Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Control freak Vol I: The SGB Commander

Over the past couple of months it has been well documented (on my Twitter feed at least) that I have a rather deep seated (and pretty weird to be honest) interest in console controllers. In fact, after a recent scout around my house it turns out that (if you include light-guns, sticks and a Dreamcast Keyboard) I have 107 of the things! I know...it sounds as nuts to me as it does to you.

Anyways, seeing as I probably own about 1/5 of the world's controller population, I thought I would talk a little bit about some of the more interesting examples I've snared over the years. And you never know, after reading this you may even catch the bug slightly...

Straight out of 1994...a vintage year!
First up we have the SGB (Super Gameboy) Commander for the Super Famicom. Manufactured by Japanese by controller gurus; Hori, it was released in 1994 with the intention further enhancing the big screen Gameboy experience by making it easier to access and navigate the often clunky Super Gameboy menus. The first time I saw this in good old Super Play I knew I wanted one, but as with most interesting SFC peripherals of the time, the chance of a release outside of Japan was slim to...never.

Thank you Genki!
Happily, with the retro scene being what it is these days, I managed to acquire a Commander from one of my favourite stockists of ├╝ber desirable Japanese goodies: Genki Video Games.

So all after all these years of waiting, was it worth it? Well yes, very much so!

First off, I think it looks stunning. Its design closely mimics that of Gunpei Yokoi's original (and also charming) Gameboy, with Hori even opting to use the same A and B buttons and d-pad from the controller's big brother. They even went to the trouble of placing a mock speaker in the corner...that's just ace in my book. As a fan of old video game stuff, the looks get a big thumbs up from me.

If you're going to mimic, then mimic the best
The build quality is also right out of the top drawer. It has a sturdy and chunky feel to it, and like the best controllers it doesn't feel like it will snap in half or fall apart when you reach the exciting part of a game...or that bit on Megaman 2 when Cut Man keeps cheating and the controller gets slightly thrown at the wall.

Importantly every one of the buttons and the d-pad has a classy feel to them, with no nasty clicking...quite rare in a third party peripheral. Although this one was licenced by Nintendo, which may explain why it's so impressive (access to the Kyoto parts bin!).

What a Christmas bundle this would have made...
With the SGB Commander being designed primarily for use with the Super Gameboy, it's layout is slightly different than your standard SFC/SNES controller. The shoulder buttons have been re-located so that they now flank the usual diamond layout of A, B, Y and X, my index fingers did feel lost for a moment but after that it all feels pretty natural, almost like a curvy NES pad.

I've used for a good few hours now on stuff like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Monster Max and Super Mario Land 2 and was really impressed. I even found myself messing with the menus and changing the colours just like in the old days...blue Link still looks amazing!

Friends reunited?
The Commander also doubles as a replacement SFC/SNES controller by way of a little switch above the start and select buttons. While it isn't ideal for action heavy titles like Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II, it will get you by in a good number of regular games, and in fact for slower paced games such as Sim City and Aerobiz I actually found myself favouring it over the regular pad.

A Triforce moment...
So there we are, although it was kind of pricey for a controller (£25), to me it was worth every penny. I'm very much looking forward to using my SGB Commander when I'm next scaling Tal Tal Heights, shooting down Tatanka and saving Dreamland.

Right, I'm off to trawl car boot sales for more pads!

By the by; if you were interested by this article, then please feel free to take a look at what I thought of Namco's weird and wonderful Negcon.

1 comment:

  1. Good to hear you like it so much. Sorry it wasn't cheaper: we used to have them on the site for less, but they are a wee bit scarcer these days and the Pound needs to bulk up Pound for Pound... Anyway appreciate the heads up - nice blog.