Peripheral Vision: Namco NeGcon
Way back at the end of 2010 I saw one of the strangest controllers I had ever seen at a local thrift store. For some reason I decided to pass on buying it until I went back a few months later, during their New Years sale. Seeing it was still there I purchased it without hesitation. After purchasing this odd little peripheral I didn’t do much with it beyond making sure it worked and putting it away with the rest of my gaming controllers. The poor thing has been sitting in a box amongst its controller brethren, but given the world has been put on standby for now I figured now is as good a time as any to pull it from its resting place and give it a good try out.
The first thing you’ll notice about this controller is that the center, where the controller pivots, is actually an analog steering mechanism for driving/racing games. The normal Playstation buttons have been replaced with A, B, I and II, the latter of which are actually analog buttons usually used for throttle and braking. L2 and R2 have been removed entirely and start is now a round button all by itself without a Select button to keep it company. Needless to say this controller will not work with a large portion of the PS1 library, for one reason or another.
When it comes to using analog, I still haven’t gotten it down. Sure, I’ve had controllers that use analog sticks since the Dualshock 22 years ago, but I still haven’t managed to master how analog works. I always tap analog sticks as if they were D-pads when I go around corners in every driving/racing game I play, I can never find that balance point. So when I booted up a few of the NeGcon compatible games that I own I had hopes that maybe I could finally find that balance point and drive like a pro.
First up I tried Namco Museum Vol. 3, in which I played Pole Position II. The only thing I can say is WOW! No, seriously, I was honestly expecting this controller would be a squirrelly mess but that was far from the truth. It took a while to really hone in on that balance point, but once I did I was able to float the car through the corners like butter. I am really impressed with how well the NeGcon worked. Although, come to think about it, the NeGcon and Namco Museum Vol. 3 are both from the same company, so shouldn’t they work in perfect harmony?
Let’s try Motor Toon Grand Prix, another game that is compatible with the NeGcon but produced by Polyphony Digital. Again, the cars floated through the corners pretty well after I took a while to familiarize myself with the way these cars handled. Motor Toon Grand Prix is a really good game, maybe because it’s from the same company who brought us Gran Turismo. Speaking of, that’s what I tried next. And yet again, after taking a few laps to familiarize myself with the weight of the car the NeGcon has an absolute brilliant response. I won’t lie, with Gran Turismo I still twisted the controller in a way similar to tapping an analog stick, but not as much as I would an actual analog stick. I’m really impressed!
Now, just for giggles let me try some games that aren’t officially supported and see whether they would even recognize the NeGcon. First up I tried Disney’s Magical Racing Tour and couldn’t get past the menu. There simply aren’t enough buttons, no dice. The same happened when I booted up Test Drive Off Road 2, the button the game is looking for to be pressed to pass the menu simply isn’t present.
Now I moved on to Nascar 98 and I was surprised to see the game actually has graphics for the I and II buttons. I was able to get out on the track and the analog throttle and brakes worked, but, and this is a huge but (so much so Sir Mix-a-lot might be interested), steering was an absolute nightmare. The controller only twists about 180 degrees and it took that whole span to do anything at all. With Nascar 98 there is an inside view where you can see the steering wheel move, and it was moving ever so slightly with each twist, but in the end it only amounted to just enough to make the turn and nothing more. Using the NeGcon with Nascar 98, even though it has the graphics for the I and II buttons works, but it’s just no fun.
Lastly I tried Hot Wheels Turbo Racing and I’ll try to sum it up as bluntly as possible by saying “Same as Nascar 98”. Turning on the ground was horrible but for some reason when the car was in the air it seemed to respond better, not great, but better. The problem being, as we all should know, steering only works when the wheels are on the ground. Normally Hot Wheels Turbo Racing is a fairly fun game, but not with the NeGcon!
For the games that the NeGcon is compatible with, it worked an absolute treat! Although few, there is a list online detailing all the games it’s compatible with, including a few PS2 games, surprisingly. For the games the NeGcon is not compatible with, well, it wasn’t fun at all and I’d rather not speak of that experience ever again. The NeGcon is fun peripheral that, if fully supported, really can make racing games more fun somehow. With it’s analog buttons for throttle and brake, the buttery smooth pivot in the center and having just enough buttons to get you into the game to race and nothing more, I actually feel bad that I never gave this thing a try before now!
About the author
Samuel Floyd first fell into video gaming with the Atari 2600...in the mid-90s! Always late into the system wars, Samuel enjoys that as he acquires them when they're cheap and the hot titles of yesteryear are bountiful. Samuel loves RPGs, his favorite being Crystalis for the NES.
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