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Sega Smartphone Controller: Retro Gaming On Android

sega controller

Can we all take a moment to appreciate it is to be a millennial. We saw the birth of the games console and every single new system as it rose, and sometimes fell. Two-bit consoles of the seventies and eighties to the super intensive graphics we see today. Now, we have appreciation for technology that younger generations will never have. because we had the Sega Mega Drive, Master System, and Saturn. Whilst today’s market has become saturated with bigger names, we still have a soft spot for this Japanese behemoth. And now, you can play all your favourite games with the Sega smartphone controller! Yes, all of your retro gaming needs are met with this Android addition.

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Wax nostalgic as you encounter the Sega Saturn shaped controller! Relish the memories flooding back as we discuss how (and if) it works, what games you can play, and if it as good as you remember. You might sigh with relief to know you can play your favourite classic games with your trusty smartphone. However we are also here talk Sega’s current standing, how they have celebrated 60 years of business, and what they have in store for you now!

Video game nerds assemble, we have a lot of ground to cover.

Sega Console
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Does Sega Still Exist?

Whilst yes, Sega is still operating, it has been doing so only as a games maker. No new consoles have surface since the disastrous release of the Dreamcast in 1998. Interestingly, however, a new character was released this year: Sega Shiro, marking the 60th anniversary of the predecessor to Sega, Nihon Goraku Bussan Co. Ltd. This new character, who wears a judo uniform over a shirt and tie, could hint at some interesting new developments for the company. Complete with backstories, videos and some interesting teasers, we certainly are excited to see what they can bring to the table. As President More on this later!

To mark 60 years of Sega, the company built an entire website devoted to its history, and released a host of new items for sale. Miniature gaming gear and merchandise (including some pretty neat Seiko watches), as well as some fun events in Japan. Sadly, some of the merchandise is also only available inside the country.

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Yes, Sonic and pals live! And with the Sega smartphone controller, you can play a tonne of brilliant Sega games on your Android phone. Google Play is rife with various Sonic the Hedgehog™ games, The Revenge of Shinobi, Crazy Taxi, even Virtua Tennis! But how does the console handle? Lets find out.

The Sega Smartphone Controller Reviewed

Sega’s entry into the world of gaming came with the Sega Mega Drive. Also known as the Sega Genesis North America. Armed with their trusty mascot Sonic the Hedgehog™, they smashed Nintendo’s unblemished sales records, and quickly took first place. For the next few years they dominated, bringing out the Master System and the Sega Saturn, before things began to turn sour.

A little bit of background for you, and this will make what we are about to tell you resonate all the more. First thing to note about this controller that it is a bluetooth HID Sega Saturn controller. Not the Master System, not the Mega Drive. Some ultra-fans might feel cheated, but this really should not deter you. The Saturn’s controller is far better adapted for the modern world.

Whilst it wont have the same nostalgic feel of the original Sega Master System, it still feels pretty old-school. And connecting wirelessly to your phone makes playing your favourite Sega games even easier. One interesting discovery is that the Sega smartphone controller is licensed by Sega, but not actually produced by them. Could this mean a lesser quality item?

Look and Feel

Overall, the controller does mostly match up to our memories of the Sega Saturn style controller. There is the standard D-pad to the left, with the X, Y, Z buttons arrange above the A, B and C buttons to the right. ‘Select’ features in the middle, and happily the shoulder buttons are still in effect.

The Android smartphone controller has a spring loaded removable, portrait view smartphone holder included. When detached, it can also be used as a nifty little stand. When the stand is attached, the smartphone has to be angled just so to avoid getting in the way of the shoulder pads. To make life even easier, bluetooth Sega Saturn controllers allow you to play from a distance, so this problem is avoidable. The central mounting rod inserts easily into the controller, and detaches just as easily, with no additional parts required to stand the phone upright.

The great thing about this controller that makes playing games even easier: bluetooth can connect from your tablet too! So when you’re on the go, you can save your phone battery and play those favourite classic Sega games on a larger screen. Sadly the stand will not support the weight of screens larger than a smartphone, but this is a minor detail.

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Gameplay

During gameplay, the D-pad does feel a little flimsy, and you have to press the arrows pretty firmly to generate a reaction. However, the other buttons seem to work well, though the ‘Y’ button quite randomly also acts as the start button. This is a little strange to get used to, but ultimately not an issue. Another caveat, the controller is powered by 2 x AAA batteries. And as per usual, AAA batteries not included. But this only adds to the nostalgia, right?!

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There are a couple of additions we would like to see from Sega and the makers at Paladone. In today’s market it is pretty standard to offer controllers with rechargeable batteries. This could easily be incorporated into the next generation model. Having a MicroUSB port or two would also boost its usability. Imagine being able to connect to your phone, tablet or PC! Also, minor adjustments on the pad and buttons to give them more depth and gravitas. These small additions would certainly make the device feel more premium on the whole.

Also, it wouldn’t be a terrible thing if we were given the choice between a Saturn and Mega Drive or Master System controller. Just saying Sega.

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The Verdict

Aside from these issues, overall gameplay is fairly satisfying on the bluetooth Sega Saturn style controller. The classic Sega layout of pad and buttons is full of nostalgia, and aside from the response of the D-pad at times, all buttons work well. We noticed no issues when playing more intensive games like Altered Beast and Golden Axe. And with a detachable smartphone holder that makes playing games on your mobile, or tablet, a little easier. There are just under thirty games available on the Sega Forever list on Google Play. This Sega controller makes playing games on your mobile device easier than ever, so you can have fun running through all the top titles.

Sega console
photo by Senad Palic on Unsplash

Will Sega Return to Making Consoles?

Whilst Sega are marking 60 years with online celebrations, you are right to wonder what hey have in mind for the future! Rumours have been circling, with Japanese journalist Zenji Nishikawa dropping a bomb about prospective ‘big news’. Meanwhile, Sega have quietly released an updated version of the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive Mini console! Complete with Streetfighter II: Special Champion Edition plus many more games pre-installed. Living up to its ‘mini’ title, the console is almost half the size of the original. The aim of the game is to reclaim nostalgia in the hearts of the adults who once loved these games. Possibly with the hopes that their kids will love it too.

Alas, there has been nothing concrete to give credence to the idea of a whole new console. As of right now, the only solid information of newer pastures is of something called Fog Gaming. This allows gamers to play arcade games outside of arcade hours while at home. It is proposed to link these games to users via cloud technology.

Whilst this isn’t exactly the futuristic technology we wanted to hear about, there is still hope. On the specially made website, the Sega statement fronted by President Haruki Satomi was nostalgic, but also created a statement of intent. He notes: “We want to be a company that continues to provide inspirational experiences to everyone in the new world of the future.” – [60th Anniversary Website]

There is a definite sense that Sega have not been idle since bowing out of the console market. They have been assessing their past efforts, preserving their successes and looking forward. The YouTube videos and films released over this year of Sega Shiro fighting the legendary icon Segata Sanshiro (we won’t spoil it for you, but its epic!) certainly project this feel. They are up for a fight, with fresh new blood in the game. What many people are hoping for now is a fight between the modern behemoths of gaming, and the old dog. Back for more, and with new tricks up his sleeve.

sega
Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

Conclusion

The release of the Sega Saturn style Android smartphone controller might spark some new love for this old company. And with the wealth of games that are available on Google Play, there is definitely a market in nostalgia. Could the old graphics and curiously familiar controller also spark interest for newer generations? God, we hope so.

Whilst the Sega smartphone controller lacks a premium feel, it does have charm, Yes, it lacks the modern touches like USB ports and rechargeable batteries. But as a nostalgically shaped controller with removable smartphone holder, it’s slowly bringing Sega into the modern age. And it is actually easier to play Sega games using the bluetooth controller. Rather than just holding your phone. Plus, the video game titles we know and love do stand the test of time. Compatible with all Android smartphones, there’s no need to attach it to the controller. It even works with your tablet. So, it does have a fair bit going for it, despite its flaws.

With this smartphone controller, Sega have farmed out the production, which has dropped the quality. But we are hoping for bigger and better things from Sega in the years to come. And in the meantime, this gambit is a neat way of bringing the beauty of Sega to the modern world, and newer technology. Share this with your fellow Sega heads and keep checking back for all your tech reviews and updates!

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