Retrolink Saturn USB Controller (Review)

I love controllers of yesteryear. The directional pads were great and the many buttons were useful. Today they have a certain charm to them and, in my opinion, some specific uses. 

The original Sega Saturn controller left a lot to be desired.

One of my all-time favorite controllers is the Sega Saturn controller. Not the original North American version. Its’ boxy design, awkward bumpers, and horrendous directional pad were no treat. The same can’t be said for the second version of the Saturn controller, which is based on the Japanese Saturn controller. Gone is the boxy design, awkward bumpers, and horrendous directional pad. This was the controller the Saturn should have launched with. It was great for so many games; especially side-scrolling platformers and 2D fighters. It’s awesome directional pad and six face buttons were a dream come true for a fan of fighting games in the 90s.

Games like Skull Girls work fine with the 360 pad but elevated to another level with a “proper” fighting game controller.

However, in recent years, game controllers have ditched the 6 button layout and, in some cases, the awesome directional pad. Take the Xbox 360 controller for example: while it is mostly an excellent controller, it suffers from having one of the worst directional pads ever. To add insult to injury, the four mushy face buttons do no favors for games like Street Fighter IV. This hurdle is what drew me towards this USB controller from Retrolink (though the Street Fighter IV controller is a worthy alternative).

Modeled after the Japanese Saturn controller, this one is a huge improvement and one of the best controllers ever.

The controller is designed to look and feel like an actual Sega Saturn controller and it mostly succeeds. The look is spot on, save for the Saturn logo. The feel is nearly on point as well but the controller does feel somewhat cheap. Though I guess this should be expected since I only paid about $10 for the thing. Still, it has held up well in the two years I’ve owned it.

Plugging it into a PC, you’ll find it reads as an X-input controller – much like the Xbox 360. This means that it works with pretty much any game that supports the Xbox 360 controller. In some cases this works out well – playing Street Fighter IV, Blazblue, or any other 2D fighter is great. Platformers benefit as well. The main downside is that some (well…most) Xbox 360 compatible titles expect that you have analog sticks at your disposal. Since this controller does not have analog sticks, this is a problem.

This replica controller from Retrolink is pretty awesome overall.

One thing I need to discuss is emulation. Love it or hate it: it’s a thing and it isn’t going anywhere. I tested this thing with a variety of emulators and found the most success with the Genesis and Saturn emulators (unsurprisingly). This controller didn’t really help SNES games since the face buttons are setup slightly different. I was able to play through various Megaman X titles across SNES and PS with ease, however. Also worth mentioning is the fact that this controller is wired – not wireless. The cord length is fine. It looks like it is 4-6 feet in length.

This controller is a solid device, especially considering the meager price. If you are into fighting games or platformers, this is a nice controller. Additionally, this controller is a no-brainer for any Sega Genesis or Saturn emulation. Check it out! You won’t be disappointed.

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