Recently I got my hand on a nice little blast from the past. With a very modern twist added. I got myself a new Competition Pro joystick by the German company SPEED-Link.
Now I know some people will probably think “well those things have been round for years, hell I have had one with my Amiga!” However this is where the modern twist comes into play. For, you will see, it has the dark and mystical arts of USB 2!!!!
“NOOO IT CANNOT BE!!!” cry the peasant children in the village.
Yes this is a reproduction of the classic Competition Pro 5000 joystick first produced by Kempston Micro Electronics but it uses USB. Also instead of using the leaf switches found in the 5000 range it uses micro-switches which were introduced in the Competition Pro Extra joystick when production was taken over by Powerplay Ltd.
So how does this new version compare to the originals you may be asking. And the answer is pretty well.
I have used a fair few copies and reproductions of the Competition Pro style of joystick. All have tried to replicate that sturdy build quality and sharp responsiveness that the Competition Pro gave. But they just didn’t have that spark. However this new version does have that special feeling that the originals did.
The buttons and joystick use micro-switches and have a wonderful clickity-clack sound when used (described on the box as “original 80’s sound” –Crit). The base is made of a thick semi-transparent plastic while the joystick and buttons use a red plastic. The base has a nice weighty feel to it and the rubber pads help it to grip to even my glass desk. The buttons have just the right amount of depth when pressed and the joystick has, again, just the right amount of travel between the neutral position and the contact of the internal micro-switch.
Yet there a couple of small negative points with the build quality.
Firstly there seems to be a creaking noise that comes from the base of joystick’s shaft. I am not sure that this is to do with the shaft it’s self or the plastic case surrounding the spring. While not worrying, I doubt it’s going to shatter any time soon, it is off putting. Secondly the two extra buttons at the base of the joystick are a nice addition but don’t have a great feel to them. They are stiff and catch easily against the outer shell.
These are only small issues though on an otherwise well built controller.
At it’s heart this is a basic controller. The only thing that is really fancy about the thing is that it comes with an auto fire switch. Located on the bottom of the base. It has a nice solid slid to it and doesn’t feel like it could be knocked accidentally.
The controllers fire buttons are all independent of each other. A nice feature that means you can configure the controller easily to do what you want in the application. I have even had this controller comfortably used with NES emulation with the inner buttons as start and select.
Another feature, if you can call it that, is the inclusion of 99 classic C64 games. While a nice inclusion it’s nothing that can’t already be downloaded off the internet. But nice to have anyway.
OK so I have to admit that this is possibly the best game controller I have owned for my PC. For a while I have been using a cheap Logic 3 controller the resembles an old style PS1 controller. The D-Pad on it is nice and all but nothing compared the feel of using the stick on the Competition Pro controller. The stick just feels more planted and the reassuring click from the micro switches lets you know that you have mode contact with them.
The independent fire buttons gives you great configuration when it comes to the multiple emulators available. I have had this joystick working with not only C64 and Amiga emulation but also NES and Master System quite easily. I know this is because it’s just a standard plug-and-play but the configuration options make life easier. Also it means your not having to mess around with drivers like you would if you were to plug an XBOX 360 controller into your system.
The full build quality and presentation is brilliant. I really can’t stress just how study this thing feels in your hands. The weighty base and rubber feet also mean that playing it on a table or desk won’t leave you slipping and sliding around.
The thing I am unsure about is why they have included a games package with it. From one sense I understand it gives people a good base to start their C64 rom collection. But all the games on it can either be downloaded from the net easily, or are German only releases. But because the device is a plug and play only you don’t need any additional drivers. And the instruction included are no different from the quick start instructions included in the box. So it’s just another piece of junk I have to store.
So should you invest in one?
If you are the sort of person that enjoys to play retro games through emulation then you will love this controller. It adds that little extra bit of spark to when you are playing games. But if you don’t really play emulated games then it’s not worth investing in one as you probably wont get the full benefit from using it. It is worth noting that the company that makes these also makes a 9-pin version to use on retro consoles and computers. I have seen them in a couple of speciality on-line shops but never on the open market.
There is also a gold coloured version available. It comes with a selection of Amiga games instead of the C64 package. However I really don’t like the look of it. And the gold paint, while looking gaudy, will wear after very little use.
Places to buy from:
AmigaKit.com (also has a UK site) :