Tag Archives: Peripherals

The Edge Joystick Review

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With the recent news that the NES Classic Edition is going back into production next year,  you might be looking forward to the re-release. Especially if you missed out the first time around. Of course, with any new console (yes even the all-in-ones) come a host of third-party accessories, and peripherals. The Edge is one of them.

PROS: Arcade grade buttons. Also compatible with the Wii U, and Wii!

CONS: Mediocre base.

ADVANTAGE: The controller pays homage to Nintendo’s NES Arcade Stick.

The Edge is modeled after Nintendo’s own NES Advantage. A legendary controller that any NES collector should own. It was designed with arcade games, and ports in mind. Donkey Kong, Galaga, Pac-Man, Mario Bros, and Double Dragon were just some of the classics that were even more enjoyable with a proper arcade stick.

Well, several of these games’ ROMs came on the NES Classic Edition. With no official NES Classic Edition version of the NES Advantage (Nintendo only made the Control Pads) EMiO enters the fray. EMiO is known mostly for common accessories like cases, and wall chargers for portable devices. They’re also the company behind the Mega Man headphones.

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With the NES Classic Edition launch, the company capitalized on the lack of an arcade stick with their own Advantage clone. They also made knock off Control Pads to capitalize on the shortage of first-party branded ones. I can’t comment on these as I don’t have them to test out. But I did happen upon The Edge, and this is what I found.

The Edge Joystick gets a number of things right, and has a few nice features under the hood. It’s stylish, and really does capture the look of an actual NES Advantage. It has turbo switches, and dials like the original. It also has a slow motion button, and adds an A+B button which performs actions in games that require pressing both, A, and B simultaneously.

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One really cool thing about this one is the inclusion of arcade joystick grade buttons. They’re nice, comfortable, and give you the familiar clicking you’d expect. The stick also has a nice arcade spring, and feels nice when moving it around. They also included interchangeable joystick knobs. There’s the ball style that the NES Advantage had, and then there’s a more traditional wedge style you can use instead. These easily twist on or off, so you can use whichever style you like with ease.

One other thing to keep in mind is the NES Classic Edition uses the same ports for controllers as the Wii mote controllers have for attachments. That makes the controllers for the NES Classic Edition compatible with the Wii, and Wii U. The Edge Joystick can be used with old games purchased on the Wii Shop Channel, and Nintendo E-Shop. I tested it with several games, and the results were mixed.

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On the Wii U, I tried the stick with Mighty Final Fight. In this case things were pretty good. The controller was pretty responsive, and I was able to play the game fairly well. Nothing to complain about. I also fired up Wii Mode, and proceeded to go into my roster of classics. I started up Donkey Kong, which is also on the NES Classic Edition. This was the first game I had a big problem with. For whatever reason going from walking right or left to climbing up a ladder would never go seamlessly. I had to stop walking, then push up on the joystick to climb. Donkey Kong pretty much requires spot on movement, and this put a big damper on the game.

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I then tried a few non-NES games just to see how well it worked with some of the other emulated systems. Boulder Dash for the Commodore 64 in Wii mode worked okay. Not great. Not bad. Just okay. Holding the stick in any direction often overshot where I wanted to be by one tile. But tapping the stick allowed me to move one tile at a time well enough. It was playable, but Boulder Dash is another platform, puzzle game that requires spot on movement. In later levels where speed is as important as planning, you may just want to use the Wii Remote for this one.

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I also used the stick with Cho Aniki for the TG-16 in Wii mode. This controlled just fine with the stick, and I didn’t have much to complain about. I was able to move in all directions smoothly, and firing was just as responsive. Another one that played well with The Edge was Contra Rebirth. Running, jumping, and firing in all directions were smooth during my play time with it. I closed out the tests with Ninja Combat for the Neo Geo on the Wii. If not for the fact the game requires a four button controller, this would have been the best test game. Moving, shooting, and jumping worked perfectly. Unfortunately, only having two buttons meant I couldn’t perform every function required to play properly. Still, it was a nice surprise.

One nice touch is the Nintendo Power pastiche included in the box. It’s a small booklet with some strategies, and cheat codes for the 30 games included in the NES Classic Edition. So if you’re picking this up with the console, it’s a fun little bit of bonus material for you.

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Aside from some iffy performance on some titles, the big problem with this controller is the inconsistency with the build. The nice, arcade buttons for the A, and B buttons are great, and the stick component is pretty good. Regrettably though, I have to point out the very light, and cheap feeling plastics for the controller body. If you come into this looking for the same hefty, build quality of the original NES Advantage you’re not going to find it.

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The Edge is a mixed bag. For some games you’ll like it fine enough, while on others you’ll just want to roll with the standard pad or Wii mote.  The real disappointment is the flimsy feel of the plastics aside from the rather nice buttons. There are worse controllers for the Classic, Wii, and Wii U. But this isn’t going to be the most well-rounded option either. Unless you’re dead set on using a joystick, and don’t have the hundreds to drop on a high-end arcade stick, I would stick with the standard first-party control pads. Or a Wii Classic Controller Pro for playing on the NES Classic or the original Wii. Wii U owners can also use the Wii U pro controller for games on the eshop.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

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SD2EIC Drive Review

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It’s no secret I’m a huge Commodore fan. As a child in the 80’s, I started gaming on the seminal Atari 2600. It’s a timeless system for many reasons, and I still fire it up a lot today. But when my father came home with a Commodore 64 bread bin it quickly became the de facto platform in our household. When the company redesigned the computer, and sold a cheaper junior model, my father bought one, and donated the old one to relatives. But from the moment I saw Forbidden Forest running off a cassette tape the first time, I was hooked.

Through the years I played tons of awesome games on it. It wasn’t until I was a Junior in High School that we would move to a modern MS-DOS X86 PC. Because that is how versatile the King of 8-bit computers was. The C64 launched in 1983, and wasn’t discontinued until 1994 when the company went out of business. It’s fondly remembered as a games machine, because it’s where many companies went during the console market crash, and where many indies that became today’s majors got their start.

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It was a big deal here in North America, but it was even bigger in Europe. There are countless games that never officially made it Stateside.  So the platform is also an importer’s dream. Provided of course you’re willing to wade through the landmine of PAL Vs. NTSC concerns.

But whether you’re a North American or European Commodore 64 owner, there’s no denying that over time some of our floppies, and cassettes are slowly wearing out. A lot of our disk drives, and datasette drives are going kaput. With only so many in the wild, it’s going to get harder, and harder to rebuild our beloved collections. But fear not! Thanks to The Future Was 8-bit there is a way to keep the memory alive, on the original hardware.

PROS: An SD Card reader that emulates Floppy, and Cassette drives exceptionally well!

CONS: Not quite everything is compatible.

BUT: Far more than enough is compatible.

At first glance, the SD2EIC just looks like an SD card reader in a cute 1541 floppy drive shaped casing. But it’s no ordinary SD card reader!  This device emulates an actual 1541, and datasette environment. It plugs into either the tape drive slot or the floppy drive slot (depending on the version you order), and the serial DB port.  From here you can put in an SD card with your Commodore 64 program files , and run them natively on the computer!

This can be done a few ways, you can download images (assuming you own the programs in question), or if you have the means, you can back up your files to a computer, and then transfer them to a card.  You can also migrate disk images from the 1541 floppy drive to the SD2EIC. This is a little bit more involved, since you’ll need a couple of extra cables, and you’ll need to find a Compression software that works with the platform. Once you’re set up though, you will be so glad you have one of these.

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The device utilizes a file browser software file you can download which lets you go through a DOS like directory system. This makes it easy for you to organize files, and set them up in an order you feel most comfortable with. The documentation included with the SD2EIC gives you a pretty detailed set of instructions on using it. For basic file browsing though, it is pretty straight forward. You can navigate using either the CRSR Up/Down key, or a joystick in port two. If you don’t feel comfortable configuring the software, you can order a preconfigured card with it. The card has the file browser, and a bunch of programs on it.

If that weren’t enough, the device also has three buttons on it which are used when using programs that require multiple disks. This is handy when running a game or other program, that would normally involve flipping a diskette over, or putting in the next diskette when prompted. Here you have forward, backward, and reset buttons which you can press in these situations. Two of the buttons also act as the power, and load/save LEDs on the 1541 floppy drive. It’s really cool, and a nice touch to an already great experience.

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The SD2EIC can read all kinds of C64 file images. It can run D64, T64 files as well as PRG files. Again, it can also run them sequentially. But the device can also save files. This makes the unit very attractive to budding BASIC programmers. If you know your way around code, you can use this in lieu of a floppy diskette drive. This is a great way to save your projects without fear of a 1541 drive dying, or your diskette wearing out, and your data going with it. Plus even a relatively small SD card can house thousands of programs, and files due to the small file sizes on a typical 5.25″ Floppy Diskette. It’s compatible with both NTSC, and PAL machines too, though if you put PAL files on your card, and run it on an NTSC machine you’ll likely experience the same random glitches, video issues, or occasional crashes you would if you were to run an imported game on floppy.

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One of the things that really impressed me was the build quality. Most commercial SD card readers, even ones made by big industry names can be flimsy. The SD2EIC I received is superb. It’s built with plastic made by recycling broken Commodore 64, and 128 computer cases. It’s sturdy, and even the cabling feels secure. It isn’t something you can be careless with, but it can withstand shuffling around your set up.

There are a handful of minor issues with the drive. The first is that you do not want to accidentally grab the wrong controller if you have two of them plugged in. Doing so will exit you out of the program, and drop you back to the BASIC prompt. The second is that the SD2EIC doesn’t emulate a 1541 drive at 100%. That’s because the 1541 floppy drive is powered by another MOS 6502 CPU just like the stock Commodore 64 computer. So there are a handful of programs that won’t work due to being written in a way that utilizes the 1541 floppy drive in a specific way.

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Nevertheless, I can still tell you that the SD2EIC is a must own peripheral for any Commodore 64 collector. The wealth of pros outweigh the cons of a few incompatible programs out there. Especially when you consider just how versatile it is. The ability to run backup images alone, is something that should put this on your radar. With 5.25″ diskettes drying up, breaking down, and working 1541 drives dying from old age, this is a very welcome peripheral for preservation. Plus, budding indie developers have a means for their BASIC, and Assembly language projects to be stored on a modern format.

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It’s amazing how many wonderful homebrew products keep coming out for this legendary machine. Over the last three decades there have been Ethernet cards, a web browser, and even a new motherboard! But this drive is going to be more, and more sought after as time goes on. And, as these are made from recycled Commodore computers, you may want to get one before they dry up. It is truly a must own peripheral for anyone interested in Commodore.

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Now it should be noted there are other ways to get the SD2EIC. You can buy the circuit board, and daughter board from NKC Electronics. It’s nice if you’re good at assembling your own casings, and doing your own electronics assembly, or repair. But going with this specific one makes things very convenient. Plus the use of recycled computers to make the attractive casing is a nice touch that keeps them out of the landfill. I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s true. TheFutureWas8Bit has really outdone themselves with this one. Whether you’re a long time fan, or new to Commodore. Get yourself an SD2EIC from them. You won’t be sorry. Even the care put into the shipping packaging will astound you.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Sega Control Stick Review

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So you’ve got your Sega Master System, or Power Base Converter for your Genesis. You’re all set to play some Alien Syndrome or Penguin Land using your Genesis game pad. Because that mushy directional square on the Master System controller just doesn’t work as nicely. But wait! For some weird mapping reason, these games just don’t respond to your Genesis pad. You look online to see that you can clip one wire inside to make it work, but this will relegate your Genesis pad to Master System status forever! Fear not! There are other ways!

PROS: Pretty sturdy construction. More responsive in many games.

CONS: Left handed layout may take getting used to. Not as responsive in some games.

ADVANTAGE: Hard to say. But not going to look as nice as the NES Advantage.

If you’re upset with the performance level of the stock Master System controller you’re not alone. It’s serviceable, but in some games, the mushy pad makes you go down when you meant to go right. Or on a northern arc, when you thought you were pressing left. Sometimes a direct line of movement simply doesn’t happen when it should. Many collectors use a Sega Genesis pad. This works in most games, but there are a handful that don’t work with a never modified Genesis controller. Modifying one also kills the compatibility with the Genesis in the process. To avoid that, some have even gone as far as paying for custom controllers. While this is a wonderful option one can take advantage of, it’s usually pretty expensive. Not everyone collecting 8-bit Sega stuff can invest in one.

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Enter Sega’s Control Stick! It’s an arcade style joystick for the Master System, originally released in 1987. Right away, you’ll notice it has a sturdy build. It doesn’t feel flimsy in any regard at all. The base is nice, and hefty. The 1, and 2 buttons feel pretty good, and responsive.  The stick itself is also pretty solid. Everything goes the way it is supposed to, and it has a knob molded  like the shift stick on the Outrun arcade cabinet.

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In terms of build, this is pretty good, and may be something you’ll want to track down. I put it through the paces with a bunch of games. Alien Syndrome benefited greatly from the Control Stick. It was much easier to get going on direct paths, with far less accidental diagonal runs into enemies. The Control Stick also worked very well with Space Harrier, and After Burner. Moving around was very simple, and shooting things down went very well. It doesn’t replicate the arcade experience, but it is a bit better than playing with the stock pad. I also had a pretty good experience playing R-Type with it.

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Unfortunately not every game is well suited to the Control Stick. Double Dragon was still much easier to play with the Control Pad, as getting the two buttons down to jump kick was more accessible. Shinobi wasn’t any worse, but it also wasn’t what I would call better. Golden Axe was better in some regards, like pulling off the shoulder block. But in others it was worse, like trying to control the beast mounts. So really you don’t need to go beyond the Control Pad for either of those games. Platformers like Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and Psycho Fox also felt easier to play on the Control Pad, rather than the Control Stick.

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One point of contention some may have with the Control Stick is that it’s set in a left-handed orientation. I personally didn’t have any trouble adjusting to it, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily won’t. That being said, I don’t think it will be a major issue for most players. The Control Stick is also shaped in a way that you really can’t sit on the floor with one. You’ll either have to lie on the floor, or sit at the coffee table to use it. As solid as the base is, it can be easy to knock over due to the small size. It is also no frills, offering no extras, like turbo buttons, or other functions.

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Despite its faults I’d still recommend getting a Control Stick. Especially if you’re someone who loves playing Sega’s arcade shooter ports, or any of the Master System’s shmups. You can play other games with it for the most part, but it’ll be a mixed bag. Some games fare better, a few worse, and many not all that different. It’s also worth picking up for the handful of cartridges that won’t work with an unmodified Sega Genesis controller. This way you don’t have to break compatibility with your Genesis by modifying the controller. It’s also a curious piece to add to your SMS collection.

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The fact it also uses a stock DB9 connector means that it is also a great joystick for the Atari 2600, or Commodore 64. If you’re a retro games collector, you may have either of these in your collection. The Sega Control Stick has some versatility for you in this situation. It may not be the absolute best controller around, but it is a very good one worth owning. Particularly if you love Sega Master System shooters, or own multiple platforms from gaming’s early days.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Steam Controller Review

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A few years ago now, Valve unveiled its plan to get PC’s in the living room. This wasn’t an entirely new idea. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) PC Builders have tried this for years with a handful of minor successes. The late, Gateway had its Destination series. Hewlett-Packard built a line of computers with cards that could output to TVs. Dell attempted it, even boutique companies have tried this before partnering with Valve.

But Valve wanted theirs to be a little bit closer to a mass market attempt, rather than an entirely niche one. It was, and is an attempt to get more console owners to try gaming on a computer. After a number of delays, their Steam machine partners have put out these Home Theatre PCs. One of the key differences is past attempts from other companies were Windows based, where Valve’s partners are using Valve’s Linux based Steam OS. The other part of Valve’s plan however doesn’t involve a Steam OS based computer. It’s centered around a versatile new controller.

PROS: Versatile. Comfortable. Compatible with most anything on Steam.

CONS: Not quite as simplified for games not on Steam.

ELABORATE: The packaging is very ritzy.

The beautiful thing about the Steam controller is that you don’t have to have a Steam machine to use it. It will work with pretty much any computer made in the last 15 years. Provided of course you are on at least Windows 7, Mac OS 10.10 or Steam OS, and have a Steam account. Outside of Steam, the pad is seen as a keyboard, and a mouse. Although it has no keys, so you can’t type with it. But you can navigate your Operating System’s GUI using the trackpad, and cursors as a mouse. Once you fire up Steam though, it gets really interesting, really quickly.

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The first thing that will happen upon firing up Steam, is a prompt to go into Steam’s Big Picture Mode. Once you do it will want to link the controller to your account. You can skip the process, but doing so won’t let you get all of the functionality. Once it is linked to your account it will give you the ability to customize boot settings, and save key binds to it. The controller includes USB dongles so that you can use it wirelessly, or as a wired controller. It includes 2 AA Duracell alkaline batteries. But you can use also use rechargeable AA batteries instead.

Once you’ve done all of that, Steam will prompt you to download the latest firmware updates. Once that is finished, it takes a brief moment to install, and you’re almost set. You can then calibrate the gamepad. A handy screen comes up with a blueprint. Once you press all of the buttons, and test the trackpads you’re set.

Every game in the Steam store works with the controller on some level. The controller has preset profiles in it that will fit the bill in many cases. There’s a set up to mimic a console gamepad, keyboard, and mouse, along with a few others. Most of the time, you’ll fire up a game with it, and play without a hitch. For those times where things don’t feel quite comfortable or convenient enough for you, you can press the Steam button to pull up a controller menu. You can tinker with the settings yourself, rebind buttons, and even upload your layout to the Steam community. Likewise you can search for a layout for the game you’re playing, and download the one you like best.

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These profiles can also be stored on the controller. So if you take the pad to a friend or relative’s for couch gaming, you won’t have to reconfigure your controller settings. You can also toggle an onscreen controller HUD, showing you where you’re pressing as you play. You may find this handy as you’re experimenting, trying to get things the way you want them.

When playing games that require you to type, or if you’re just surfing with the Steam browser, a handy onscreen keyboard comes up. Unlike the old days of slowly moving a cursor with a D pad or thumb stick letter by letter, you can quickly use your thumbs. The trackpads simulate the feel of texting on a smartphone. It won’t be quite as nice as an actual keyboard. But if you are using your TV as a monitor, with your computer in the entertainment center, it is quite convenient.

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Which is really what the controller sets out to do. Make PC gaming, and other tasks viable from your couch. It’s very successful in that regard. The interface feels quick, and comfortable. Navigating Steam with it is intuitive most of the time. With Valve adding more functionality to Big Picture Mode, even playing your albums, or browsing sites online becomes fairly easy from the couch.

I put mine through the paces, and found I was pleasantly surprised with it. Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams was very easy to play with it, though using the left trackpad as a D pad took a little getting used to. The face X,Y,A,B buttons, are laid out exactly the same way as on the Xbox 360, and Xbox One controllers, so it wasn’t long before I was jumping, and twirling to victory.

Broforce also played very well with the pad. I had no issues running, dashing, jumping, and shooting. I was able to do everything about as easily as I could using a 360 controller. In some rounds it was easier, as the 360 pad is notorious for registering angled commands when you’re certain you’ve pressed directly horizontal, or vertical commands.

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Speaking of which, I also used the controller with Ultra Street Fighter IV. This also worked favorably. Once I downloaded a 360 pad profile to the controller anyway. The only other issue I had with the game is that while the left track worked wonderfully as a D pad for vertical, and horizontal movement, it wasn’t ideal for the quarter circle, or charging moves. I found myself using the thumb stick instead. Beyond that, I was able to control the game nicely.

FPS are another genre the pad works with very well. I fired up Rainbow Six Siege, and had no issues with it. The right trackpad is much closer to the responsiveness of a mouse than a thumb stick ever could be. It felt about as responsive as Nintendo’s Wii Remote Motion Plus. Having that precision on a traditionally shaped controller could be a Godsend to anyone who prefers playing shooters with a game pad. It still isn’t as precise as a good mouse, but for the comfort of gaming from your couch it is a viable alternative.

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Strategy games also benefit, as the right trackpad, again makes mouse movement palatable for fans of game pads. When it comes to any current games, this controller is actually a really good solution. But that’s not all. You can also get many old games, and games you don’t have in your library to work with it. Adding shortcuts in Steam using the Add non-Steam game to my library option means you’ll be able to use the controller with those as well. This is nice because you can fire up your Origin or Uplay account through the Steam client to play your EA, and Ubisoft games. Or your retail disc games.

That being said, in some of these cases you might have to go through many hoops to get things working properly. Either through painstakingly making your key bind list, or having to do file edits or tweaks. In these instances you may just prefer to use a cordless keyboard or mouse since it is a lot less you’ll have to deal with.

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But overall I’d say the Steam controller does succeed in making HTPC’s a viable option. It’s cool to be able to fire up your computer into Big Picture Mode, and control almost everything with the controller. Some people will notice that almost anything on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 is also on the Steam store. Then they may realize that these titles can be played on their big screen HDTV as well. This may make some of them pause, and wonder why they don’t use a computer in their living rooms instead.

But it still doesn’t have the mass market appeal needed to ignite that grand exodus. The simplicity of a game system isn’t quite there. Though this controller, in conjunction with Big Picture does display the massive gains made on the way to satisfying that goal. If you’re serious about building or buying a Home Theatre PC for living room gaming, the Steam controller is an excellent choice. Just know there will still be a few situations where you may still need a traditional keyboard, and mouse.

If you’re PC gaming at a desk, and need a controller for genres where a game pad is preferable, then there are a couple of contenders. The Steam controller again, is an excellent choice. When compared to the bulk of PC gamepads, there’s really no comparison. But Microsoft’s Xbox One pad is going to be a little bit more convenient. Any multiplatform game is going to recognize it in Windows 7, 8.1, or 10 since the OS has drivers for it. But it isn’t an open, and shut case since you’ll need something like Xpadder to map buttons for old PC games, and titles with no modern controller support anyway. Moreover, the Steam controller’s trackpads are again, much more responsive than the thumb sticks on the console controllers.

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As far as the overall feel, and build of the device, it stacks up positively against the competition. It’s around the same size as Microsoft’s controller, with the lighter feel of Nintendo’s Wii U Pro controller. It’s easy to get to the buttons on the face, and top. There are also two buttons under the battery cover. One on each side. The battery cover is designed to be pressed to click either of these. Being able to use it wired or wirelessly is also a nice touch.

Ultimately, the controller is geared more toward those interested in gaming on an HTPC. But it’s still a very nice option for gaming at the desk. While it isn’t quite as plug, and play as an Xbox One pad, it still has some big advantages. Being able to save custom key settings is a great feature. The trackpads are much more accurate than a thumb stick, making RTS, FPS, and other genres easier to play. Most other genres play just as easily with the right settings. It’s not going to be perfect for everyone, but that doesn’t make the controller any less versatile. Valve’s controller is a highly recommended peripheral.

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10.

TTX Tech Classic Controller for Wii & Wii U Review

With the fourth Super Smash Bros. having been out on the Wii U for a few months now, many are starting to look at controller options. Of course when  you want to invite company over for those 8 player match ups you’ll need to have enough controllers to go around. Obviously the most popular set up among the most devoted fans involves two of Nintendo’s Gamecube controller hubs, and eight Gamecube controllers. But considering the rarity of the hubs, that can get pretty difficult to pull off. If you’re frugal you may want to repurpose your original Wii accessories instead.

But what if you don’t have quite enough game pads for your Wii motes, and want some new alternatives? Ever since Atari was king of the console hill there have been third-party controllers. In almost every case they’ve been barely passable options when compared with the first-party originals. But they usually seem to do just well enough to continue seeing releases. Yet every so often one comes along that is pretty close to the performance of an original controller. Today’s contender is the TTX Tech Classic Controller.

PROS: Similar form factor to the Nintendo Classic Controller with some innovations.

CONS: The altered textures on the thumb sticks take some getting used to.

LIES: Contrary to what the box tells you, it does not plug directly into the console.

The TTX Tech Classic Controller is one of the better non Nintendo branded controllers you can pick up.  For the most part it works on par with the Nintendo Classic Controller. It has the same layout as that controller, so all of the buttons will be as easy to get to as the first party option. There are also a few minor improvements to boot.  The Z buttons on the top of the controller between the L, and R buttons have a nicer click to them.  They feel more mechanical. It becomes clearer that you’ve fully pressed them down, than on Nintendo’s own controller. The L, and R buttons also have a very minor change in sculpt that some might find a little more comfortable.

Comfort is king, and that’s where this peripheral tries to make an improvement. By adding rubberized grips. To be honest, this doesn’t really do much to improve grip or comfort to the experience. It doesn’t do anything particularly wrong, but it doesn’t really feel necessary. Nintendo’s controller is already pretty comfortable, so it feels like a case of trying to solve a problem that isn’t there. Nevertheless, there are probably some who might prefer the rubberized grips during long marathon sessions.

The controller is also surprisingly durable. So often peripheral makers will cut corners by using brittle plastics that easily crack on impact. If a sore loser shows up at your gaming shindig, they may end up in pieces after a string of losses. That isn’t to say that TTX Tech’s offering will survive that kind of onslaught. But if you drop the controller, or really clamp down on one of the buttons during game play, it probably won’t break. The quality of the plastics aren’t going to be quite as good as what Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony demand the contracted factories produce for themselves. But it also isn’t flimsy stuff. There’s still a nice heft to the controller, while being light enough to retain a comfortable feel. It also has some added flex to the wiring going into the controller to prevent kinks or breaks inside the cable. Overall the construction here is pretty nice compared with other controllers.

 

On the face of the controller are the X, B, Y, A buttons,  +, -, Home buttons along with the D pad, and two thumb sticks. All of them work as you’d expect them to, performing the way they’re supposed to. The one change that sticks out here is the difference in the texture on the thumb sticks. The rubber is a heavier, thicker style. They also have a much different feel than Nintendo’s offering. The end result is that while the response time is almost identical, it might take you some getting used to. Especially if you’re already used to using the Nintendo Classic Controller.

I put the controller through the paces in Super Smash Bros Wii U. I was able to play the game with this pad just as well as I could while using Nintendo’s own pad. Even advanced techniques like combos, and pivoting were achievable using it. The different feel of the thumb sticks, again, did take some getting used to.  But for anyone other than the absolutely most unwavering enthusiast, it is a pretty good option for Smash.

 

Other games ran perfectly fine with it as well. I had no problems playing Punch-Out!!, Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom, or Metal Gear Slug Collection in Wii Mode at all. Tekken Tag Tournament 2,  Mario Kart 8, and  Super Mario 3D World seemed perfectly playable with it too. Even classic ROMs from the Nintendo Eshop ran fine. Mega Man, Donkey Kong, and Super Ghouls N’ Ghosts gave me no trouble. The controller had no serious signs of input lag. Nothing seemed odd or unresponsive. Certainly not enough to affect my experience playing games with it.

 

To sum everything up, the TTX Tech version of the Classic Controller is a pretty competitive facsimile. It’s on par with Nintendo’s product in almost every way imaginable. If I had any complaints with it, it would have to be the different feel of the thumb sticks, and the needless addition of rubberized grips. There aren’t any functional problems with the controller. If you’re looking for an alternative to Nintendo’s first party offerings that isn’t going to give a detrimental experience, give this one a spin. Ultimately, Nintendo’s controllers are still going to be the preferred options. But if you need to save money, or simply want to try something else, the TTX Tech Classic Controller might be what you’re looking for.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Amiibo Review

Activision’s Skylanders became quite a surprise hit with kids a few years ago, combining a video game title, with action figures that can interact with it. It became so popular that competitors were bound to show up. Disney was the first major contender with its own game, and collectible action figures. Looking for additional business to supplement its console business, Nintendo has entered the fray. But does this toy line have the chops?

PROS: Toys work with more than one game. Detailed. Durable.

CONS: No articulation. Some figures may go out of print quickly.

HOLY CRAP: Error figures have gone for thousands in online auctions.

Amiibo isn’t simply a Skylanders clone. It is a toy line that interacts with gaming, but that’s about as far as the similarity goes. The biggest difference is that the toys aren’t locked into usage with only one game. Nintendo’s toys work with the NFC (Near Field Communication) tech in the Wii U’s game pad as well as the tech in the latest version of the 3DS. Each toy has an NFC chipset inside, along with digital storage. Many titles are supposed to take advantage of the toys. Three of the biggest ones are actually available now. Hyrule Warriors, Mario Kart 8, and of course Super Smash Bros Wii U. Obviously the biggest of these is the latter. In Super Smash Bros,., the toys can be used as sparring partners. Over time the characters will take on new patterns, and styles. Eventually levelling up their stats. Because the toys can store data, Players can then take their leveled up partners to friends’, and relatives’ houses. There, the Amiibos can be pitted against each other, or against said, friends or relatives. In Mario Kart 8 certain figurines can be used to unlock themed costumes for your Mii racer. Hyrule Warriors has bonuses that the toys are tied to.

With other games coming out that will have compatibility with the toys, it makes the toys into peripherals. Future games like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Yoshi Wooly World, and Mario Party 10 will have features dependent on these toys too. As for the toys themselves, they are visually pleasing. The sculpts are dead on with a lot of little details, and great paint apps. For the purpose of this article, I’ll be displaying the Mario figurine.

Not everyone who buys these toys are going to be using them for the video game functionality. Many people are going to be picking these up as collectibles. With that in mind everything, even the packaging is going to be important. Because toy collectors often look at more than the toy itself. Most toy collectors collect MOC (Mint On Card). For those uninitiated with the hobby, opening the toy will immediately reduce the resale value. Many go as far as sending in their toys to be graded, much like comic books. So they’ll want solid packaging to be able to still display their collection without devaluing it.

Amiibo figures actually have a really nice blister card packaging. You can see the character art which is really designed well. In this case you can see the Super Smash Bros logo in the left corner, the character name (for the five people who don’t know who Mario is.), and the recommended age of the user in the opposite corner. The character art is pretty cool looking, with a giant, imposing Mario who looks like he’s ready to lay the smack down. The bubble on the figures is a nice cube shape, leaving plenty of room for viewers to see the entire figurine inside.

The back of the card shows off the same generic image along the top for every toy in the line. Interestingly the Mario figurine in that image is a much different pose, which leads to speculation as to whether or not they may have alternate versions of characters in the future. Each toy gets a specific graphic on the back as well pertaining to that character. In this case, it’s a fight between Mario, and the villager from Animal Crossing.  Collectors will probably like this design a lot. Because one can either stand the box on their bookshelves, or use the peg hole in the top of the card to hang it on their wall for displaying.

For those of you who plan on using these with games, or who plan on displaying them loose, you’ll be pleased with these toys. The details in the sculpts are awesome. Mario has wrinkles in his overalls. You can see the stitching job on them as well. There are little dips throughout the overalls to simulate a nice denim look. The knuckles on his gloves are raised up as they are in the many illustrations we’ve seen over the years. The details on his face are spot on, from the pout on his lips, to the moustache sculpt to the detail on his ears.  The other figurines go to the same lengths.  You’ll also notice that his base is the same as the bases on the trophies in the Super Smash Bros. games. It’s just an all around great sculpt job on these things.

If I have any problems with these, I would have to say that some of the painted on sections worry me. For instance the eyes on Mario, and the M on his hat seem to be done in a different paint that could possibly flake off over time if constantly handled. This probably won’t concern you if you’re displaying them loose, or you hold the figurine by the base when you use it. But if you have children who are going to be playing with them, that might concern you. Speaking of children playing with them, I think they’ll love these things. Aside from the minor paint nitpick, they’re pretty sturdy, and I don’t see them breaking unless they’re really thrown hard against a wall or pavement. Kids can play with them inside or outside of the video games. However, these do NOT have any real articulation to speak of. You can’t really alter the poses, tilt heads, or anything of the sort. If you’re the type who wants to set up poses for your displays you should focus on Jakks Pacific’s line of World Of Nintendo toys instead.

One final concern some may have is availability of certain characters. As of late, there has been a lot of discussion about some of the less mainstream characters going out of production faster than anticipated. Marth, the villager from Animal Crossing, and the Wii Fit Trainer are making headlines due to the rarity in stores. This is driving up the aftermarket prices as die-hard fans, and scalpers scoop up secondary characters. So if you do decide to buy one for use with a game or two, or you’re a completionist collector bear that in mind. Nintendo has said they always want to have their most popular characters around, but that due to retail space, some aren’t always going to make the cut.

In conclusion, Amiibo looks like it will be a pretty cool toy line. If functionality continues to improve in future games (IE: different characters yield different results) they’ll only become more sought after as peripherals. As a collectible toy line, they’re already on a great start. The sculpts are great, the character selection seems like it will have a lot of variety. Minor paint nitpicks, and lack of articulation are about the only sticking points. Just remember secondary characters sell out fast. So if you see a figurine from a less popular franchise you enjoy you should probably pick it up.

Final Score: 8 out of 10