Speaking as a guy who was a pad player for years and only switched to stick in earnest about a year ago…I think stick is objectively better, even in today’s console-based fighting game scene. Almost every executive maneuver imaginable in the great majority of games is easier on a stick (with practice…it is not easier the first time you sit down with it, but if you take breaks when you’re frustrated and come back to it regularly and fully charged, you will be surprised how fast your competency increases).
Things that are easier on a stick:
- Piano inputs/drumming (easier to get multiple fingers moving in concert than accurately flicking your thumb across even a Dual Shock’s “soft” face buttons)
- Mashing/multiple simultaneous button input (you basically HAVE to map a trigger to ABC/ABCD for pad KOF; for rapid Chang ball cancel on a stick you can easily just drum your palm on all four buttons with your weight concentrated on the A button and watch Chang moo rapidly and safely; in order to accomplish the same feat on pad with maximum speed you’d have to map a precious face button to ABCD)
- Rapid alternation of opposite directions (important for charge buffering/charge supers; you have to apply less force to gently jiggle the stick between two opposing switches; accomplishing the same thing on most pads with accuracy is utter hell on your left thumb)
- Rolling consecutive DP motions (CvS2 Sho-Sho-Sho/Paint the Fence)
- Links, links, LINKS! (Having the power and speed of multiple fingers to hit buttons with specific timing is a HUGE advantage of playing on a stick. Your poor thumb is a hell of a finger, but it just can’t move that fast even across buttons that are millimeters apart. If you’re gonna play a link-intensive game like SF4/CvS2, you’re going to want a stick BADLY, even for characters with braindead links like CvS2 Cammy.)
- Rapid button alternation for cancel mechanics (e.g. Roman Cancel, FADC, Garou Breaking) and “slide input” moves (K`'s 2k2 HSDM with qcb+C~A, or character-specific stuff like GGXX Johnny Mist Cancel/Yamazaki snake arm cancel in KOF)
The only maneuver I can think of that might be considered objectively easier on a pad versus a stick is IAD/rapid-fire dashing, but I think the other execution benefits of a stick VASTLY outweigh those on a pad.
With that said…I have been revisiting KOF '98 on stick lately after years playing it on pad, and I struggle so far with the difference of execution relative to Capcom games. I have progressed to the point where I can do jump-in combos into most specials fairly consistently (I make it a point to play low-execution characters like Ralf/Clark/Mai/Terry), but I struggle in particular with INPUTTING – let alone buffering – “SNK super” motions such as qcb, hcf + button or qcf, hcb + button. I can machine-gun Ebony Tears on a pad with no issues, but on a stick, I struggle to accomplish the same feat. I’m still not sure what exactly I’m doing wrong there.