Mario’s trident, aka the Nintendo 64 controller, can sometimes be a point of contention amongst vintage gaming fans. For many it holds a special place in their hearts and for others it holds a very special place in video game Hell. Throughout the lifespan of the N64 many companies tried to improve the controller, but none did it better than Hori with their mini pad. As much as I would like to review a Hori mini pad they are highly sought after, and therefore very expensive. So instead I’ll be taking a look at the Retro-bit Tribute 64.
Since I don’t, and sadly never have, owned a Hori mini pad I can’t compare them more than the similar design, so I won’t even try. Upon holding the Tribute 64 for the first time I noticed just how light the controller is overall, but the plastic feels very nice and sturdy. The buttons also have a very familiar tactile response, much snappier than the now aging N64 controller buttons when compared side by side. My first impressions were that the Tribute 64 is very comfortable, has a very nice button layout and feels very rugged.
Plugging the controller into the console feels a bit tighter than my original N64 controllers, but pulling the plug out offers quite a bit of resistance, like some third-party controllers tend to do. Holding start while powering up the N64 with a game that requires a memory card will allow you to view and edit the memory card, upon doing so the memory card was on display, showing me the Tribute 64 reads memory cards just fine. Then came time to test the controller with a rumble pak, and that’s when things became unbalanced, literally. Remember me commenting on just how light the controller is? Well that’s its downfall (this time almost literally), the whole controller weighs less than the rumble pak. It’s very unbalanced at first, but once I got into the game I never found myself fighting with the controller or losing grip.
I used San Fransisco Rush to test the controller and to be honest I was completely blown away at just how buttery smooth and responsive the analog is. Even with my best N64 controller I found the best way to use the analog stick was as if it was digital – tap it the direction I needed and hope for the best – but with the Tribute 64’s Gamecube-like analog everything was smooth and very responsive to even the slightest movement without being jerky or having to wade through a large dead zone like on the original controller’s analog stick.
I have to say I like the original N64 controller design, sure it’s weird but it worked and in the end that was all we ever asked from it. I also liked the Superpad 64 from Performance, but the design wasn’t really much better than the original. I really hope someday I can own and review a Hori mini pad, but for now I absolutely love the Tribute 64 controller. If you’re looking to retire your OEM N64 controllers there are a lot of options out there today, but for the price and functionality I think the Tribute 64 is a great choice.