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Retro-Bit Wireless Super Retro Controller (for SNES) review

Can Retro-bit bring the Super Nintendo gaming to the modern era?
Lifesperience is now Raycommend, which can be found here:  Ray Commend 

Over the recent months, I have acquired a serious retro gaming habit.  The latest gen systems have not really appealed to me at this time since they have not offered anything new in terms of gameplay, while the classic systems are still attractive to me due to their pick up and play gameplay, instant on functionality, and games that are simply fun to play.

The only issues of course are the poor video cables supplied with these systems, and of course, being tethered via a corded controller.  Luckily, there is now an option if you want to wirelessly play from over 30 feet away from your console.  Is it any good?  Read on for my opinion.

Snes connected via S-video on the left, while using standard composite on the right. 
First things first.  If you still have the original SNES (or even a clone) around and your TV has the appropriate input for it, then you must get an S-video cable!!!  The difference in quality is astounding, especially if your TV has a decent upscaler built in to it, and they are cheap enough to buy online.

Now that you're aware of  how to upgrade your graphic quality, we'll move on to the Wireless Super Retro Controller.  I puchased mine for $17 on Amazon, which is amazing considering there is not a lot of competition in the wireless controller market for the SNES.  Unlike the wireless controllers available when the SNES was the new system on the block, these new versions use RF 2.4GHz technology instead of  IR technology.  What this means is that as long as you within range, your controller should work.  With IR, you needed to be within line of sight of its receiver, and if anything interrupted it, your controller stopped working.  It was a terrible technology for gaming.  Decent for remote controls, but not for game controllers.

Here is the back of the box with the specs printed in different languages.
Once you open the box, you will discover that it's lightly packed.  You get a controller and receiver combo, along with a sheet with instructions on how to sync them.  There are no batteries included, so you will need to have two AAA batteries.

The instructions are simple.
The power button is under the Dpad on the underside of  the controller.  Otherwise, the instructions to sync and play are spot on.  You should be up and playing within minutes.  

The Retro-bit meets it's new family for a size comparison.
Physically, the Retro-bit feels very light in the hand even with the batteries installed.  Lighter than the original SNES controller or the Wii classic pad.  The hollow feeling matte plastic gives the controller a much cheaper feel than the original controller with it's hard and glossy plastic.  It's also about 1/4th thicker than the original controller due to the battery housing and yet slightly narrower.  Even with the reworked ergonomics on the bottom half of the controllers to provide a better grip, those with big hands may wish that the controller was just a bit wider.  There is a red LED light on the top right by the R button that lets you know that the controller is on, and flashes rapidly when pairing or playing.  

Other than the difference in dimensions, the general design aesthetics have carried over with the Y and X as concave style plastic buttons, while the B and A buttons are your standard convex style.  The select and start buttons are rubberized similar to the original SNES controller but thicker and horizontally set.  The original SNES controller has those buttons in the same location, but at a forty five degree angle.  The L and R shoulder buttons are slightly thicker than the ones on the original controller, which makes sense considering the difference in thickness between the two controllers.

The directional pad is slightly larger than the original and has a very cheap and mushy feel to it.  Not as bad as some really cheap controllers from gamestop or amazon, but it is noticeable.  It's hot horrible, but it feels like a missed opportunity to make something truly great, even if it would have raised the price by five bucks. 

In testing the controller, there was no visible lag between commands.  When you pressed something on the controller, it would have the expected result on the screen..... most of the time.  These being cheap controllers, one cannot expect the highest in quality control.  Occasionally the controller will desync, forcing you to quickly turn the controller off and back on to instantly regain your connection.  This is with a fresh pair of batteries.

The "R" button on my unit will occasionally not respond, and then quickly respond twice when pressed again. I noticed this while using spells in the SNES version of Final Fantasy 3.   The directional pad works well 95% of the time.  Unfortunately, that 5% where is missing an input or gets the input wrong altogether will most likely be at the worst of times during your gaming session.  I was able to consistently pull of Fireballs and Dragon Punches in the SNES version of Street Fighter Alpha 2 as well as Bum Rushes with Sabin and Gogo in Final Fantasy 3 which is a good sign.  I also had no problem playing Super Mario All Stars or Super Mario World.  The controls were responsive.  Having another person play test however, revealed the occasional missed inputs when attempting to duck with Mario.  As stated earlier, it was only rarely when it happened, but when it did, of course it was at the worst possible moments.

Conclusion:

As these are cheap knock offs, your mileage may vary in comparison.  You may receive a perfect controller, or one that performs far worse depending on your luck of the draw.  Overall, the convenience of wireless play far outweighs the drawbacks for me at this price.  If I need precise controls during a heated Street fighter marathon with friends, then I will switch back to the normal controller.  However, for RPG sessions with games such as The Secret of Mana, or even normal side scrolling action games like Super Mario World, this controller will suffice while I relax comfortably on the couch.  Just make sure to buy from a supplier with a good exchange policy in case that you do get a dud. 

A word of warning to Retro Duo console owners.  This controller will work just fine with the SNES portion of the console, but if you switch to NES mode, the console will not accept and controller input even though it's perfectly synced.  Just a heads up.  If anyone finds a solution for that issue, feel free to mention it in the comments section.  Thanks!

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