Impressions of the 8BitDo M30 gamepad

SEGA-inspired controllers are a current hot commodity, with products from 8BitDo and Retro Bit making a splash very close to each other. The 8BitDo M30 controller doesn’t sport the SEGA branding, but it’s instantly clear the inspiration for the controller is in SEGA’s timeless 6-button Genesis controller, with splashes of Saturn design thrown in for good measure.

I jumped on the M30 – specifically the 2.4 GHz version – as a way to finally get another six-button layout pad for my fighting game needs on the PC. While wireless features are touted for the M30, my absolute concern was in having a USB-based controller I could pop into my PC tower. However, through the same USB micro cord, Nintendo Switch integration is promised, and the package comes included with a receiver you can plug into a SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive hardware for wireless gameplay.

I grew up absolutely loving the SEGA-designed 6-button controller, and, for the arcade-based games I really enjoy, nothing beats the feel of that style of controller. For many years, my go-to USB controller was the HORI EX-2 Turbo built for use on the Xbox 360 and PC, which was a glorious controller that fit the needs of having a decent d-pad on the 360, while still offering a six button layout, dual analog sticks and features such as turbo fire. It was an absolute jack-of-all-trades controller I massively recommend, but it is no longer produced by HORI and goes for high prices in the rare times I see it posted online.

The M30 controller is based more on the Genesis/Mega Drive controller, but has the added benefit of two shoulder buttons. It fits into my hands very similarly to the Genesis Super Pad that I have, but with just a tad more weight. The shoulder buttons are also more firm than the Saturn’s, as the Saturn’s shoulder buttons “clicked.” On the M30, these buttons are more akin to the L and R on a Super Nintendo controller, but if you’re specifically hunting for a six-button face on your controller, you’ll probably get little use out of the shoulder buttons.

The 8BitDo has minimal packaging, yet everything you need to get started right away. As I’ve said, my primary interest in the controller is keeping it plugged in to my PC, but the instructions promise a 1- to 2-hour charging time for the controller. A 480 mAh Li-on battery is built into the controller, which is said to last 35 hours on a full charge.

My only real complaint about the package is the micro USB included is only a 3-feet-long cable, which barely works for my PC setup. Thankfully, it’s micro USB, which you can purchase just about anywhere now, so it isn’t an end-of-the-world extra purchase if you need more reach out of the controller.

I’ve put about 10 hours of PC play into the 8BitDo controller (six of which was done via live stream on my Twitch channel), and I can say the M30 fits what I was looking for. I’m not sure what else to say other than it feels like you’re playing with a new, out-of-the-box 6-button SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive controller … which, essentially, that’s what the product is, so the reality matched the expectations I had going into the purchase.

The d-pad features the in-between diagonal inputs, but the four main tips of the pad are raised enough that they respond well and react well enough to the inputs. All of the buttons are giving me nice, firm inputs like you would expect from a new controller. The live stream put the controller through the test in 11 different arcade fighting games, and I can’t say the controller caused me issue in any of them.

The PC setup was also straight-forward and painless. As expected, you plug the controller in, Windows automatically downloads the needed drivers, and then you’re off. Within two minutes, I had the drivers and the controller mapped in my MAME program.

I was slightly worried about the short, straight-forward instructions included with the M30 controller, but was surprised at how fast I could get the wireless set up through the Genesis/Mega Drive receiver. The receiver powers up as soon as it is plugged into a live system, and a mode button on the controller searches out the receiver. Once both devices have a solid, blue light, you’re good to go.

To maximize the weirdness, I plugged the receiver into my SEGA Nomad, and it worked like a charm with no immediately-discernable input lag. I likely won’t use this feature too often, but it’s good to know it works and took minimal effort to set up.

I need more time to put the controller through its pace for Nintendo Switch support, but that is very low on my personal priority list when it comes to my use for the M30 controller. When I give it more of chance, I’ll be sure to update with a few thoughts on the compatibility.

I know interest is high on the 8BitDo M30 controller because it is being featured as the pack-in controller for Analogue’s new Mega Drive system. I won’t be purchasing the Analogue MD at this time, but, it does look like a very nice system, and I hope the M30 integration works out very well.

At 10 hours in, I have nothing but positive things to say about the 8BitDo M30 2.4GHz Wireless Gamepad. Outside of a nitpick over how short the included USB cable is, the M30 has managed to meet my expectations out of a 6-button face pad that I can plug into my PC for weird arcade fighting games. The extra support for the Genesis/Mega Drive and Nintendo Switch is nice, and I’ll see what use I can get out of those features in the future. We’ll see how the buttons and battery hold up over the long-term, but, out of the box, the M30 is just as expected – a nice, new SEGA Genesis controller.

Online page for the 8BitDo M30 Gamepad

 

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Categories: GemuBaka Review

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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