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Video review: StrikerDC Dreamcast controller

RetroFighters brings a 2020 beast to SEGA's 1999 beauty

After a successful Kickstarter back in February 2019 and finally being released early June 2020, we’ve managed to get our hands on the StrikerDC – a brand new controller for the Dreamcast from Retro Fighters.

So we cracked open the box and tested it out on a handful of games across different genres. Check out the video above for the full unboxing and review of the controller. But if you want the highlights, read on.

In the box:

  • Protective tissue paper (very important for all your controller shipping needs)
  • StrikerDC FAQ guide (helpful insights into each part of the controller)
  • Quick-start guide (more like info on Retro Fighters really)
  • Funky retro character keychain (lovely addition)
  • StrikerDC controller (the main event)

The StrikerDC:

There are a few key features of the StrikerDC that make it stand out from the original Dreamcast controller and other third party controllers on the market.

Redesigned

  • Analogue stick: It’s been redesigned to be more comfortable and more precise.
  • D-pad: The d-pad is now smoother and a lot nicer to use.
  • Face buttons: The A, B, X, Y buttons are slightly closer together.
  • Triggers: The L&R triggers are slightly smaller and closer to the body of the controller.
  • Cable: The StrikerDC is a wired controller, but it now faces forward towards the TV (not away, like the original SEGA one weirdly did). And the cable is now significantly longer – making it easier to chill out and play from a comfortable distance.

Additions

  • Shoulder buttons: As well as the analogue L&R triggers, there’s now L&R shoulder buttons. These perform the same functions as the trigger buttons, but are not analogue. They are designed with fighting games in mind.
  • Turbo and clear: The controller has a turbo function which you can apply to the face buttons. And a ‘clear’ button to remove the turbo from your chosen buttons.

Testing out some games:

  • Sonic Adventure: Analogue very smooth and easy to use, especially on tight corners and precision jumping. Also worked a treat on the snowboarding bits – far less twitchy than the original SEGA controller
  • Jet Set Radio: Overall excellent. The best bit was the analogue stick was so smooth and precise, it made pulling off bigger tags really simple. Lovely stuff.
  • Speed Devils: Very good and smooth for racing. Able to steer accurately around corners and weave past moving obstacles, like the T-Rex. But due to the new design, I found my fingers rubbing against the main body of the controller. It was irritating, but didn’t actually affect the gameplay. I need to adjust my finger positions to get used to the controller.
  • Crazy Taxi: Driving ‘normally’ (as normally as one can in Crazy Taxi) was easy enough. But I struggled to pull off some of the manoeuvres – especially the big speed boost (press A, then press B and R to do a big boost). I can usually do this easily on the normal controller – but I really struggled with the StrikerDC for some reason. Very frustrating.
  • Soul Calibur: Great to play. The d-pad and shoulder buttons got some good use here and made the game feel even smoother than normal. Great stuff.
  • Capcom vs SNK: Even better than Soul Calibur. The shoulder buttons were a great addition. But the d-pad was the real hero of the show. It’s a lot smoother and nicer to use than the original DC controller. I was happily throwing fireball after fireball, without my thumb wearing out.
  • Quake III: After getting used to using ‘look’ on the left and ‘move’ on the right again (modern FPS games have that function swapped). I found it very smooth and natural using the StrikerDC and was fragging away!
  • Ecco the Dolphin: Beautiful moving around accurately lining up Ecco for more precise jumps and attacks. It was also good in the frantic, scary moments of the game. Plus I got to really test out the turbo function, making it easier for Ecco to get his swimming up to fast speeds quickly.
  • Sonic Shuffle: The ultimate test. But nope. It didn’t magically make it a good game. Sorry.

Final thoughts:

Overall the StrikerDC is a brilliant controller. Pretty much every game I tested it on, it felt as good, if not better than the original SEGA-made Dreamcast controllers. Jet Set Radio really surprised me.

There was one slight niggle I have with the trigger buttons on racing games. I kept wanting to wrap my fingers around the triggers – like you do on the original DC controller. But due to its design, you can’t do that and I found myself rubbing my fingers against the main body. But, it didn’t actually affect the gameplay itself – the L&R trigger are really good and accurate.

However one game I did have a real problem with – Crazy Taxi. For the life of me, I was really struggling to pull off the key moves required to excel at the game. The speed boost is one of my favourite moves and I can usually pull it off 9 times out of 10. But with the StrikerDC I was really struggling to do it. Not sure why though.

Every other game felt really good. It’s a testament to show how much effect improving the analogue stick can have on games that are now about 20 years old.

The turbo and clear buttons are a nice to have, but generally not essential. But for fighting games, the shoulder buttons and the d-pad are a massive improvement. The Dreamcast has some of the best 3D and 2D fighters ever on it. So if you’re a fan of the genre, you can’t really go wrong with the StrikerDC pad in your arsenal.

The biggest drawback for some people though would be the price point. It costs $49.99 (US). Now, for a new controller, that’s not too bad. But anyone buying outside the US (like me), you have to factor shipping on top. To the UK it was about another $25.

Paying nearly $75 for a new controller is something to make most people stop and think. I’m glad I bought one, it’s a fantastic controller.

But I have a problem now, I’d rather have 4 of them, so my friends can also experience if we play together. The problem is I can’t afford (and don’t really want to pay) another $225 for 3 more controllers. And buying more than one at once doesn’t lower the shipping – you still need to add that shipping on each controller – I tried when I first bought mine.

So if you’re in the US or Canada (where shipping costs are reasonable), I’d say the StrikerDC is a no-brainer, especially if you’re into fighting games. If you’re outside the US, you’ll have to weigh up the cost against how much you want a new controller. If you only need the one, or really want the best experience for your Dreamcast, then I’d say go for it. The StrikerDC does make a surprising difference to a lot of games.

Pros:

  • Really well built
  • Analogue stick upgrade is noticeable and excellent
  • D-pad so much better for fighters
  • Shoulder buttons a great addition for fighters
  • Longer cable. Thank you!

Cons:

  • Struggled to pull off boosts in Crazy Taxi
  • The price, plus shipping outside the US
  • Now I want 4 of them!

Graham

I'm the European Editor and co-founder of SEGA Nerds and Mega Visions Magazine, along with Chris. I've been a SEGA fan pretty much all my gaming life - though I am also SEGA Nerds' resident Microsoft fanboy (well, every site needs one) and since SEGA went third party, I guess it's now ok to admit that I like Nintendo and Sony too :0)

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