Worst Pad Ever... Except Xbox. - Editorial By digitaltaco
I don't care what you think... You could never convince me otherwise. The plain and simple fact is that other than the upcoming Xbox controller, the Dreamcast gamepad is the worst first-party controller ever crafted. End of story.
Well, I guess I can't just "end my story" without telling you one first, right? Okay. Well, I guess I should start off by saying that I am quite fond of smaller controllers. I really enjoyed holding and using both the sux-button Genesis controller and the Japanese Sega Saturn Pad. I think Nintendo traditionally does a great job designing controllers. Though the original NES pad may be terrible uncomfortable now, in the context of the time when it was released, I don't think you could have had a better controller. And the N64 pad, in my opinion is great. Similiarly, the GameCube controller is fabulous. It is small, form-fitting, and functional. I think I just respect the creativity in Nintendo controller design, as well. Don't think I've forgotten Sony. I know that many of you out there are anti-Sony, so I will make this as brief as possible. I think the Playstation 2 controller is the most generally useful of any controller of the lot. Racing fans can't go wrong with its rubber-coated analog sticks and analog buttons. Fighting fans wil find the comfortable fit and number of total buttons suitable, after they stop complaining about the strange D-pad. Basically any type of game you could ever want to play, can be played fairly painlessly with a PS2 pad. Hell, even Virtual On would work better with a PS2 pad!
So, as you can tell, I like most first-party control pads. I guess that's why the Dreamcast controller seems so terrible to me. Nearly every aspect of it bothers me in some way. For example, the sheer size of the thing is frightening. It just doesn't seem like the controller needs to be as large as it is. The handgrips are huge and obtrusive. Now of course part of the reason for the large size of the device is that it was made to house two VMUs. I suppose this is fine, but as such, the memory cards should have been made smaller, especially since there are very few people who use them to play minigames. In fact, while a novel idea, the whole "visual" part of the memory card probably should have been scrapped as well. Other than to check my health in Resident Evil: Code Veronica and watch the tiny Kilik with two frames of animation while playing Soul Calibur I've never even used the VMU for anything other than saving games. Sega should have made the memory cards smaller and cut down the size of the controller considerably, in my opinion.
And what about button placement? When I first saw that the controller only had four face buttons, I was annoyed. Then I was angry when I found out that in edition to those face buttons, the only other usable buttons in gameplay would be the oversized triggers. What that means is that while all other modern consoles released at the time (PSX and N64) had at least eight gameplay buttons, the Dreamcast controller had only six. Even the Saturn had eight buttons! And while I don't necessarily believe that it is necessary for every new generation of console to add a few more buttons to the mix, eight just seems like a logical number of buttons to stick with. This means that fighting games that use six-button set-ups in the arcade can be played with two additional buttons set to control things like "3x punch." Also, games that had been introduced on the PSX would have been able to be ported over to the Dreamcast without any major control tweaking.
No sir, I don't like it.
Let me move back, for a moment, to those large, Left and Right triggers. I will admit that for racing games, having the large triggers can be beneficial if you're into analog gas and brake, which I'm not. But if you are, at least they serve some kind of purpose. I find, though, that I end up holding down too hard while pressing them. This leaves my hands feeling very sore, and not ready to help me win the race. And while I've praised the GameCube controller, it's not because of its large analog triggers. I'm just not into them. I prefer regular old shoulder buttons anyday of the week.
I will admit that I have no real problem with the D-Pad. It works fine with every fighting game I've ever played it with. It was the lack of real buttons that sent me away screaming! The analog stick, on the other hand, is not the most comfortable in the world. I seem to prefer the rubber-coated, stronger stick on the PS2 pads to the often painful Dreamcast analog stick. Though it gets the job done, it often gets it done with the cost being one very sore thumb. And of course you've already been holding down the triggers too hard so now you've probably got sore index fingers as well.
You may think that I've touched upon ever topic that could have possibly been mentioned with regard to this controller. But alas, my friends, there is one more thing that bothers me. What's with the cord!? The designers should have found a way to have the cord come from the top of the controller rather than the bottom. While the clip devised to hold the cord in place is novel, it doesn't function as well as some might hope. And thus, you shouldn't be surprised if you often have to re-attach the cord to the back of the controller again. This may just seem like nitpicking, but in my opinion, these are things that could have been fixed before the Dreamcast hit the streets.
So as you can tell, I have a rather large problem with the controller I use with my Dreamcast. And unfortunately, third-party pads are not the answer. The only thing a gamer in my situation can do is grin and bear it, or buy one of those adapters which allow you to use a Saturn or PSX pad with the Dreamcast. I've chosen the prior. Because though it may just be the worst first-party controller ever designed, the Dreamcast pad still gets the job done when it has to. And we Dreamcast owners can take comfort in the knowledge that our controller won't be the worst for much longer. Only a pad designed with the Dreamcast pad in mind could be worse than the original. And that, my friends, is why the Xbox controller will soon be the worst on the block. That behemoth needs to be burned at the stake. But, that's beginning to sound like an editorial for a different website...