty asking price of a tradition fightstick then perhaps point that money towards Razer and its Hitbox iteration. You won't find a better constructed piece of hardware. And, in the process, you might find a new lease on life when it comes to the strain and demands that we all place on our hands.

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