When Retro Fighters released its Nintendo 64 ‘Brawler’ controller a while back, we thought it was pretty darn good – it’s just a shame that so few games on the N64 really take advantage of its amazing D-Pad. However, the company is back with another pad, this time for a system which has plenty of amazing fighting 2D games: the Sega Dreamcast. So it’s fitting that on the day we report on one of the console’s most famous titles getting a spiritual successor, we also bring you our verdict on the rather cool Retro Fighters StrikerDC pad.
The StrikerDC is a genuine upgrade from Sega’s original Dreamcast controller, which, while groundbreaking for the time, hasn’t aged particularly well over the years. The analogue stick feels better and the design is far more ergonomic; it’s got two very well-defined prongs to grip onto and doesn’t cause any unfortunate cramping over prolonged periods – and it comes with a very generous 10-foot cable. Retro Fighters has even redesigned the hole in which the VMU display is viewed so it’s easier to see the LCD screen from a wider range of angles (it’s quite recessed on the original Dreamcast controller).
While all of these changes are incredibly welcome, the biggest difference is how the pad feels when you’re playing 2D games, like the abundance of one-on-one fighters on the console. The D-Pad on the original Dreamcast pad wasn’t terrible, but it was hardly well-suited to the intense and precise directional inputs required for games like Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and King of Fighters Dream Match 1999 – or any of the other amazing 2D brawlers that were released during the console’s brief but eventful lifetime. The D-Pad was small and mushy, and had a slanting shape which was intended to make it ‘blend’ with the design of the controller itself.
The direction pad on the StrikerDC is a massive, massive improvement. While it’s not quite as good as the rolling pad seen on the Sega Saturn controller, it’s still brilliant for fighting games. It’s got a decent degree of travel and feels precise and responsive; within seconds of booting up Capcom vs. SNK 2 we were chucking fireballs and pulling off dragon punches with ease. Furthermore, Retro Fighters has equipped the StrikerDC with two digital shoulder buttons to compliment the analogue triggers, which means you can use these inputs but avoid the insane amount of travel you’d normally get – as a result, fighting games which use the shoulder triggers for punch and kick strengths are much easier to play (we’d still prefer all six buttons to be on the face of the controller, mind you).
The end result? An utterly fantastic pad which isn’t just perfect for 2D games, but also enriches 3D titles massively, too. If you own a Dreamcast, then you need this pad.
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