New Wireless Sega Genesis Controllers From 8BitDo Perform As Good As They Look

High quality at a competitive price.

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When it comes to designing new controllers for classic game consoles, 8BitDo is one of the best. For a lot of Super Nintendo players, the company's line of wireless SN30 controllers are an excellent alternative to original SNES controllers. They come in the same form factor as Nintendo's original 1990 design, and barring any signal interference, they essentially feel the same in action--and if you opt for the Bluetooth versions, you can even translate that experience over to your PC or Nintendo Switch games. Similarly, the 8BitDo Bluetooth adapters let you use a range of controllers, including a DualShock 4, on your Super Nintendo.

Ahead of Analogue's high-end Sega Genesis clone console, the Mega Sg, 8BitDo has just released its new line of Sega Genesis controllers and adapters. Available in both black and white color schemes, the M30 controller sports a distinct design that's also slightly more compact compared to the Sega-made originals. In addition to the standard d-pad, six face buttons, and Start button, there's a shoulder button on each side. Three buttons below the Start button in the middle serve varying functions based on the device the controller is paired to--this includes enabling turbo functionality on the fly via a simple button combination.

A rare example of a third-party controller that looks better than the original model.
A rare example of a third-party controller that looks better than the original model.

Third-party controllers rarely look as good as 8BitDo's, and the M30 is one of the most attractive to date. Beyond the actual shape, the range of materials used gives a premium feel to each individual component--the d-pad being particular pleasing, with its matte finish and just a hint of grip. The top row of buttons wobble the tiniest bit, but it's ultimately a non-issue. The M30's mass is evenly distributed as well, making it a very comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.

All of this would be moot if the M30 exhibited latency issues, but in the handful of hours spent playing fighting games, platformers, and arcade shooters--all exacting genres--the Bluetooth version I tested never skipped a beat. When compared side by side to a wired controller it is possible to notice the slightest amount of input delay in some games, but that's typical of wireless controllers in general and it's such a minor distinction that it quickly becomes a non-issue once you're focused on the game at hand. Though the pairing process for each supported device is slightly different, it's all laid out concisely and clearly in the included one-page manual. Due to the six-button design on the face of the controller, it's easy to imagine the M30 becoming your portable retro controller of choice.

There is so much about the M30 worth admiring, but it's not perfect out of the box. To give a bit of background: In a small number of cases, certain Genesis games fail to play appropriately when a six-button controller is connected to the console. Capcom's co-op arcade shooter Forgotten Worlds triggers a game over screen immediately after the opening dialogue, and Golden Axe 2 will oddly map the directional inputs to the X, Y, and Z buttons, disabling the d-pad altogether. Sunset Riders, a port of a popular co-op arcade game from Konami, won't let you select the 2-Player mode when two six-button controllers are in use. At present, these are issues that exist when playing with the M30 as well.

The original six-button controller by Sega features a Mode button on its top edge that was used to bypass some of these glitches, but there doesn't seem to be a baked-in equivalent for the M30. There's nothing in the manual regarding this setting and 8BitDo has yet to respond to my inquiry for a solution. The two shoulder buttons currently replicate the C and Z buttons, but plugged into a PC, it's clear that they are in fact distinct inputs, meaning they can be remapped however 8BitDo wishes. Assuming there isn't some secret functionality that I've overlooked, it would be great to see a combo of these, or other buttons, used to replicate the functionality of a dedicated Mode button.

The original six-button controller by Sega features a Mode button on its top edge that was used to bypass glitches in some games, but the M30 requires a slightly less obvious approach--holding down the "-" button for three seconds when playing games like Forgotten Worlds, Sunset Riders, and Golden Axe II--a few of the more popular games plagued by the six-button controller bugs. This wasn't clear to us at first because there's nothing in the M30 manual regarding this toggle, but it is detailed on the back of the Bluetooth receiver's box.

$20 Bluetooth Genesis Adapter
$20 Bluetooth Genesis Adapter

Depending on your situation, you may want to consider the 2.4 Ghz M30 over the Bluetooth version. The Bluetooth M30 controller costs $30 and can be used with your PC, Mac, or Nintendo Switch on its own, but to use it with a Genesis, you will need to buy the $20 Bluetooth adapter. Simply using the Bluetooth adapter on its own, you can play Genesis games with a DualShock 4, Switch Pro Controller, or Xbox One controller. If, at the end of the day the only thing you care about is using the M30 on your Genesis, the 2.4 Ghz version and the bundled dedicated wireless adapter will only set you back $25.

The M30 isn't the only modern wireless Genesis controller; I also own Krikzz's excellent controller and its dedicated wireless adapter, but at $72 on Amazon, the higher price tag is difficult to ignore--at least it has a dedicated Mode button. The few incompatible Genesis games aside, 8BitDo's $50 bluetooth controller and adapter pairing both left a great impression during my tests. The M30 is a reliable and comfortable controller with enough inputs that you'll appreciate having it available to use on multiple systems, let alone working on the Genesis at such a competitive price point.

Editor's note: 8BitDo provided the M30 Bluetooth controller and the Bluetooth adapter for review.

Update: 8BitDo clarified the confusion regarding the controller's 6- and 3-button mode switch after publication of this article. GameSpot has adjusted the article and regrets the error. - Feb. 28, 10:00 AM PT

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