When it comes to consoles and retro gaming, you can never have enough controllers. In my man cave I have an entire drawer full of mice, joysticks, joypads and controllers for every retro computer and console I own, usually with plenty of spares and backup controllers if any ever break. In most cases it’s getting harder to find original controllers in good working order that are affordable, so I want to make sure I’ve always got something to hand.
When it comes to retro gaming using emulators on the PC or using a Raspberry Pi or similar, many gamers strive to recreate the retro gaming experience as close as possible to playing games on the original hardware. While I won’t comment on the ethics of running games under emulation – as that’s something for another article completely – there’s one thing missing to complete that authentic experience… the controller. To come to the rescue, there are countless clones of Megadrive, SNES, NES and other controllers that can be used today with any system equipped with a USB port and there are even adaptors available to use original controllers with USB ports. But I’m taking a closer look at one in particular… the iNNEXT Game Controller.
I actually purchased this SNES controller imitator to use with my C64 Mini. While I love the console, the bundled joystick was lacking somewhat so I wanted a replacement / secondary controller to complement it. After some hunting to see which controllers were compatible, I stumbled upon this so decided to give it a try. While the C64 Mini uses standard USB ports for it’s joystick, it can only use controllers that have 8 independent buttons available to them and even then not all work so many users have found it to be hit and miss to see which is a success or not.
Anyway, onto this one and the first thing you notice is the extremely bland packaging. Apart from the photo of the controller on the front and illustration on the rear, the box is blank. No manufacturer details, no country of origin, no CE safety mark… absolutely nothing at all. It doesn’t give a particularly good impression and certainly makes the package feel cheap. The feeling continues when you open the box and all you find inside is the controller itself with the lead tied up with a standard twisty tie – no instructions, no bag for the controller or anything. You can begin to see why this is at the economy end of the controller market.
Looking past that, the controller itself is based on the SNES controller and is similar in shape and size, although it feels notably lighter and doesn’t quite feel as comfortable in the hand or as robust for long term use. The 5ft USB cable is adequate for most uses, certainly when gaming using a PC or a Pi although I’d say it would need an extension lead for any system under the main family television.
As I said, the main reason I purchased this was to accompany the C64 Mini so how does it work in that respect? Each of the 8 buttons on the C64 Mini’s joystick have been re-mapped automatically to the iNNEXT controller but unfortunately (and I presume this will be the case with all third party joypads) there is no way to change the configuration. I say unfortunately because many of the default controls simply aren’t intuitive at all and seem to be mapped to the controller in the order in which they appear on the joystick rather than any logical order for the player. What that means is that the two shoulder buttons have been set automatically as the equivalent of the two primary fire buttons on the C64 Mini.
While most games that only use one or two fire buttons will make use of any of the buttons to fire (so you can use X, Y, A or B as well as the shoulder buttons), navigating the front menu or returning to the main carousel after pressing the menu (start) button still requires the shoulder buttons to be pressed leaving for some confusion.
That aside, how does it feel during play? I have to be honest and say that the one reason I bought this was because I felt that the original joystick wasn’t as responsive as I’d have liked. While I love the original Competition Pro joystick design, something wasn’t quite the same with the C64 Mini interpretation of it and it felt as if it needed a little more work to get the joystick to respond. I know there are latency issues between the console and most modern TV sets, but this was something more than that – it was just that the joystick didn’t always feel right.
Moving over to the iNNEXT and I noticed a difference immediately. Games did seem to respond quicker and as much of a cliché as it is, I did notice that I was doing better at a lot of games using this as a replacement controller. Even the latency seemed to be reduced marginally and I noticed this more clearly when putting it through its paces playing Uridium and Armalyte – games that needed lightning-quick reactions.
It worked just as well with games loaded in from external files, if not better and in those instances I barely noticed any latency at all and it made those games a joy to play. Menu navigation and certainly the on-screen keyboard became a frustrating experience with the newly-mapped buttons but other than that it has made a real difference.
It’s not the sturdiest controller ever made and probably won’t be one that will win any awards, but this no-frills low budget joypad is just what your C64 Mini is shouting out for.