A few years back, I picked up an 8bitdo SNES30 controller for use with emulators, and it’s gotten a new life recently thanks to 8bitdo updating their firmware to add Nintendo Switch compatibility.
Granted, it was a pain to actually get paired to the Switch. And it doesn’t have a USB-C interface for charging, and I’m sure I could find all sorts of other things to complain about, but it works very well for 2D games.
Look, basically I am trying to get across my general happiness with the company’s product line. Moving on.
In addition to selling bluetooth controllers that are basically clones of 8-and-16-bit console controllers, 8bitdo sells a line of replacement boards that add bluetooth functionality to your existing old controllers. Well. Technically they “rip out the guts of your old controllers and swap in a new PCB” but that doesn’t sound as nice. They cost about twenty bucks, which is pretty cheap compared to a new gamepad, but I’ve never felt like I needed one…
…and then they released a PCB for the Sega Saturn controller, which is probably the apex of 2D gamepad design. I have a lot of Saturn hardware lying around, but it’s pretty rare that I hook up an actual system. I do use the controllers quite often, however.
Up until now, I have been using a very clunky “PC Joy Box” that worked but that was kind of a pain to haul out and hook up. So replacing that wired solution with a wireless one sounded like a dream.
Problem is, I was an early Saturn adopter. Like, “we’re going to launch the system five months early to get a head start on the 32-bit console wars and how could this possibly have any negative effects?” early. So most of my controllers are the original MK-80100 style, not the later MK-80116 controllers that were the standard controller in Japan and other civilized regions.
MK-80100 on the left.
The 8bitdo site only shows the MK-80116 controller, but I figured I’d order the board and see if it could work with the larger controller anyway. Worst case scenario, I DO have one MK-80116.
The board came in, I opened up the controllers to see (side note, screws that have been in-place for 24 years do NOT like to budge), and…
…yeah. The two controllers have completely different guts. The MK-80100 has a weird three-part PCB connected by jumper wires that frankly give me the screaming heebie-jeebies, so I closed that one right back up and will pretend I didn’t see it.
On to the new PCB!
The bluetooth kit has the new PCB, a charging cable, a little screwdriver, and a bag to store your old PCB and cable. That’s a nice touch. Folding knife not included.
It took like 30 seconds to swap the boards, mostly because the conductive pads did not want to lift off the decades-old PCB.
Syncing it was literally as easy as opening the bluetooth preferences pane and pressing the start button on the gamepad, then selecting the “8BitDo S30 Modkit” device.
Seriously, I am not used to things behaving quite this nicely.
Downsides, because there are a couple:
1) The PCB includes replacement switches for the shoulder buttons, and they are softer than the original Saturn microswitches. You lose the lovely sharp click.
2) On a Mac, at least, virtually nothing recognizes the controller. I tried a few different Steam games and couldn’t get them to work. Steam “Big Picture” mode sort of recognizes the controller (you can use it to navigate the Big Picture UI), but I couldn’t get it configured through the Steam Controller interface.
OpenEmu, on the other hand, works just fine.
One thumb up. It would have been two thumbs, but I had to take a photo with the other hand.
All in all, a very positive solution to the “I have a bunch of old controllers around and would like to find a use for them” problem, which is… well, it’s basically the definition of a First World Problem but I live in the first world and I have problems here.