NSO Mega Drive Pad
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

If you could hop into a time machine and fly back to the early '90s and tell a young gamer that one day, Nintendo would make a piece of Sega hardware, they'd probably spit out their sugary Sunny D and laugh in your face. "Sega and Nintendo are mortal enemies," they would retort; "what planet on you from, poindexter?" (Or words to that effect, at least).

However, despite the '90s being the 'in' decade right now, we no longer occupy that particular time; today, these two Japanese companies are on much better terms, so much so that – yes – we do now have a piece of Sega consumer hardware produced by Nintendo.

With the release of Mega Drive / Genesis games on the Nintendo Switch Online service, subscribers have been offered the chance to purchase a wireless controller based on the original that came with the console all those years ago. Western players have the larger, 3-button pad, while in Japan you can purchase the smaller 6-button variant (known there as 'Fighting Pad 6B'), which was released to coincide with the Sega port of Street Fighter II. That's the pad we're looking at here, and boy is it adorable.

While it's based on the original 6-button pad, it's actually a touch smaller than the one we got in the west and is the same size as the Japanese variant of the controller (which also shipped with the Japanese version of the Mega Drive Mini). It has a fantastic rolling D-pad, six very responsive face buttons and a 'Start' button in the middle of the pad. The 'Mode' button – used on the original controller to overcome issues with games that didn't play nice with the 6-button setup – is used here to access the NSO 'Suspend' menu as well as rewind the current game. There's also a 'Home' button and a screenshot button, as well as a USB-C charging port. On the bottom, you'll find the bank of LEDs which indicates which player you are, as well as a sync button.

The dinky dimensions of the pad might cause some issues for people blessed with large hands, but ultimately this is the ideal way to experience these games – although it's worth noting that, at this stage, none of the Mega Drive / Genesis games available on the Nintendo Switch Online service support all six buttons. We'd imagine that will change in the future, but right now, the main reason to pick one of these up is to take advantage of the superior D-pad and (arguably) more ergonomic design.

However, unless you know someone from Japan who can buy one for you, then you're stuck with eBay or the 3-button version, which you can order below.

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Massive, massive thanks to Lowell Bell for sourcing one of these controllers for us.