Hardware Review: Pop’n Music Controller from Yuan Con

Rhythm games have been the heart and soul of arcade gaming almost as long as fighting games have. Rhythm games have been strewn all across the globe in arcade cabinets and at home on consoles. Well I decided that I wanted to review a controller to bring the arcade experience home. Yuan Con sets out to do that very thing. They want know that around the world its getting harder to find and play these cherised arcade games the further we go in time. Let’s talk about how this controller feels and holds up. Is it really worth $149?

Description:

‘Yuan’s third controller: It’s Pop’n Music time!
Made with the same precision that others to provide you the arcade feeling as good as we can.
Enjoy the feeling you can have if you go to an arcade.
Just plug the controller into your PC and have a good time!’

Specs:

Product Name Pop’n Music
Release Date November, 24 2018
Length 710mm(760mm)
Width 295mm(380m)
Height 68mm(150mm)
Weight 6.5kg
Cable 2m USB type-A to type-C
Power Voltage 5V

My Unboxing Vid:

Yuan Con’s Controller Manual Vid:

Pros:

•Build Quality. This time, let’s dive into the build quality first. I truly was awestruck (see unboxing video) by how well the controller was constructed. First, I want to start with the main body of it. It is constructed entirely of metal, but of which kind of metal, I’m not sure. It feels the same as a white, metal washing machine at the laundromat. Not one of the newer brushed aluminum washer/dryers, but the older metal ones. And those busters are STURDY and as lightweight as can be. Furthermore, it gives the player confidence that they can slap the buttons during play without fear of hurting the overall build of the controller.

Now we can discuss the topmost portion of the controller. It’s comprised of a few different elements. Starting with the centerpiece of the top, which is a sheet of plexiglass with a graphic printed on it. By now, you’ve seen the graphic on this page enough. I won’t dwell on it too much, but it is sturdy and colorful. We’ll discuss it a bit more later in the “Cons” section, as I have more to say on the matter.

Now, just above the plexiglass are nine distinct, large buttons. In the unboxing video and the manual video above, there is far greater detail. But I do want to mention that the buttons are hollow, so technically there is a limit to how hard you can press. But I would think that they’re fairly structurally sound as long as you aren’t standing on the top of the buttons. So slap them buttons!

The next section is the waist of the controller. Going around the middle, on the left side there are two standard arcade style buttons. We’ll discuss what these are for more in-depth in just a moment. But for now, just know that you can also assign them purpose within games if you’d like. They feel like any arcade button that you’ve ever felt before when playing fighting games or just conventional arcades. There’s nothing to write home about with them. And on the polar opposite side of the middle is a singular USB-C port. This, as demonstrated in my video, is for running a USB-C cord to your PC for gaming on the game of your choice, which we will be discussing.

Finally, on the the bottom of the controller, are the sturdiest feet known to man. They are affixed to the controller down the center of the foot by metal. And then there is a ring of rubber actually making physical contact with the surface that you set it on. In my pictures throughout this article, you may notice that I have it sitting on a desk mat. It works really well on that too just from the weight. The deskmat itself already stays stationary due to the surface on the bottom of the mat. But I did take the mat away and tried it just on my desk’s surface and also experienced perfect stillness. It’s especially easy to keep still since the game requires that you press the buttons down and not forward and back, or something goofy like that.

•Design. Okay, we discussed how strong and mighty the controller is. But how about the look of the controller? Well, down below the “Cons” section I included an image of the arcade cabinet that this is inspired by. The body matches, just being white and metal. The color of the graphic inside the plexiglass also is color-matched (again, more on that later). The button colors are simple enough to match because they are all standard, run-of-the-mill colors. They even have the arcade buttons’ translucent quality. This is so that Yuan Con could make the buttons light up, just like on the real arcade machine! So I’d say that on the whole, they absolutely nailed it!

Portability. Now we can discuss the portability of Yuan Con’s Pop’n controller. Specifically, compare it to owning Pop’n Music arcade and even compare it to owning the home version. There’s a night and day difference (obviously) between this and the arcade. While it has the structural integrity of the arcade, it is tremendously lighter than the arcade. According to the flyer of Pop’n Music Fever, the arcade machine itself is four hundred and eighteen pounds. The Yuan Con controller is just under twenty pounds. So that makes the controller twenty-seven times lighter than the arcade! Much more portable and that means that you could absolutely take this to a friend’s house for a party! I’ll put the flyer just below here so you can see a throwback!

Now what about the obviously lighter-weight setup of a console and the home version of the controller? I still think that the Yuan Con controller dominates. First of all, what a mess of cords to transport your old PS1 or PS2 to a friend’s house. That’s assuming that you’ve imported or pirated a game for the console and imported the controller (featured in my video). And if you imported or pirated the game, you’ll have to have a modded console to play it on.

With regards to the Yuan Con version, you can just load everything onto a USB drive and take your controller with you. You could load a PS1/PS2 emulator on a USB with game rips, but then you’d have to also have a Playstation to USB adapter. And by that point, you’re in for the same amount of money, if not more than what Yuan Con charges. Not to mention, nobody is going to want to play on the little dinky controller that Konami released back in the day anyhow.

•Setup Simplicity. Speaking of using computers and setting this up, what a great segue to talking about just how easy it is to do so! I was kind of flabbergasted that there wasn’t even just an instruction booklet or a sheet with a QR code that you can to take you to an instruction page for setup. I shrugged and thought to myself, “Oh well, I’ll just plug it into my PC and see what happens”. This is the point where I should mention that I set the controller up in Windows 11. I’m guessing that Windows 10 will work the same since these controllers have been available longer than Windows 11 has been around. Below are my official instructions for anyone who may be nervous about initial setup.

  1. Make sure your PC is turned on.
  2. Plug one end of the USB cord into your computer.
  3. Plug USB-C cord into the aforementioned port on the right side of the controller.
  4. Pay attention to the lower right of your screen, it will mention that it is setting up the USB driver.
  5. Within 60 seconds it should tell you that it is set up and ready to go.
  6. See just how easy Yuan Con has made their product! Alright, enjoy!

•Amenities. What I enjoy most about this controller are the sensibilities that is has baked right into it. First off, the buttons on the far left side of the controller. You can map these for whatever you would like to use them for in-game. They could be “forward” and “back” or “okay” and “cancel” or “yes” and “no” or “service” and “coin”, all depending on the game. But aside from being used in-game, they’re original purpose is to help you toggle separate modes of controller use. Upon plugging it in initially, your controller will already be in “keyboard” mode.

If you want to make sure that it’s in keyboard mode, hold down the button closest to the front of the controller when plugging in the USB cord. The opposite button is used to put the controller into “gamepad” mode. Hold the button closest to the back of the controller and plug in the USB cord. I didn’t mention this in the steps above because I stayed in keyboard mode and it worked fine for everything. I liken it to x-input versus d-input with controllers. You only need one or the other depending on what you’re playing.

The other fantastic sensibility is the fact that you have a USB port on the controller itself. But why does that matter? Well, remember the original XBOX controllers of yesteryear? Those featured breakaway cables and the purpose of that was to keep your console where it was. Meaning if your dog ran through the room and got your controller cord caught in his legs, the cord itself would disconnect. This meant your controller wouldn’t be pulled down away from the TV. The same can be applied to the Yuan Con Pop’n controller. And in this instance, it also lends itself to being that much more portable of a controller! You just wrap up the cord and toss it into a pocket!

•Extras. For those who actually watched the unboxing video, you’ll see that there are extras included in with the controller. The cost of the controller isn’t just for the controller alone, Yuan Con wants to make certain that you are gaming for years to come! In the box, I found that there were three additional components, all serving a different purpose. Let’s break it down really quickly.

  1. There is a small screwdriver included inside the packing. This makes it obvious that you’re encouraged to get inside of the controller if need be. They want you to assess the problem, and make an improvement if needed.
  2. They include a 6-foot long USB-C cord. You may think that this is a given, but with a lot of modern day products, this is not. Sometimes they expect you to already have common cords. It’s a USB-C to USB-A cord. So if you’re using a computer with only USB-C ports, you will have to source your own USB-C to USB-C cord. I wish Yuan Con gave the option to pick which USB-C cord you get in your box.
  3. Finally, the most intriguing add-in is the extra USB-C port. That’s right, if your USB-C port breaks, you can use the included screwdriver to open the controller, unplug the broken USB-C adapter and plug in the new one. It’s incredibly easy, but I’m not sure if/when you’ll ever need it. The port is surrounded by metal and is incredibly strong.

•Emulation. Now the question you’ve all been waiting for. HOW THE HECK DO I USE THIS CONTROLLER?! I’m going to answer it very simply because I did the bare minimum amount of research. I did enough to play a game and get my nostalgia fix. After this whole review is said and done, I fully intend on jumping all of the way into the “scene” head first. First off, you should know that since there is a keyboard mode and a gamepad mode, that this should work for any way that you can get Pop’n Music running on your PC.

Let’s start with the emulators that I have been alluding to. Long story short, not every emulator will work for this. There are a few different PS1 and PS2 emulators out there. And basically, you’ll have to find out how the emulator assigns buttons. The easiest thing to do would be to emulate one of the PS1 or PS2 games. I recommend just using PCSX2 to run the game of your choice since mapping the controller is the easiest. The PS2 has a larger library of those games, so that’s where I would go (without saying too much)

Finally, there are ways to dive into arcade releases at home on your PC. This is not a world I’m too familiar with, but I know it is possible. I’m not sure what specs are required for PC, as I only got one such game running and tested. But the point here is that it is technically possible. So, take it from me, figure it all out, and make sure that your PC can run the emulator or an arcade release before buying this controller from Yuan Con. God forbid you drop money on the controller and then it turns out that you also have to buy a newer, more powerful PC.

•Feel. I have played my fair share of Pop’n Music in the arcades back in the day. However, even I was unsure if this was an experience that felt pure to the original experience. I love how this controller feels, but is that good enough for the most distinguished player? So instead of trying to convince you of just how great it plays, I decided to take measurements. I looked online and according to this the buttons must be the full 100mm button. They’re actually sold online, but I had to assume worst case scenario. I had to assume that these buttons were custom made by Yuan Con. Admittedly I first had to convert millimeters to inches to be able to use my measuring tape.

I also found that the buttons are equal distance apart and are proportionate. This matters in terms of having space to move your hands around in that space without encumbering your play. They also have the correct amount of travel in terms of depth. They return to their original position quickly and confidently each time. Long story short–the buttons are set up the way they’re supposed to be.

And of course, the game wouldn’t have the correct nostalgic feeling either if it didn’t have the right button sound and light up. But I stand before you today saying that this controller is the whole, accurate package!

•Cost. YES. It is 100% worth the price that they’re asking for. In fact, I would actually say this controller should be valued higher. I can’t believe someone can buy one of these at this cost and get such a great product in exchange. This includes drivers that just instantly install, 2 different modes (making it 2 controllers in 1), a screwdriver, a USB-C cord, and a spare USB-C port! We’re simply not used to this kind of quality in the United States, not without a larger price tag, that is! The only other thing that you should take into consideration is the shipping cost to where you live. There should be a restock at the end of the month that this article releases (Nov. 2023), so get your dollars prepared!

Cons:

•Portability. I absolutely love how portable this is in comparison to the actual arcade cabinet. Having said that, it needs to lean into the portability of itself, but also consider its size. I’d love to see a handle be added to the top of the controller like a guitar case has. Then they could also have a small door on the bottom that has a little three-inch space for the USB cord. Or if all of that is too expensive to engineer, at least have the option to let us buy a controller carrying case, something like a luggage container. That would have a pocket in it for the USB cord and can fit the controller inside. It would also already have a handle on it. PLEASE LET US TRANSPORT THESE CONTROLLERS!

•Graphics. The design of the controller matches that of the arcade machine that I have pictured below (this section). However, it is missing the classing words on the controller showing what the buttons do on the menu screens. I would love to either have graphics or no graphics be an option upon purchase. And for those with one already purchased, have the ability to buy an updated plexiglass that we install ourselves (using the manual video at the beginning to disassemble the controller).

Now, if you’re like me and have access to a printer, the files are available online for printing. Consider leaving them a donation if you use their files. Click here if you’re interested.

•Mode Buttons. This one is easy; just label the buttons as keyboard and gamepad respectively. Just a little decal above or below each button. Or the button for the keyboard can have a little keyboard icon on it and the gamepad button can have a little controller icon on it. But I didn’t know these had purposes for changing the modes until I watched Yuan Con’s manual video, so by default, I was doing everything in keyboard mode. Which–it works fine, but I felt limited as to what I could play with the controller.

Overall Thoughts:

This controller is undeniably the best-case scenario for those who want the best of both worlds. It’s a controller for those who want the feel and nostalgia of an arcade without buying a physical arcade machine! From its cost to its portability to its durability to its longevity, there really is no point in not buying it! I hope that Yuancon sees this review, reads the cons, and makes decent improvements. But I couldn’t be happier with this and I’m considering getting a whole room full of Yuan Con controllers instead of buying the arcade counterparts!

Purchase Link:

Pop’n Music Controller

Entire Yuancon Site

About V1RACY

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