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Review: Retro-Bit’s Sega Controllers

Sega Genesis. Sega Saturn. Retro-bit. Need I say more?! …probably. Yes, that’s right, I have received four new Sega licensed controllers from Retro-Bit and I’m excited to discuss them with you all. They’re all releasing on different days between March and April. Although you should just believe me when I say you can most likely stop reading and just buy them now. However, I do break down everything that I could ever think of about them. It certainly doesn’t hurt for you to read all about them before running off in preordering/buying them. So let’s get down to business!

Overall Product Description:

‘Retro-Bit® is proud to announce their line of six officially-licensed controllers will be available world-wide this spring 2019. The line-up includes controllers in various colors of Sega Genesis®, Mega Drive and Sega Saturn® with original and USB® ports.

Unboxing Video:

 

Sega Genesis Description and Features:

‘SEGA Genesis 6-button Arcade Pad: Relive the controller that changed the game, and take it to the next level with the Officially Licensed SEGA Genesis® original port controller by Retro-Bit®. Featuring a long cable and compatibility with original and most third party consoles.

● Official SEGA® Licensed Controller
● Compatible with Original SEGA Genesis® & Mega Drive consoles (all models)
● Classic 6-Button Layout
● 10 Foot cable length
● Original Grade Quality’

Review of Sega Genesis Controller:

Let’s begin with a quick history lesson, shall we? Born out of 1988, the first Sega Genesis/Mega Drive controller was equipped with only three buttons. The Start/Pause button was set about an inch above the three buttons. This was an improvement over the 2 button controllers over the past. It also had a really deep lower half of the controller to wrap your hands around. I don’t know how long it was before Sega decided to upgrade, but the newer revision hit store shelves 5 years later. That new revision was the acclaimed 6-Button controller. This thing came featuring 6 buttons to make your controller be able to play more of the arcade home ports. It also had a repositioned Start/Pause button. On the top of the controller came a new Mode button that let you swap between the 6 button layout and a 3 button layout for games that didn’t play nice with the new controller. It also had some functionality in some games, I just wish Doom had used it for a fire button!

Now the year is 2019 and we’re only seeing a resurgence of controllers from yesteryear. Usually, these are controllers of the company’s own design or are just a blatant ripoff. Hardly any retro controllers are licensed by the original company. However, retro-bit has this licensure from Sega to remake the aforementioned controller from my history lesson. I’m not quite sure how they reached a deal for this, I’m just personally glad that they did. Whenever I pick up this specific controller, I am taken back to the days of Sonic 3, Aero the Acrobat, and Wild Woody. So does this controller feel the same way? Does it perform the same way? Does it have any new features?

The feel of this controller is hard to actually compare. The problem here is that this controller is so new and fresh compared to one that I’ve had for 20+ years. Unfortunately, I don’t remember ever getting brand new controllers as a child. Everything that I got was second hand but still totally functional. That means that this controller that I opened does not feel the same way as my controllers of old. In fact, this new controller feels even better! With regards to the outside’s overall tactile feel, the glossy areas are made of the same plastic and reflect the same way. Then the dull parts of plastic have the right matte texture to them. Lastly, the D-Pad, mode, and face buttons have the same plastic and matte feeling that the original had.

Now talking about the overall performance of this controller. The buttons are more responsive and press like they don’t have decades of junk underneath them. This includes the barely used Mode button. When I press it on my old 1993 controllers, it even feels gunky. The D-Pad was the biggest surprise at all. You think you’re great at Street Fighter II on your old-timey controllers now? Just go ahead and purchase one of these, your diagonals and rolls will feel more seamless. The only downside here is that it is hard to speak on longevity, we’ll have to wait 30 years to find out. Of course, Sega didn’t know back in the 90s that their controllers would last this long either!

There is only one new feature on this rendition of the product. Sure, they probably could’ve added new features, but they’re striving for one to one. The one and only new feature is the length of the cord. On retro-bit’s take of this controller we now have a 10-foot cord. This is to accommodate larger living rooms where most nostalgic adults play. Of course, we probably should’ve had these back in the day with our old tube TV’s. As kids, we were always sitting too close to the TV!

Sega Genesis USB Description and Features:

‘SEGA Genesis 8-button Arcade Pad – USB: Relive the controller that changed the game, and take it to the next level with the Officially Licensed SEGA Genesis® USB port controller by Retro-Bit®. Featuring a long cable and compatibility with PC, Mac®, and Steam®.

● Official SEGA® Licensed Controller
● Compatible with PC, Mac®, SteamTM, and Super Retro-Cade
● Classic 6-Button Layout with Repositioned Mode Button
● New L/R Shoulder Buttons for Extra Configuration Options
● 10 Foot cable length
● Original Grade Quality

Review of Sega Genesis Controller:

With this one, there is no need for a history lesson! What we have with this one is a 6-button layout again, but for PC. So how does it feel compared to the previous Genesis/Mega Drive controller? How does it perform? What features are built into it? Are there any other features I would have liked to have seen out of a PC controller?

Well, for starters, with regards to the feel of it. The controller has about the same feel in terms of plastic as the previously mentioned model. It is cool that it has a clear tint to the color though. You’re able to see inside the controller ever so slightly if it wasn’t frosted we’d have a better view. The buttons feel nice and plasticy in the ways that they should. Without many compromises, the buttons are all where they should be for you to have a good time playing it. This will only have a nostalgic feel to it if you use it to play a Genesis emulator or Sega steam games from the Genesis era or games like Sonic Mania.

Its performance is what you would expect by now. The buttons have just the right amount of travel. The D-Pad rolls exactly as it should, with zero snags from crumbs underneath it. There are some new buttons we’re about to talk about, just know that they feel unbelievably fantastic! It’s like Sega designed them themselves. Or maybe they did design them and they just never went through with the controller design since they were moving onto the Saturn. But maybe retro-bit found out about these and saw an opportunity to use them on a PC based controller. However, if retro-bit came up with these in the first place, good on them, because they’re great.

Well, that seems to be as good of a transition into added features as any other. The obvious first added feature is the 10-foot length of cable. It seems sort of strange to have that long of a cable for PC. But first off, not every PC is sitting right next to you. Some people have their PC’s connected to a TV for media box purposes and such. It’s also advertised as working on retro-bit’s Super Retrocade (review of that here). I had mentioned that they made this controller with almost no compromise to the button layout. Well, the only button that they moved was the Mode button. It now sits directly underneath the Start/Pause button. Why did they do that? Well because they’ve added Left and Right trigger buttons at the top of the controller! Those were the buttons I was just gushing about in the last paragraph.

And do I really think they should’ve added anything? I mean, for PC controller’s sake I would’ve loved a turbo button. They could’ve done another small button like the Mode button above the Start/Pause button. Or maybe just an instruction on the outside of the box that says if you hold the Start and Mode buttons together for 5 seconds, a small LED will blink letting you know you’re in turbo mode. Then when you’re in turbo, just hold the button of your choice for 3 seconds until the LED stops blinking. That means that you’ve effectively assigned that button. But no, they don’t have that and unfortunately, these aren’t firmware upgradable either. However, I do understand that in order to keep these costs down and to keep fanboys happy, they kept the controllers as basic as possible.

Sega Saturn Description and Features:

‘SEGA Saturn Control Pad: Relive the controller that changed the game, and take it to the next level with the Officially Licensed SEGA Saturn® original port controller by Retro-Bit®. Featuring a long cable and compatibility with original Saturn consoles.

● Official SEGA® Licensed Controller
● Original Grade Quality
● Compatible with Original SEGA Saturn Consoles
● 10 Foot Cable Length’

Review of Sega Saturn Controller:

Small history lesson again, I promise to keep this one short. Back in their Genesis days, Sega was constantly changing things. When the Sega Saturn came out, they only had 2 revisions of it and only 3 versions of the controller. The first controller to come out was the Model 1 controller. It naturally was released with the first version of the Sega Saturn. It had an overly rounded top with a more jagged, boxy bottom. The D-Pad was strange with dimples where your fingers would press in and the face buttons were also concave. This was definitely a far cry from the last controller people used from Sega. Sega released their Model 2 Saturn that all came with a more recognizable controller. That controller layout was and is still to this day the highest recommended Saturn controller. There was a 3rd revision that is also good, but hard to find and doesn’t work as well across all Saturn games.

So the controller I’m referencing, the Model 2 controller, is what retro-bit has brought back from the dead for us! So we’re going to start with this controller for the actual Saturn console. We have to pose the same questions we judged the others with thus far. How is the overall feel of it compared to the original? How does it perform during play? Are there any new improvements?

If you watched my unboxing video, you saw me questioning the shoulder buttons. I was uncertain if they felt right to me. Shortly after the video, I went and pressed down on my original Saturn controller. It seemed to actually feel very similar. I think the monumental difference here was that the older controller had been played with so much more. I think that if there are springs in there, the newer one has springs that are a lot newer. Implying that maybe over time the shoulder buttons will feel familiar. If you buy one, just don’t be put off by the shoulder buttons at first. Continuing on, it’s clear that Sega just went back to their older D-Pad from the Genesis/Mega Drive days. This new controller matches that easily, so there are no worries there. The face buttons are my favorite part of this controller and still are in retro-bit’s version. They feel perfectly spaced apart, have just the right push back, and they just rock. Lastly, of course, the Start/Pause button has that rubbery feeling to it as it should and presses nicely.

Performance was not an issue for this guy. I plugged it into the Sega Saturn and immediately forgot I was reviewing a new Saturn controller in 2019. This this was just the perfect shape, handled well, and for the most part, felt like I was using my old trusty controller. This one felt unused, untampered with and just let me enjoy the game at hand. Again, the shoulder buttons were slightly more persistent at being slightly harder to press. But all in all, I got used to it and realized this is just the way a new Saturn controller is supposed to feel. It’s hard to compare it to an original 15-20 years later.

Now the improvements, again, are minimal. Retro-bit so obviously wanted to maintain the originality and uniqueness of the controller. The colors even match the original Japanese controller called the “Coolpad”. Retro-bit has renamed it to Slate Gray. I’m not certain if they thought Coolpad was too 90’s or if they just couldn’t quite get the color correct. Either way, the titling of the controller doesn’t matter. The only notable change on this controller is the length again. They took it up to 10-feet long up from the 6-foot length of the original.

Sega Saturn USB Description and Features:

‘SEGA Saturn USB Control Pad: Relive the controller that changed the game, and take it to the next level with the Officially Licensed SEGA Saturn® USB port controller by Retro-Bit®. Featuring a long cable and compatibility with PC, Mac, and SteamTM.

● Official SEGA Licensed Controller
● Original Grade Quality
● Compatible with PC, Mac®, and SteamTM
● 10ft. Cable Length’

Review of Sega Genesis Controller:

The last controller of the review! What could be said about this controller that wasn’t already said about the previous controllers? Well, don’t worry, there is plenty to discuss here. It’s actually kind of strange. But anyway, we’re going through the same questions as the last PC controller. How does it feel? What’s the performance of it? Are there any addons that retro-bit made? Are there any features that I think should’ve been added?

Not much more to say about this one that wasn’t said of the last one in regards to feeling and performance. The feel of this baby is absolutely great. This is the controller that I will be leaving plugged into my Super Retrocade for the rest of eternity. The original Super Retrocade controller is just alright, but this Sega Saturn controller was designed so perfectly. Furthermore, having 6 buttons to play arcade games is a great feeling. The plastic on this one almost feels more matte than the clear version of the controller. But it may just be my brain playing tricks on me since this one is completely black. Lastly, the triggers on this one are also brand new and tight. So be ready for hours and hours of gameplay to get them feeling the way they should feel. No problem for us as gamers, right?!

What addons or features did they give this thing? You’ve probably already guessed it. They’ve improved the length of the controller to 10 feet. I’m certain that they didn’t want to interfere with perfection. Sega did a bangup job with this version of the Saturn controller. Although that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that it shouldn’t have had a feature or two added in.

And as far as features I think could’ve been tacked on, well I only have a few to mention. First off, the Mode button should’ve been present on this controller too. I think that there are people that will buy this controller over the Genesis USB controller as it is a thinner controller and feels like since it’s newer, it should be compatible with more games. While that’s not actually true, it can at least play Genesis games via emulator. If you’re doing that, you should be able to have a Mode button on it. I do realize that with an emulator you could probably just set the Right trigger to be the Mode button. But if that’s the case, then why didn’t they do that with the Genesis controller? I think with regards to this controller they simply didn’t think about it. I think all that they did was take the mold and pop a USB cord onto it. No worries to me, but someone out there is bound to care.

Want the Sega Genesis controller? Click here for black and here for clear blue.

Interested in the USB Sega Genesis controller? Click here for black and here for clear blue.

How about the Sega Saturn controller? Click here for black and here for slate grey.

More interested in the USB Sega Saturn controller? Click here for black and here for slate grey.

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