I'm a huge fan of 2D games, and the only major system that still has mostly 2D games actively developed for it is the Game Boy Advance (although that won't be the case for much longer, as the GBA fades into its sunset years). When Nintendo announced their Game Boy Player for the Gamecube a few years ago, I was incredibly excited. Here was a chance to play completely new 2D games on a TV instead of a tiny screen — it would be like the 2nd coming of the Super Nintendo (SNES). But playing those games on the Gamecube's very modern controller is not nearly as appealing: the analog stick is imprecise and hardly ideal for non-analog-controlled games, and the Gamecube controller's built-in D-pad is small and placed inconveniently and uncomfortably out of the way. (Just as a note, before I go any further: it's possible to play GBA games on the Game Boy Player using the GBA itself as a controller, connected through the GBA-GC link cable — the original model GBA feels best for this task).
Luckily, there is a nice alternative to controlling your your GBA games on the GC. Enter the Hori Digital Pad, a sleek, simplified version of the GC controller with a form-factor that obviously borrows a lot from the beloved official SNES pack-in controller. It's about the same size and shape as a SNES pad, but the Hori Pad has raised "finger-grips" (for lack of a better term) on its bottom (toward the left and right sides of the controller) that actually make the pad more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. The most major and noticeable difference between the Hori Pad and the regular Gamecube controller is the complete and total lack of the GC's two analog sticks. Also, the left and right shoulder buttons are not analog, but digital equivalents of the original (equivalent to pushing original GC shoulder buttons all the way down). Four of the face buttons share a nearly identical layout to the official GC controller: X, Y, B, and A. However, the Z button, normally placed on the right shoulder of the official GC controller (quite awkwardly, I might add), has been tacked on — almost as equally awkwardly — to the left of the main face button area. In the middle of the controller there are SNES-style "Start" and "Select" buttons. The "Select" button, not being present on the GC controller, is apparently mapped to the regular "Y" button (this controller mapping is default for the Game Boy Player, so it works out well).
I'm not quite sure I like the button placement on the Hori Pad. I find myself regularly wishing that its buttons were reconfigured to be equally sized, spaced, and round like on a SNES pad. The huge size difference between the B and A buttons on the pad makes for some weird playing on some games that obviously weren't designed with this layout in mind (i.e. all GBA games). However, I understand that some people actually prefer this pad to play GC fighting games, so perhaps the similar button layout to the GC pad is less confusing. Then again, I think the weird GC button layout might be what makes fighting fans not like the GC very much in the first place. So all in all, I'd say it's a negative feature of this pad to have duplicated the size, shape, and layout of the GC's X, Y, B, and A buttons.
But with that out of the way, I really can't think of anything else negative about this product. Upon holding it in your hands and actually using it, it becomes immediately obvious that this is a high-quality pad with high production values and excellent craftsmanship (as far as 3rd party controllers go, anyway). The buttons feel good to press and are responsive and accurate (it's nice not having worn-out conductive rubber buttons for once). The shoulder buttons are a tad bit mushy, but I feel it's not bad enough to really hold it against the product. The pad feels really good in my hands, has a sturdy construction, and its cord length is adequate (about six feet). All in all, I'd say this is a great product and I highly recommend it for anyone who spends more than a few hours playing Game Boy Advance games (or any retro games — many of which are now available in collections) on their Gamecube. The pad itself can be a little hard to obtain, as I don't think it's officially distributed in the US. You might have to get it through a game import place like National Console Support (Hori Digital Pad, $22 US) or Lik Sang. But for $22 (at NCS), I think it's really worth it. Stock up now before they disappear forever and you kick yourself (I have a spare one in the wings for the future, if my first one ever wears out). And no, I'm not getting paid any money to say that. I really like the pad that much.
|The Skinny: Hori Digital Pad (Gamecube)|
|Good Features:||Accurate, responsive buttons with good tactile feel, great classic form factor, sturdy construction, nice cord length, relatively inexpensive. Great choice for playing retro games on your Gamecube.|
|Bad Features:||Duplicates awkward face button layout of the official Gamecube controller (X,Y,A,B buttons). Shoulder buttons a tad mushy.|
(10 Being Best)
|[ 9 out of 10 ] Shiny Marbles|