It was back at CES 2018 when the Retro-Bit and Sega collaboration first came to light. Through the collaboration, Retro-Bit would be producing new versions of many classic Sega controllers including Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, and Sega Dreamcast. Needless to say, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of these new controllers as they have been touted to be of the same quality as the originals. Even though I personally didn’t own any of these Sega consoles until 2006, when I finally got my own Dreamcast, I spent countless hours playing Genesis at friend’s houses growing up. My own original Genesis controllers have also seen better days, so having an officially licensed replacement is just what the console needs! In this review, I am examining the original port Genesis 6 Button Arcade Pad in the Clear Blue color variation (also available in Black).
What’s In The Box
I just gotta say this now, the box that the Genesis controller comes in gives me a wonderful dose of nostalgia! Everything about it is spot on to the originals my friends would get for Christmas. Now that isn’t to say they are a 1:1 reproduction of the original boxes, because they aren’t, but it’s close enough any die-hard Sega fan is sure to swoon a bit upon getting theirs! The controller on the front immediately seizes the eye's attention and it is delightfully glossy. The next thing that grabbed my attention was the foiled “Genesis 16-Bit Video Entertainment System” lettering which stands out so well on the red striped background. This background became traditional of the Genesis games and hardware in 1993 and still looks as good as ever.
Below the controller we can see the proper naming of the controller: the 6 Button Arcade Pad, just as in its original release, and that it is for use with the Sega Genesis console and Sega CD add-on. If you opted to get the USB version, here is where you would be informed that it is for use with PC, Mac and Steam. The color scheme of the controller is displayed here as well. Shifting our focus to the top right of the box, we can see the old Sega Seal of Quality in all its original glory! Moving down to the bottom right of the controller we have the Retro-Bit logo, signaling that this is indeed a third party controller and we haven’t time-traveled back to 1995.
Moving on to the sides of the box we have the Genesis logo, once again displayed in foil, with a smaller glossy image of the controller. Moving to the top of the box we can see the same Genesis logo and picture, only this time we also have the shelf hook to keep it company, just like on the original controller boxes. The bottom of the box finally breaks this trend by just displaying the red striped background pattern. Moving on to the back of the box we get our biggest departure from the original 6 Button Arcade Pad box; there is a lot more information on display here! The traditional silver lined black box is still here with Genesis appearing at the top. We once again see the name of the controller and the associated platforms for its use.
Below this, we get the description of the controller, some of the upgrades the controller has received and that it is compatible with both original and most clone hardware. The bullet points below this further reiterate this information but they also include one interesting point: “Original Grade Quality”. Throughout history, third-party controllers have always been inferior to the first-party offerings. To see this as a selling point means I am going to run this controller into the ground to see if that truly is the case. The last things of note on the back of the box are some close-up shots of the D-Pad and 6 face buttons, the UPC and the only instance of the Sega logo being used outside of the shots of the controller.
Upon unpacking our controller we can see that it is securely housed in a plastic shell to keep it from moving in the package. The plastic shell is also indented to allow the cord coming out of the controller a place to be routed to the underside, so it doesn’t pinch it at any point, thus avoiding damage. Outside of the controller, there is nothing else included in the packaging like a users manual or warranty card.
Aesthetics and Build Quality
Now that I have spent an hour talking about how amazing the box for the new Retro-Bit Sega controller is, let’s talk about the controller itself! The shell is identical to the original 6 button model, as is the connector that plugs into the console. The controller authentically features textured plastic with the top of it and areas surrounding buttons being completely smooth. The cord, although longer than the original, thank goodness, is also around the same thickness as those found on an original Sega product. Proper Sega branding can also be seen above the Start button and on the connector, further pursuing authenticity.
Face buttons and D-Pad are also the correct black and grey color scheme you would expect. The B and Y face buttons are also sporting the proper bumps for players to know where their thumb is without having to look down at the controller. Aside from the Retro-Bit logo on the back and the word “RETRO BIT” printed on the inner circuit board (visible on the Clear Blue model), you wouldn’t know this isn’t an authentic Sega branded controller from the ’90s. Well, to be fair, Sega never made a Clear Blue controller variant either, so that's kind of a dead give away, but besides the point.
Since one of the bullet points on the box boasts “Original Grade Quality,” I decide to submit the Retro-Bit model to as much ‘90’s era brutality my friends and I would subject to their original controllers. Swinging it around by the cord saw no loosening of the strain relief at the top of the controller. Delivering some solid blows to it to imitate the rage of losing a fight in Street Fighter II also resulted in no damage to the controller. Next, I decided to toss and drop the controller around the room. Once again, there was no permanent damage evident cosmetically or internally. For the last stress test, I decided to put pressure on the controller and even when pressing down at full strength there was no give in the plastic. For anyone worried about construction quality, have no fear, Retro-Bit made these solid!
As far as authenticity and build quality are concerned, Retro-Bit has already hit it out of the park with this new Genesis controller, but can it provide a solid gaming experience? Well, yes, yes it can! Being a six-button controller means that it is compatible with every game in the Genesis library. There are a few games that have issues with the six-button layout, like sports games utilizing a multitap, but a quick press of the mode button on the top right of the controller will clear these issues right up. The six-button layout is also ideal for fighting games like Street Fighter II, where the original three-button Genesis controller was sadly lacking.
No matter the game I was playing, I found myself very satisfied by the way the controller handled. The D-pad responds instantly to inputs and I never felt any instances of a misinterpreted press. Pulling off special moves with Ryu on Street Fighter II also felt easier than I am accustomed to on more modern controllers, probably due to the rocker-style D-Pad. The D-pad is also precise enough for me to enjoy one of my favorite Genesis games, Dune: The Battle for Arrakis, more than I have in years with my beat-up original model three-button controller.
Face buttons are equally well designed with precise triggering and no dropped inputs. Each of the six buttons needs just the right amount of pressure to use for my personal preference. Swift jumps are easy to pull off in Sonic. Holding down a button for throttle in Outrun doesn’t cause any strain. Delivering rapid jabs in Street Fighter II also proved no trouble. The 10-foot cord length Retro-Bit has designed into the controller also ensures that you can game comfortably in all but the most extreme situations. In my setup, I was able to use the controller on my couch with a CRT, and at my desk with capture equipment without needing to rearrange a thing! In the end, I was able to test games from the Sega Genesis, CD, 32X and Master System without any complaints or compatibility issues.
As far as critiques go on what I would have liked to see improved on the controller, I have none. But if I could wish for something it would be to see the controller come out in more colors later down the line like an awesome clear green!
Retro-Bit has made a perfect replica of the 6 Button Arcade Pad any Sega fan will appreciate! No, scratch that, Retro-Bit has made a better-than-perfect version of the 6 Button Arcade Pad with its upgraded cord length! Everything from the box, build quality, aesthetics and gameplay is spot on to anything Sega themselves ever produced for the Genesis. Even more surprising is the price Retro-Bit is offering this premium piece for: just $14.99 for the original Genesis version. If you are in the market for replacements for your worn down Genesis controllers you can’t beat what Retro-Bit has crafted for the price. Go grab a pair! They release on March 29th.
Just a quick note here on the USB version of the Genesis controller Retro-Bit has also produced... It features the same original design as the Genesis version, but has seen the Mode button moved to just below the Start button. This shift was made to accommodate the inclusion of two additional shoulder buttons, unsurprisingly labeled L and R. I did not ask for a review unit of the USB Genesis controller so outside of these documented changes, I can not say for sure if quality and performance will be any different than the original port Genesis controller reviewed here. The USB version of the controller is also available now at a price of $19.99.