Review: The Analogue Duo Console for Turbo Grafx-16, PC-Engine, and Super CD Rom


Over the past decade, the interest in retro gaming has grown by leaps and bounds. It has grown from a niche hobby to a commercially viable sector. As legacy hardware continues to age, the availability of working consoles shrinks with each passing year. Couple that with increased demand, and supply dwindles further. 

In addition to limited availability of hardware, there are gaps to bridge when it comes to compatibility of modern displays and retro gaming consoles. The classic yellow, red, and white RCA cables that we all grew up with leave a lot to be desired when connected to a high definition television, if the signal gets through at all. There are solutions to these issues as companies have entered the fray with modern hardware dedicated to retro gaming. Several companies exist that make modern clones of Nintendo and Sega consoles, in an attempt to cash in, like Hyperkin, Retrobit, and others. The quality varies wildly. 

Analogue is one such company that is making consoles that play original game cartridges, but with modern FPGA technology and nuance. FPGA is an acronym for field programmable gate array, and this is a form of hardware emulation that is able mimic the old consoles on a hardware level, providing the closes possible experience to the original. By this point they have a track record of high quality consoles loaded with features, sold at boutique prices. If you ask any owner of their consoles and they almost unanimously agree that their products are worth the cost. 

The PC Engine has the most daunting and confusing hardware history out of any gaming console. It is not hyperbole to say that one has to read several guides to figure out how to obtain a consoles that is able to play the entire library of card and CD games. To be able to play both Hu Card games and CD games, several pieces of hardware are required: 

  • a base unit like a Turbo Grafx-16 or PC Engine (3 variations)p
  • a CD player unit (1 American version, 2 Japanese versions)
  • an interface unit (different versions for US or Japan)
  • a system card (at least 3 versions, depending on which CD unit you have)
  • or you can get a Duo system, which combines the three hardware pieces into one (there are four versions of the Duo units - 1 American and 3 Japanese)

The Analogue Duo simplifies the hardware into one neat package capable of playing the entire library of Hu Card and CD games that is cost effective, modernized, and sleek. Considering the amount of hardware necessary to play these games, the Duo's value proposition is tremendous. Consider also that upscaling and RGB mods are not necessary, the value multiplies. While these facts may not be obvious to someone unfamiliar with the original system, anyone who has attempted to cobble together a working setup will immediately realize this.

The back sports USB C, 2 USB A ports, HDMI, and an SD card slot

The quality of this console falls in line with it's FPGA brethren: flawless recreation of hardware operation while outputting crisp 1080p visuals. With this being Analog's fifth console hardware recreation, it is safe to say that they have mastered the art of displaying 240p resolution on HD displays. All of their consoles up until now have shown progression in the nuance and specificity of their settings for visual and audio fidelity. However, this time around there is a limitation on the amount of granular control that you have over tweaking the dials however, opting for presets and on/off type settings. This is perhaps due to the inclusion of their seemingly now standard Analogue OS, which was introduced in their last release the Analogue Pocket. The menus and options all seem to be copied straight from that. This is made obvious by the large presence on a TV screen, which is clearly out of place. It feels like more time should have been taken to dial the menu and settings for this console specifically, like was done for all other releases. This is the first time the operating system for an Analog console appears "phoned in", or copied and pasted. What happened to giving it the respect it deserves? There are a few Turbo Grafx-specific tweaks to video options, such as the composite color palate options, shader options that mimic the Turbo Express Handheld and LT (a combination PC Engine with built in screen). These are nice, but come off as a consolation prize instead of features.

The controller port is on the side of the console

The Duo is available in two colors: USA is black, and Japan is white. The quality of plastic and moulding are excellent as always. The console sits on a large rubber foot that firmly holds it onto a surface with no chance of sliding. While the physical design and form factor are superior and of the modern era, some design choices are odd. The most egregious of which is the location of the original controller port. It is placed on the side, towards the rear. All other Analogue consoles have their controller ports front facing, why would they do this? Not only does it necessitate a wider berth in a TV stand setup, the PC Engine controller cords are among the shortest out there, exacerbating the problem. 

Analogue is pushing the wireless 8Bitdo controllers on their website, which will pair with without the need for a dongle, and up to four can be connected. I understand the need to push forward past legacy accessories, but my issue is that the 8Bitdo controller is weirdly smaller than a stock PC Engine controller, or more specifically the dpad and buttons are too close to the bottom edge, so hand cramps set in fairly quickly. It also does not have turbo switches, opting for additional buttons mapped for rapid fire, albeit nonadjustable. The instructions lists a plethora of  controllers that the Duo is compatible with, including nearly all 8Bitdo offerings, controllers for Switch, Playstation, and XBox. I find myself using the replica PCE controller that was packaged with the Core Grafx mini from 2019, as it has a 10 foot long USB cord.

The 8Bitdo controller is too small
initial list of compatible controllers

Revisiting the theme of scarcity, the games for the Turbo Grafx were not million sellers, so again, rarity factors into cost. The Japanese equivalent PC Engine fared much better in its homeland, but desired games still rank among the more expensive of the era, especially for coveted genres like shooters. While there are other ways to play Turbo and PC Engine games like emulation, anyone sold on emulation is most likely not in the market for hardware like this. Flash carts mitigate the cost of gaming on original hardware, but not all versions of the Turbo Everdrive are compatible with the Duo. This has never happened before with an Analogue console. So the Duo is LESS CAPABLE of playing flashcarts than original hardware. This is a huge problem and needs to be ironed out in a firmware update. 

The menu font is too large on an HD TV

I consider myself a hardcore PC Engine gamer, I preordered this the day it was opened. I was able to procure a collection of games prior to the great surge in prices. My assumption is that anyone purchasing the Duo most likely has a strong interest in the console with a sizable collection. I already have a dialed-in setup combination necessary to play these games on both legacy hardware on a CRT and modern methods like MISTer. I wonder how many other hardcore fans are there that will choose to buy this if they already have a setup? 

For newcomers to the console, this is far from a casual purchase at this price point.  With the surging price of original games, it is hard to believe that gamers new to this console and library will be eager to start collecting now. I think it is appealing only to those who already have the games to make use of it. All of Analogue's consoles to date have had unofficial firmware releases that have allowed for side loading game rom files, effectively eliminating the need to own original carts. It would be reasonable to assume the same will happen with this consoles, as this has been the case for all previous releases. I would guess many people that preordered this are expecting/hoping that to continue. Time will tell. 

I am happy to have a premium (although a tad less premium than their other offerings) modern console to play my PC Engine collection on a modern TV, but I feel like this design should have been more thought out. The controller port placement is hard to get over. The lack of Everdrive compatibility is troublesome. This is a rough launch for Analogue, and hopefully some of the other issues can be resolved through firmware updates. Of all the Analogue consoles, this is the only one that I feel is half baked. It is still worth owning, but Analogue did not live up to their own standard here.

Japanese Mega Drive and Genesis and Art Comparison

This post is simply a collection of pictures of my Japanese Mega Drive collection, and when applicable, comparisons of artwork between North America and Japan. Enjoy!

Two games that did not get western releases. It's a shame, as they probably would have sold well. 

It's interesting that the artwork is completely different for every release of Streets of Rage / Bare Knuckle. 

The Street Fighter series

Golden Axe did not receive a domestic port of part III. I think I actually like the American artwork better for this series, if just a smidge.

My favorite trilogy on the Genesis. Many people malign the American Shadow Dancer cover art, I kinda like the subtle approach. The Japanese art with the lightning and all confuses the issue I think. The American Revenge of Shinobi art is iconic, and is forever emblazoned in my memory as on of my earliest Genesis memories.

Thunder Force as a series was making strides with the release of TF3, why in the world did they change the name of TF4 to Lightening Force? It's regarded by many as the best shooter on the console, and they had to go and disassociate it from the Thunder Force name? Just another one of Sega's blunders. 

The Ghouls 'n Ghosts artwork is so awesome I'm glad it was not changed. The artwork on both versions of Crackdown are subpar. The Japanese Gain Ground artwork is confusing, so the more traditional presentation for the US is more appealing.

In this pic, the Japanese art work sweeps the board. Everytime I see Bill Pullman I think of the US Strider boxart. 

I feel that its harder to mess up artwork for shooters, or at least it should be. Why did the Air Buster 
artwork have to be changed? Or After Burner II for that matter? However, I do like the US Arrow Flash cover better. 
The Assault Suits Leynos cover is badass, unlike the Battlestar Galactic ripoff that was retitled as Target Earth. Trouble Shooter looks like Charlie's Angels in space. 

I don't know what the boxart for Crying is supposed to convey, so at least Bio Hazard Battle offers up somewhat of a concept. Darius II and Sagaia are similar enough. Honestly I don't care for either cover of Elemental Master. I think the US artwork for Steel Empire is better than the hazy abstract art on the MD cover.

The US Gaiares cover is pretty bad, and the Japanese cover feels like its sending a deeper message. Forgotten Worlds is identical, G-Loc is OK for both versions, but the shiny floating robot chic on the Japanese Galaxy Force II is out of left field.

Wings of Wor goes for a more realistic approach compared to Gynoug. The others are largely unchanged.

The US Twin Cobra cover is fairly generic compared to the menacing Tiger. Musha and Musha Aleste have great art, this just depends on if you like the anime stylings of the latter. The Japanese Vapor Trail is again a bit too abstract for its own good. Phelios is again whitewashing the anime out of the cover.

The US received two variants of Raiden Trad for some reason, neither of which are as cool as the Japanese version. Fire Shark keeps the same theme, although the pilot looks more heroic on the US version when compared to the embittered pilot on the Japanese cover.

The only changes here are Task Force Harrier, in which the US version is less explosion-ey.

Minor cover art changes aside, what's with the diminutive cartridge case on Super Fantasy Zone? Its adorable. 

These are the heavies, and they did not receive US counterparts. Being that they are great games, the fact that they were not ported and thus fewer copies of the games exist probably contribute to their asking price.

No US ports to compare here.

More unimported shooters.

Review: Power A Fusion Wired Fightpad for Switch and Playstation 4

With more retro game collections being published on modern consoles, comes a need for retro inspired controllers that are compatible with modern consoles. The PS5 Dualsense controller is a great controller, but it still has a crappy dpad, which is essential for 2D games. Some third party companies have had great success with newer lines of retro controllers, such as 8Bitdo and Retrobit, but their controllers are not compatible with the Playstation line of consoles. 

Power A is a third party controller manufacturer that has a wide breadth of products for modern consoles, and I never really paid too much attention to their products. Enter: the Power A Fusion wired fightpad. This controller is clearly modeled after the Sega Saturn model 2 controller, which no one will argue is a bad choice. The "fightpad" descriptor is applied as it has the six face buttons that are necessary for most fighting games (ever since Street Fighter set the precedent), but it is for general 2D use as well.

It is perfect for the Contra collection, Castlevania collection, Megaman collection, Genesis classics, and so on. New collections appear every year, so for those of us who need a proper dpad this is a no brainer. The exception would be for 8 and 16 bit Mario games. I think those games are best served by a NES or SNES controller, as the Nintendo dpad is inseparable from the Mario experience. As good as the Saturn style dpad is, it would be blasphemy to use it in that way. 

There are so many good retro collections these days

The build quality is impressive, it feels solid in the hand, much more than the original Saturn controller (which was fairly light). The dpad feels very good, it is raised and floaty to the same extent, with a touch more reistance that enables you to feel the directionals a bit more. The buttons are all the same size, which is an improvement over the different sized buttons in my opinion. The are convex and glossy, and have a deeper press travel. It is a different feel, but it is not a bad one. Depending on the version of the pad (XBox, PS4, Switch), the various home, select, start, plus, minus buttons are present and placed somewhat centrally. 

The shoulder buttons have a psuedo clicky response, which is very responsive and shallow. I have always felt that the Saturn controller's shoulder buttons were too "clicky", and this is an improvement. There are also triggers, which have a deeper pull, yet terminate earlier than on a PS4 controller, which makes sense as they are not analog so the longer trigger pull is not necessary. There is a toggle switch on the top of the controller that allows you to select your shoulder/trigger button assignments, which is a nice touch.

trigger toggle for the PS4 version

...and on the Switch variant

The decision to make this a wired controller is a good one in my opinion. It is unlikely that this controller will be someone's primary controller for the PS4 or Switch, so if it were wireless that would require a charge, which would be a hassle. Being hard wired also decreases latency, which is important in games with fast action, like fighting games.

The usb cable has tabs for click-in security

Another feature, which is totally unnecessary, is the swappable face plate feature. The top plate is attached by magnets, and each controller comes with three color options. I don't know why this is a thing, and it probably raises the price a bit. I like the blue for PS4 and red for Switch, but to each their own.

These were sold for $50, which perhaps is a bit steep for what it is. It would have been more cost efficient to forgo the swappable plates, and maybe have been more appealing at a lower price point. I do not believe these are being sold at retail currently, so whatever the price on the secondary market is what it is. The Switch has more 3rd party 2D controller options available, such as the 8Bitdo M30 (bluetooth and 2.4ghz) and officially licensed Retrobit Sega controllers, so this is perhaps not the first option there. The PS4 and Xbox do not have as many options, so this fills a greater need there. 

In conclusion, these controllers are very good for the purpose that they are intended - for use with 2D games on modern consoles. I would not try to use these for any 3D game. That being said, they will definitely have some utility as more and more retro game collections are released. I don't get the sense that these sold very well, so if you're interested pick them up sooner than later.

Hori Retro Arcade Sticks


The Hori Fighting Stick PC

During the 8-bit era, arcade sticks were a niche market. Nintendo offered up the NES Advantage, which was a solid if not workmanlike option. It was heavy, with high build quality. It offered adjustable rapid fire as well as the sometimes-effective slo-mo feature. In hindsight, it was the best option available in North America. Third party controllers were becoming a thing, but most of those were cash grabs, uninterested in longevity or quality. When Sega ushered in the 16 bit generation, the Arcade power Stick soon followed. Sega built its branding on accurate arcade ports during the early Genesis years, and the arcade stick was a necessary presence to maintain that image. It was also well built, with similar options as the NES Advantage, sans the slo-mo feature. When the Super Nintendo arrived, a sequel to the NES Advantage was released by Nintendo, unimaginatively named the "Super Advantage". Out of necessity it had more buttons, but the granular control of rapid fire rate was lost to low/hi turbo settings, which is a step back in my opinion. The sturdiness of the stick was roughly on par with the original. The Turbografx-16 had the official Turbostick, which also had switchable rapid fire as well as slo-mo. These aforementioned arcade sticks all hovered around the $50-$80 range at the time. 

Meanwhile, in Japan, a little controller company named Hori was building home console arcade sticks closer to the standards of arcade machines. Arcades in Japan had joysticks with microswitches, which give tactile and audio feedback as to the registered input by the joystick. This was not the case in North America. The intent of the microswitch is to increase the accuracy of the inputs, which can be tested by using a program that detects inputs, like the 240p test suite, for example. The conductive rubber membranes that are inside most retro controllers were also used in cheap arcade sticks, and the effectiveness will eventually decrease as the rubber ages. This extra mechanical nuance of microswitches increases the longevity and cost of the joystick.

In addition to improved precision, the entire outer housing of Hori arcade sticks make an impression. They are larger and heavier than anything released stateside, with mostly steel hulls. One of the problems with the domestic options was that they were all too small to play comfortably on the lap.  The Hori sticks are all significantly larger, spanning over both legs and in general are much more comfortable. Rapid fire options are individually present on each of these, but the slo-mo feature is not present. 

Hori Fighting Stick SF

The PC Engine and Super Famicom versions have a rugged steel hull, and that adds the overall weight and presence. The two sticks are basically identical in build and form, aside from the different color schemes for buttons. Each has six action buttons, along with start (run) and select. The buttons are serviceable, if a bit "plungy". The cord length is roughly five feet, which is long for a Japanese controller, but short for North America. 

Hori Fighting Stick Dual

There are two sticks released with multiple system capabilities, called the Fighting Stick Dual and the Fighting Stick Multi. The Dual has a diminutive footprint, and is compatible with the Genesis/Mega Drive and Super Nintendo/Famicom. The cord has controller plugs for both at the end. It does not have microswitches in the joystick nor the buttons, but the rubber membranes provide more feedback than typical controllers. There is almost a "thud", a catch point that is detected with the movement of the joystick that is hard to describe, so it is somewhere in between microswitches and membranes as far as tactile presence. 

The Fighting Stick Multi is versatile

Hori Fighting Stick Multi

The Fighting Stick Multi is compatible with Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Famicom/Nintendo, and PC-Engine. To accommodate three different console plugs, the cords are removable. While this makes sense, it also makes them easier to loose. If you scan through eBay, most of these will be missing at least one of the three cords. The size is a on par with the steel versions mentioned earlier. The hull is plastic, and the stick has lead weights inside to give it some additional heft. The stick is micro switched, but it does not have the same short throw that the steel brethren have. The buttons have rubber membranes as well, reducing the sense of overall quality. Still, it is a very versatile and economic stick covering three major consoles, and a good choice if storage space is a concern. 

Hori Fighting Stick Neo

The next three models are back to being system specific, called the Hori Fighting Stick Neo, Hori Fighting Stick SS (Sega Saturn), and the Hori Fighting Stick PS (Playstation). These all share the same body molding, footprint, build quality and styling, except for the button count. These sticks feel really solid, perhaps more than the PC Engine and SNES versions. Even though they are not entirely encased in steel, the joints and panel seams are very tight, making the sticks compact and dense.  The joystick is micro switched as well are the buttons.  Individual turbo switches are present for all buttons. This is a boon for the Neo, as many Neo Geo games benefit from rapid fire, and that was not a feature present on any official Neo Geo controllers.

Hori Fighting Stick SS

It may be a product of its time, but all of buttons on these Hori sticks are smaller in diameter than what is standard now (30mm). Modern arcade sticks are much larger today, with a wide foot print, and the larger buttons make sense. However, with the smaller base of retro sticks, the 30mm buttons would look ridiculous. 

Hori Fighting Stick PS

When the Virtua Fighter craze came home on the Saturn, Hori released the Real Arcade VF. This stick was dedicated to that game, and only has three face buttons. While it is an odd design decision, having just the right amount of buttons makes for a simpler gameplay experience. Sometimes, with too many buttons, inputting presses can get convoluted in the heat of the action. I find this stick surprisingly effective for many shooters, as nearly all of them require three buttons or less. The stick is micro switched, and this now includes what would be come the standard button size of 30mm. 

Hori Real Arcade VF

Can you imagine if sticks with this level of quality came out here in the states back in the day? Maybe they would have sold well, maybe not. Given the prevalence of shooters in the early 16-bit days, its not too much of a stretch to think there would have been a market for them, especially considering how many trash controllers were sold during the era. 

Hori continues to make arcade sticks today, and their line of Real Arcade Pro sticks are some of the most prevalent on the market. Those are all well and good, but I wanted to focus on their sticks that they released in the silver age of home video games, where arcade sticks were less prevalent. 

The Sega Genesis Mini II, the Last Mini Console?


After a six month preorder, the Sega Genesis Mini II finally arrived at my doorstep today. Like its predecessor, it is meticulously crafted.  Every detail of the original is recreated, like operating switches, opening cartridge flap, removable extension cover, and so on. The emulation is solid as expected from M2, with the same video options, and new is the choice of audio from a model 1 or model 2. It is loaded with 60 games, by far more than any other mini console released to date. Going further into the Genesis' library, this rendition includes Sega CD titles, unreleased games, deep cuts, and includes a six-button controller.

What is odd is that it was exclusively sold by Amazon Japan. You could buy in on Amazon, which would then ship it from Japan, but there is no Prime shipping. There was no explanation for this, but my guess is that it has to do with the licensing of six-button controller to Retro-Bit here in the US, and so this is a necessary work around in order to include the six button controller.

The included game library seems to fill in some of the gaps on the first Genesis mini, although that game library was pretty good. Included are Streets of Rage 3, Outrun, Crusader of Centy, Herzog Zwei, Lightening Force (Thunder Force IV), Phantasy Star II, Ranger-X, Revenge of Shinobi, Truxton, Shining Force II, Hellfire, among others. Still, there are some big ones missing, like Snatcher, ESWAT, Mercs, Rocket Knight, and MUSHA. Some of the games on the mini II seem a bit forced, like Spatter, Star Mobile, and Super Locomotive. I'm not sure why these were included, these were not released domestically and have no following here. There are some titles that I really wished would make an appearance here, but due to licensing fees I absolutely understand why they are not here. TMNT Hyperstone Heist, The Punisher, Batman, Captain America and the Avengers, and Robocop vs. Terminator. Including those games would have significantly increased the price (I would be ok with that, but most probably wouldn't be). There are some games that could not be included, probably due to recent re-releases in cartridge form, like Gaiares and the Valis games. Then there are games that I don't think would have been expensive to include, like Fire Shark, Raiden Trad, and Gleylancer. I would have absolutely loved an M2 version of Alien Syndrome, my favorite arcade game when I was a kid. I know it was released on the Astro City Mini Arcade, and it wouldn't make sense as it was not a Genesis game, but still.

The Mini II boasts the largest included library yet!

The Sega CD inclusion is a boon to the appeal of this mini console, but therein lies a divided appeal. Final Fight CD, Sonic CD, Shining Force CD and Silpheed are all right on the mark from a gameplay perspective. Sewer Shark and Night Trap may have game title recognition, but are not necessarily considered good games. Those campy, grainy, FMV games were pioneering, but also terrible. Are they included as a piece of history, or are they genuinely revered by the producers of this product?

Controllers are a 1:1 match to the original

When taking a step back and surveying the landscape of the mini consoles that have materialized, I am hard pressed to suggest which console will be next to venture into the mini console craze/fad. The Playstation Classic had arrived as a spectacular disappointment. It was plagued with issues that hardcore gamers were quick to realize and point out, like the improper region encoded games (PAL 50 hz instead if NTSC 60 hz) and the omission of obvious games like the Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider. Sony massively overestimated demand, and shortly after its release the Playstation Classic was being clearanced out for $20 a piece. Had they done their homework, and stretched a bit more to include more favorites, it might have been more coveted. Ironically, once it was hacked and gamers learned how to add any games they wanted it became a hit at this discount price.

Chronologically, the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn would appear to be next up, but these systems are notoriously difficult to run on SOCs, or system on a chip boards. While all of these mini consoles are emulation based SOCs, the N64 and Saturn require more processing power than is viable with this level of hardware. Home computers and laptops can run emulators of these consoles, but that is much more processing power than these minis can provide. To beef up the processing power of these mini consoles would be cost prohibitive.

Technical challenges aside, the revitalization of mini consoles is dependent upon a target demographic that is large enough to make economic sense. Would a company be able to profit from such a release? The NES, SNES, and Genesis mini consoles were all no-brainers, they had tremendous mass market appeal. The Turbo Grafx-16 did not have as large of a fan base due to its limited success, and as such not too many of the mini consoles were produced.

The N64 was not the best selling console of its generation, losing to the Playstation. Would there be enough aging gamers willing to be drawn in by the siren song of N64 retro nostalgia? Many of the best selling games were developed by Rare, like Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and others. Rare was subsequently scooped up by Microsoft, so their chance of inclusion is next to zero. Would there still be enough appeal? My guess is probably so. First party Nintendo games will always be system sellers, and Nintendo has garnered enough family goodwill to be able to sell nearly anything. 

What about the Sega Saturn? It has become a cult hit among retro gaming circles, but did it have enough of a presence in its initial run to draw people back in? I don't think so. It sold so poorly domestically, it would not make financial sense here in the US. I could see a Japanese release being viable since the popularity of the Saturn in Japan was strong, selling much better overseas. The Japanese game library dwarfs the US library, nearly three to one. The shoot'em ups and 2D fighters are flagship titles in my opinion, and the vast majority of them were Japanese exclusives. 

What about consoles from the sixth generation like Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube and XBox? With today's tech, only the Dreamcast runs on such SOC platforms such as the Raspberry Pi. The Dreamcast was in production for only two years, would it even have enough of a fan base to make to make financial sense for Sega? The others are definitely not possible at the same price structure that the minis are at. 

I suppose it is possible for there to be sequels to the NES and SNES classic. Both of those consoles did have console revisions, and the game libraries are so deep that finding games would not be a problem. I imagine these would sell just as well as the first minis. But as far as progressing along the historical timeline, we have hit the limits of what is possible. So, as much as I love the mini consoles and all the nostalgia, functionality, and fun that they represent, I do think we have come to the end of the line. Sega said themselves that they produced one-tenth of the number of Genesis Mini II's compared to the first Genesis Mini. They pushed out one last console for the love of the games, and because we wanted it. 

Arcade Sticks for the PC Engine

During the third and fourth generations, arcade sticks were available, but high quality arcade sticks were uncommon. Most people remember the NES Advantage for the NES, or the Power Stick for the Genesis. Aside from being joysticks, those both had features that made them appealing, such as adjustable turbo fire. The Turbo Grafx-16 had the Turbo Stick, a rough equivalent of the aforementioned sticks. There were plenty of subpar offerings here, but virtually no options existed that would be considered high-end. The Japanese received several excellent options. I will highlight four arcade sticks released for the PC Engine that are excellent options for use, even today.

The Ascii Stick

This was manufactured by Ascii, which was a ubiquitous peripheral company back then. It's design is uncannily similar to that of the NES Advantage, having the same features, same dimensions, same weight, same joystick, and so on. The base of the stick is rather small, so playing directly on your lap in uncomfortable unless you have a lap desk, something to set the stick on. The joystick and buttons have membrane contacts, just like inside a standard controller.  It is a solid stick, but it only scratches the potential that arcade sticks can become.

The Hori Fighting Stick Multi

This stick has six action buttons, and as the name implies, its design is intended for fighting games, (probably Street Fighter II'). The joystick has microswitches, which was common in Japanese arcades, but completely absent in American arcades. The buttons are a tad mushy but serviceable. Turbo function is available for each button individually, but not adjustable. There is considerable weight to the stick, so it feels secure and stable in the lap. The stick has detachable cables specific for the PC Engine, Mega Drive (Genesis), and Super Famicom (SNES). The value proposition is high, considering the quality and versatility. 

The Hori Fighting Stick PC Engine

This stick is the very definition of heavy duty. Encased in steel, it is as solid as they come. It is the heaviest stick for the PC Engine that I have come across. The stick has micro switches, and the throw distance is very short. The stick tension is rather light, as was common in those days. The buttons are snappier, an upgrade over those in the multi stick. Individual turbo switches are present. Playing on this stick gives gameplay an entirely different feel, especially vertical shooters. This model was also released for the Super Famicom and is identical except for the button colors and labels.

The Denpa XE-1 Pro HE

If the the Hori Fighting Stick was a tank, this is a Ferrari. It is fairly small in construction, has a very tight, micro switched joystick with adjustable four or eight way gate. This is joystick is the most precise of all the sticks reviewed. There is absolutely no slipping, no dead zone, and no physical lag. The button panel angle can be rotated, which I never though I needed until now. The buttons are micro switched, with adjustable turbo rates. There is even an led that lights up at the same rate that the buttons are pressed. An unexpected feature is that the stick doubles as a turbotap! You can connect four additional controllers to it for some multiplayer action! 

Although I don't like small arcade sticks, due to needed some kind of support underneath, this stick stands out as premium. Similar models were produced for the Famicom (playable on an NES with a controller adapter cable), Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Famicom/SNES, MSX computer, and others. Due to their rarity, they command a higher price than most arcade sticks of the era. 

Since these are all Japanese imports, they all have cables that are fairly short. They would be fine for play on a table top if have a CRT or screen close by, but if you are playing on a couch you are most likely going to need a controller extension. As mentioned, the sticks of smaller stature would be more comfortable to use on a lap desk or similar hard support.  

I wonder how products like these would have fared if they were released here back during their original run. Would American consumers be willing to pay premium prices for these arcade sticks? My thought is probably not. Nintendo would have done their homework when test marketing the NES Advantage, and they targeted that level of quality here.  Perhaps these would have been a success and we are underestimating the dedication of the hardcore gamer, or the number of people willing to pay that premium. Either way, these can be found now through online international sales, auctions sites, proxies, etc., and that is a good thing.