If you're a keen follower of the modern-day retro gaming scene then you'll no doubt have heard of Igor Golubovskiy, better known as Krikzz. Over the past few years, Krikzz has built up a solid reputation thanks to his superb line of flash cartridges which cunningly allow you to play ROMs on vintage hardware. After creating carts for almost every retro system you could mention – as well as iterating on them to add new features and overcome technical issues – he has now turned his attention to other items of classic hardware, the most notable of which is the rather swanky Joyzz wireless controller for the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis, if you prefer).
Bluetooth pads for old consoles are nothing new; 8BitDo has been producing high-quality facsimiles of NES and SNES pads for years, and these have been given additional appeal by the fact that they also work wonderfully with the Nintendo Switch. However, while 8BitDo does offer a DIY solution which covers the fantastic Sega Mega Drive 6-button controller, it's not actually compatible with the original system. Next year, 8BitDo will release a proper wireless Sega pad – the M30 – alongside Analogue's Mega Sg system, but for now, Krikzz has this small sector of the market all to himself (Sega did release an official wireless 6-button controller back in the day, but it uses an infrared signal so you have to have line-of-sight with the receiver plugged into the console).
Based on the design of the SJ-6000 pad – which was launched around the same time as Capcom's Street Fighter II made its debut on Sega's 16-bit console – the Joyzz is an astonishingly close match to the real deal. While some early customers complained about scratched casings, awkwardly-installed D-Pads and printed text which rubs off a little too easily, our review unit was pretty much faultless. Everything feels robust and solid, there's no creaking when you apply pressure to the pad itself and in terms of weight, it's a close match to the original SJ-6000. How Krikzz has been able to achieve such a close match we don't know, but the Joyzz feels like a 100 percent authentic product direct from Sega's factories and exhibits none of the usual shortcomings you get from cheap 'clone' controllers sold by other third-party manufacturers.
The Joyzz comes with a wireless receiver which plugs into the controller port of your Mega Drive console. Pairing the controller is a breeze; ours was already done so we literally only had to press a button on the pad to restore the wireless connection, but unpaired units can be bonded by hold the 'Mode' shoulder button along with the X, Y and Z buttons. The pad even comes with a host of 'compatibility' modes which are also accessed by button combinations; you can make it act like a 3-button pad (hold Mode, Start and C for 3 seconds - this is vital for certain Mega Drive games that don't support the SJ-6000, most notably Golden Axe II) or a two-button Master System pad (hold Mode, Start and B for 3 seconds - this is for those SMS games that won't play nice with the Mega Drive controller when using the Power Base Converter). To return to the standard 6-button mode, you have to hold Mode, Start and Z for 3 seconds, or power cycle the controller.
While Krikzz has designed and created the Joyzz's internal board from scratch and made the external casing, he has relied on off-the-shelf parts elsewhere – most notably with the 800 mAh battery. It uses a Nokia BL-4C power cell, which offers around 150 hours of gameplay on a single charge – an incredible amount, especially when compared to the level of stamina seen in other wireless pads. The upshot of this approach is that when the battery eventually dies many years down the line, you should be able to source and install a replacement easily. There's no cable included with the unit, but the Joyzz charges using Micro-USB connection, and we've all got at least one of those lying around the house by now, surely?
Of course, the proof is in the playing with any controller, and we're pleased to report that the Joyzz passes with flying colours. The D-pad and buttons feel just as good as the ones on an authentic SJ-6000, and there's no noticeable input lag – Krikzz quotes the response time being something in the region of 2.7ms, and we have no reason to question that. The controller didn't lose connectivity at any point during our test, either. In short, this feels as good as the real thing, with the bonus of being totally wireless.
Given that it's based on what is arguably one of the finest digital controllers of all time, the Joyzz can't fail to be of interest to seasoned Sega fans. The only real stumbling block is the price; at £64.99, this is expensive in anyone's book – and when you consider that 8BitDo's pads and wireless receivers are considerably cheaper, it gives you even more reason to pause before stabbing that 'Buy' button. However, it's worth keeping in mind that, unlike his rivals, Krikzz is very much a one-man operation and doesn't benefit from the economies of scale afforded to a company like 8BitDo. He literally assembles these units by hand, so it's perhaps unsurprising that he has to charge a little more in order to cover his overheads and his time.
When the 8BitDo M30 launches next year, the Joyzz will have serious competition, but there's no telling for sure if 8BitDo's pad will be as good as Krikzz's creation, even if it is cheaper (you'll be able to get the M30 and 2.4g receiver for just $24.99). If the price seems like a sticking point then you'd be advised to wait and see how the M30 turns out, but if you're comfortable spending this amount of money and want an authentic controller more than anything else, then this really is the only option – so it's good to know that it's a solid one.
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