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NES Advantage (NES-026)
The NES Advantage joystick was released by Nintendo in July of 1987. In the 1980s, arcades were extremely popular, and Nintendo decided to capitalize on this by bringing a bit of arcade feel to the home console market. The device is designed to mimic an arcade style joystick and bring the feeling of arcade style gameplay to its immensely popular NES console.
Design and Features
The NES Advantage is largely made of plastic, with the base being made of steel. The base contains four non-slip rubber feet, one in each corner. The Advantage is designed to either be placed on a table or other similar flat surface in front of the player to mimic an arcade experience, or can be placed on the lap. Like other large joysticks, playing with the joysticks without sitting on something with a firm base is difficult.
Physically, the NES Advantage is very large - almost the size of the original front-loading NES console itself. Like any first party Nintendo accessory, the Advantage is solidly built, and feels like it could easily stand the test of time.
The joystick on the NES advantage feels solid, but uses rubber contact presses for its directional action rather than microswitches like typical arcade style joysticks. This means that when pressed in any direction, the joystick does not physically "click," rather it feels mushy like a typical controller d-pad. The two B and A action buttons are large, but also use rubber membranes for input as opposed to microswitches, so unlike arcade game buttons, they too lack the positive feeling of a "clicky" feedback like real arcade controls.
The NES Advantage, like the NES Max, features turbo buttons for B and A along with the standard B and A buttons. The turbo buttons are quite a bit smaller than the standard B and A buttons on the Advantage, and are located above the standard B and A buttons. Above each turbo buttons is a dial that lets the player adjust the fire rate of the turbo buttons for each action button independently. This is a nice feature and works very well. Between the adjustment knobs and the turbo button are red LED lights which visually show the player how fast the turbo action is functioning for each button.
On the far right of the controller are standard Start and Select buttons, as well as a Slow motion switch. The slow motion switch simulates slow motion in games by repeatedly pushing the Start button on the game controller to rapidly pause and unpause the game. This works better on some games than others, and is incompatible with games that bring up a menu or pause screen when the Start button is pressed. The NES Advantage was the first controller to have this feature, which later found its way on to many different third party "turbo" controllers for various consoles throughout the years. In practice, the feature doesn't work very well, even for games that support it.
The cord that attaches to the Advantage to a television is actually two controller cords fused together, each having a separate controller plug on the end. The Player 1 plug is designated by a white line on the cable leading up to that plug. Above the Select and Start buttons on the right side of the advantage is a Player 1 / 2 switch. This switch is used to select which control port is "Active" on the NES Advantage. This allows two people to share one NES Advantage on games that support alternating two player gameplay (like Super Mario Brothers).
This feature is not compatible with games that require input from both players at the same time (like TMNT2 or the Mario Bros mini-game level in Super Mario Bros 3). If desired, two NES Advantages can be attached to a single NES by setting the switch correctly and plugging in the corresponding lead on each Advantage, thereby allowing two players to play simultaneously, each with their own Advantage.
Rarity and Collectability
Due to the popularity of arcade style controls, the NES Advantage was a fairly popular accessory and thus is fairly easy to find today. Good examples typically fetch anywhere from $10-$20, but can sometimes be found for less. New-in-the-box examples show up on eBay from time to time and usually fetch right around $100, and open box examples which are complete typically fetch anywhere from $30-$50 depending on the condition of the box and manual. Compared to the NES Max, the NES Advantage is much easier to find, but neither are considered rare.
Although I'm typically not a fan of playing with arcade sticks, I still enjoy using the NES Advantage from time to time. The built-in turbo controls are nice for shoot-em-up games. My typical use for an Advantage would be a shoot-em-up game that doesn't require absolutely precise control, as I find physically moving a joystick to be slightly less responsive than using my thumb to quickly change directions on a d-pad. Still, the turbo controls are nice, and the NES Advantage feels like a solid piece of kit. Like the NES Max, the NES Advantage is definitely a must-have for any NES collector's collection.
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Vintage Console Spotlight
The Sega Mark III was only released in Japan. It is Sega's third major console release after the SG-1000 and the SG-1000 Mark II. The console would later see a re-incarnation as the Sega Master System. In this article I explore the Mark III hardware.