Super Joy 3: The Review!

Earlier I did a quick once over for the Super Joy 3 that I own, and I didn’t quite go into too much detail. Today we are going to delve as deep into this thing as we possibly can without getting lead poisoning. The very first thing you are going to notice when you pick up one of the Super Joy units is the fact that the housing looks a lot like a Nintendo 64 controller, so I will be comparing the two quite a bit. The second thing you’re going to notice is just how cheap and plasticky this thing feels, and that is pretty much the theme throughout.

To start off, the controls are shoved quite a bit more to the center than they are on the N64 controller. The D-pad is essentially the same, but its way off to the right of where it should be. Instead of the C buttons, here you have 2 pairs of A and B buttons, one set being standard and the other set for turbo. More toward the center you have the Reset button next to a slant aligned Start and Select buttons, and a functionless joystick simply screwed on from the inside.

The Super Joy design has done away with the N64’s trigger and they’ve turned the memory card port into the battery pack holder. On the very top left you have the AV outputs, in the middle there is the typical and super cheap looking 9 pin controller port (much cheaper looking than Atari and Sega used) and to the right is the power adapter input and On/Off switch. Since I don’t own the right power adapter, I run mine off 4 AA batteries. Performance seems to be ok, although I can’t compare between the batteries and power adapter. Underneath all Super Joy units, that I’ve seen, there is a 60 pin connector for running ROM boards (mine had a cover on it) which means your unit is either run off a ROM board or you can use Famicom cartridges with it.

As you would expect from anything built in China, this thing is cheap and functions as such. Often times I will find myself hitting the A or B button and getting random reactions or none at all. The D-pad seems to be only slightly inaccurate, but watch out for the extremely willing to work Reset button, which can often be confused for the start button when you need to pause a game in a hurry. The games within my Super Joy 3 (listed in a previous article) are obvious classics, as if they didn’t even really care about copyrights and didn’t try to hide what these games were. The games all function properly with the exception of Super Mario Bros., which is sped up quite a bit.

Within the unit is a mess of wires and three different printed boards, one strictly to handle the controls, another is attached to the 60 pin connector and the other is the main brain of the clone. The wires look cheaply soldered into place and although I’m not a master at soldering either, it just looks like a mess. The extreme bare essentials are thrown in, the components are cheap and that causes a loud buzz in the audio and there are lines running vertically across the screen.

The slot around the 60 pin connector on the bottom of mine is way to small for me to properly insert Famicom cartridges, but I did take the unit apart and they do work! Like wise, after I built my first Famicom to NES converter, I took the ROM board out of my Super Joy and played it on the NES, that works too! Some Super Joys have a bigger cartridge slot than mine, I believe mine was built strictly to be run off the ROM board in the hopes it would never be removed, they sure didn’t see me ever getting my hands on this thing!

I bought my Super Joy 3 at a thrift store for around $4, and if I found another I would more than likely pay $4 for it too. Since this has the option to run off batteries, which have lasted longer than I thought, these units are ideal for packing with you for a trip. The games are fun and the unit is, for the most part, functional. I love playing the original games on the original hardware, but this thing just gives you so many choices that its hard to put it down sometimes. The issues with the audio buzz and lines on the screen tend to fade away, once you’re focused in on playing a game. It does lie and say it gives you 12000 choices while in reality it is only 120-ish, but even so I’ve found this thing to be a lot of fun.

Posted July 26th, 2011

Peripheral Vision: NES Controllers

During the lifespan of the NES, there were many different companies trying to get their hands in on making controllers and different peripherals for the system. While there were many different options for replacement controllers or controllers that offered more features, it seems Nintendo always had the edge over the competition, at least in my personal opinion. Nintendo only released 4 main controllers (not counting the Zapper or the “Its so bad” Power Glove), and those are what I will be examining today.

Almost all of us started out with the standard NES controller. That rectangular hunk of plastic with it’s simplistic design, but was fully functional for any NES game you wanted to play, and later it would be redesigned into a more rounded off (SNES-ish/dog bone) shape. Then perhaps you may have also had the NES Max, a futuristic design with handles at the bottom and finger rests on the back that also featured turbo buttons along with an odd and oftentimes hard to use D-pad. Last and certainly not least there was the NES Advantage, this thing was huge in size all around and made you feel like you were turning your NES into an arcade machine!

NES Rectangle:

The standard NES controller offered the bare necessities you needed to play any game released for the NES. Unlike the more rounded off Famicom controller, if you didn’t learn to hold this controller just right you would often hurt your fingers, and if you wanted more than standard reactions from A and B, there was a lot of button mashing needed to be done! One thing Nintendo did do right with the NES over the Famicom was giving the cables more length and allowing for the controllers to be interchangeable, in case one was damaged.

NES Dog Bone:

Sporting a more rounded off shape (aka dog bone), this controller featured the same standard controls as the rectangle, but this time in a more comfortable, smaller design. To accent the rounded off design the A and B buttons were set in at an angle, as were the start and select buttons, to offer a more SNES controller feel. The cable is about 3″ longer than the standard NES controller and the D-pad is substantially larger. These controllers can be hard to find as they were released with the NES 2 (aka top loader) and are naturally harder to find than the rectangles. There are 3rd party copies of these controllers available today, but I would prefer the Nintendo brand, personally.

NES Max:

As I mentioned before, this controller has handles and finger rests possibly making it the most comfortable NES controller ever released. Introducing turbo buttons was a huge plus, but whatever they called the sliding D-pad featured on this controller really tanked the user friendliness overall. I think Nintendo was possibly looking to incorporate an 8 directional option, without using a joystick. You could still use the outer rim of the D-pad much the same as a normal D-pad, but it was only slightly less frustrating than the sliding button within it. If you can manage to use the D-pad without it sending you off in some odd direction, this controller would have been the best NES controller in my personal opinion.

NES Advantage:

With it’s huge base, giant A and B buttons and it’s 8 directional joystick, the NES Advantage was obviously modeled to simulate the arcade controls of it’s time. The Advantage also offered a slow motion feature, variable speed turbo with individual dials for both A and B, as well as a switch to hand it over to player 2 for their turn. My assumption is the Advantage was intended to be placed upon a table or the floor and used, but sometimes I like to pick it up as if it were a standard NES controller and use it that way. There are some games the Advantage can enhance, mostly the NES ports of arcade games, while others are hit or miss whether this controller is useful or more of a hindrance to the player.

Final Thoughts:

I own all four of the above controllers, in fact I own two of each with the exception of the NES Max. Over the years I can say I have quite a lot of personal experience with each design. With the exception of the D-pad design on the Max being a little tricky, all of these controllers get the job done. Each controller has a different purpose to me. If I’m playing my NES and need some turbo buttons, I’ll use my Max. When I just want that nostalgic experience, I use the standard rectangle.

Lately I’ve grown very attached to my redesigned NES controller because its very comfortable and sits right in my hands, comfort is important when you’re playing video games for hours at a time. Some 3rd party controllers have the more rounded Famicom design, but for whatever reason it just didn’t occur to Nintendo to make some for the NES. The official NES controllers have a sharp reaction that is difficult to achieve with other controllers, although not impossible. I own a lot of different controllers for the NES, both official and not, but there is just a certain feeling I get when I’m using Nintendo brand controllers with the NES.

Posted July 19th, 2011

Sam’s Scores: Atari 2600!

The Atari 2600 was my first video gaming system, I loved that thing! Even though I first got it during the Super Nintendo days, that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was actually playing video game classics in my home, in front of my TV! Although my Atari 2600 doesn’t work, I still keep my eyes open for Atari items, so here is an entire edition of Sam’s Scores for the Atari 2600!

4) – Atari 80 Games CD-Rom

No, this isn’t entirely vintage, but the games are! This is Atari’s 80 classic games in one for the PC and it has some really good games on it: Asteroids, Centipede, Haunted House, Human Cannonball, YAR’S Revenge and it even has all 3 Swordquest games, but you won’t be getting any prizes for finding the secrets. I picked this up cheap enough at a thrift store and since it’s 80 Atari games, that classifies it as vintage gaming!….technically!

80 Games CD-Rom -$1

3) – Atari Controllers

This score is 2 different sets of Atari controllers I found at the same thrift store. The items were in 2 different bags so I couldn’t see what all was inside, I just knew they were Atari and I needed them! 1 Joystick, 1 set of sports paddles, 2 driving paddles, a DC adapter and some other miscellaneous hookups for the 2600. Each set had it’s own price, but when I reached the cash register I got an additional 30% off, even though the tags weren’t discounted that week.

Atari Controllers -$8

2) – Atari DC Adapter

While trying to test my Atari I found my DC adapter was bad, so I was on the hunt for a new one. Searching through adapter bins and bric-a-brac piles alike, I finally found one! It was an official Atari adapter and it worked, sadly my system did not. The price was good, but I still pushed for (and failed at getting) a discount under the “No Returns, yet I don’t even know if this thing works” act. Still wasn’t a bad price…

Atari DC Adapter -$1.50

1) – 26 Atari Games

After Thanksgiving I hit some thrift stores that were having sales, the store I happened to get these games from has become a staple in my thrift store rounds and has paid off quite a bit! I had noticed a shoe box filled with Atari 2600 games, so I took a look. I didn’t know if my Atari even worked at this point, I had no controllers but I also had no games! Each game was set at a certain price but I didn’t have that much, so 2 of the store employees gave me an early X-mas gift! And there were some seriously great titles inside the box!

26 Atari Games -$10

Posted July 11th, 2011

Emulation vs Original

A while back, a friend of mine acquired an Atari 2600 and wanted me to test it out and clean it up, knowing I love doing that sort of thing. After I got the system running, I was playing through some games when it dawned on me, sitting there with the joystick and it’s single button was the best feeling I’ve had playing Atari 2600 games in quite a while! I own software for PC and my other consoles that allows me to play most of my favorite Atari 2600 games, since I can’t play them on my own (broken) system, and it just isn’t the same.

When I play Activision Anthology on my PS2, sometimes I get confused as to what to press because the PS2 controller has more buttons (and 2 analog sticks!), not to mention the shoulder buttons being mapped to emulate the switches on the Atari deck. The Atari was super simplistic with merely 4 to 8 directions and 1 button. If I’m playing a game designed for the PS2 there is no confusion, it all comes naturally with the mental understanding that this game has a feature for most if not all the buttons on the controller. Video games have come a long way since the Atari 2600 and thankfully so, but when they try to reach back there seems to be a disconnection within that transition.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe it is a great idea to offer classic video games on next gen consoles. I believe it helps keep the classics alive and bring them to a new audience that may not have been exposed to them beforehand or possibly can’t find or wouldn’t be caught dead with the classic systems these games were programmed for. There are many pros and cons for each side and I can understand them both equally, but I still feel that personally I would rather take the time to hunt down an old system and it’s software so that I can connect with the originality over playing them on a console they were never designed to be played on.

Emulation and software remakes have done a lot of good for classic video gaming, with companies like Atari, Activision, Namco and many others releasing multiple (albeit usually the same games over and over again) compilations of their classic games for many of the next gen consoles. I use emulation as a learning tool, sometimes they might offer games I’ve never heard of or haven’t seen before so I try them out and find out whether its a game I would like to add to my collection or not. While I must admit, I do own them, will probably continue to buy them and for the most part thoroughly enjoy them, I’m simply saying that emulations and software remakes are not a perfect alternative to the decades of bliss and simplicity that the original hardware has provided before.

Posted July 4th, 2011