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First Party Controllers – NES, SNES, Genesis, TG-16, Neo Geo, and More! / MY LIFE IN GAMING

First Party Controllers – NES, SNES, Genesis, TG-16, Neo Geo, and More! / MY LIFE IN GAMING


[ COURY ] In 2018 we checked out a vast array
of third party controllers for home consoles. Among the twenty plus we tested, we found
some truly great controllers that could be considered suitable replacements for the real
thing… but there was also no shortage of awful, ridiculous, and downright hilarious
controllers that we wouldn’t even subject a second player to. If you’re like us, the notion that first-party
accessories are the best has been drilled into you from a young age… In most cases, first-party controllers are
simply made better and are usually never topped… The evolution of official controllers for
any given system can actually be quite interesting… and sometimes virtually invisible changes
can make a big difference. Of course, there are a LOT of these to cover. So in this episode, we’re taking a look
at first-party controllers from the NES on up through the 16-bit consoles and the Neo
Geo. MUSIC: “Principle” by Matt McCheskey [ TRY ] The original Nintendo Entertainment
System was an absolute phenomenon in North America – it seemed like nearly everyone of
a certain age group had one, or at least knew someone who had one. Playing NES for the first time with my cousin
when I was… I think 4 years old… is maybe my earliest
vivid memory. And until she handed me this corded doohickey,
I had no idea that “Super Mario” was a character that I could actually control on
a TV screen. And life has never been the same since. So sure, it might be fair to say I have a
bit of a nostalgic bias toward the NES and the original rectangle controller. But of course, the NES controller was itself
preceded by the original Famicom controllers in Japan in 1983. While overall similar in design, the most
obvious difference is that the Famicom controllers are hard-wired to the rear of the console
and rest in little notches on the sides. The wires are extremely short, only a foot
and a half long, minus around 9 inches if you consider the run from the rear to the
front of the console, which means Japanese players either sat very close to the TV, or
had to run the console’s power and RF wires across the room. It’s a design decision that does not hold
up very well today. Only player 1 has start and select buttons,
but overall the feel is pretty similar to the NES, aside from the sharper corners on
the Dpad. The slightly rounded edges and the ridge that
runs around the controller feel nice. I wonder if Japanese players have nostalgia
for a cord running between your fingers. Player 2 has a microphone, which is most famous
as your weapon against the rabbit-like Pols Voice enemies in the Japanese version of The
Legend of Zelda, but otherwise, this feature was barely used, which explains why a mic
was not included on the NES controller. I’m sure there are a lot of abused NES controllers
out there, but I’ve generally found the NES controller to be surprisingly precise
given its age. The buttons on all of mine still feel super
fresh. Whether Nintendo actually invented the Dpad
– or “Control Pad” as they prefer to call it – is a subject of some debate, but Nintendo
inarguably made it the standard that it still is today. While some may prefer Genesis, Saturn, or
PlayStation Dpads, Nintendo’s Dpads are the common high bar that all others are judged
by. While the general consensus is that Nintendo
has stumbled with the Switch Pro Controller Dpad, the NES Dpad hangs with the best of
them, suited for everything from quick dodges in Punch-Out to 8-direction aiming in Contra. The key is the central pivot in the molded
plastic of the Dpad, which allows for more precise and natural movement versus pressing
down buttons on a flat surface. I’ve been through a lot with this controller. It’s become a universal symbol of gaming
that is recognized by millions around the world, young or old, gamer or non-gamer. I’ve always favored the notion that limitations
breed creativity, and the simplicity of the NES controller is still one of the most appealing
things about the system to me. You don’t need a bazillion functions for
a game to be fun, and you can still do a lot with just two buttons – pressing up and B
to throw sub-weapons in Castlevania still feels so right to me, even when later entries
allow you to set them to an extra button. The two-button layout encouraged NES developers
to cut the fat and get to the point, which makes it a very approachable console to this
day. But the iconic rectangle is of course not
the only first-party controller designed for the NES. The NES Advantage was released in 1987, and
as is obvious from its appearance, this is an official arcade-style controller for the
NES. Now, I have to be upfront here, I only went
to the arcade every now and then as a kid and I am absolutely terrible with joysticks,
they just feel so unnatural to me compared to Dpads, so I’m not the right person to
judge this controller at all. But that said, I do love the overall design. It has a nice heft and just feels downright
sturdy, even by Nintendo standards. The ball-top stick doesn’t have the microswitches
that hardcore arcade fans crave, but the buttons do feel quite nice to me at least. Of note are the turbo toggles. They even have speed dials, which is a really
cool touch. The Slow toggle button of course simply pauses
and unpauses the game rapidly. The NES Advantage can actually plug into both
controller ports optionally, and the Player switch allows for passing the controller in
take-turns style multiplayer games. While I never use it for serious play since
I’m a Dpad man through and though, the NES Advantage just looks cool, and even has a
bit of utility as a rudimentary lag testing device thanks to its LEDs that light up when
the A or B buttons are pressed. Then… there’s the NES Max. It’s hard to believe, but yes, this is a
first-party controller. Model number NES-027, released in 1988. I’m sure this controller has its fans, so
I’m gonna try to go as easy on it as I can. There are some forward-thinking ideas here
– like the handlebar shape that wouldn’t become standard until the mid ‘90s, or the
handle texture that didn’t really become a thing on first party controllers again until
the PS4 and Xbox One.But the overall layout is a bit cramped for adult hands. [Game Audio] The NES Max’s claim to infamy is the sliding
circle that freely moves around in its 8-way directional input. Maybe this served as a sort of inspiration
for the 3DS’s circle pad, but the key differences are that on the NES Max, the circle does not
spring back to the center, and also that simply moving the circle around does nothing. You have to apply pressure to register input. If you could simply glide your thumb around,
I could maybe see the appeal – who hasn’t had a sore thumb in the morning after an evening
of Ninja Gaiden? But it feels like I have to constantly consciously
apply pressure for it to be enough. You can also simply press the black ring for
directional movement, but that’s no replacement for a proper Dpad. On top of that, the distance between the A
and B buttons, now set at a downward slant, is just about one-sixteenth of an inch wider,
which might sound like almost nothing, but to me it makes rocking my fingers between
the buttons feel a fair bit less comfortable. Turbo buttons are a nice bonus, but not enough
to make up for my difficulties in using this admirably experimental, but woefully imprecise
controller. So the NES has a fair number of first-party
controllers. Putting aside controllers not really meant
for general use, like the Zapper, Power Pad, or the very rare Hands Free Controller that
was designed for those with limited hand mobility, there is one more NES controller we want to
talk about here. But before we get to that, I think it would
make sense to first talk about the next generation. [Music] The Super Famicom launched in Japan in 1990
and brought with it two standards of controller design that few companies save for Nintendo
themselves have dared to deviate from since. Most notably, the diamond button layout, where
the thumb’s home position for most action games is over Y and B, at a natural upward
slant. In contrast to the Famicom and NES, but similar
to the Game Boy, all four buttons have a slight convex hump. Secondarily, two shoulder buttons were added,
R and L. While nearly all modern games use shoulder buttons and triggers heavily, many
Super Famicom games use R and L only for very minor functions, if at all. When viewed from the side, you’ll notice
a subtle downward slant, which, combined with the rounded sides, makes for one of the most
ergonomic yet elegantly simple designs in game controller history. The Dpad is slightly larger compared to the
NES and Famicom, and just a bit easier on the thumb. Like the Famicom, the Super Famicom controller
cord is pretty short, only about 3 feet, but luckily it is plugged into the front of the
console. [Game Audio] For North America, the console was given a
divisive redesign. The controller, however, remained the same
aside from a new color scheme, a cord more than double the length, and an ingenious little
tweak that’s easy to miss: B and A are convex like on the Super Famicom controller, But
Y and X are concave, like NES buttons. This gives the tip of your thumb a cozy little
nook to rest in on Y, while rocking the joint of your thumb down toward B feels comfy with
no hard edges. Many people consider this to be the ultimate
controller for 2D games, and I for one have been loving playing modern 2D games like River
City Girls with the new official wireless version for Nintendo Switch. SNES controller responsiveness was a bit of
a concern of mine for a while because my original two controllers from 1994 started to feel
a bit mushy 12 or so years later. On one of them in particular, the start button
and down on the Dpad were becoming nearly unusable. An easy way to test SNES controller responsiveness
is to use Kirby’s Avalanche or Puyo Puyo, which have input tests in their options menus. There are a lot of knockoffs out there, but
despite the simplicity of the SNES controller, they never measure up to the real thing for
me. I spent a lot of money and effort trying to
find a used but fresh-feeling authentic replacement, but no luck. I finally resorted to buying a new-in-box
late generation controller on eBay maybe about 10 years ago. It came in this box with Super Mario RPG artwork. And… wow! What a difference! It was completely worth it. It had been years since I’d felt an SNES
controller that felt so fresh. Although I’ve now come to question… had
I ever actually used an SNES controller that did feel this good before? In truth, this controller might feel so good
not just because it was unused before 2008 or whenever I bought it, it might be because
it is a bit different – better, perhaps, than my original controllers ever felt. The distinguishing characteristic of this
controller is that it has an engraved Nintendo logo instead of the printed Super Nintendo
text. Well, years later I learned that our good
friend Game Dave was also aware of the greatness of this engraved logo controller – and that’s
because his original console was the smaller SNES console, which was released in 1997,
after the N64 was already out, and came with the engraved logo controller. Sure enough, upon closer inspection of my
controller’s box, it all makes sense – copyright 1997. The model number is also different – from
SNS-005 to SNS-102. [Game Audio] After trying Game Dave’s much-used childhood
controller, which felt every bit as good as my own engraved controller, I realized that
these very late SNES controllers are just flat-out better. Dpad and button presses feel just a bit more
precise, not mushy, but not clicky either. While they are not easy to find, if you too
are tired of looking for a fresh SNES controller, keep your eye out for the SNS-102 with the
engraved logo. But if you’d like to restore a mushy controller
to a better state, the only solution really is to buy new rubber contact pads. I bought two sets of these from Console 5
for less than $3 each. After taking apart my most dire original controller,
I soon spotted the problem – the indentation where the rubber Dpad dots make contact with
the circuit board were starting to come loose. For this controller, I did a full replacement
of the rubber pads with the new ones. The verdict? It works perfectly now! Every button and direction registers effortlessly. There’s a slightly more clicky sound to
the controller since the buttons now have a bit more of a spring back to them. It’s slightly different from the feel of
the engraved controller, but not particularly in a way that I would describe as good or
bad. Start and select are black instead of dark
gray, so it doesn’t quite look stock, but I guess that’s fair since it’s not exactly
a stock first-party controller anymore. For now this will be my solution for SNES
controllers gone mushy, but the real verdict will be in another 20 years to see if the
new pads have lasted as long. [Game Audio] So with all that said, we return to the final
NES controller… model NES-039… colloquially known as “the NES dogbone.” This was the pack-in controller for the 1993
NES and Famicom redesigns, which were presented as budget-friendly alternatives to 16-bit
consoles. [Game Audio] Notably, this means the new Famicom actually
received NES controller ports, and regular rectangle controllers do work, although Zappers
do not. The Famicom and NES dogbones are otherwise
identical, aside from… you guessed it, a seriously short cable on the Japanese version,
but it’s nonetheless an improvement over the original Famicom controller length. The new systems, often dubbed “Toploader
NES” and “AV Famicom,” are coveted for their reliability and suitability for modding,
but the dogbones are also sought after on their own for their curved design that no
doubt takes after the SNES controller. The SNES DNA doesn’t stop there either – the
Dpad seems to be the same molding and texture as the SNES Dpad, and the slanted start and
select buttons make the whole thing feel a bit more ‘90s. Here’s the thing though… I also wanted one of these controllers for
a really long time. Like everyone else, I looked at them and thought,
“Wow! How ergonomic compared to the old pointy rectangle!” But you know, I have to be honest, after getting
the dogbone, I just never could feel quite at home with it. And it gave me a renewed appreciation for
the classic rectangle. I realized, “How, exactly, are the corners
digging into my hands? They aren’t!” I unwittingly bought into the hype and saw
the dogbone as a solution to a problem I didn’t have. The dealbreaker for me though, is the slant
and spacing of the A and B buttons. Sure, Game Boy has a slant too and you don’t
see me complaining about that… but I’ve recently realized that the real problem is
the spacing… like the NES Max, the buttons are again, about a sixteenth of an inch farther
apart than on the original controller, which, combined with the slant makes it feel like
such an insubstantial part of my thumb rocks over the A button as I hold the B button in
action games. In contrast, Game Boy buttons have the same
spacing as those on the original NES controller. So I hate to be a bit of a naysayer here,
but the dogbone controller is simply not for me. I respect those of you who do love it, and
those of you who hold the NES rectangle in such a way that it digs uncomfortably into
your hands, but we’ll just have to agree to disagree. [Game Audio] [ COURY ] Unlike Nintendo, who came out of
the gate with a nearly perfect controller, it took Sega a bit longer to find their footing. They’d obviously become a real powerhouse
in the arcade, where each game could be designed around a custom control scheme, but the home
market was a different beast. A control pad design, much in the same vein
as the Famicom, made sense. But, there was one major obstacle: Nintendo
had patented the cross style directional pad, so they’d have to come up with an alternative
that wouldn’t get them in legal trouble. This was not only a problem for Sega, but
for everyone else until it expired in 2005. The Control Pad, included with the Sega Master
System, is a fairly close approximation of what the competition had, but it differs in
some key ways and comes across as a pale imitation. For as much as I appreciate the Master System
and its games, the controller doesn’t exactly rank as one of my favorite things about it. The rectangular size and general layout mimics
the NES controller at a glance, but the action buttons are spongy and lack tactile resistance. It’s fine for games like Space Harrier where
you’re jamming on one button constantly, but with something like Alex Kidd in Miracle
World, it’s much less preferred. The omission of expanded functionality buttons
such as the Start and Select keys in the center is a major detriment, too. I doubt there is a Master System fan out there
that didn’t lament the choice to put the pause button on the console itself. Obviously, the real eye catcher is the Dpad,
or as Sega liked to call it, the “D Button.” The slightly concave square is ergonomically
sound, but the lack of defined angles across a sizeable control surface makes it tough
to get your bearings at times. There is a central pivot, but the travel distance
is so shallow that it may as well not even be there. Not good. The only clear benefit to this style of pad,
er button, is the ease of access to diagonals, which is good for games that use the dreaded
“up to jump” like Lord of the Sword. Early versions of the pad had a removable
rubber plug at the center of the Dbutton that once removed let you could screw in a tiny
plastic joystick. Finding one of these in decent condition,
much less complete, is fairly challenging these days. Of course, if a control pad wasn’t quite
your style, then you might be inclined to go with a more familiar tool, such as an arcade
joystick. Sega was happy to oblige with the Control
Stick. This was the second controller I received
for Christmas along with my Master System, and I thought it was going to be awesome…
look at it! But something felt off right away and I hated
it. [Game Audio] I’m sure you’ve already noticed the major
problem with it, but I never realized until years later when I reacquired my childhood
Control Stick from a friend that… yep, it’s backwards! I’m not quite sure what Sega had in mind
by going this way with it. Maybe it was a way to appeal to Atari fans,
who were used to using their right hand for character movement and left hand for button
presses. Annoyingling, the rounded square head of the
stick seems to come loose fairly easily. Since it’s held in place by a screw, you might
need to open the whole thing up and tighten it from the inside. For as difficult as it was to adjust to using
back in ‘87, it’s especially tough to use today because it goes against 35 years of
muscle memory. Sure, it’s fine for slower paced games, but
action games? Forget it. However, if you’re left handed then you
might want to give it a try, but chances are, it’s going to feel wrong from what you’re
used to at this point as well. Game Audio] Part of the problem with the Master System
pad is that Sega hadn’t quite found their identity in the home market just yet, but
things were about to change big time. When their 16-bit follow up console was on
deck, they couldn’t stress enough that everything was bigger and better than those puny 8-bit
machines… and that wasn’t limited to graphics and sound, either. I’d never even considered that you’d ever
have, much less NEED more than two action buttons. But when I held the Genesis Three ButtonController
for the first time, it was a true revelation. A step up from the Master System in every
conceivable way. This was no toy… it was a big controller
for BIG kids. An increase in face buttons surely had to
with Sega’s desire to port their System-16 arcade games to the console. Games like Golden Axe needed a 3 button control
scheme to match the arcade, and Altered Beast being the pack-in demonstrated the benefits
of the new controller first hand with separate buttons for punch, kick and jump. Surely the additional button would come in
handy for future developments. The buttons… I mean, ahem, TRIGGERS are lined up along
the face in a slight arch. Most games have button configurations in their
option menus, but my preferred layout was to put jump on C, and Attack on B. A could
then be assigned to switching magic or less immediate functions. [Game Audio] The D button has also been hugely improved
with a circular, or disc based shape with a pronounced up, down, left and right cross. Instead of molding a central pivot on the
underside of the plastic, Sega opted to put a ball bearing in the rubber membrane. Since the Genesis is backwards compatible
with Master System games, it makes sense that it uses the same DE-9 port for controllers
and other peripherals. But, if you didn’t have a Power Base Converter,
then the controller could be used on a Master System console as well. Although it might be incompatible with a handful
of games in the library, I’m willing to bet that most people chose the Genesis controller
to play Master System games after this point, and I don’t blame them in the slightest. It’s worth mentioning that although the DE-9
connector was used on a lot of other consoles and computers at the time, doesn’t mean
you can just plug them into anything with that style of port. It’s wired up differently inside and in some
cases might damage your consoles, so make sure you do a little research beforehand. There were a number of variations of the Three
Button controller during the course of the system’s lifetime. Most of the differences are cosmetic, but
a key difference is that the plastic of the D button was altered to include a central
pivot molded into the plastic. A definite improvement, but since I prefer
the coloring of the model 1, what I’ve done is taken various parts from different versions
and made what I feel is the best 3 button pad. Of course there’s also sub-variants with
longer cords and different textured plastic on the direction button, so there might be
further room for improvement. In the years since I last used it as my primary
Genesis pad, I’m struck by just how much larger the three button controller is than
I remember it being. It must have been absolutely massive to an
11 year old. Still, this is the iconic Genesis controller
– when people think of the system, chances are this is the controller they associate
with it. As with the Master System, Sega released an
arcade joystick to compliment the abundance of arcade ports on the Genesis. In a similar fashion, the Arcade Power Stick
marked a sizable jump in quality from its predecessor. [Music] It’s solidly built and has a metal underside
to give it extra heft and the buttons have a striking resemblance to actual arcade buttons. Each of these have a dedicated rapid fire
toggle, and a slider that manipulates the rate of button presses making it great for
shooters. [Game Audio] A first impression would be positive, and
it compliments the Genesis aesthetic to a tee. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving. The primary downfall of the Power Stick is
that it uses carbon conductive silicon pads to activate movement… much like a typical control pad. While it’s fine in a smaller form factor such
as those, a joystick has increased travel distance which makes it less responsive and
soft. Clearly this was a cost saving measure, but
supposedly the Japanese version uses microswitches which would have elevated to this an essential
peripheral. As it is though, it represents one of the
more ill conceived purchases of my childhood. [Game Audio] The release of Street Fighter 2 in arcades
signaled a major shift in gaming culture upon its release in 1991. The Super NES found itself in a unique position
to receive the first home port due to the six action buttons on the controller that
matched the number in the arcade game. Although the button layout didn’t match
exactly, it was still incredibly playable – in fact, it might be blasphemous for some,
but a four face and two shoulder button layout is how I still prefer to play the game. But I digress – the fact is, if you wanted
to stand a chance in the console scene during the early 90s, you HAD to have a version of
Street Fighter 2. Sega knew this, but their three buttons put
them at a disadvantage. Sold separately for around 20 dollars, Sega
unleashed the Six Button Control Pad alongside the release of Street Fighter 2 Special Championship
Edition in late 1993. The two rows of three buttons mimicked SF2’s
layout exactly, although the game COULD be played with a three button pad if you wanted
to have a horrible time. Of course, Street Fighter wasn’t the only
game to take advantage of the new X, Y and Z buttons, but it was primarily a deluge of
fighting games that followed in its wake, that did. Nonetheless, some non-fighting games use the
extra buttons to expand functionality if you have a six button on hand. [Game Audio] Although I personally prefer the comfort of
a diamond-like layout of four face buttons, having six face buttons at your disposal might
have meant that the pad was intended to be held in a more arcade-esque manner to give
you quicker access to certain button combinations… but I just can’t do it. The circle shaped D button has been redesigned
with a totally different style of central pivot mechanism, almost like an inside out
version of the tried and true nub extrusion that nearly everyone had adopted at this point. It feels a touch mushier, but precise nonetheless. Of note is that a small handful of games,
such as Golden Axe 2 will not work with the six button in it’s default state. The fix for this is the Mode button, which
will switch the pad into three button mode if held when booting up a game. This should cure most incompatibilities, although
there are exceptions like Forgotten Worlds. [Game Audio] The Six Button Arcade Pad, model MK-1470,
is an ultra compact redesign that was packaged with the budget level Genesis 3 console in
1998. Not only has the Mode Button been moved next
to Start, but it also incorporates slow motion and rapid fire functionality. The latter of which is an all or nothing deal,
making it relatively useless for most games. The buttons are closer in size and color to
each other, but lack concave and convex surfaces. This can make it tougher to differentiate
during more hectic moments on the cramped controller. Now, the D pad matches the original 6 button
pretty closely which makes it look a bit silly disproportionate on the somewhat smaller controller. Pushing it a direction is a bit steeper, which
is nice… but it’s possible to push the entire thing down in the center, where it gives the
impression of little to no central pivot. It’s obvious these were made on a rock bottom
budget, which makes sense considering the Genesis 3 retailed for around 50 dollars in
1998. While I personally don’t prefer it, I’ve
run into several people that consider them to be their favorite. [Game Audio] But, before put a, ahem “button” on the
whole Genesis era, let’s take a quick look at those new RetroBit Genesis controllers
that just came out a little while back. I know what you’re thinkin’ – “those
aren’t first party, get ‘em outta here!” And yeah, that’s true… but, these were
reportedly made with the Sega’s original molds, so I was curious if they could be considered
exact replicas or not. These were sent over to us to check out thanks
to Castlemania Games. There’s two different color variants – a normal
black and a transparent crystal blue. Outside of the 10 foot cord, there’s no
obvious giveaways that allude to this being anything other than an official, first party
controller. Once in my hands, the first thing I noticed
was just good the buttons felt. My original is over twenty years old now,
so I can’t even remember what it felt like when it was new, y’know? But in the case of the D pad, while it looks
nearly identical and the plastic has the same texture, I noticed that pushing down on the
center causes the entire thing to sink in and all four directions to be activated, which
makes it feel closer to the 6 Button Arcade pad – although not quite as extreme. Just to make sure it wasn’t the newer rubber
membrane, I put that in my original 6 button and it was totally fine. Which leads me to believe that while these
pads supposedly use the same moldings, there’s been some slight alterations here and there. Either the center plastic post is a touch
longer or the well the pad sits in is slightly deeper. Sega sure had come a long way since the Master
System pad, and the first Six Button Controller was basically perfect. These days, the greater capabilities and smaller
size make the basic 6 button pad into what is generally considered to be the go-to controller
on the Genesis, a consensus that I’d agree with. [Game Audio] [ TRY ] The PC Engine family of consoles may
be marketed as 16-bit for their 16-bit graphics capabilities, but the 8-bit HuC6280 CPU actually
has more in common with the Famicom and NES. When the PC Engine was introduced to Japan
in 1987, many saw it as a worthy upgrade to their Famicom, and the types of games that
are popular on the console do in many ways feel like an extension of what you’d see
on the Famicom, but with a wider color palette. From that perspective then, it makes sense
that PC Engine manufacturer NEC didn’t exactly rock the boat when it came to the system’s
controller design. The two-button layout, along with a Dpad and
start and select buttons (or rather, Select and Run), was similar to what Japanese consumers
were used to using with platforms like the Famicom, Sega Mark-III, and MSX computer. The one and two buttons are virtually identical
to the A and B buttons on the Famicom and NES controllers. The controller is wider than an NES controller,
with rounded edges and a slight upward incline at the top that’s comfortable to rest your
fingers on. Something feels missing, though, right? Where’s the “turbo” in “TurboGrafx”? Well, model PI-PD001 was succeeded by PI-PD002,
which simply adds 3-way turbo speed switches for buttons I and II. NEC also shipped similar controllers that
have different model numbers, which match the color schemes used by some of the alternative
PC Engine models, such as the CoreGrafx and CoreGrafx II. [Game Audio] I’ve always been unsure if auto fire buttons
are cheating, but I appreciate that it’s practically part of the PC Engine’s identity
– turbo is an official function of the system’s flagship controller, so no guilt in using
it! The North American TurboGrafx controller is
for all intents and purposes identical to the Japanese turbo toggle controllers, aside
from the black plastic shell and a bigger controller plug. The cord is not that much longer than the
Japanese version… which is itself longer than a Super Famicom controller, but not by
much, unfortunately. The good news is that PC Engine controllers
can be extended with a pretty standard cord… some people refer to it as a Macintosh serial
connector extension, since it was pretty commonly used for those computers. Both the Japanese and TurboGrafx plugs are
standard DIN sizes, so you can find extensions and converters for both. Speaking of the DIN plugs, the most disappointing
design flaw of all PC Engine and Turbografx models is that they only have one controller
port. You need a multitap for even just two players! Like I said before, I appreciate that 2-button
controllers lead to restrained and unbloated game design. And I feel like I should like the first-party
PC Engine and TurboGrafx controllers. But there’s something about the Dpad that
I’ve never been able to get totally comfortable with. [Game Audio] The disc design is similar to Sega’s controllers
at a glance, but it’s smaller in size, more akin to the NES Dpad. And I’ve just never been able to feel as
in control with this little disc Dpad as I do with an NES, Genesis, or SNES Dpad. But that’s just me – I’ve only been into
the PC Engine for a few years now, so take that with a grain of salt. But it does make it one of the very few systems
for which I primarily use a third-party controller instead – the Hori Fighting Commander PC…
which was not the only 6-button controller released for the platform. The PC Engine Duo-RX, which combines the HuCard
and CD-ROM hardware into a single unit shipped with NEC’s very own 6-button controller. No doubt the overwhelming popularity of Street
Fighter II forced their hand, so that the PC Engine’s own version of the game could
play like fans expected it to. [Game Audio] But outside of that, the number of games that
can actually utilize more than 2 face buttons seems to be fairly limited. In fact, a toggle switch is used to flip the
controller back to 2-button mode, because otherwise you’ll have compatibility issues
with unsupported games. Coury has this controller and he tells me
that while the Dpad is larger, it feels like it has a shallow pivot, and it’s not his
favorite. Japanese controllers have an “HE System”
logo on the front, which is also on the PC Engine system itself. As far as we understand, “NEC Home Electronics”
was kind of like a separate company under NEC umbrella, and the HE System logo was licensed
out to third parties so they could make official accessories. And in some cases this has made it a bit difficult
to determine what is truly a first-party controller. For example, here’s one that’s a bit on
the fringes, but is still pretty much a first-party controller: the Avenue Pad 3. Along with a similar 6-button controller called
the AvenuePad 6, this was made by NEC Avenue, yet again a separate company, but one owned
by NEC. The AvenuePad 3 doesn’t exactly add any
new functionality, but button three can be mapped using a switch to either Select or
Run, which makes it so that action functions that might be on either of those buttons can
be more comfortably reached during gameplay. Otherwise, the AvenuePad 3 is just about what
you’d expect from a standard PC Engine controller, although the one and two buttons are a bit
higher up. [Game Audio] There are a lot of PC Engine and TurboGrafx
controllers, including some joystick controllers, but we simply don’t have all of them to
show off here today. Regardless, NEC made a plethora of simple
but serviceable controllers with built-in rapid fire functionality that supported the
PC Engine’s excellent library of games and the company’s short-lived moment as one
of the most successful companies in the Japanese video game market. [Game Audio] [ COURY ] In 1991, while the Genesis was doing
it’s best to deliver arcade quality ports, SNK stepped in with the Neo Geo… which literally
delivered arcade games at home… as long as you could handle the mega shock of the
price tag. The Neo Geo was a dream come true for dyed
in the wool arcade fans, but what good is the hardware if you don’t have a quality
joystick to go with it? Housed in jetblack plastic with gray and gold
accents, the NEOGEO Arcade Stick was both robust and high quality – Symbolic of SNK’s
dedication to the platform, but also able to endure an insane amount of wear and tear. [Game Audio] Its aesthetic of four face buttons, a ball
head joystick and start and select buttons is pretty subdued. But it’s the inside that matters and that’s
where SNK really delivers. Using a square gate microswitch delivers immediate,
precise, and natural feedback. The gulf between the Genesis stick I talked
about earlier and this one could be a mile wide. The buttons on the other hand? Well, they don’t give quite the same impression,
but they’re not bad or anything – just a bit loud. At first, their arrangement might seem weird
since they’re laid out over a steep arching incline, but once you rest your hands on the
body of the controller, it’s completely natural. Some of the more hardcore fans have taken
it upon themselves to put in new buttons that are a bit less distracting and match the arcade
color scheme. For most, the AES stick remains the defacto
standard for Neo Geo games. It’s a jack of all trades, working for every
genre on the system. There is a reason it’s so highly regarded,
even today. But then again, that might have more to do
with the fact that there weren’t any alternatives, until the more budget friendly Neo Geo CD
arrived in 1994 with two brand new controllers in tow. For those who are interested in a more typical,
console style experience, the Neo Geo CD Pad takes the size and layout of a typical control
pad and infuses it with a mini thumbstick that adds some of that spicy arcade flair,
creating a unique – if awkward – mashup. Once again, the key is the microswitches,
with each movement giving off a satisfying click. But, it does take a bit to get used to, and
I wouldn’t say that it’s optimal for the plethora of fighting games on the system. Sure, doing quarter circles is nice and fluid,
but doing any sort of double tap isn’t that efficient. Despite that, it’s slowly become my preferred
way to play the Neo Geo. I’ve found that it’s at its best with
games that allow for 8 direction movement like shooters… or overhead run and guns
like Shock Troopers. The only quirk is the ordering of the buttons,
which aren’t quite to my preference. For diamond styled layouts, I prefer the two
primary buttons to be vertical from each other, like Y and B on the SNES. However, I do like that the color coding has
finally made its way from the arcade cabinet. [Game Audio] And then you have the Arcade Stick Pro, a
more compact, colorful joystick that fans have nicknamed the “Kidney Bean” due to
it’s pleasant, curved shape. Oh yeah. Thankfully, it retains the microswitches,
but the top of the joystick itself is a bit curious. It’s a ballhead but the top has a concave
groove. Supposedly this stick was aimed at being more
comfortable for run and guns like Metal Slug. [Game Audio] The button layout matches an arcade cabinet
more closely with a horizontal spread, but, combined with the proportions of the stick,
you might find that your palm hangs off the side. This seems to be the biggest complaint with
the kidney bean stick – it’s simply too small and cramped compared to the luxurious real
estate of the original. There was a time when the Arcade Stick Pro
was more common and less expensive than the other options… but I’m not so sure that’s
the case anymore. It’s worth noting that original NeoGeo hardware
uses a standard DB-15 connector for its controllers. This port has since been adopted over the
years in nearly all Superguns, which are specialized hardware for playing arcade PCBs at home,
on a TV or monitor. So, over the years, a “clicky” stick has
become synonymous with SNK hardware. Whether it be an arcade joystick… or a mini
nub on the Neo Geo Pocket, I’d say that most fans agree that it’s a defining aspect
of anything they release… which makes it all the more baffling that when SNK released
a replica of the CD pad alongside the Neo Geo Mini in 2018, it lacked any sort of clickiness. Thankfully, a diligent modder, who goes by
the name Magic Trashman had an awesome idea. Why not take these fresh new controllers and
swap out the mushy stick with a clicky microswitch one? And while you’re at it, replace the USB
C cable with a DB-15 so you can use it on original hardware. Sounds like a great idea in theory, but is
it as good as the original CD pad? Like the NeoGeo arcade stick, the original
CD Pad uses a square gate to define and limit the movement of the stick itself. However, the stick used in the Mini Pad’s
mod doesn’t have any sort of gate at all. You can do big, wide circles with it all day
long, but at the cost of stick travel distance and responsiveness. It’s essentially like an analog stick with
digital characteristics. At first, this might not seem like a big deal…
but in practice, it’s simply nowhere near as good as the original. It feels way to slippery, and ultimately laggy
because of how far the stick has to move to engage the microswitch. After some adjustment, it was manageable,
but I could never quite get fully used to it. One other difference to note is the button
layout. While hardcore fans might scoff, this is exactly
what I was looking for. Finally, I can lay my thumb vertically across
the A and B buttons… perfect for jumping and shooting in Metal Slug and more. It quite honestly feels great for most games… Now, I wish I could have THIS button layout,
with the original Thumbstick. So, while this mod does a good job loosely
emulating the feel of the original pad, it’s not exactly comparable. Of course, this is no fault of Magic Trashman’s
mod – it’s just that the new design of the stick is too far removed from the original
to accurately incorporate something closer. He did the best he could despite inherent
limitations. So, although I didn’t care much for it,
who knows – there might be some people out there that prefer it versus the original. [Game Audio] [ TRY ] Over the course of a decade plus,
Nintendo, Sega, and their competitors brought 8-bit gaming to new heights and virtually
perfected 2D game design in the 16-bit era. And that competition resulted in two of the
most popular and enduring button layouts in gaming history – the diamond and the 6-button
– enough for any game designer to build an engaging game around. The next time we visit the subject of first-party
controllers, we’ll see how these types of controllers met the needs of 3D gaming, and
where Nintendo, Sega, and newcomers to the gaming market took things from there.

Comments (100)

  1. I play on pc and do not know what the first party controller is? I just assume 360.

  2. For me, the best combo for the NES is the dogbone, the NES Fourscore and the 8bitdo wireless adaptor. The controller is superbly comfortable, the Fourscore lets you turn on turbo fire for each button which gives my hands a bit of a rest when playing Contra and the wireless just gets rid of all the cables.

  3. You push buttons on nes weird. Thought everyone pushed them like you do on the snes.
    Seems like it is not comfortable to even hold controller with thumb on botton compared to the side. Like he holds the sms controller 18:43. Thought that is how everyone held the nes controller

  4. Great retrospective on classic controllers! I have always found it so amazing how different people like different control methods. I probably have 100+ controllers in the house since 1975 and they are the one thing I enjoy the most in gaming. Im addicted to controllers! lol

  5. The 8-bit and 16-bit era controllers were much higher in quality because: Made in Japan
    Also, the Japanese NES had shorter controller than it's US counterpart, because the houses in Japan were much smaller.

  6. I saw a controller that had four buttons on it which is standard. I do not remember what the buttons were labeled but if we pretend and use the Xbox 360 controller as the button labels then the why button was farther away from the x button for some reason but all the buttons were just as close to each other other than that

  7. It all depends on the game for which side I like the joystick on

  8. Why is it 3 buttons when you can clearly see 4 buttons labled A B C START also C is literally the select button witch was usless being next to start

    As a 3rd grader i struggled to push Right or A cuz it was so big

  9. anyone know the game on 2:41?

  10. Huge NES Max person here. When I first got it I was negative on it, but then my NES Advantage started to go and so picked the Max back up for turbo buttons. Once I got the feel for it, it was my go to…until I got angry one day playing and threw it across the room. Lol

  11. How is it with 8bit do wireless pcb?

  12. I've been trying to find that wu tang controller for like a decade

  13. Why miss the power pad? It’s a first party controller. It’s literally a controller.

  14. What's the name of the game at 10:10?

  15. First good you tube vid that actually mentioned the cute lil' joystick the Master System originally came with.
    And that control stick.. ugh.. I AM Left handed and I still couldn't use it.
    The arcades trained us all to shoot and jump with our right and move with our left.. which imho IS left handed. That's why game developers did that. for more quarters in the bucket.

  16. Whoa they spoke of the Neo Geo, it exists. MLIG has been silent on the Neo Geo since its inception.

  17. I use an NES Max as my main NES controller… but I had to mod it. Took the slider pod out and popped it open, threw the slider away and replaced it with a thumbstick from an X Box 360. You do have to sand down the base of the thumbstick to get it to fit, but it's not much to remove. Once you snap it all back together, you have something even better than the original D-Pad. Which is hard to beat.

  18. I really wish you guys had hunted down or borrowed more PC engine controllers, would have been interesting to see some of the arcade sticks reviewed

  19. I loved my NES Max, though I took it apart, removed that red part, and superglued a D pad to it, made a great controller then, especially those turbo buttons

  20. I had never even heard about the Genesis Arcade Power Stick before. Looks really cool.

  21. NES MAX was used for RC Pro-Am and Hockey, which was awesome relief for your thumb. And the Famicom's controller and shortness of the cable compared to the NES' have to be taken into context, most folks in who lived in proper Tokyo had apartments that were about less than 500 sq. ft. for a family of four. It was not uncommon that 500 sq. ft +/- 100 sq. ft. for a family of four. Also, the caddy that held the controller on the base itself is a very Japanese-culture thing, where it's nice and clean and can be stowed away since Japanese parents were very similar to other parents around the world that dealt with video game consoles, which were annoyance and units needed to be tucked away after each use since living in a small space meant you may end up stepping on it if you don't put it away in a entertainment cabinet.

  22. I wish someone would make a PS4 type controller with a Genesis 6-button dpad.

  23. I could be wrong, but we all know Japan is crowed . Small homes short cables ?

  24. I put a red rubberized xbox one joystick in my nes max controller with no modification necessary. Looks awesome and is comfortable. Would recommend any nes gamer to try it.

  25. I can only play 8 and 16-bit games with an arcade style setup nowadays. Plus turbo buttons are always a great feature!

  26. Anyone else here for nes and mega drive?

  27. Man, this is the best show on all of Youtube. Nothing comes remotely close to the joy it brings me.

  28. Next episode 5th and 6th generation controlers please!!! There's a lot to talk about there too 🙂

  29. that snes controller rebuild kit are the pads any better than the ones in a chinese controller the original red pad is a different formula of silicone than the white pads found in chinese controllers

  30. Gentlemen, a dry nylon toothbrush easily whisks away finger sludge. I made the mistake of eating a fish sandwich while watching around 19:45. While my dinner is ruined, the controllers may yet be saved.

  31. Beh beh beh.. boi. new controller. old farts! 50 min of this nonsense? Waw.

  32. Does everybody has beaten game on the list?

  33. I always felt that SEGA's controls were "a previous generation" regarding their consoles.
    I would have loved to have a Genesis with a gamepad like Saturn's, not only for the additional buttons but it is much more comfortable to use.

  34. Yes, the Japanese Mega Drive Arcade Power Stick and it's six button successor, the Arcade Power Stick 6B, are both micro-switched, offering a significantly better experience than the variants we received in the West – both are fantastic sticks. They're some still available on eBay, but prices are quite high.

  35. It'd be awesome if you could compare the originals to the new mini console controllers 🙂

  36. What game is that at 5:20 ???

  37. Amazing job on this video. You guys could make anything entertaining!

  38. Original Sega Genesis 6 Button is the greatest controller ever! I couldn't believe how comfortable and responsive it was. As a kid I was like smaller with more buttons sweet. The d-pad is incredible on it.

  39. As a Master System owner in the day, I don't remember reaching over to pause being an issue. I agree the buttons are squishy on the sms but I don't think it's objectively worse than the nes control pad.

    I fixed my Mega Drive 6 button controller last week using the button pads from a cheap clone Saturn controller. I just had to remove the bit that you put into a peg to position it over the button and do it manually but now it works amazing. Oh yeah, I also had to create perfectly round, 4 layer paper circles (using Pritt Stick and scissors) under the buttons to raise them up… NOW it works perfectly… I also got a Mega Drive 3 button joystick but it's too stiff to use. The joystick is not being held high up enough for some reason. I placed a piece of card under it which helped but you get stiff arms. 🙁

  40. I'm pretty sure they didn't "literally" deliver arcade games to the home….

  41. I wish you talked about the Saturn controller which is regarded by many as the best one ever created.

  42. Haha, you LOVE the D. Pad.

  43. When the heck is the hyperkin 64 coming out?!

  44. I tried two different mods for the NES MAX. First I tried replacing that nub with a replacement Xbox 360 stick. Despite everyone saying it made the controller "the best ever," it still took a lot of effort to move in one direction and quick, precise taps were pretty much impossible.

    Next I tried just gluing an SNES d-pad right onto the black ring of the NES MAX. That was better than the nub, but now the d-pad was raised pretty high compared to the buttons, and diagonals were still difficult.

    I still feel it's one mod away from greatness. Maybe somebody can figure out a 3D-printed insert to make rubber contacts hit easier?

  45. controllers have minimal wires in japan because only industry moguls can sit more than 2 meters away from their tvs there….

  46. This video was a lot of fun!

  47. Excellent video, looking forever to the 3D console controller video.

  48. You missed the MK-1470 Genesis controller. It's different from the MK-1417, and is also a turbo controller, it's probably one of my favorite Genesis controllers aside from the original 3 button.

  49. My parents sent in my NES and 40+ games off to Nintendo in the mid or late 90’s for their professional cleaning. Controllers went in the box also.

    When they came back (weeks later), they had replaced my original controllers with brand new dogbone controllers.

    I had…mixed feelings. I need to dig them out and have a go with both older and newer.

  50. Six-button controller was the first one I used when I first played the Genesis, but I can appreciate the original. NES Dogbone is my personal favorite since as time went on, the rectangular original controller started to feel small and painful. Thankfully, one of the third-party controller manufacturers got it right for once and made a replicated NES Dogbone that feels great. If you want to get a cheap NES Dogbone, go with the third-party one by Tomee; first time I've seen them make a good controller.

  51. I want to buy the documentary when its available

  52. No mention of the Sega SG-1000/mk2 controllers and how they were nicer than the Master System's later mushy dpad.

  53. Great video guys. I had a sega arcade stick and now I realize why I could never beat the submarine bubble level in earthworm Jim

  54. The Nintendo Switch is the first console that I've preferred to use a third party controller. I use the SN30 Pro Plus over the Joycon and grip.

  55. It's incredible how in depth you guys get in your videos. i love that attention to detail and throughness. It keeps me coming back! I love your passion for retro gaming and it has inspired my renewed passion as well. Thank you for your awesome content!

  56. 4:27 If you want Simplicity and Limitation. You should picked the Atari Joystick. It had a stick and one button. That pretty Limited and Simple.

  57. They sell replacement rubber inserts for the insides of these controllers now and will basically make your controller work like new again. Definitely worth getting to refurb your original controllers that you use a lot. EDIT – Lol nevermind, I hadn't watched far enough into the video to see that you already covered this.

  58. All you needed for that old SNES controller of yours was new rubber inserts for the inside as these wear out over time and lose their "spring". That would have made your controller work and feel like new again. EDIT – Lol nevermind, I hadn't watched far enough into the video to see that you already covered this.

  59. My favorite video ever from you guys was the first controllers video. Seeing this makes me so excited!!!

  60. What is that charger that you have the Switch Online NES controllers charging on Try? I really need one that will work in my set up.

  61. Awesome video! Whats the game at 27:27?

  62. Wait….. what? Zappers don't work on the AV Famicom? I find that hard to believe…. why would that be?

  63. It's amazing how Nintendo created the first ever video game controller in 1985! I mean, they had to think up the design completely from scratch since nobody had ever seen a home video game before, and nobody had any idea how to play one. Nintendo really doesn't get enough credit for being the first company in history to create a video game system that you could hook up to your TV.

    Can you believe that Wikipedia even lies and says that some made up companies like "Atari", "Coleco" and even "Magnavox" beat them to market by several years? As if anyone would believe something so outrageous! Everyone knows Nintendo was the first!

  64. Why did plugging in the neogeo serial plug make a camera shutter sound?

  65. Great video, guys! Do you happen to have a list of every game that is shown during the episode? There were some Mega Drive and specially PC Engine games which I couldn't recognize in the slightest, and I'm looking forward to getting to know more on the action libraries of these systems!

  66. I had a capcom controller for the Super Nintendo that my brother made me use. It was the worst controller ever. Just look up pictures of the capcom Super Nintendo controller. Just freaking awful

  67. How many terrible controllers did 3rd party people push for the regular Nintendo ? From the damn rolling rocker to the power glove to the virtual controller. God they were terrible. They always advertised how it was “better than using a controller” when in reality they weren’t just bad. They were useless snake oil

  68. The ultimate controllers for side scrolling games are still the original PlayStation controller and the Super Nintendo controller. Nothing comes close and Xbox makes the best for 3D games.

  69. So does Surfshark support Torrents? If so then that's one helluva price for a VPN!

  70. How about the second first party arcade stick for the Mega Drive?

  71. No mention of the original square rubber button famicom controller?

  72. Man I was late on the genesis. Mine came with a 6 button out of the box. Precise a pal megadrive 2 with the compact housing. Had this system for the majority of childhood then moved to a fat ps2. As many people at that time for the DVD player.

  73. I agree, the original NES controller feels better than the dog bone. When I started buying for my collection, I was excited to get a Dog Bone for cheap from eBay. I can see the appeal, but it just doesn't feel right… The NES Max… It was a controller. It did have its place tho. I really enjoy(ed) it with games like Gun.Smoke for the turbo buttons and games like Marble Madness for the more complete directional feel.

    What happened to the Super Advantage for the SNES?? Nevermind, did a google search and never realized it was not a first party controller…

  74. What's the game at 23:00 ?

  75. Ps4 controllers are garbage. My nes controllers from the 80s are still far superior to Ps4 controllers and I never had to replace them. On my 5th Ps4 controller and it's already screwing up less than 5 months after buying brand new. I need a F-ing warranty on my controllers

  76. Sorry but the Famicom looked like shit

  77. I hate that dogbone

  78. Awesome video, I live for this kind of stuff! Keep up the amazing content

  79. What is the song playing at time 25:12 ?

  80. The SNES controller was my favorite all the way through my childhood. My hand never fit the NES correctly, and I had fatigue problems constantly. Likewise, the buttons on the Gameboy were too close to the edge, causing thumb cramps. The N64 was a departure from common sense, and the Gamecube was just bizarre with it's radial C controls. Sega's controllers always felt insanely cheap compared to the build quality on Nintendo. The SNES didn't get dethroned until the 360 came out, and even then the D-pad was DOA on the Xbox. I now use a 360 controller on PC for most of my controller gaming, but I still have my original SNES, and they still work. I think there's a very good reason the classic controller for the Wii was "reminiscent" of a certain previous design.

  81. Well Nintendo was the first to have a D-pad, it was on one of the game and watches.

  82. On the next ep. on controllers you guys have to talk about the worst ones like the Steam Controller and Ouya controller and the Android Moga controller. That one has driver issues and analog trigger mapping problems. Those 3 controllers were a waste of money.

  83. Oh and one more thing on controllers, you have to add this test to your reviews. “Can you Hadouken reliably?” That should be a dealbreaker for a d-pad !!! Every controller review needs this!

  84. For the Atari 2600 the genesis controller is the best option for controller.

  85. The only thing i can say about the NES Max controller is that i rememeber it had the fastest rapid fire buttons, even faster than the nes advantage.

    It was great for NES Hockey.. it was okay for everything else..

  86. I always liked the sms controller, can’t say it was the best… probably just nostalgia talking

  87. When I play fast paced high action and speedrun nes games, i use dedicated fingers per button on a dogbone with a claw grip. Love it. For less precise quick button press games, rectangle is fine.

  88. worst controller ever 3DO omg it sucked

  89. I'm a simple man. I see a MLIG video, I immediately hit the like button.

  90. I thought the initial term for the directional pad was “control cross”

  91. Managed to score the Japanese Mega Drive version of the Arcade Power Stick about a year ago, and those microswitches make all the difference. Awesome joystick for the plethora of great shooters on Genesis.

  92. Thanks for putting the ad at the end of the video.

  93. Speak for yourself Jack I’m a adult and I have no problem using my NES max, I laughed about your complaint”oh you have to apply pressure” no shit Sherlock lol

  94. You are using the joystick wrong. but the stalk between your thumb and forefinger (where the thumb meets the palm) – you do not grab the knob (innuendo is not intentional) – most of the action is with your thumb.

  95. Love the videos, just wish you guys could list out the video games you're playing during the videos with time stamp. There's some really cool games I'd seen and want to add to my collection! Thanks again for the content.

  96. Note: cable length on the Japanese SNS-102 is longer than the US SNS-102 (the opposite is true for the original SHVC-005 / SNS-005 controllers).

  97. The best dpad ever was the gba/gamecube one. Fight me.

  98. What about the trackball controller for the master system?

  99. Great video. ThankS very much. In my humble opinion that Nintendo patent for the Joypad was an absolute joke.

  100. Protip: You can open up the NES Max controller and remove the red disc part. It works much better that way…. not as good as a regular controller, but not too bad.

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