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Retro-Bit Sega Saturn 2.4GHz Wireless Pro Controller Review

TL;DR

The Retro-Bit Sega Saturn 2.4GHz Wireless Pro Controller is the latest installment in the officially licensed Sega Saturn series of controllers (affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3R9RKgB). New features this time include (digital) ZL/ZR triggers and two “Switch”-style analog joysticks. The controller has a USB port for charging, but not for data connections. Input latency is very respectable for a wireless controller, at 8.77ms average when in Xinput mode. If you love the Saturn model 2 pad and like Nintendo Switch joysticks, check this one out! Affiliate link: https://amzn.to/47Mox2l.

If you enjoyed this post, consider supporting me on Patreon. All latency results will forever be public :)

Background

The Sega Saturn Model 2 controller is beloved by nearly all. The rocker-style d-pad lends itself to a joystick-like feel for arcade games like fighters, shmups (yes, I said it), and more. Six action buttons on the controller face makes playing fighting games a joy, without relying on shoulder buttons for common punch/kick attacks.

So when Retro-Bit announced the Sega-licensed, non-pro version of this controller in 2020 it was a huge success. Sega allowed Retro-bit to use the original controller design so even the internal circuit boards can be swapped (on the wired Saturn controller).

Overview and Features

Like most modern controllers, this one comes with a manual to remember the button combos required to switch modes, pair with receivers, etc. One discrepancy I found in the manual was the swapping of “Connection types.” Saturn should be listed as using the “V2 Saturn Receiver” and the rest of the modes should use the “V2 USB Receiver.”

Review

Unboxing:

The controller itself arrives in an outer jacket that contains a nested-style box. I enjoy the minimal presentation!

Functionality:

The controller has multiple modes: 2.4GHz USB (Dinput or Xinput), 2.4GHz Saturn, Switch, and PS3. At the time of this publication, I’ve only tested the USB functionality. You’ll notice in the manual that not all buttons can be used simultaneously in all modes. Many modes remap L and R to C, Z, or ZL and ZR. Consult the manual for these details.

USB Controller Adapters:

Like previous Retro-Bit wireless controllers, they do something strange with the original hardware protocol. The result is that USB adapters like DaemonBite need a 17ms delay in order to use the 2.4GHz Saturn adapter. Bummer.

Source: https://github.com/MickGyver/DaemonBite-Retro-Controllers-USB/blob/362c9d136da174a80986112d689689c5c73bc6c8/SaturnControllerUSB/SaturnControllerUSB.ino#L141

In my limited testing, Reflex Adapt doesn’t properly detect the controller and I don’t plan to support it given the massive latency penalty required.

MiSTer:

Dinput and Xinput modes work great on MiSTer! When mapping the controller in the main menu, be sure to map “Tilt Right” and “Tilt Down” using the left analog stick. These are the last 2 inputs to be mapped. Without them, the cores won’t recognize the analog sticks!

Recommended play styles:

Given the heritage of this controller, I recommend games with arcade-style gameplay. Sure, you can play platformers with it, but do you really want to? The extra movement of the Saturn pad has never felt great for beloved platformers such as Mario. Maybe you’ll have a different opinion though :)

Style/Ergonomics (4 / 5):

Generally speaking, what you see is what you get. I really like the ZL and ZR flared shoulder buttons. They feel great in the hand. As previously stated, the joysticks are near-replicas of Switch joysticks. I’ll let you decide if that’s good or bad. While testing them, I noticed a small outer deadzone of ~1mm (stick moves 1mm past the max analog value). In my opinion, this isn’t a huge issue and is preferable to the inner dead zone (which I didn’t notice).

(-1 point for baby sticks)

Build Quality (5 / 5):

Everything is solid. The plastic wall thickness and texture gives this controller a nice feel. Seven outer screws secure the controller halves. I like the addition of the inner controller plastic piece which adds rigidity and is used to attach the ZL and ZR digital triggers.

Uniqueness (5 / 5):

If you want a 6 face button controller with 2 analog sticks, I don’t think you’ll find many other options.

Price (4 / 5) :

The current Amazon list price is $49.99 which is on the upper end of Retro-Bit / third party controllers but the controller is licensed by Sega so assume there’s some $10+ royalty (speculation). Sega just announced remakes of classic games so if Retro-Bit has to pass some money to them, so be it!

Latency (4 / 5):

All latency tests were performed on a special MiSTer test setup, with USB polling set to 1kHz. These results should be considered best-case scenarios and their applicability on other consoles may vary. No major gaming console polls faster than 1ms that I’m aware of, though PCs can force USB polling to be faster. Remember, 16.667ms is the duration of a 60fps video frame.

Xinput mode shaves off nearly 6ms of latency compared to Dinput. Use it if your device supports it. Assuming solid battery performance, and according to your device's available modes, the mode ranking is

1st: 2.4GHz USB (Xinput)

2nd: 2.4GHz USB (Dinput)

3rd: 2.4GHz Saturn (device support required)

Summary

Style/Ergonomics: 4/5

Build Quality: 5/5

Uniqueness: 5/5

Price: 4/5

Latency: 4/5

Overall: 4.4/5

Product Promotion

Reflex Adapt will be back in stock in mid-December! This is the classic controller-to-USB converter that I've spent the last year developing with @sonik_br. The device is powered by Open Source firmware and has a variety of lightning fast input modes:

Diamond modes (<1ms):

Neo Geo

SMS

PC Engine

Genesis + Saturn

Jaguar

Platinum modes (1ms - 5ms):

3DO

Wii Classic

PSX Digital

NES + SNES

Virtual Boy

PSX

Gamecube

N64

As well as NEW output modes:

Dinput

Xinput (PSX, and GameCube rumble!)

Switch + PS3

And NEW Virtual Boy adapters! I mean, seriously, how could you not love the VB controller???

Reflex Adapt

  • is designed to work with Windows, Linux, Mac, PS3, and MiSTer, with possible support for other systems in the future.
  • has special support for MiSTer which allows each mode to map separately from others in each core.
  • has special PSX modes for neGcon, JogCon, and GunCon that really unlock the fun!
  • supports SNES, Genesis, and Saturn multitaps!