The Sega Saturn is a console that many overlook these days in the world of retro gaming. Having lost to both the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64 in sales and game releases, only the fans know exactly what non-Saturn players have missed out on! Having only joined the Sega Saturn fan club back in 2016, there were a lot of things I really never knew about the console; for example, it has built-in memory! The downside to finally jumping into the Saturn world is the cost of getting games and replacement parts. Getting a decent 1st-party Saturn controller really isn’t hard to do, but it can be slightly cost prohibitive depending on the model. But now thanks to a new collaboration announced back in 2018 between Sega and Retro-Bit, getting a new Saturn controller is no longer a financial risk! Better yet, it boasts the same quality as those from Sega themselves.
What’s in the Box
The boxes Retro-Bit made to house their new Saturn Controllers are an amazing approximation to the original boxes from Sega! The Saturn controller takes center stage and exhibits a nice shine from its glossy finish. To the left of the controller, we see the original Sega Saturn logo in all its 90’s glory! The logo also has a glossy finish which really lets it shine out from the striped white/off-white alternating background. This design is also matched by Sega Saturn games, so it looks really good on display here! Underneath the controller we can see which color edition our controller is; I opted for the Slate Grey scheme which is modeled after the Japanese exclusive Cool Pad from 1997.
Below this, we also see that the controller is for use with the Sega Saturn console. If you are picking up the USB variant, here is where you will see that it is compatible with PC, Mac and Steam. At the top right of the box, there is a brightly foiled patch that simply says “Controller” or “Controller with USB” for USB versions. Moving down to the bottom right of the box we can see the official Sega seal of quality, which will surely delight any Sega fan. Just below the seal we see the Retro-Bit logo, the only indication on the box that these controllers are indeed a third-party product and not Sega declaring the Sega Saturn is back from the dead.
Moving on to the sides of the box, we can observe the Sega Saturn Logo taking center stage. In the right-hand corners, we once again see the foiled patch that we saw on the front of the box that states “Controller.” The top of the box shares this same design with Saturn logo and foil patch present. But, the top of the box also features a shelf hook that keeps the same white/off white alternating pattern present on the whole product. Along the bottom, we are greeted only with the alternating pattern.
Shifting our attention to the back, we once again see the Sega Saturn logo and foiled “Controller” patch. Just below this, we are greeted with an introduction to the controller and one of the upgrades it has received over the originals. Next, we can see the bullet points that outline this controller is officially licensed by Sega and boasts “Original Grade Quality”, a claim I will be testing extensively! The next bullet point once again points out the compatibility of whichever model controller you decided to pick up, original port or USB. One interesting thing to note on the USB controllers compatibility section, the French language section includes an entry about the Retro-Bit Super Retro-Cade console, not found in the other languages. The final bullet point also states that yes, indeed, these controllers have a 10-foot long cord instead of the 6-foot cord found on original Saturn controllers.
The last things of note on the back are a couple of close-up shots of the controllers left shoulder button and face buttons, the UPC and the Sega and Retro-Bit logos. Upon opening the controller for the first time we are greeted with the plastic housing which keeps the controller in place during transport. This plastic also has an indentation which allows the cord to be safely routed to the underside of the plastic housing without any severe bends or pinches. Aside from the controller and housing, no other items are included, such as a users manual or warranty card.
Aesthetics and Build Quality
The Slate Grey Retro-Bit Saturn controller is a perfect recreation of the classic Japanese Cool Pad! Every aesthetic touch is perfectly in place with pink shoulder and Start buttons, dark grey D-Pad, light grey X/Y/Z buttons and green/yellow/blue A/B/C buttons respectively. The light grey controller cord found uniquely on lighter color controllers is also in use here with a lighter grey connector. The transparent smokey grey of the controller is also very authentic! The plastic in use along the sides, top and back of the controller features a rougher texture than the smooth center where the buttons are located.
Smack dab in the middle of the controller we can see the Sega logo (or if you picked up one of the Black controllers, the Saturn logo), taking up residence in a nice indented section of plastic! The Sega logo can also be found on the connector of original console model controllers. Sorry USB owners, you only get the USB logo. Another little attention to detail I am glad Retro-Bit kept intact on these new Sega Saturn controllers is the inclusion of all the original media player labels found on the originals! Interestingly enough, these media labels were only ever found on model 2 controllers. If not for the Retro-Bit logo on the back and the RETRO BIT marker on the circuit board, these controllers would be indistinguishable from the originals!
As far as build quality is concerned, Retro-Bit has crafted one heck of a beast. I subjected the new Saturn controllers to an unhealthy amount of punishment to really test the claim of “Original Grade Quality.” Swing the controllers around by the cords, check. Smash them into the floor, check. Throw them into the wall, check. Rage monster mash on em, check. Jump on them, check! Each test resulted in a perfectly functional controller that was just ready to move on to the next gaming session!
Now that we know the controller is up to the task of gaming, not only in its aesthetics but also build quality, let’s take a look at what it's like to play games with the new Retro-Bit Saturn controller! If I could sum up the experience in a single word it would be superb. Playing Mega Man X4 felt absolutely perfect. Every dash, shot and jump occurred right when I wanted them to. I never once felt that buttons would miss an input and better yet each one required the perfect amount of pressure to trigger for my tastes! Unlike my model 1 controller, it even felt good to have my dash button properly mapped to the shoulder button for easy use. Playing Virtua Fighter 2 was also quite a treat with a very accurate and responsive D-Pad. I mean I am bad at the game but at least it has nothing to do with the controller! To further test the D-Pad I decided to pit it against one of my favorite games of all time: Command and Conquer. Sure enough, selecting units and managing the battlefield proved to be little trouble. The D-Pad was also perfect for enjoying a shooter like Panzer Dragoon II!
For testing the USB version of the Saturn controller, I decided to first try it out on emulated versions of each of the prior test games to see if there were any notable differences. Thankfully everything worked out just as on the real hardware! The USB version of Retro-Bit’s Saturn controller supports both the Xinput and Direct Input standards which gives it a ton of flexibility when it comes to PC gaming and emulation. I was able to use the controller with ease on a variety of different emulated platforms like 3DO and Sega Genesis. I even used it to play more Mega Man games through the GameCube emulator Dolphin.
Using the controller on Steam, I did run into an interesting snafu. In the Direct Input mode, I wasn’t receiving input from the shoulder buttons. A quick visit to the controller settings in Steam was able to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, this remapping also caused the D-Pad to spaz out in Dead or Alive 6 for some reason. Holding down the Start button to switch the controller into Xinput mode solved the issue for that night. I have tried to replicate the issue I had that night multiple times since it occurred, without success, so I am going to put no fault into the controller but on my computer or Steam.
By the way, did I mention how great it is to play fighting games with a 6 face button controller?! Dead or Alive 6 played like an absolute dream. Pulling off combos in training and during actual fights was registered perfectly. I was even stuck on a few challenges when using my other PC controllers. Seriously I don’t think I will ever play a fighting game on another pad again. I also found the controller ideal for many side-scrollers and, for some random reason, Devil May Cry 4. Not content to call it there for testing, I decided to try one more experiment, using the controller on an Xbox One through the use of the Xbox App on Windows 10. Sure enough, it was detected perfectly fine in Xinput mode and just like that I was playing more Mega Man on my Xbox One using a Saturn controller!
I also decided to check out the compatibility with the Super Retro-Cade that was listed under the French section of the box. It worked fine but I did usually end up changing the default control bindings to better suit my preferences. I also decided to try the controller out on PS4 and Switch just to see what would happen, but unfortunately, neither system worked with it. Although if you are determined to use your new USB Saturn controller on as many consoles as possible, it does work on PS3, where I used it to play some Tekken 2 and, you guessed it: Mega Man X4!
As far as any complaints and gripes with the new Retro-Bit Saturn controllers go, I have none. I had the one odd issue that never showed up again and that was it, so I’d say it was a one-off fluke more than anything. I also hope that Retro-Bit might potentially release more color variants of the controller as time goes on.
Retro-Bit has constructed a glorious recreation of the model 2 Saturn controllers and I honestly couldn’t be happier to play games with it! Games felt better to play with it than on my model 1 controller, and the 10-foot cord also meant I could use the controller anywhere in my gaming setup. The quality between the original model and USB version was also identical, making the Retro-Bit Saturn controller one of the best options for PC fighting game fans who like 6 button controller layouts. Best yet, these controllers are available at a reasonable price and are brand new, unlike genuine Sega model 2 controllers. They are also built like a tank, so you know your investment is secure. If you are in the market for new Saturn controllers or just a great controller for PC fighting games, look no further than the Retro-Bit Saturn Controller! Grab some today!