When we first checked out Retro-Bit's Sega Genesis and Saturn controllers at CES in January, we came away from our brief hands-on very impressed with how the gamepads were shaping up. Well, both controllers finally began shipping a few weeks ago, and we're pleased to report that these new renditions don't merely look the part — they're practically clones of the original hardware.
Retro-Bit's Genesis and Saturn controllers currently come in two colors each, and customers have their choice of USB versions or ones that utilize the consoles' proprietary connectors. They start at $14.99 for the 6-button Genesis controller, and go up to $24.99 for a Saturn USB one, while the USB-compatible Genesis controller adds shoulder buttons to the mix. The cable on each is 10 feet long — a generous length in an age when Nintendo is pumping out NES and SNES pads with comically short, 5-foot cables.
For those who would still rather go wireless, Retro-Bit will eventually offer Bluetooth models of the Genesis and Saturn controllers as well, in addition to Dreamcast and Saturn 3D reproductions. But the gaming accessory maker isn't rushing through the development phase. Rather, it's fully partnered with Sega to ensure that these new controllers are as similar to their decades-old counterparts as possible. Sega certainly has been no stranger to lending its name to sub-standard products in recent years, but this particular venture with Retro-Bit is no slapdash licensing job.
That last point becomes extremely clear the minute you look at the packaging these controllers come in. Their boxes have been done up in the same style as actual Genesis and Saturn products back in the day, even down to the typefaces. That attention to detail thankfully extends to the controllers themselves, with perfectly-accurate fonts, button labels and stenciling across the front and back. The only way you'd ever be able to visually tell the difference between one of Retro-Bit's new pads and a real example is by reading the legal imprint on the back.
Honestly, I'm shocked at how first-rate the build quality is. The combination of matte and glossy plastics has been preserved across both platforms' controllers, and the rubberized D-pads have the proper Sega feel to them. Directional taps are marked with a sort of dampened tactile feedback that will be familiar to any gamer that owned one of Sega's 16- or 32-bit consoles.
To this day, Sega Rally Championship remains my barometer for the proper physicality every arcade racer should strive for — and a lot of that relates to how the handling plays off the Saturn's D-pad. I felt right at home with Retro-Bit's new controller as I whipped my Lancia Stratos around the Mountain course's vicious hairpin without throwing away my lap into the side of a cliff.
The face buttons on both controllers also felt just right — again, a little spongy but never imprecise — though I can't quite say the same for the Saturn's shoulder buttons. They're still responsive, but they lack the clickiness of the original run, and they don't have quite the same high-pitched ring to them when pressed. However, that nitpick shouldn't hinder playability at all.
Although I appreciate the accuracy Retro-Bit achieved with both of these controllers, I especially love that they took some creative license as well. The Slate Grey colorway of the Saturn controller is a new take on the off-white/multicolored version offered in Japan, only Retro-Bit has gone ahead and made the plastic shell smoky and translucent. It's even better looking than the original, and really sets off those green, yellow, blue and hot pink face buttons. (I don't quite feel the same way about the rather cheap-looking translucent blue Genesis variant, but the original black is still available for retro purists.)
Those who opt for the USB models will be pleased to note that these controllers support both X-input and D-input standards used for PC games, and can be switched back and forth by long-pressing the Start buttons for 5 seconds.
Overall, Sega fans should be very, very excited to get these controllers in their hands. Saturn owners in the West have never had a first party-caliber, OEM replacement available to them before, and anyone who is eyeing Analogue's hi-fi Genesis clone, the Mega Sg, will absolutely want to pick up a new Genesis pad for a slightly more faithful alternative to 8BitDo's still very good M30 pad.
Credit: Tom's Guide
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Adam Ismail is a staff writer at Jalopnik and previously worked on Tom's Guide covering smartphones, car tech and gaming. His love for all things mobile began with the original Motorola Droid; since then he’s owned a variety of Android and iOS-powered handsets, refusing to stay loyal to one platform. His work has also appeared on Digital Trends and GTPlanet. When he’s not fiddling with the latest devices, he’s at an indie pop show, recording a podcast or playing Sega Dreamcast.