Hori’s GameCube digital pad is a true throwback to the simpler days of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. If you’ve been gaming since the SNES, chances are that you’ve heard about this controller. It is one of those devices that you want because it evokes nostalgic memories of playing Super Nintendo games and being awed at 16-bit graphics. But is it practical?
The Hori pad was made to play game boy games on the Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Player. It’s the reason that it’s missing crucial components necessary to play current gen games on the GCN (more about that later). It does its intended job wonderfully, though. Playing the SNES ports and look-alikes on the GBPlayer with the Hori pad is pure bliss for nostalgic fans who long to relive their SNES glory days. The pad actually improves on the SNES controller design by having thicker edges for a better grip. The button layout, which is modeled after the current GCN layout, even proves superior for playing action and adventure games like Metroid Fusion, Zelda, and even Mario. For fighting games, though, you’ll probably long for the SNES layout. Still, the controller manages to capture the feel of the SNES pad and enhance it with a more comfortable grip and a more intuitive button layout. If you have a Game Boy Player, and you’re looking for the perfect controller for it, look no further. I’m definitely impressed with the Hori pad’s ability to mimic the SNES controller for Game Boy Advance games. But what if you also want to use the pad for GCN games? Well, I actually put the Hori controller to the test there too.
To make the controller look like the SNES pad, the folks at Hori had to make some very important and crucial sacrifices. First of all, there is no analog stick or rumble feature. Second, there is no digital click on the shoulder buttons, and the Z-trigger has been moved to the face of the controller, to the left of the Y button. Finally, and the worst omission of all, is the lack of a c-stick. This omission hurts the most because it prevents you from being able to play a large portion of the GameCube lineup. For example, many action games and first person shooters are unplayable with the Hori pad, because they rely on the c-stick for crucial gameplay actions. Some games that would’ve been a perfect fit for the controller are not playable because of the c-stick omission. I’m not sure where the folks at Hori could’ve placed a c-stick, but even a slightly uncomfortable c-stick placement is superior to none at all.
Still, not all is lost. There are still various GCN games out there that can be played with the Hori pad. Playing with the pad will take some getting used to at first, mostly because of the Z-trigger’s placement on the face of the controller. The button layout feels as intuitive as it does with the regular GCN controller. At first, it will feel a little awkward, since most of us today are used to the handles on the current controllers. Still, it doesn’t take long before you get used to the pad. Because it doesn’t have the handles, the controller feels a lot smaller, though your hand will come to rest comfortably with your left thumb on the d-pad and your right hand on the large A button. The pad is also extremely light, and the shoulder buttons feel exactly like the ones on the SNES pads. The pad feels sturdy, with a much larger d-pad than the standard GCN controller. The rest of the buttons, aside from the triggers and the Z, are identical to the ones on the GCN controller. Finally, there’s a select button, which is mapped to the Y button. I’ve gone through my library to give you some ideas on the types of GCN games you can play with the Hori pad:
Resident Evil 4
Surprisingly, one of the GameCube’s best titles is playable with the Hori pad. RE4 uses the c-stick for camera adjustments and the sniper rifle. The latter is definitely important, but it’s only necessary in certain sequences, so the game can be played in huge chunks with the Hori pad. In fact, the d-pad and the button layout are actually well-fitted to this action game. Aiming was still easy, though not as precise as aiming with the analog stick. The Hori pad can also be used to play the other Resident Evil titles on GCN, with the exception of Resident Evil 0, which requires the c-stick to control your partner. Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise is easily the best choice for using the Hori pad.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
This game works surprisingly well with the Hori pad. The game uses the c-stick in certain situations with your back to the wall, but it’s not necessary and this game is completely playable with the Hori pad. As a matter of fact, playing Twin Snakes with the Hori pad felt very natural, and Snake’s actions were all easily executed and very responsive.
Need for Speed Underground
The Need for Speed game uses the c-stick for looking back. The game can be controlled with the d-pad, and the Hori controller’s larger digital pad actually controls the cars very nicely, though again it’s not as precise as an analog stick. Still, with the sensitivity with which the analog responds in the game, some may actually prefer to play with the d-pad.
Some other games that can be played with the Hori pad (though with slightly limited functionality) include Madden and the Phantasy Star Online games. To figure out whether you can use the Hori pad on your GCN games, simply flip through the instruction manual and see if the d-pad can be used as an alternative to the analog stick, and whether the c-stick is used in a crucial gameplay action.
Overall, this pad is a must-have for Game Boy Player owners. Its larger d-pad gives it a leg-up on the GCN controller for handling GBA games. If you’re looking for using the Hori pad for GCN games as well, you’ll have a tougher time finding games to play with it. Aside from the ones I mentioned above, there are other games that allow you to use the Hori pad, but they are definitely in the minority. While many GCN games allow you to use the d-pad for movement, the vast majority use the c-stick for crucial gameplay actions. Still, the controller was never intended for GCN game use, and it’s relatively inexpensive, so I would heartily recommend it for GBPlayer owners and nostalgic Nintendo fans looking for a throwback controller.
If you’re interested in picking up the controller, you can find it on Lik-Sang.com.