Hands on with the 'RetroFighters DC Striker' Pad

I dislike the term Retro gaming, as a label I feel like it's too simplistic a term and not anyway near tangible enough when people try to define what it actually means. Does a game or console need to be from a certain console generation? Does it need to have been released during a certain year or have other technological parameters to be defined as retro? Do you have to be at a certain age or experience level to be able to use the term? And why do other forms of media not have the same fascination with the term that gamers do?

For me a better way to describe 'retro gaming' is as something that is historically important to your age group or own personal life. Space Invaders and Pacman are still great games I am interested in playing, whereas I dislike others from the same period and will give up on them after about 45 seconds, similarly in cinema terms I would just call 'Jaws' a masterpiece and recommend it to anyone despite it coming out 7 years before I was even born, but I don't value or label all films from that era in the same way, there is no retro in other mediums as contentious as in Video games.
So what does that have to do with the Strikers DC pad? Well, "it won't be for everyone in the community" is what I am trying to get at, but I think it's great. Since putting it down to come to write this review and to edit the footage together I found myself giving up on both those tasks to try out other games with it, and I have found myself with renewed Dreamcast enthusiasm as a result.

The pad isn't intended just for Fighting games, despite what people in the community may have said, but more as a modern alternative to the original, and this is the reason why it follows the original controllers' button layout, a question that seemed to be continually asked by our community anytime the pad was discussed.

No, the gamepad is not made specifically for fighting games. I think this is a misconception may be because of our brand name “Retro Fighters”. We came up with the brand name “Retro Fighters” because our slogan is “Fighting for Retro”. We wanted to create a versatile gamepad that would be comfortable to play with all genre of games: racing, shooters, platformers, fighting games, etc.  For example, we included shoulder buttons for fighting games, but we also wanted to include analog triggers for racing titles as well. We wanted to make a comfortable & versatile controller for the Dreamcast!
So what the Striker DC pad seems to be then is a more than solid attempt to make Dreamcasting in 2020 and beyond, feel slightly more like you've moved from a modern console controller to something that design-wise at least, has been left behind.

However, if the Dreamcast means to you what I was trying to explain above in the opening paragraph, in that it's historically important to you, and what is important is the authenticity of that history. Then the Striker DC pads nice ergonomic feel, it's responsive button presses, tactile triggers and it's much more responsive D-Pad are never going to win you over would be my guess, they ultimately aren't what you are looking for as are never going to provide you, your 'recapturing the moment', and that's okay and no one need fall out over it!

What the Striker DC Pad does offer then, is a more than solid modern alternative. Its the best non-Sega made pad I have used for any Sega Console. In addition to the comments above it also has a longer cable, which comes off the VMU holder on the back, rather than below and so with both of them addresses some of the issues that some do have with the original Sega model controller.

The greatest compliment I can give it for it's modern feel is that during a race on V-Rally, I found my right hand began searching for a second thumbstick to see how close the other cars were behind me! Even as I time shift between modern consoles to Dreamcast and further back, I have never experienced that sort of issue, where your brain forgets what it's doing and for what console. The feel and design of the Striker DC just feels very modern and intuitive overall, and whilst I understand why that may put some off I feel that given a chance people will like what it offers.
Shot from our video up on our YT account

Initial Impressions
The initial impressions were great, extremely high-end production values greeted me when I opened the box, securely packed in a slick-looking packaging, containing the pad itself, an FAQ on the design features, as well as a quick start manual and some branded stickers and a keyring. The unit we reviewed here was provided to us from Retro Fighters. Although I have my own version I backed during the Kickstarter campaign and feel that many will no doubt be as impressed upon unpacking theirs as I was.

Feel
Straight away it felt lighter and my kitchen scales confirm this (I wish that was a joke) but only marginally so, and I feel some of that is just my brain expecting a Dreamcast pad to feel a certain way. Initially (and I mention this in the video) it felt maybe a minuscule top-heavy once the VMUs were in. This wasn't uncomfortable though and was more an observation, than anything that should put me or anyone off. The VMU housing is slimmer than on the originals and as a result, shows more of the screen, yet there is no flimsiness to the design or the bridge that links the two sides of the controller.

The buttons, triggers and et al have a great feel to them. There is much more precise nature about the triggers and a greater range that I feel you can manipulate between fully pressed and resting positing, and I found that particularly on the racing games I tried I didn't get the mild ache/strain feeling from keeping the trigger pressed in that I get with extended Dreamcast gaming.

Both the sticks and the Dpad had a nice feel to them, playing Tony Hawk and Mat Hoffman showed the difference to me between the original DC and the Striker Pad, it doesn't improve your play or ability, just feels more comfortable.
Layout
The pad follows the convention layout of a Dreamcast pad. Both the buttons and the Dpad are flatter than on the original, and the font/stencilling is different (obviously for legal reasons) but otherwise, anyone spotting it in your games room or collection is most likely going to have a fair idea what console it is for. It matches the two-tone white and grey and it's clear it's very much a homage with tweaks, rather than some of the mad 3rd designs we saw in the era.
Lag
I am not going to lie, I know virtually nothing about how to test this, and I know even less about the intricacies of fighting games. I played Marvel V Capcom and found I was even worse at this than I remembers, I never got a sense of my actions not being represented on screen though, and playing Virtua Tennis I found that the pad was responding crisply to my actions and button pressing.

Conclusion
Hopefully, anyone reading the review or who has seen my accompanying video hands-on will see that I have a genuine enthusiasm for this, I feel like I am pretty open and transparent in my belief that I am easily the least knowledgable of the DCJY staff when it comes to the Dreamcast and information surrounding it, my connection to the machine and the games are purely and unashamedly emotional, and my desire to play it is often to look back and enjoy the reliving of those memories.

Which is why I am fairly confident that the vast majority of those still Dreamcasting in 2020, will enjoy the pad, and those that are dead set against the revisions it brings in should give it at least a chance to win them over, should the opportunity ever present itself.


As always, please let us know your thoughts on the Pad if you have tried it, and let us know what games you may have been trying, If you would like to see our YT video equivalent of this article too, click here:

3 comments:

DCGX said...

It's nice to see/hear that this is a solid, modern alternative to the original SEGA DC pad, but it's hard to get excited about with everything we know the Retrobit controller will be. I'll pass on the Retro Fighter for now.

SegaSen said...

I'll pass. The Retrobit looks much better and the DC pad is not bad anyway.

Unknown said...

I must admit I have missed there most recent updates. But weren't there a lot or people reporting issues with the Saturn ones?