SomethingAwesome: RetroZone's FourScore USB Interface

November 3rd, 2005 by Benj Edwards

Sorry, but this thing kicks ass.Over the past 6 years I have been looking for an easy way to interface my original NES pad with my PC so I could play NES games on an emulator with an authentic feel. There was only one realistic option I knew of: a parallel port interface hack that had spread around the Net over the years, but I never quite got around to doing it. Then, early this year I stumbled across RetroZone's site. There I found an array of different vintage controllers available for sale with USB (!) interfaces. Now we're talking! USB is the way of the present and the future — I don't want to be saddled with having to hook up parallel port stuff to my circa 2010 PC (which almost definitely will not have a parallel port). All of RetroZone's USB controllers apparently use a specially programmed microcontroller to convert the original pad's signals into a USB signal that a PC can understand. After browsing the options (a converted NES controller for $26 and a $17 do-it-yourself kit among them), I settled on the FourScore USB model, which seemed like a great deal to me at $60. Sure, I've seen some people balk at these prices, but I think they're really cheap for saving me the labor and sheer mental strain of devising and doing such a mod by myself. With the FourScore one, you can use up to four NES controllers on one USB port. And even better, you can use any NES controller you want — you don't have to be stuck with a converted one that might have bad conductive rubber pads in it. So I ordered it via PayPal, and a week or so later, it arrived.

The arrival of this product was one of the most exciting things that happened in a long time, having recently acquired, through BitTorrent, an archive of all known 10K+ NES and Famicom ROM files (the legality and morality of doing such will probably be debated in a future entry). I opened up the box and plugged it in. The FourScore was in pristine condition (no surprise, since I have about five unopened FourScores in boxes that I bought for $5 a piece in 1995), with a mint-condition USB cable. The craftsmanship was flawless, with the USB cable coming out of the FourScore as if it were meant to be there, complete with molded USB connector and all. I plugged it in and Windows 2000 instantly recognized it. I plugged in a NES pad into port one of the FourScore and Windows 2000 also instantly recognized it as a joystick (which is great, because it means you can use it with anything that supports Windows joysticks). I fired up FCE Ultra, my emulator of choice and configured the pad. In no time, I was playing Super Mario Bros. full-screen on my PC just as if it were a real NES. The pad had incredible response time — no noticeable delay — and flawless performance. Since then I have played a hundred games with the pad and adapter with no problems. I've also plugged in a 2nd pad into port two of the FourScore and played some Bubble Bobble with a friend, without a hitch. I'm sure it would work with four pads if I tried it, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

All in all, I am extremely impressed with this product and recommend it highly to anyone who plays emulated NES games on their PC. There's nothing quite like playing a NES game with the original controller — it will never feel authentic otherwise. RetroZone is the real deal, doing their service for the love of the game. My next project will be making a dedicated NES emulator machine to hook up to my TV for the complete experience, which I will detail in a future entry. :)

The Skinny: RetroZone's FourScore NES USB Interface
Good Features: Everything. Flawless craftsmanship of the highest quality. Works exactly as promised. Convenience and ease of use is incredible. Fast response times, easy setup, reasonable price.
Bad Features: Honestly. I tried, and I can't think of one thing.
VC Rating:
(10 Being Best)
[ 10 out of 10 ] Shiny Marbles


8 Responses to “SomethingAwesome: RetroZone's FourScore USB Interface”

  1. Jim O'Connor Says:

    I'm glad to see that someone beat me to the punch. I wanted to read a review before spending the $60 that retrozone was asking and wasn't particularly successful finding people that had used a converted old-school NES controller. Any idea if this would work with Windows XP, and how do games recognize the Four Score to play 4-player?

  2. RedWolf Says:

    Hey Jim, thanks for the comment. I am really enthusiastic about the RetroZone FourScore adapter (as you can see by my review) — I use it very frequently to play NES games with FCEU. I've had no trouble with it at all with Windows 2000 or Windows XP — works perfectly. I haven't tried the four-player functionality yet (I have tried two player though), but it seems to work like this: The entire FourScore unit looks to Windows like a game pad called "Retr." The pad has 32 "buttons" — each controller has eight (U,D,L,R,Sel,Start,B,A), and there are four controllers. So you can assign the buttons of each controller to do whatever you want in any program. An emulator would have to support 4 controller inputs — then you would simply assign the correct buttons for each Retrozone-connected controller to the virtual player 1-4 inputs and you'd be good to go. I hope that explanation isn't too confusing. All I know is that it works really well for me. Good luck!

  3. Matthew Says:

    Do you know if the fourscore (USB) will intake control form a powerglove or a powerpad?

  4. RedWolf Says:

    I'm not sure about the powerglove, but I *think* I remember seeing something about it working with the powerpad on RetroZone's page. You'll have to check with RetroZone for the definitive answer to that one.

  5. AR Says:

    Does your fourscore work with the zapper as well, and have you tried 4 player?

  6. Benj Edwards Says:

    AR,

    I haven't tried the Zapper with it — I don't know if it would work or not. But four player definitely works.

  7. Scott V Says:

    Does anyone have one of these to sell? Looks like RetroUSB doesn't do this model of adapter anymore but I would love to get one of these!

  8. ashraf_2003 Says:

    maybe two ports for a nes controller is enough

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