Anyone who's ever crammed around a TV with a Nintendo 64, GoldenEye 007 and a few friends will know the struggles that the short cord on the N64's controller caused. Few companies have tried to remedy this in the past with controller extensions – and controllers that just don't hit the mark – but no one has really succeeded. However, the folks over at Hyperkin are tossing their hat in the ring, attempting to "Take your game to the next level" with their latest controller, the Admiral, a Premium Wireless BT Controller for the Nintendo 64.
If we compare the Admiral to an original N64 controller, you'll instantly notice how much smaller and differently set up it is. Hyperkin decided to go with a more simple, ergonomic design, (somewhat reminiscent of the Hori Mini Pad or the RetroBit Tribute64) that removes one of the grips from the original and swaps the position of the analogue stick with the D-pad. They've also moved and duplicated the Z button to the top side of the controller, right below the L and R buttons. It feels more natural shooting in GoldenEye, tossing shells in Mario Kart 64 or even just sprinting around on Kazooie’s legs in Banjo-Kazooie than it did having the Z button always assigned to your left hand.
Just like the front of the controller, the B, A, Start and C buttons are all flat but the Z triggers are slightly concave and add to the overall comfort of the controller. Surprisingly too, even with the addition of a built-in rechargeable battery (more on that shortly), the Admiral weighs around the same as a standard N64 controller. At first, the Admiral felt a little strange in our hands (partly due to the fact that we're so used to playing N64 with Nintendo's original controller) but after a short while with it, we quickly got over those nostalgic feelings and started to appreciate its differences.
One of the Admiral's main selling points is its wireless capabilities, which we're happy to confirm are excellent. It connects to the N64 over Bluetooth with a unique wireless dongle, charges with a standard micro USB cable (a five-foot cord comes included) and can hold up to six hours of playtime with its built-in rechargeable battery. The controller can also be used up to 30 feet away from the system, so besides needing a few seconds to connect to the system on startup, we never ran into any connectivity issues.
A good majority of N64 games also require a separate memory card for game saves, which is why Hyperkin also included an extension port on the front of the dongle. Any first or third-party N64 memory card can be used, and you can even back up your save files to a Micro SD card with the additional port on the front. The dongle is also sized and positioned appropriately so that multiple Admiral controllers can be used at once, and since the extension port isn't attached to the controller, Hyperkin highly advises against using any sort of Rumble Pak, as it could damage your system.
Since the Admiral's dongle has an extension port that replicates the one found on the back of the original N64 controller, we hoped that the N64 Transfer Pak would also be compatible, but, unfortunately, after multiple attempts of trying to play the Game Boy version of Pokemon Blue on our TV through Pokemon Stadium, we just couldn't get the dongle to recognize the accessory. However, we did find that if we plugged the Admiral into controller port one and then plugged the Transfer pack into a standard N64 controller and then plugged it into any of the other ports, we could still play Pokemon Blue on our TV with the wireless controller without any hiccups.
The Admiral may not have all the same features the original N64's controller had, but it does have its own unique bells and whistles. The sacrifice of rumble may be a real dealbreaker for die-hard purists, but the wireless capabilities, repositioned analogue stick, additional Z trigger and overall quality make it worth a look for anyone still playing their N64.
The Admiral is available for pre-order on Hyperkin's website for $39.99 with an expected ship date of December 5th, 2019.
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