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   PlanetDreamcast | Hardware | Reviews | Mad Catz Dream Pad
    Mad Catz Dream Pad
Not the fighting pad it seems, but still a decent enough choice. - Review By Mr. Domino

Mad Catz Dream Pad

The standard Dreamcast controller really isn't suited for fighters thanks to its limited four face buttons. While it has an excellent, precise D-pad, having to use the shoulder buttons makes for an awkward fighting pad. You know it's bad when Capcom decides to restrict its Marvel vs. Capcom 2 to just four buttons, keeping in mind that the arcade fighter would soon find its way onto the Dreamcast. This button limitation has been the scourge of the controller since the system's release.

The Mad Catz Dream Pad looks to change that. With a full six digital face buttons, any and every fighting move is now in reach. Still, is that enough? Let's take a look at the Dream Pad and see if we've found fighting gold.

  • The Good

    The strangest thing about the Mad Catz Dream Pad is the analog stick. Most people will undoubtedly look toward the controller as a good fighter pad, but the best thing about the Dream Pad is its analog stick. The stick feels sturdy without being too tight, and the rubber head keeps your finger from slipping (shut up, perverts). The rubber makes for a great grip, and is guaranteed to not wear out as quickly and easily as the molded bumps on the standard Dreamcast controller. The tension in the analog stick increases the further the stick is pushed out toward its maximum range. At the far edge, you can really feel the stick pushing to re-center itself, although it's not so forceful that it becomes uncomfortable or hinders your control of the stick.

    There are also rubber grips on the controller along each side. The grips cover a good bit of the sides, starting about a centimeter at the top and extending about halfway down the side of the controller. While I've never found hand slippage to be a big issue, the rubber grips are nice and definitely help keep your hands where they should be. The grips are textured slightly and fit snug in the palms of your hands.

    The second best thing is that the Dream Pad has six face buttons. The Z and C buttons places to the right of the standard set are basically just digital versions of the analog shoulder triggers. They are added to make playing fighting games easier. Anyone who's tried to play a Street Fighter game with the standard controller knows how difficult it is to fight and combo when two of your attack buttons are controlled with the analog triggers. Having an extra digital set on the face is a great help and definitely a plus for the Dream Pad. The face buttons are perfectly flat (the letters are painted on) and are small enough and spaced far enough so that you never find yourself accidentally hitting unwanted buttons, which is good considering the odd button layout.

    There is a button hidden along the conture of the plastic which switches the controller from regular control to the six button digital control. You must hold it down until the light flashed green, then you're set. You can also reprogram any of the buttons, swapping the controls from one to another. Programming the Dream Pad is very simple. You simply press the hidden button, press the button you want to switch, and then press the button you want to assign. That's it.

    I also like all the variations the Dream Pad comes in. Besides the above pictured version, the Dream Pad can be found in a number of different transparent colors (orange, green, purple). Unfortunately, all the colored versions are still stuck with that top gray plastic surrounding the VMU area, so the effect isn't as nice as it could be. The controller of course has two expansion slots at the top just like the standard Dreamcast controller. I did find these to be a bit of a tight squeeze for my memory card, but it's not really an issue.

  • The Bad

    The biggest issue I have with the controller is how poor it is suited toward fighting games. First of all, the D-pad just sucks for fighting games. While the first run units had a rubber D-pad as well, newer versions have a thick plastic pad. The problem is that it is difficult to roll and move on the D-pad since it has an odd four leaf clover-like shape. The shape of the D-pad makes it more difficult to aim in a specific direction and doesn't respond well to the sudden shifts or quick movements required of so many special moves in fighting games. Otherwise, the D-pad should be suitable enough for most any other game.

    However, if you really wanted to, you can swap out the D-pad with the Saturn controller's pad. Problem solved? Unfortunately, no. A larger, unfixable (it is a word... now) problem which keeps this from being a good fighting game controller is the placement of the face buttons. The way they slope up at a high angle makes it difficult to execute moves requiring more than one button, such as calling in another character in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. The top row is fine; it's when you're forced to use the bottom bit of your right thumb for verticle double button presses that the placement becomes a real problem. Moving your hand a bit lower down the controller helps this problem, but then you make it more difficult to reach the top buttons. An even, horizontal button layout is what fighters need, and that's not present on the Mad Catz Dream Pad.

    Finally, while the controller definitely feels and looks like a quality product, I found it odd how the Mad Catz logo at the top of the controller just fell off shortly after use. Perhaps the humid environment I live in ruined the glue's stickiness, but I've never seen that happen before to any of my other controllers. As a general gripe, the controller's wire still comes out the bottom, although that's a problem with everything Dreamcast controller. The wire is the same length as the standard Sega controller, which is to say nothing special. The shoulder triggers are a bit improved from the standard pad, but they still feel too close although the increased width of the Dream Pad makes the unit more comfortable to hold after prolonged use.

  • The Final Word
    This should have, could have, but unfortunately isn't the fighting pad we need. The six digital buttons are a great plus, but poor layout and design keep it from reaching its potention. A decent controller, but still not a good fighter pad.

    Manufacturer: Mad Catz
    Retail Price: $19.99

    Highs: Great analog stick, sturdy build and design, six button digital mode, reprogrammable and loaded with rubber.

    Lows: Poor button layout and D-pad design, shoulder triggers still feel too close.

    Final Score:

    (out of a possible 10)

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