And then Sega released the MegaDrive.
This new system was, on the surface, the most amazing game console ever created. The name was straight out of the future: Mega Drive. Genesis. It was amazing, it was powerul, it was fast, and most of all, it was black. Black the colour of fevered adolescent dreams, the MegaDrive was a gateway to amazing new things.
And then there was the controller. The NES had a square pad. The master system had a square pad. Everyone was making square, boxy looking controllers and then Sega dropped this thing on the world and it was amazing to behold:
It had bat wings and three buttons and it was black and with it the Genesis came alive.
But it was made by a Sega that had not yet been successful, a Sega that was still making things very cheaply, without a lot of experience or competence. This is not a nice feeling pad. It's too wide in the hands, the d-pad too big, and nothing feels good when you press it. The rubber membranes used under the buttons were stiff and lacked any kind of tactile response. You pressed a button and it just felt as if it hit bottom and grudgingly raised itself again.
The d-pad was worse, hard-edged and stiff and uncomfortable, it was a testament to Sega's ability to market itself that anyone played the thing for any length of time.
Sega went on to much greater things, but on their way to creating the Sega Saturn pad, possibly the best controller ever made, they made this thing. Its place in history is assured because so many people remember it fondly, but they do so because of what it represented, not how good it was. It was the key to the more adult pleasures that Sega offered, but it wasn't a great controller.
Did you know?
There are two other variants of this pad: a JVC-branded grey unit released with JVC's WonderMega console, and a blue one released with Aiwa's SegaCD Radio.
Several clones have been released, including a series of pads in vivid red and blue colours with built-in games.
This pad is compatible with the Master System, though it uses only the d-pad, start and B. A and C are selected by the MegaDrive console when required. The switching logic is drive by a 74157 chip.
It uses a DB-9 connector, which is compatible with not only the Master System, but also Atari and Amiga hardware. Pinouts are here.