The SHIRO! crew caught up with Ryan Engstrom (aka Archades Games), an independent tester working alongside Retro-Bit at the 2023 Portland Retro Gaming Expo. We discussed their upcoming 2.4Ghz Saturn Wireless Pro Controller, a wireless Saturn-inspired (and Saturn compatible) pad with two thumb sticks, four shoulder buttons and all the fixings of a modern controller.
Retro-Bit Interview: 2.4Ghz Wireless Pro Controller
The only physical change we’re aware of since last year, is the replacement of the previous Alps sticks with magnetic HALL EFFECT sensors. While the difference is not really noticeable, the benefit should prove itself over time in terms of durability and wear, since hall sensors rely on magnetic fields to measure input as opposed to relying on delicate volume sensors that must come into direct contact with each other. We did notice that as far as build quality is concerned, this is perhaps the most solidly built controller that Retro-Bit has put out so far… It feels like a very ‘premium‘ product in the hands!
While we only got a little time with the demo units, and we haven’t yet gotten our hands on any review units, our takeaways are generally positive. We think that folks will really dig this controller for playing on PC & Switch, and the compatibility with real Saturn hardware is also quite good overall. As far as lag is concerned, Retro-Bit claimed it was around one frame of lag, and that’s definitely what we observed. It was so minimal that is was not really noticeable. We had a small gripe about the right & left trigger mapping and performance, but that can easily be worked out in a firmware update. Folks will also need to adjust to the difference in size and weight as compared to an OEM Saturn pad, but that’s not really a significant issue.
We’ll reserve our full review for after we’ve had time to test out some review samples… However, with the lack of analog shoulder triggers and the smaller joy-con sized sticks, we feel that fans should definitely view this as a great dual-analog PC/Switch controller that also offers good Saturn compatibility, rather than a bespoke replacement for Saturn’s original 3D Analog Pad. Folks going in with this latter expectation may likely be disappointed by one thing or another…
There’s actually a really good reason why we don’t want fans to judge the Wireless Pro based purely on how accurately it or inaccurately it seems to emulate the Saturn’s original 3D Control Pad…
Truth is that some Saturn games were designed in tandem with the original 3D Control Pad (like NiGHTS for example), and because they communicate directly with a proprietary integrated circuit at the heart of the 3D Control Pad’s chipset, third party controllers will certainly come close to the same input feel, but they’ll always be missing one very important ingredient…
“The 3D Control Pad measures the tilt angle of the pad with a magnet and a magnetic sensor. Due to its structure, it does not output in direct proportion to the tilt angle. It is rather output as a complicated curve. In addition, there is a tolerance in the output, depending upon the force of the magnet and the accuracy of each part. I simulated how much tolerance would occur with a supercomputer. Then, we completed an algorithm that converts the sensor value output by a complicated curve into a directly proportional output. It is programmed into the CPU installed in the 3D Control Pad. (Each 3D Control Pad contains a CPU and chipset). Of course, this custom CPU uses an old manufacturing process and can’t be produced now.“-Kenji Tosaki
That said, the SHIRO! crew actually felt very positive about the analog input overall. It felt smooth & responsive, and it only took a small period of time to adjust to the smaller Joy-Con sized sticks… Again, once we’re able to fully test out some review units with updated firmware, we will bring you a full review.
A massive Saturn fan since Christmas ’96, Dave is enthusiastic about growing the community and spreading Saturn love and knowledge to fans old and new. Co-founding the SEGA SATURN, SHIRO! podcast back in 2017 and creating the SHIRO! SHOW in 2020, he seeks to create interesting and engaging Saturn-related content for the community. Dave’s interests circle around game preservation, and he is a huge fan of game magazines and developer interviews.