Fans of retro gaming who will accept nothing but original hardware are in a difficult spot in 2019. Systems from the '80s and '90s aren't getting any younger, and as time goes on, failure rates are only heading in one direction: up. These classic systems are robust, but they weren't built to last forever, and it's par for the course to expect a little bit of clean-up and maintenance if you're serious about vintage gaming in the modern era. At the low end, this might involve sanitising a well-used controller that's covered in more than 20 years of accumulated gunk, to the more extreme, which could be replacing failed capacitors on the main board or bleaching the console's casing to turn it from that sickly yellow to its original white.
Even then, there are times when even the most dedicated fix-up will only take you so far, and the element of the console which is in constant use – the controller – is at high risk. Again, these pads were designed to withstand years rather than decades of torment, and it's not unusual to find controllers from the '80s and '90s in particularly poor states today. These are products which have been subjected to untold hours of battering and we've all no doubt seen the effects that constant usage can have on these devices. As a result, pads for classic systems that are in good working order are becoming more and more desirable, especially as they're no longer in active production and can't easily be replaced, like you can with a broken Switch Joy-Con or PlayStation 4 DualShock.
This is where Retro-Bit comes in. You might remember the name from its range of clone systems which play a wide range of retro games, or from its 'new' SNES and NES releases. Retro-Bit has signed an official licencing deal with Sega to create controllers for its Genesis / Mega Drive and Saturn home consoles, and these come in both 'original' and USB flavours (before you get too excited, the USB pads sadly don't work on Switch when in docked mode). Bluetooth versions are also expected later this year which will be bundled with receivers that allow them to be used with original hardware, and they'll naturally work 'out of the box' with any device capable of Bluetooth controller support.
Retro-Bit has made a big deal of the fact that the pads have been constructed to the same standard as the real thing, and that Sega has been involved every step of the way; this isn't just some lazy attempt by Sega to gain a bit more coinage via a sloppy licence (which has been guilty of in the past, on more than one occasion). The upshot for fans is that they now have a renewed supply chain when it comes to classic controllers, meaning that it's no longer the luck of the draw when it comes to sourcing second-hand pads online.
At first glance, Retro-Bit certainly seems to have done Sega fans proud here. Both pads (which are available in plain black or in a transparent edition) look almost indistinguishable from the originals; it's only the embossed Retro-Bit logo on the back of the controller that gives the game away. When you pick them up, this sensation is maintained; they feel fantastic and possess the same kind of heft as the real thing. The plastics used are also such a close match we struggled to tell them apart at one point. It's also worth noting that both controllers come with a generous 10ft cable, which means you can play on the couch in even the most spacious of living rooms. So far, so good.
However, as any seasoned gamer will tell you, the proof is in how a pad controls. No two controllers have ever been alike in the history of gaming, and even pads which appear on the surface to look the same often have massive differences when it comes to how the buttons react to a firm press and how the D-Pad performs under pressure. The good news is that Retro-Bit has been doing its homework and both the Genesis and Saturn controllers feel like the genuine equivalents – for the most part, at least.
First things first, the rolling D-Pad on both pads is utterly, utterly superb. It's responsive and comfortable to use and is arguably the dream interface for games like Street Fighter. Because it rolls smoothly, executing those quarter and half-circle inputs is a breeze. This is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of a controller to properly nail, and Retro-Bit has passed with flying colours.
The buttons are equally agreeable, although we do have some reservations – at least when it comes to the Saturn pad, anyway. The Genesis controller's buttons are perfect, and even have the same dull 'click' that the ones on the original Sega version do. No complaints as far as the 16-bit pad goes, at least not from us. While few Genesis games support the six button layout, the pad is a million times more comfortable than the 3-button controller the console launched with in 1988, and Retro-Bit's USB version (which, unlike the standard model, comes with shoulder buttons as well) is the perfect MAME controller for your PC.
With the Saturn pad, the buttons feel great, but there's something we can't quite put our finger on (no pun intended) when compared to the original pad. The buttons are responsive but possess a sponginess that we don't recall feeling back in the day. We say 'recall' because the only original Saturn pad we have in the office has definitely seen better days; its buttons have been mashed almost to the point of being totally useless thanks to countless angry games of X-Men vs. Street Fighter. It could well be that our memory has betrayed us and this is how our Saturn controller felt way back in 1994, but it's certainly... different. Not that this has any impact on the pad's performance when it comes to gameplay; the buttons are responsive and easy to press. The shoulder buttons, however, aren't micro-switched like they were on the original, so they don't click when you press them. This doesn't affect their responsiveness but might displease some hardcore Sega purists.
One issue we did have with the black Saturn pad is that the Start button kept sticking to the sides of the case, leading to 'phantom' button presses. When pushed hard, the button actually stayed down, and wouldn't return to its 'off' position without a second press to loosen it. We're assuming this is a production issue (these are pre-release samples) and this will be addressed when the final product hits store shelves, but it's disappointing that such an issue should even exist on a controller that was, let's face it, designed and tested 25 years ago. The 'Slate Grey' pad – based on the 'Skeleton' controller that was exclusive to Japan back in the day – worked without issue, and the black USB version we were sent was also fine, so we're willing to chalk this one down to bad luck rather than an issue with all of the black Retro-Bit Saturn pads.
Retro-Bit has come under fire in the past for cutting corners on some of its products, but it's clear that this collaboration with Sega is a matter of pride for the firm; both of these controllers have been designed and manufactured to the same specification as the pads on which they are based, and offer Sega fans a viable means of replacing their ageing controllers without having to pay through the nose on the secondary market. The slightly different feel to the Saturn controller's buttons – and the (hopefully) limited issue we had with the black Saturn pad's Start button – count against it, but in practice, these are a dream to use and well worth a look if your existing pads have seen better days.
Review units provided by Retro-Bit.
This article was originally published by nintendolife.com on Tue 26th February, 2019.
I will probably purchase a few for my Mega SG!🎮
No bluetoooth no buy
Does the MG USB one work for Switch and games like SEGA Ages or Mega Drive Classic Collection? Thanks
If I’m not mistaken, there was a huge quality difference between the different print runs of the original Sega Mega Drive controllers when they were released. I don’t recall if it was amongst the three button versions, or amongst the six button versions, but there was something about the colours of the letters that told you which version you should pick up.
@Damo Do you have an adapter for the Switch like the Mayflash Magic-NS? If so, could you test one of these USB pads with it if you get a chance?
I was holding off on Pre-Ordering these until I heard about their quality. I may have to reconsider that now. The Blue Genesis Controller is looking really good right now.
Might be a silly question (sorry if I missed it somewhere as I’ve had a long day) but do these work out the box for the switch? And if not will the Bluetooth ones work with switch when they are released?
Already pre-ordered. Saturn Pad is the best I ever had. All those moments (will be lost... 😭) with X-Men VS Street, Marvel VS Street, Street Zero 3, Vampire Savior and so much more...
So glad of this reviews.
And I hope they will get Switch compatible asap !
These are my two favorite styles of control pads. I'm glad to see these designs available again. I have quite a few originals with a couple of adapters if needed for USB(the Saturn pads are great on modern, retro-style games like Shovel Knight), but it would be nice to have native USB as another option. I'll have to take a good look at this.
@jobvd You seemed to have missed this little bit of text at the end of the third segment of text in the article:
"Bluetooth versions are also expected later this year which will be bundled with receivers that allow them to be used with original hardware, and they'll naturally work 'out of the box' with any device capable of Bluetooth controller support."
I will wait for the bluetooth version instead but these are good for those who still got them old system and want a good controller to game.
I have heard mixed things about Retro Bit controllers
@ThanosReXXX i did miss that. This makes it so much more interesting.
@jobvd Well, there you go. Just no release date for those yet, but I'm sure they'll arrive not too long after these ones.
Is this site still Nintendo Life?
Because besides the Master System, I don't care about consoles other than Nintendo ones.
I will be buying 2 of the 6 button original pads for my CDX. But what I really want to know is if the USB Saturn Pad is compatible with the Super RetroCade . . . .
Likely will grab a USB pad to try out.
Also don’t know about X-Men vs Street Fighter but Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter had a Stellar soundtrack.
@damo Glad to see the note about affiliate links below the article. I don't see a note about the article being sponsored though. Do you guys have to send these controllers back? Or are these sponsored items you get to keep (per ftc definition).
Also since this is a Nintendo focused site, please indicate in the review if they work with Nintendo products. I know there is space in the article. The first two big paragraphs were filler story.
I'm more interested in the bluetooth version, however this review bodes well for it. Now the only thing that can go bad is the battery life and the response lag. I'm crossing my fingers.
@Tim_Vreeland These are review units. This isn't sponsored content.
@Bomberman64 That is why I am waiting for the 8bitdo genesis ones, theirs are lag free or in other words the same or less than any other controller which is sweet.
@Jokerwolf yeah I'm keeping an eye on both of them
For anybody interested in wired for original hardware, Hyperkin GN6 is imo a very, very good pad with no flaws I can find.
@jobvd same, I have 3 kids and cords are a no go in my house
Also I can't wait for the wireless N64 Tribute controller modeled after the Hori minipad
So, overall, slick. This is the kind of retro love I appreciate. When it's done right everyone wins.
Now, let's make a proper Genesis/Mega Drive Mini to the same standard all-round, and with a whole bunch of the very best games for that system onboard. And how about a Saturn Mini while we're at it. A Dreamcast Mini would also be awesome, but that's probably a push at this point.
Pretty cool that these exist and are of decent quality. Like you guys said, those original controllers aren't gonna last forever.
Though I have to argue, the kind of wealthy people with these crazy awesome game rooms might indeed have rooms big enough where a 10 foot cable isn't enough. lol
The rolling D-Pad is such a brillaint design. I have no idea why the other console makers never adopted it. Nintendo could certainly use it given their very shaky recent history of D-Pads dating back to the GameCube Controller.
Will be picking up a bluetooth Saturn controller or two when they arrive.
@Damo If you don't have to return the review units, the FTC considers them gifts/payment, and the review, a sponsored review. That is why I asked if they have to be returned, if you could please answer that question, and those of the other commenters here ask about compatibility with any Nintendo products. Thank you.
@Tim_Vreeland We get sent review units for all kinds of things, including software and hardware. These aren't for 'sponsored' posts - these items are required for us to do our job as reviewers. That's how the entire industry works.
The review already says that the USB pads don't work on Switch, and the Bluetooth versions aren't out yet, so they cannot be tested.
Even if I'm stuck using it with my laptop, I think I'm gonna have to get one of these to tide me over until the bluetooth ones come out. I was put off by the sticks which take away from the authenticity, but Outrun is better with analogue for steering, and if we're to eventually get Saturn and Dreamcast games on the Switch, it should cover all our Sega needs. Having a home button doesn't really hurt either.
Cheers for the review @Damo, and don't let anyone put you off writing more articles like this for the site. After all, you're not really living your (ahem) Nintendo life to the fullest if you don't dabble in a bit of Sega every now and then.
From Retro-bit's twitter: "Hello, we will be releasing an updated version of the Genesis and Saturn USB wired gamepads in the coming months that will support the Switch out of the box. Our upcoming 2.4 ghz wireless and Bluetooth controllers will be Switch compatible. "
Why is NintendoLife writing about these when they don't work with any Nintendo hardware? Bizarre.
@ReaderRagfihs He added that part in later. Look at his response to @Tim_Vreeland:
"The review already says that the USB pads don't work on Switch".
Yeah, now it does, after he edited it. But it didn't say that yesterday when Tim and others were asking the question. He could have come back with a comment acknowledging that Switch compatibility should have been mentioned in the first place (who would have thought so many readers of a Nintendo website would be concerned about that?!), but he's gone for the sneaky edit instead.
Indeed. Journalistic integrity on shakey ground to me personally right now.
Damien. Yes review units get sent out to reviewers all the time, that is indeed how the industry works. I'm not disputing that. But the part you are dodging, is my question about the review units being returned. Some companies send out review units that must be returned after the review is completed. The FTC does not consider this compensation, and it does not need to be disclosed Some companies let the reviewer keep the review unit. The FTC classifies that as a gift, or compensated review. It is required that you disclose this information when you publish your review.
Surely you can see why the FTC requires this. The FTC doesn't want reviews to be swayed by the free review units. Some companies will stop sending review units to reviewers who give negative reviews of their products. That creates a pressure on the reviewer to make a more positive review, so they can continue to keep receiving free review units. That is why the reader deserves to be informed if the review entity received a free product (the review unit).
The FTC wrote up an example that specifically covers video games:
"Example 7: A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert
maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming
experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware
and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game
system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his
blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. Because his review is
disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the
advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the
video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the
value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they
attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously
disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. The manufacturer should
advise him at the time it provides the gaming system that this connection should be
disclosed, and it should have procedures in place to try to monitor his postings for
FTCs website also has this to say:
"In addition, the Guides say, if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed. For example, if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer, the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear. The same is usually true if the endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the product. The reason is obvious: Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement.
Say you’re planning a vacation. You do some research and find a glowing review on someone’s blog that a particular resort is the most luxurious place he has ever stayed. If you knew the hotel had paid the blogger hundreds of dollars to say great things about it or that the blogger had stayed there for several days for free, it could affect how much weight you’d give the blogger’s endorsement. The blogger should, therefore, let his readers know about that relationship.
Another principle in the Guides applies to ads that feature endorsements from people who achieved exceptional, or even above average, results. An example is an endorser who says she lost 20 pounds in two months using the advertised product. If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what people will generally achieve using the product as described in the ad (for example, by just taking a pill daily for two months), then an ad featuring that endorser must make clear to the audience what the generally expected results are."
Another example from the FTC:
"I have a YouTube channel that focuses on hunting, camping, and the outdoors. Sometimes I’ll do a product review. Knife manufacturers know how much I love knives, so they send me knives as free gifts, hoping that I will review them. I’m under no obligation to talk about any knife and getting the knives as gifts really doesn’t affect my judgment. Do I need to disclose when I’m talking about a knife I got for free?
Even if you don’t think it affects your evaluation of the product, what matters is whether knowing that you got the knife for free might affect how your audience views what you say about the knife. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t required to review every knife you receive. Your viewers may assess your review differently if they knew you got the knife for free, so we advise disclosing that fact."
"Several months ago a manufacturer sent me a free product and asked me to write about it in my blog. I tried the product, liked it, and wrote a favorable review. When I posted the review, I disclosed that I got the product for free from the manufacturer. I still use the product. Do I have to disclose that I got the product for free every time I mention it in my blog?
It might depend on what you say about it, but each new endorsement made without a disclosure could be deceptive because readers might not see the original blog post where you said you got the product free from the manufacturer."
Here you go, plain as day, the FTC doesn't get anymore on point to this specific topic than this:
"I’m doing a review of a videogame that hasn’t been released yet. The manufacturer is paying me to try the game and review it. I was planning on disclosing that the manufacturer gave me a “sneak peek” of the game. Isn’t that enough to put people on notice of my relationship to the manufacturer?
No, it’s not. Getting early access doesn’t mean that you got paid. Getting a “sneak peek” of the game doesn’t even mean that you get to keep the game. If you get early access, you can say that, but if you get to keep the game or are paid, you should say so."
If you want to get an idea how you should be doing reviews, there's a YouTube channel called Lon.tv
The guy who hosts the channel talks about these requirements in some of his videos. He is actually going to be uploading a review of a similar controller (the 8bitdo one). He is a professional journalist. Watch the video when it uploads, and see how he does a proper discloser.
I'd love to see NintendoLife's integrity bumped up a few notches. I'm only replying because I like this site, and want it to do good things.
There you go. Proper, professional discloser.
Hope NintendoLife starts doing the same soon. Cheers.
Does a U.K. site come under FTC jurisdiction? I’m not sure it does.
@electrolite77 They do if they allow US visitors onto their website.
The same way American companies like Google have have to follow European laws for all the Europeans they allow to access their web services.
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