This review I wanted to hold off on until I got my hands on both the Ultra Everdrive 64 (review coming soon) and the Super 64 thereafter. Well, the stars have aligned and we now have unlimited games to test using the Retro-Bit Tribute 64 ($24.99). The controller review will also cover how it plays on PC as well. I decided to do them as one large review instead of splitting them up. As time went on I came to the realization that they were essentially the same except a few minor differences. Alright, enough talk, let’s dig in!
Description for Tribute64 on Nintendo 64:
‘The Tribute64 is part of Retro-Bit®’s Platinum Series of controllers dedicated to classic retro gaming consoles. Designed for exclusive use on the N64, it features ultimate versatility for any gaming genre. Built with an analog stick made in Japan utilizing the highest grade in quality, a wide and ergonomic design to boost your gaming experience, and a repositioned D-pad positioned for dual thumb access, players will enjoy long hours of classic retro gameplay.’
Features for Tribute64 on Nintendo 64:
•’Compatible with Nintendo 64® Console
•Sensitive, accurate, and high-quality analog stick made in Japan
•Reshaped Dual Z shoulder pads for maximum grip
•Large Start button for easy-reach
•Memory card port and rumble pak’
Description for Tribute64 USB Version:
‘The Tribute64 is part of Retro-Bit®’s Platinum Series of controllers dedicated to classic retro gaming consoles. Designed for exclusive use on the PC, MAC®, Steam®, and the Nintendo Switch® it features ultimate versatility for any gaming genre. Built with an analog stick made in Japan utilizing the highest grade in quality, a wide and ergonomic design to boost your gaming experience, and a repositioned D-pad positioned for dual thumb access, players will enjoy long hours of classic retro gameplay.’
Features for Tribute64 USB Version:
- ‘Compatible with PC, MAC®, Steam®, and Nintendo Switch®
- 10-foot cord
- Sensitive, accurate, and high-quality analog stick made in Japan
- Reshaped Dual Z shoulder pads for maximum grip
- Large Start button for easy-reach’
- Build Quality. Right out of the gate, you’ll see that this controller isn’t going to fall apart on you. This is Retro-Bit we’re talking about here and they have yet to disappoint in terms of quality. The plastic is solid, there isn’t anything rattling around inside, the buttons push back as they should (instead of sinking into the plastic when pressed). I really didn’t think I was going to open the box and get trash. Build quality is their strong suit and you should remember that when considering any Retro-Bit product. This goes for their retro cartridge releases as well.
- Cord length. 10 feet bro! Do I even need to say anything more than that? I don’t think so…and since I’m going to be long-winded later in the article…I’ll move on. Just know that in most game rooms or living rooms, 10 feet is going to be truly great. No need to purchase an extension cord to reach your console!
- Color options. My favorite part of any review of products is to talk about if they have variations. Not only does this have at least 3 variations at the time of this review, but they’re different from what the Hori Mini Pad had for colors! When I asked to review these, I opted to get the red controllers as I absolutely adore the color red. However, they have some really beautiful transparent colors as well. The transparent colors are designed to match a couple of the transparent N64 models. I hope they announce more colors soon! The transparent colors they currently have are Ocean Blue and Forest Green. If you follow the Amazon links at the bottom of the page, they’re going to take you straight to red. That’s for the red lovers out there. However, still click it because, at the bottom, it suggests the other colors for you if they’re what you want instead.
- Variations. Sticking with the theme of variations, I wanted to point out another positive here. That being that you absolutely can get one of these controllers with a USB plug. That’s right, this isn’t only for the Nintendo 64. In the manual that comes with the USB version of the controller, it gets really specific with all of the tested scenarios that the USB can work with. You’ll find that yes, it works on PCs and this includes RetroPi setups on your Raspberry Pi. I didn’t get to test that one, but I found online people saying that it is as simple as plugging it in and mapping the buttons. The manual also goes onto say that it works with Mac and Steam, I’m uncertain if it works with Steam boxes, however. You’ll have to test that on your own. As far as consoles are concerned it not only works on PlayStation 3 but also on the Nintendo Switch. You will be connecting it to the Switch via the dock or if you have a female to USB-C connector for the bottom of an undocked Switch.
- Thumbstick. Much better than the original N64 thumbstick. Just by looking at it in this day and age you already can tell what it’s going to feel like. It’s a thumbstick that we can all recognize and one that should be mimicked more often. It’s modern, the stick feels like a GameCube stick in thickness, having a wide thumb surface, and having a rubberized top. I had zero resistance or dead zones while playing on my N64. I can’t speak to the accuracy when it comes to modern PC games and using this controller. I can imagine it’s calibrated for older thumbstick titles and wouldn’t really help playing Fortnite or Blops 4 on PC.
- Button placement. Again, I’m not entirely certain how much credit Retro-Bit can have for the overall design of this controller. So for this point, I’m just going to say kudos for Retro-Bit for not changing it and props to Hori for coming up with it. Making the C-Pad like a set of face buttons with the A and B nearby makes playing lots of games much easier. It just makes sense. And for the games that played beautifully already when using the old school controller, they still play great on here. I’m looking at you Smash Bros! To be honest, this made me love old games more. I always kind of skipped over my N64 because some games played like horse meat, but now I can enjoy them for what their developers intended because I can actually press buttons accurately and without thinking about it.
- Form Factor. This is a dramatic body shape change from the original. And while we all know and love the original M shaped controller. Having a modern one is simply better. This isn’t even about the button placement, the shoulder buttons, the thumbsticks, or the cord length. This is about having a controller that is the natural body shape. Having just two palm rests makes a ton more sense than 3. And while I’m sure Nintendo’s heart was in the right place, seeing how nobody had made a 3D controller before, this is just far more logical. It’s also a symmetrical design so it doesn’t matter if you’re left or right-handed. It is ambidextrous by design. You literally don’t have to think about how you’re going to grab/hold it…you just do it.
- FPS. Yes, the old first-person shooter, which basically was created on the Nintendo 64. It also was a pain in the butt to aim accurately, so while the N64 gets credit for the creation of the FPS genre, it doesn’t get credit for fine-tuning it. The lack of a second thumbstick is the main reasoning for this. But the Tribute64 definitely helps a lot when playing these types of games. I spent most of my time testing Perfect Dark, playing against bots. I had an actual fun time playing the game as I had a better chance of aiming and also shooting using either Z-button.
- Shoulder Buttons. One of the great things about being an homage to the Hori Mini Pad is the fact that this controller shares a lot of the great attributes that that controller had back in the day. There were some places that Retro-Bit saw that were improvable. Most of them were negligible differences, but the shoulder buttons are something we should pay some attention to. On the original Hori Mini Pad, we had 4 tiny shoulder buttons on top. Two of them were to be the shoulder buttons that the N64 controller natively has. The other two behind it were also just as small and were a pair of Z-buttons. This was a welcome addition at the time and is still a great feature today. The cause for concern, however, is that having four buttons all of the same size and feel is difficult to discern in gameplay. Especially when they’re all the size of a stick of Orbit gum. The Tribute64 keeps the L and R shoulder buttons the same size but improves on the original formula by making the Z-buttons much more like triggers than just buttons. They’re larger, easier to press, and it’s more in line with what a Z-button originally was,.
- USB Features. Swappable X-input and D-input on the fly. This is great when using this controller between different games or emulators on PC or if you need to swap between USB compatible systems. You can either hold up on the C-Pad for 5 seconds to change it to one or right on the C-Pad for 5 seconds to change it to the other.
- Weight. The weight of these controllers may be great for a younger audience. The only downside for me personally is how lightweight it is in my adult hands. I feel like I’m just holding a hollow controller. Sure, you may be thinking that a lightweight controller lends itself to a longer playtime as there is so stress on the wrists for a prolonged time frame. I would like to counter that with, “It’s so lightweight that I had to add a rumble pak to it to make it feel like it had any real weight at all, the rumble pak is the same weight as the controller!”. The only downside to adding a rumble pak is that I can’t use a memory pak at the same time or even swap them out in every game. I intend on buying a Tremor Pak Plus which allows you weight (because it has batteries inside) rumble, and memory too.
- Memory Pak. I’m sure I already know the answer to this, but I’m going to ask the question anyhow. Why, oh why, is there an expansion pack on the back of the USB controller? I understand that I cannot use memory pak in it nor the rumble pak, so why get my hopes up? It would be fantastic if this thing had worked with an emulator dev to make the memory pak and/or rumble pak supported. Because of it’s lightweight, I can at least add a rumble pak to it to give it more weight and look more legit…but I can’t use it. #SAD
- D-Pad. Where it’s place is probably out of necessity, but it makes it damn near impossible to play certain games. My literal first test was the Tony Hawk games on N64 and it’s extremely difficult to play them. And using the thumbstick to play them is not fun nor accurate. The thumbstick should just be moved up and the D-Pad be directly underneath it. It didn’t stop there though, any game that exclusively relied on D-Pad for platforming takes a hit with this strange D-Pad placement. Luckily we’re talking a total of like 5 N64 games. So if this doesn’t bug you, forget I said anything.
- Form Factor. I rarely ever complain about size of controllers as they seem to usually be pretty average. I know that Retro-Bit is heavily mimicking the Hori Mini Pad for N64, so it’s not entirely their fault, but the Tribute64 is really pretty small and my hands are average size. It could stand to be about 20% larger.
- Thumbstick. If you watched the unboxing video, you probably already know where I’m going with this. The first controller I unboxed had a thumbstick that when I pushed it left, it stuck in place. Uh oh. That’s not a good sign. It was almost like the plastic was rubbing up against one another and so it had enough force to hold it in place. This scared me because I was already thinking that this controller was going to get thumbs down from me in the review. I had to rotate and work the thumbstick a bit to make it smooth and even out and snap back as it should. What a relief right? Well…yes and no. Yes, it works now and everything is fine. But no too as I shouldn’t have had to work the controller to make it function as it should. If you get one of these and experience the same issue, you may have to work it around. If you’re not lucky like me and it doesn’t fix it, you may be stuck sending it back for another.
These are a brilliant step up from the original Nintendo 64 controllers, it’s not even a question. They’re even improved over the Hori Pad Mini with improvements like a larger Start button. If you’re trying to take your Nintendo 64 gaming more seriously and trying to upgrade from the M controller of the past, the Tribute64 is a great starting point. You should absolutely buy one of these at $25 and be happy for a good year. In that year, if you don’t like the Tribute64, then you could save up for a Retro Fighters 64 controller. But as I said, only if you’re trying to take your N64 gaming seriously.
If you’re just looking to have something slightly more comfy than the default controller, buy one of these and stop there. If you’re wanting a Hori Mini Pad without the price tag, buy one of these and be happy. If you’re wanting a PC/Android controller for your N64 games, get your hands on a Tribute64. If you’re wanting another Switch controller with a low price tag and great comfort, purchase this thing now!