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Sega Genesis 6-button Joystick
Sega released two arcade sticks for the Sega Genesis. The 3-button "Arcade Power" arcade stick (model MK-1655), which coincided with the launch of the Genesis console in 1989, and the 6-button arcade stick (model MK-1627) which was released alongside the 6-button arcade pad in 1993.
This review is for the 6-button arcade stick, model MK-1627. Also available is a review of the 3-button arcade stick, model MK-1655.
About 3/4 of the way through the life of the Sega Genesis, in 1993, Sega introduced a new 6-button arcade pad controller to coincide with the release of Street Fighter II Special Championship Edition. Other fighting games, like the Mortal Kombat series, would go on to utilize the 6-button layout. The 6-button layout was also very important for the 32X - on which most of the games required the 6-button controller for full functionality.
When releasing the 6-button controller upgrade to replace the original 3-button Genesis controller, Sega also released an updated version of their Genesis arcade stick - which also moved to the 6-button layout.
The 6-button arcade stick for the Sega Genesis is almost exactly the same shape and size as the 3-button version. Footprint-wise, it's larger than a Genesis model 2. The plastic has been changed slightly, from an extremely dark and somewhat smooth black plastic on the original 3-button joystick, to a slightly lighter black with a slightly more rich texture. Through look and feel, it appears as though Sega took extra care in making the 6-button arcade stick more match the look and feel of the Sega Genesis model 2 console, whereas the 3-button controller more matched the model 1 Genesis.
The joystick and action buttons on the 6-button arcade stick are, like the 3-button, membrane based switches. They are not the traditional "clicky" arcade micro switches. Most first-party arcade sticks are this way, since they are cheaper and easier to manufacture. Though membrane switches do not provide as much positive response as a micro switch based switch, the 6-button arcade stick is still very responsive with both the joystick and the action buttons. The action on the action buttons is very positive, and the joystick on the 6-button version feels a lot more crisp and responsive than on the 3-button joystick.
Megafire functionality is back on the 6-button arcade pad, though the on/off switches for Megafire on the buttons have been replaced with switches for each button. Gone are the LED lights that indicate at a quick glance which buttons are in Megafire mode and which are in standard mode - so you actually have to look at the switches to tell what action buttons are on what setting. Although this isn't as nice as the provided LEDs on the 3-button arcade stick, the switches on the 6-button stick do their job.
The Megafire Speed slider at the top of the joystick is in roughly the same position as on the 3-button stick, as is the Start button. On the 6-button stick, however, there is a new switch that selects between 3 and 6 button settings, as well as a Mode button. This doesn't make much sense to me, given the operation of the Mode button.
When the 6-button Sega Genesis controller was released, it was, for the most part, backwards compatible with all Genesis games. If you had a 3-button game with the 6-button gamepad plugged in, the new buttons - X, Y, and Z - would simply not do anything and the rest of the controller would function as it normally did had it been a 3-button controller. Some games, for whatever reason, "freaked out" when a 6-button controller was plugged in, and would display strange behavior. The game wouldn't fully load, normal action buttons didn't work, etc. For this reason Sega put a "Mode" button on the top of the 6-button arcade pad where the R trigger would be on an SNES controller. By holding in the Mode button while powering on the Genesis, the controller would trick the console in to thinking it was a standard 3-button controller, even if playing a 6-button compatible game. This workaround fixed the issues with the older games that weren't compatible with the 6-button controllers.
Since a Mode button is included on the 6-button arcade stick, and I'm assuming works just like the Mode button on a 6-button controller - I'm not sure what the purpose of the 3/6 button selector switch would be. Regardless, it's there, and in my testing it does work. I have tested the 6-button arcade stick with Genesis models 1 through 3, the Sega 32X, and the Sega CDX, and it works just perfectly with all of these consoles. It even works when plugged in to the Sega Master System.
The Genesis 6-button arcade stick is without a doubt my favorite arcade stick for any 8- or 16-bit console. It would have been nice if Sega would have kept the LED lights from the original 3-button stick, but I can imagine that this would have increased cost - which I'm sure they weren't all about doing since they were well in to the planning stages for what would eventually be their 32-bit consoles (32X and Saturn).
Because it has the X, Y, and Z buttons, the 6-button arcade stick is a must-have for old Genesis fighting games like Street Fighter II and the Mortal Kombat series. For a lot of these old fighters, the 3-button layout on the 3-button arcade stick won't cut it. Both sticks can be purchased for dirt cheap these days on sites like eBay, so there's no reason a collector shouldn't have both. However, if you choose to own only one of the two, and you still play your Genesis from time to time - the 6-button arcade stick should definitely be your choice.
Lastly I'd like to applaud Sega for the 3-over-3 layout on the 6-button arcade stick. This is the preferred layout for most fighting games, sans maybe SNK games (which you probably won't be playing on a Genesis anyway). Sega made a good choice choosing this layout on the 6-button arcade stick, which pushes it ahead of the Asciiware SNES Super Advantage on my list of best 16-bit arcade sticks.
If you own a Genesis, do yourself a favor and pick one of these up.
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