Which console gamepad is best, the PS3, Wii or XBox 360? Well, none of the above. While it's not my absolute favourite, the Sega Megadrive's original 3 button pad is great. Solid D-pad, great buttons - just the right amount of touch needed to engage the controls, comfortable fit in the hands. One of the best things about it is its "Atari" joystick compatibility, meaning it can be used on the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 & Amiga, the Vectrex and countless others.
Amongst the towering piles of crap I own which will one day collapse and bury me or land me on one of those TV shows about tragic hoarders who need regular visits from social services, is a pair of original Megadrive controllers. These have been through a few hands at this stage and aren't in the greatest nick - for example, they have teeth marks on them. They are literally chewed up. I know the games were frustrating back then, but that's a bit much. The bad and sad part is, if we put Columbo on the case, he'd probably find they were my teeth marks.
Anyhoo, the last time I tried them, I brought them to a friend's house for use on his C64 (which is now mine... what was that about towering piles of crap?) I noticed the D-pads were unresponsive and inclined to get stuck, so made a note to open them up and see what the problem is.
It turns out the D-pad is guided in travel by some tabs which are housed in slots inside the controller - without these, the thing has a tendency to turn / get stuck. It turns out, in each of my controllers one or more of these had broken off and gone missing. I had to fashion new ones (from bits snipped from a spare CD case - perfect width). They couldn't be glued straight onto the pad as the available surface would be too thin to support them. I had to make a fixture to glue the tab onto. Since the fixture itself would impede travel of the D-pad in the opposite direction, it had to be sanded down as much as possible without breaking.
Anyway, I was surprised by how well this worked and the fix seems pretty robust - I gave it about as much force as I would estimate it would take to break or bend one of the original tabs and it stayed in place. I tried out a few games and noticed nothing that dampened responsiveness of the control (that said, I am fairly shite at games... youtube channel of me being shite at games coming soon!)
Tune in next time when I will walk you through my 6-hour repair job of a PS3 controller I got in Argos for a fiver.
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