Review: Retro-Bit SEGA Genesis BIG6 Arcade Pad (Wired Console & 2.4 GHz Wireless versions)

Thanks to the folks at Retro-Bit, I was able to get my hands on their newest SEGA controller offerings: The BIG6 line of SEGA Genesis arcade pads. If you’ve followed retro gaming news you’d know that in the past ten years there has been great advancements in technology to improve the quality of life for fans of classic games. We’ve seen everything from flash cartridges to full on modern rebuilds of classic hardware, and on the controller end we’ve seen various companies and fan funded initiatives set out to improve button mapping, battery life, wireless efficiency or just create crazy controller hybrids. With the BIG6 line of controllers from Retro-Bit, the company has done all these things and in turn created a product I never knew I wanted and one I now cannot live without.

As mentioned, the BIG6 is more than one controller, it is a line of three controllers that each satisfy a different need for gamers. The two I am reviewing are the Wired Console version ($16.99) and the 2.4 GHz Wireless version ($34.99), the third version which I do not have on hand is the Wired USB version ($19.99). Starting with the packaging, both controllers are presented in lovely mid-90s style SEGA Genesis accessory boxes, complete with the SEGA seal of quality and foil overlay on the Genesis logo.

The Wireless pad goes above and beyond by presenting an inner hard cardboard box that features a drawing of the controller on the front, and inside there is a plastic tray holding the controller and two adaptors. While the box is a step down from previous Retro-Bit offerings, like the wireless SEGA Saturn pad which came in a hard clamshell plastic case with a soft flocked plastic tray, it still is nicely presented. The Wired Console pad, meanwhile, is a slide out plastic tray which holds the controller and the wire is tucked behind. It’s nothing fancy, but it is the lowest priced pad of the three.

Top: BIG6, Bottom Left: Original 3-button, Bottom Right: Original 6-button

A lot has been said online about the D-pad, but I largely ignored reviews because I wanted to go in with fresh eyes and form my own opinion. Regarding the original SEGA Genesis 3-button pad, I’ll come right out and say it: I never liked it. As a kid I found it to be too big and chunky. I did not particularly like the D-pad. It was too recessed into the pad, it was too large, too matte and the edges were too sharp. As soon as the original six button pad released, I quickly moved to using that at the large original pad became the default second player pad. As I grew older and my hands got bigger, the original Genesis pad became far more comfortable to hold, but I still did not enjoy the D-pad. Interestingly, the extra 3 buttons never factored into my preference, probably because I never really played 6-button games.

When it comes to the BIG6, the controller fixes one major issue I had with the original pad and that is they straight lifted the original 6-button D-pad and placed it into the larger original Genesis controller. The pad feels good, it does it’s job, it hasn’t failed on me yet. So I don’t know what the drama was over the D-pad, but I did not experience any issues. The addition of the X, Y and Z buttons as well as the mode button (for the Wired Console version) and L and R triggers and Home and Select buttons at the bottom of the pad (for the Wireless version) are all welcomed improvements and will surely make the controller compatible with a wider array of games and consoles.

Like the D-pad, the six buttons feel like they’ve been lifted right out of the original 6-button pad and slapped into the original controller. They function and feel good, and I really don’t have much more to say about them. I guess the sign of a good button is that you don’t have much to say about it. One interesting change is the larger start button from the original 3 and 6-button pads which has changed into a small flush clicky button right above the X and Y buttons. I tried out some frantic games to see if I might accidentally pause the game with the slip of a finger, but the placement did not cause any problems.

The Wireless version does away with the mode button, instead placing flushed L and R trigger buttons up top. Such a layout makes the pad a great option for Saturn games, though I was unable to pair my Retro-Bit Wireless Saturn adaptor with my BIG6 pad due to the Saturn adaptor being Bluetooth and the BIG6 being 2.4 GHz wireless. I have, however, enjoyed Saturn games on my PC using the BIG6 pad. The Home and Select buttons work well when connected to mini consoles like the SEGA Genesis Mini and Mini 2.

Between the Wired Console and Wireless versions, the wireless is my preference. I love the inclusion of two adaptors, which will now forever be plugged into a mini console and my original SEGA Genesis console. Having a branded wireless pad that works across both original hardware and emulation does away with multiple controllers sitting out and cleans up messy cables. While the Retro-Bit Wireless Saturn pad is still my favorite controller from the company, it just feels right to be playing Genesis games with a Genesis pad. The fact that the BIG6 takes the best elements of both classic pads makes it my new go-to controller for retro and modern retro gaming.

The BIG6 also works with the Nintendo Switch, and while I am not a NSO subscriber I did enjoy how the pad played SEGA AGES titles as well as Sonic Origins, Sonic Mania Plus and SEGA Genesis Classics. I even tested the console adaptor from the wireless pad on the SEGA Master System and Atari 2600 and it worked perfectly!

The BIG6 is a controller I never thought we needed, but having had it in hand on and off for the past week I can confidently say it is my new favorite way to play Genesis titles. I would highly recommend the wireless option if you have an original Genesis and some SEGA mini consoles hooked up.


One response to “Review: Retro-Bit SEGA Genesis BIG6 Arcade Pad (Wired Console & 2.4 GHz Wireless versions)

  1. Martin says:

    Does it work on astro city mini?

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