8Bitdo's replica controllers have gained quite a reputation with retro gamers who are keen to get that authentic feel but also wish to benefit from modern conveniences such as the absence of annoying wires and the ability to recharge the internal battery. We've already seen excellent variants on the NES and SNES controllers, both of which are compatible with smartphones, tablets, PCs and even original hardware when using the special "Retro Receiver" accessory.
8Bitdo's latest venture is in collaboration with Retro-Bit - a maker of clone consoles and other accessories - and takes on Nintendo's 64-bit legend, the N64. The RB8-64 Bluetooth controller is a very close physical match for the pad which brought analogue control to the masses back in 1996, and retains the same colour scheme and basic button layout.
The big changes are the fact that there's no wire at the top - instead, you'll find a MicroUSB port for charging and updating the firmware. Next to this are two LEDs which are used to denote the various charging and pairing statuses. Underneath there's a red "sync" button like the ones seen on the Wii Remote and Pro Controller.
Non-official replica controllers live or die by the quality of their buttons, pads and sticks, and the RB8-64 is thankfully a very close match to the N64 controller in terms of overall feel. The buttons are perhaps a little more clicky than those of the original and the D-Pad is also a bit stiffer, but the analogue stick - arguably the hardest element to clone - feels very similar indeed. As anyone who has held an N64 will know, the stick doesn't move like those seen on modern controllers, making this close imitation all the more impressive. There are been reports of users experiencing a "dead zone" when using the stick, but we have to admit that our unit didn't seem to suffer from this issue.
The Z-Trigger on the underside of the pad is perhaps the most disappointing element, as it feels mushy and indistinct when compared to the one on the original pad. Interestingly, the pad still has the slot for the memory pak / rumble pak, complete with spring-loaded clip - despite the fact that there's no connector inside the opening and therefore no reason for it to be present. This aperture is presumably there to make the pad feel as faithful as possible to the original.
Despite the fact that it's a close match to the N64's famous pad, ironically it's not possible to use this controller with the original console itself. That may well come in the future if 8Bitdo releases a Retro Receiver compatible with the N64 (it's worth noting that the pad works with the existing Retro Receivers and will be compatible with the upcoming NES Classic Mini Retro Receiver), but for now you're largely limited to iOS / Android devices and computers.
The box and instructions also boast compatibility with the Wii U and PS3 - but only after installing a firmware update via your PC. However, we deployed said update and still couldn't get the pad to connect to the Wii U console at all. There's a chance that a future firmware update will solve this problem, but given the Wii and Wii U connectivity with previous 8Bitdo controllers has been more miss than hit, it might be wise to not hold your breath.
Given that pairing the pad with authentic hardware - or even modern Nintendo hardware - isn't possible at present, the RB8-64 is only going to be of use to those who like gaming on smart devices and computers. If you're running an N64 emulator then it's arguably the perfect control option, offering you an (almost) entirely authentic interface - right down to the vacant memory pak slot on the back. The price tag of $45 isn't likely to break the bank either, making this an interesting purchase for retro addicts - it's just a shame that it can't be used with the real thing, and that Wii U connectivity appears to be utterly broken at present.
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