LAS VEGAS — A year ago, gaming accessory maker Retro-Bit announced a line of Sega Genesis, Saturn and Dreamcast controllers in full partnership with the former console maker. The controllers were designed to look precisely like their original counterparts, and would even be sold in very similar packaging. Fans were stoked, but as the year wore on, Retro-Bit never shed light on release dates or pricing.
We met up with Retro-Bit at CES this week, and we're happy to report that Sega accessories are not only still in the pipeline, but will start rolling out in earnest this spring. A representative told Tom's Guide that the company will begin with the Genesis/Mega Drive and Saturn products, which include wired controllers implementing either the original connectors or USB, as well as Bluetooth variants that can be purchased with receivers, so they can be used with the original consoles as well.
Retro-Bit is targeting a February 28 launch for the wired Genesis and Saturn controllers, which will cost $19.99 and $24.99, respectively. However, the company isn't ruling out the slim possibility of further delays, as it's working diligently alongside Sega to make this first run as perfect as it can be.
The good news is that because these controllers appear to be in such excellent shape right now, we don't see a reason they shouldn't be in customers' hands very soon. Retro-Bit brought along original Genesis and Saturn controllers for comparison purposes, and the reproductions feel very, very close to the originals. The new Saturn controller's D-pad is spot on, as are its clicky shoulder buttons. The face buttons don't seem quite as shallow and spongy, but the difference is negligible and not off-putting by any means.
The overall build quality is pretty consistent, too. Retro-Bit's Saturn controller mixes textured and glossy materials in the same way that the original did, there's a proper first-party heft to it and all the labels, fonts and markings are accurate. Additionally, the company is producing two versions of its Genesis pad — a standard six-button version and another with shoulder buttons as well, for PC, Mac and Steam.
Both the Genesis and Saturn controllers will be offered in the original black that American gamers will recognize, though two other colorways are on the way, too. There's a new translucent blue for the Genesis pad, but what I'm especially in love with is the oddly-named Slate Grey Saturn controller, which combines a smoky translucent shell with teal, yellow, blue and pink multicolored buttons — just like the white Japanese Saturn pad we never saw in the West.
What about the rest of the line? Well, the Bluetooth Genesis and Saturn controllers — both with and without analog sticks — are coming later this summer. These were concealed in acrylic cases and based on their labeling, looked more like prototypes than final products.
And as for the Dreamcast and dinner-plate shaped Saturn 3D Controller, Retro-Bit could only offer a tentative estimate for the third quarter of 2019. In fact, the company didn't even bring examples of those last two pads to CES; instead, they merely displayed actual Dreamcast and Saturn 3D controllers on their shelves. That has us a bit concerned — but then again, those wired Genesis and Saturn reproductions are really nice, which gives us confidence.
That's not even all the Sega news Retro-Bit had to share, as it turns out the company is also working on a portable Genesis that looks very, very similar to the Nomad handheld of the mid-'90s. Retro-Bit is quick to point out that this product hasn't been developed in a partnership with Sega and will not be called Nomad, though it will include some modern conveniences, like support for Bluetooth controllers and the addition of an HDMI-out port.
The prototype shown was still early in development though, so it's possible Retro-Bit may refine the design. The portable Genesis is tentatively priced at $69.99, and could also be out as soon as this summer.