News Article

Hardware Review: Wireless Super Retro 64 Controller

Posted by Martin Watts

Out of control

With digital download services on the rise and HD remakes becoming more of a regular occurrence, the retro gaming scene is bigger than ever. Restore points and improved visuals — not to mention the off-TV play function offered by the Wii U GamePad — have done a good job of making older titles more suited to our modern sensibilities. Nevertheless, there are still many of us out there that prefer the real deal when it comes to getting our retro gaming fix.

Of course, going down the traditional route isn't always ideal. As the equipment gets older, it often becomes a lot less reliable. This is especially true when it comes to the original N64 controller. While it marked Nintendo's innovative first step into the realm of true 3D gameplay, the controller's analog stick was susceptible to wear, reducing its reliability over time. Finding one that is still in good condition today is becoming increasingly difficult.

Thankfully there are still some companies out there which have retro enthusiasts' best interests at heart. Retro-Bit — the same team behind the Retro Duo Portable V2.0 — has created the Wireless Super Retro 64 Controller, a newly developed joypad for the Nintendo 64, which retains a similar trident design to the original but incorporates auto/turbo features and wireless functionality. Unfortunately, the latter is the only real worthwhile addition to the classic controller, although its inclusion has a negative impact on other features. The biggest issue here, however, is the joystick, which looks near enough identical to the original but is in fact looser and less sensitive.

To what extent this is a problem depends on your intended usage for the controller. If you’re simply looking for a cost-effective way to host the occasional multiplayer session, then the issues surrounding the joystick probably won’t matter. However, those that use their N64 on a regular basis will likely be disappointed. This is because you have to move the joystick further before it registers. While you’re not going to see a huge difference in something like Mario Kart 64, it's really apparent in games such as GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark and F-Zero X, which require an intricate amount of control; when using the manual aim mode in both of Rare's first-person shooters, it is virtually impossible to accurately line up your shot. We put the controller to the test with a more joystick-intensive title, the obscure Japan exclusive Ucchannanchan no Honō no Challenger: Denryū Iraira Bō – essentially the N64’s version of a steady hand game – and could barely navigate the simplest of corners.

With regards to the overall look and feel of the Wireless Super Retro 64 controller, it’s remarkably similar to Nintendo’s original effort. It sports the same distinctive three-pronged shape and button layout, albeit with auto and turbo switches at the top. The buttons themselves are slightly more elevated than the original pad and provide a satisfying click when pressed. The underside of each prong features a more rigid design, and although it doesn't sit as snugly in your hand as the original, it's still very comfortable.

The controller’s wireless functionality is a neat addition that's very responsive, but its inclusion is far from perfect. In order to accommodate a battery compartment to power this feature without drastically altering the shape of the controller, the expansion port for Controller and Rumble Paks is detached and instead housed within the wireless receiver that plugs into the console. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the Controller Pak to work through this and were constantly met with a message that it couldn’t be detected or was damaged, despite working perfectly fine inside an official pad. Certain games such as Snowboard Kids had trouble just checking the expansion port to see if something was inserted, resulting in some eerily long waiting times. Moreover, the Rumble Pak becomes somewhat redundant when you can no longer use it in the controller.

Much to our disappointment, the battery compartment doesn’t contain a rechargeable pack and instead requires three AAA batteries. On the plus side, your wallet is fairly safe from excessive battery purchases, as the controller works for a reasonably long time on one set. The wireless range is around up to 10 feet from the console, which should be enough for most modern setups. When you take into account that the N64 doesn't exactly display the clearest of images on a modern LCD TV, the chances are that you'll just want to sit closer to begin with.

Overall, the Wireless Super Retro 64 Controller is a bit of a letdown. Despite releasing an astonishing 17 years after the official N64 pad, Retro-Bit's latest peripheral doesn't offer much in the way of innovation or improvement. While the wireless functionality is responsive and ideal for modern gaming setups, there are too many issues to make this a truly worthwhile purchase for most retro enthusiasts. The joystick fails to provide the same degree of intricate control, to the point where it's really noticeable in some games; furthermore, the separate controller expansion port is unreliable and removes any possibility of enjoying force-feedback gameplay. Again, if you're looking to enjoy the odd casual multiplayer session with friends — and can't stand the thought of tangled controller wires — then at the very least the Wireless Super Retro 64 Controller is an affordable alternative.

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User Comments (22)



Angelic_Lapras_King said:

That's a shame. Still, nice to see the N64 get stuff like this, its normally the NES, SNES or Mega Drive/Genesis that gets stuff like this and console clones all the time...



Slayer said:

I never really knew what a Nintendo 64 controller felt like, I just know I like the Nintendo 64. Those two best Zelda games...



Shugo said:

Such a shame that these repro/clone controllers can't ever quite get the feel right with the buttons/analog sticks. I don't know what it is about Nintendo's original versions, but they always seem to be far better than the clones. I've never used a clone d-pad that I liked, for example.

I'd pay good money for official controllers if Nintendo still produced them. I know it's never going to happen, but it's nice to imagine Nintendo still having brand new N64 and SNES controllers in their online shop.



element187 said:

@slayer it feels totally awkward. I bought the N64 on Ocarina's launch day (I think i was 19 or 20). I believe it was Thanksgiving, and I trekked up to Walmart to grab it at exactly Midnight.

The PC was the only platform you could get real 3D gaming that didn't feel awkward.... but Nintendo came close to offering something that semi worked.... Sony's PS1 controller just totally sucked for 3D gaming. it was pitiful. you could only move in 8 directions.



KingMike said:

I recognize that Japanese game you choose... the N64 version of Irritating Stick. I can't remember if that one also yells at you LOOK OUT! YOU'RE TOO CLOSE TO THE EDGE! when you're trying to concentrate on avoiding said situation.



Gigagator said:

It's a crime against humanity that these controllers aren't in production anymore - or at least the analog stick. No manufacturer or hobbyist seems to have been able to recreate the original analog stick. They're always too sensitive or not sensitive enough or they just don't feel right to the touch.

Somebody needs to get the original moulds or whatever from Nintendo and make the parts out of metal or something and sell them. I'd happily pay ridiculous money for one.

I actually have a few immaculate original controllers but I'm too scared to use them as once the analog sticks are worn, there's no undoing it.

Surely all this 3D printing technology can sort out this timeless problem!



TenEighty said:

I don't have this model but do have a USB Retro-Bit N64 controller and love it. It works great on my Mac and PC.



MegaWatts said:

@KingMike Haha, yes! It's utterly bizarre and quite an assault on the senses, but jolly good fun! I especially like the two-player mode. It may be competitive, but when you're both constantly screwing up it seems more like you're just trying to get through it together!



JuanitoShet said:

In short: this controller is a cheap knockoff that you shouldn't buy unless there's no other alternative. And that's the article for ya.



ToastyYogurt said:

Aw. I would've liked a good wireless controller for my N64. Oh well, hope Retro-bit rolls out a v2 with all the kinks ironed out.



WaxxyOne said:

Dang it, I saw this and was hoping someone had made an N64-style controller for Wii U. This seems pretty pointless to me as anyone who's still hanging onto an N64 these days probably has some official controllers to go with it. And if all you're looking for is a controller without the joystick problems of the original, well...



Tony_342 said:

I bought one of the last official, brand new N64 controllers when they were still available on Nintendo's online store a couple years ago. I can't count how many times I've opened up an N64 controller to clean and lubricate the analog stick components to keep them from wearing down.

It would be nice to have a good replacement for them.



coolvw93 said:

that looks cool, I could have used it for my old setup I had but no need now, though it would be nice.



Gameday said:

If it was about to hook to the wii u remotes and you were able to use original n64 remotes for vc that would be dope. Nice try id say sense its less responsive than the original basically. etc etc.



AngryTaxman said:

"Thankfully there are still some companies out there which have retro enthusiasts' best interests at heart."

This is so encouraging for the industry. You could get to a state with second hand stores that specialise in certain consoles, at least decades. I would love to see this on British streets, that kind of shop structure so that it became known that this was a 70's-80's fashion shop, this could be a 'portable games' shop. This sort of thing is getting to reflect what us, as online consumers, would demand.

It would be better for us that boutique shops and junk stores, where people have no time or knowledge for an old machine!!



BTTFDeacon said:

Does anyone know how this works with multiple controllers in the room cause some third party wireless peripherals that are the same have a problem of interfering with each other.

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