UPDATED ON 04/09/2014:

After spending some additional time with the FC30, my bottom line has changed. Please read on.

What you see above is the FC30 GamePad by 8Bitdo. It arrived in the mail just the other day, and immediately after posting the obligatory Instragram pic, I was inundated with a ton of questions. And because there’s practially no reviews of it online…

Except on YouTube, but they’re all generally the same: some dork struggling to get the damn thing out of the shipping envelope for over five minutes, cuz he’s doing everything with one hand, since the other is being used to hold the iPhone, and you click off due to both boredom and all the heavy breathing.

… I figured I may as well write one up (especially since it’s been a while since I’ve done of these).

Background

I first got of such a thing existing in the first place via Jeremiah, from his most recent trip to Japan (as featured in the most recent Attract Mode Instagram recap). I second I saw it, I knew it had to be mine. But why? Well…

Perhaps you’re like me: someone who grew up with a NES, which you absolutely loved it to death, but still got rid of anyway. In my case, was traded into Funcoland to help pay for a SNES. And ever since, you’ve had that sense of longing; sure Nintendo themselves have re-released selected titles from said system over the years, and ad nauseam. Plus it’s super easy to find ROMs of every single game you ever owned.

But it’s never been the same, without that wonderful, rectangular-shaped assemblage of plastic in your hands. Hence why you’ve always entertained the notion of buying back that piece of your childhood, yet never pulled the trigger, due to reasons like “that money could go towards far more important things” or “I’d probably barely touch it, once I got everything.”

In that case, maybe you too have considered getting a Famicom (the Nintendo Entertainment System’s original incarnation in Japan) instead. After all, it would be what you wanted, what you grew up with, but at the same time, something different and exotic enough to justify the effort and cost. For me, I’ve long been fascinated by the look and design of the Famicom, and not just cuz the red & gold color scheme is reminiscent of Iron Man.

But then I did some research and discovered that Famicoms are kinda pains in the asses. They only connect to TVs the super old-fashioned way, via RF. You could mod the thing, but who has the time for that? Also the controllers are hardwired to the system, which is weird. Sure games are cheap, but not after factor in that eBay overhead, and then there’s whole language barrier. Japanese games are cool till you can’t understand them.

… Geeze, what was originally supposed to be a quick and dirty review is already spiraling out of control, I can feel it.

Anyhow, being able to get a taste of the Famicom, the best part, the controller by itself, seemed like a perfect solution. Especially for my MacBook Pro/Air, on which I only play old NES, SNES, and Genesis games. Had been using my spare Dual Shock 3 for that, but one of the two that was dedicated to my PS3 died and needed to be replaced. Also, and as noted, playing Nintendo games with a Sony controller just felt wrong somehow.

Okay. Actual Background Information

The FC30 GamePad is a product of 8Bitdo, a company based out of Hong Kong. I assumed that the FC30 was just part of a line-up that included all manner of retro-inspired hardware, but it’s their only product thus far. The name is in reference to the 30th anniversary of the Famicom, which was last year, and that’s when the FC30 originally came out as well. Am surprised that I’m only hearing about this now, in 2014.

Many have asked where I got mine, and it was via eBay. I paid $24, which seems like quite the deal, but shipping was $19. The seller from whom I bought it from still has several others for sale; if you’re interested, just click here. Otherwise, you can find them over at DealeXtreme for $35, but that’s with free shipping. It goes without saying that I wish I had looked around a bit harder.

8Bitdo offers three different versions of the FC30: first, there’s just the lone first player variant. Next is a combo pack that contains two controllers, and each are fashioned just like they are on the Famicom. Both controllers on the original console had a roman numeral to let you which was player one and player two, and the same applies here. Though the original second player input had a mic, which has not carried over.

Finally there’s a special edition of the controller in which the gold part of the design is actually made of pure gold. Well, 99.99% of it, weighing in at 30 grams. Only 30 have been produced. 8Bitdo has a website, and the Gold Limited Edition version’s page is worth checking out in particular, especially the map that details how many are going to specific parts of the world. Man, North and South America combined are only getting 6.

And the cost? $1983. Man, gotta love all the constant pushing of the anniversary date.

What Do You Get

The FC30’s packaging is super high quality, so much so that I initially thought it was a product of Japan (the fact that Jeremiah picked his up in Akihabara made me believe it would be as well). I’ve gotten quite numerous tech related knick-knacks from China/Hong Kong over the years and none of them approach what 8Bitdo has done. it’s clear that they tried to emulate Apple’s presentation for the iPhone and are totally successful…

Inside you’ll find the controller (obviously), an instruction manual, a USB to mini USB cord, and a commemorative key chain…

Again, I’ve never seen such bling from someone that is, when you get down to it, offering copycatted/bootlegged tech…

The red USB cord is a nice touch, though the original controller cords on the Famicom were black. But an A for effort. BTW, there’s one other thing; attached to the back of the controller is a white piece of removable plastic…

It’s supposed to be a smart phone or tablet stand. Here it is holding my Nexus 7 up (can’t show how it works with my iPhone since that’s what I’m using to take pictures). Does a decent job, though the angle is fairly horizontal…

How Does It Look? How Does It Feel?

In a word: fantastic. It feels great simply holding in one’s hands. Many have asked how it compares to an actual Famicom controller, and since I don’t have one lying around, a direct head-to-head is just not possible. I want to say that it’s very close to the time I did handle on many years ago. 8Bitdo’s website goes on an on about how it’s an accurate 1:1 replica of the original, and I want to believe that there’s some truth to that claim.

The d-pad and buttons are not super snappy, but they’re far from mushy either. Honestly, they seem awfully close to how the d-pad and buttons felt on my NES controller back in the day. The buttons do jiggle somewhat when you move the FC30 around, and I don’t recall that much noise from the real thing, but it’s no means a deal breaker (whereas my iPhone 5S’s power button rattling drives me nuts). Overall it’s nice and light.

The differences between an actual Famicom controller and the FC30 are pretty obvious; the original only had two face buttons, whereas here we have four, similar to what is found on a Super Famicom/Super Nintendo controller. Though what isn’t as obvious are the two shoulder buttons, again like on Nintendo’s 16bit input…

Here comes what might be the first major complaint for some; as you can see, they’re flush with controller’s outer ring, which is what helped it stay in place of the system when not in use. As such, they’re not easy to latch onto and will take some getting used to. But again, it’s by no means a deal killer.

Though there is one thing that drives me nuts, yet which no one else will notice; the screws on the back are asymmetrical. Must won’t care, but I do. A lot. Oh, and there’s one more feature: the FC30 is wireless. I’ll get to that in a second.

How Does It Work

The FC30 is designed to work with your computer, smart phone, or tablet, all via Bluetooth. But if your computer doesn’t have wireless capabilities, it can still connect to the controller via USB. Though for the most part, the USB cord is used for charging.

Not only does the controller interact with a variety of other devices, but in a variety of different ways. Everything is (initially) boiled down to five different presets. And here they are, in detail:

- The first mode has the FC30 recognized as a joystick to both Windows and Android
- The second mode has the FC30 recognized as a Bluetooth keyboard to Windows, Android, iOS, and OS X
- The third mode has the FC30 communicating with Android and iOS via iCade, a unique joystick protocol that was designed to allow games and controllers to talk to each other with zero fuss or muss
- The forth mode has the FC360 talking to Android and iOS via a special app that 8Bitdo themselves developed, but it’s not supported by Google or Apple, so you’ll need to root or jailbreak your device.
- The fifth mode is a generic controller profile that only works with Windows, and when the FC30 is plugged in

Well, Does It Work?

Kinda. Tried using the F30 on a MacBook Air, Nexus 7, and iPhone 5S; the results were mixed.

To use a Bluetooth accessory on any machine or device, you basically need to have them both shake hands, but first they need to see each other. So the first crucial step here is to make sure that the F30 is set to the proper mode when powering up. That’s accomplished by holding down Start plus another button, depending on the desired state. Each is identified by a flashing LED light; for mode #1, it flashes once, for mode #2 it flashes twice, and so on. Sounds simple, right?

Well, in this particular case, the process isn’t necessarily complicated, just needlessly messy. After five days of regular use, I am still unable to get the timing just right. Either I don’t hold certain button combinations down long enough, or sometimes it was too long. Though I honestly believe the F30 to be pretty flakey and inconsistent in this department. It also doesn’t help that the duration of the flashing LED is super slow. So all that combined means that I can’t tell if I’m turning it on or off half the time.

WITH A MACBOOK AIR:
In the case of my MacBook Air, I have to solely rely upon the second mode. The very first time I tried booting into the necessary state, I was lucky; “8Bitdo F30 GamePad” was immediately listed under the Bluetooth preference pane (though it’s classified as a wireless keyboard, as advertised). The next task is pairing the two, and this second all important step is equally hit or miss. Sometimes when a connection is made, it remains so, but other times, the F30 will immediately disengage.

It would appear that you basically have to put the F30 to immediate use once connected. Which sorta makes sense; Bluetooth accessories will often disconnect after a certain period of inactivity, to save battery life. But you’re usually given a couple of minutes, whereas here, it can be as little as ten seconds, and that’s absurd. Though once you’re finally playing something (I use OpenEmu btw; its attempt at clumping various emulators together in an iTunes-like interface works splendidly), everything is awesome.

NES games feel almost exactly like they did back in the day. Same with Genesis games, even if the FC30 hardly resembles a Genesis pad, though it does a far better job than the PlayStation’s. SNES games feel great too, aside from when shoulder buttons are involved. Unfortunately there’s another problem that needs to be addressed: lag. Doesn’t happen always, maybe only 10% of the time. And turning the FC30 off and back on again will often solve the problem, but it’s still there. Though, as stated above, even that leads to problems.

WITH A NEXUS 7:
Next I tried seeing if the FC30 would work on my Android tablet, and while hunting for emulators, was immediately reminded once again how much of the wild, wild west the Google Play marketplace is when compared to Apple’s App Store. Managed to find a few. Because I wasn’t able to determine if they supported iCade, and because I have zero desire to root my Nexus (it’s running stock Android, why in the hell should I), it was either modes #1 and #2 for me.

The latter, which worked on the MacBook, was not successful here. Whereas the first mode did, though my Nexus 7 still considered in a wireless keyboard instead of giving it a joystick profile, as it’s supposed to. Whatever, the most important thing is that it worked. As for lag, there’s been none, at least thus far. Granted, the amount of time I’ve spent playing NES games on the Nexus 7 is not nearly as much as the MacBook Air, so it’s a bit too early to make a directly comparison.

WITH AN IPHONE 5S:
Finally, due to numerous requests via Twitter and Facebook, I tried to see if the FC30 could work with my iPhone. Now, because emulators are banned in the App Store, my only option is mode #3. But first I had to boot into it, and for whatever reason, I simply am not able to do so, despite numerous attempts. And yes, I’ve read the instructions many times over. And once again, all the problems described above has made troubleshooting near impossible. So yeah, sorry, but no dice here.

Odds & Ends

8Bitdo claims that the firmware of the FC30 can be upgraded, to allow it to emulate the Wiimote, Xbox 360 controller, and PS3 controller. Sounds interesting, but upgrading the firmware on these kinds of things are always a pain in the ass. Once got a Game Boy Advance flash cart from Hong Kong and just copying a game over was damn near impossible, plus I was paranoid that I was also creating a backdoor for viruses and exploits.

Then again, given the difficulties in just turning the FC30 on, a firmware update might also solve that annoying issue. Guess it’s back to deciphering the instruction manual. Speaking of, the one included is both in Chinese and English, but the latter is pretty hard to discern. There’s actually an online version that’s a bit easier to understand, but just barely. I’m hoping the above might fill in the blanks for some who still have problems. But if there are any questions out there, please leave a comment below.

Bottom Line

Am pretty torn here; I really want to recommend the the FC30 GamePad everyone. It makes playing old console games on the computer so much palatable, and I’m also genuinely impressed by all the attention to detail that went into its creation.

But at the same time, there’s way too many rough edges to ignore. Odd shoulder buttons are one thing, but not being able to easily turn the blasted thing on is kinda inexcusable, especially for something that’s asking quite a lot, dollar-wise.

Anyone serious about retro gaming should give it a shot, but they need to consider the potentially bumpy road that awaits. Or, maybe simply wait for improvements to be implemented in the upcoming NES variant (via 8Bitdo’s Facebook page)…

No comments yet

Maybe everyone knows the deal by now? It’s Friday, the end of perhaps another long and difficult week; the weekend’s just a few hours away, yet it feels like eternity. So how about another batch of totally random, totally wacky game vids to help one decompress? And to kick things off…

I love chip tunes to death. I also love having the distinction of being the only person, at least around these parts, who loves 8bit music yet is not compelled to make any himself, according to Glomag (point being, there are a LOT of chiptuners in NYC; it’s not a criticism, just an observation). Anyhow, here’s the trailer for a new documentary on the Euro chip scene. Hope to see it later this weekend, and that there’s plenty of Jeroen Tel…

Though if I ever was to attempt to hit the stage at Pulsewave, instead of a Game Boy, I’d use this modified Famicom cartridge, as originally highlighted by Tiny Cart some time ago…

Sticking with game/music, here’s something else that also made the rounds (but perhaps there’s other out there who missed it the first time around). It’s an adaptation of Steve Reich’s Six Pianos, but with Pac-Man, called appropriately enough: Six Pacmen

Kotaku recently posted the following curiosity; it’s an old Tom and Jerry that’s been completely redone with Touhou Project characters. Quite bizarre…

While on the subject of cartoons, one popular fairly popular YouTube channel that you probably know about already is Did You Know Gaming. And it’s great! Though I’m starting to like the spin off Did You Know Voice Acting a bit better. Here’s an example…

Staying with the Blue Bomber for just a sec, Destructoid tells us that the original commercial for the very first Rockman title in Japan, is now available on YouTube in a complete/non-sh*tty looking form…

The following, courtesy of Vice, isn’t very video game related at all. Some dude put lights on the back of a Roomba and let it go all over the place while filming it with a camera set to a long exposure. But am posting it anyway cuz A. I’m clearly running low on my cache of totally random, totally wacky game vids, and B. said dude has a Neo Geo MVS in his place, and that’s pretty neat (below a full decked out Astro City would be my dream arcade set-up, but since I lack the technical prowess of Dave Mauro, a Neo Geo cab is my second choice)…

And finally, something nice and long, enough to literally last you until the weekend (also to make up for the fact that I won’t be able to post videos next week, since I’ll be in Boston next week, for PAX East); a nine hour long supercut of the attract mode/start screen of every single Super Nintendo game in existence. Enjoy!

No comments yet

03/31/2014

The Very Long Goodbye, Part 3

by Matthew Hawkins

Time for part three of my survey of 2014 thus far, a chunk of time that was originally supposed to be my final days in the Big Apple, but a Canadian immigration officer felt otherwise, as mentioned in part one. And in case you missed, here’s part two.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, hanging with friends, this time in another part of Williamsburg. At the pinball bar, with my Greenpoint pinball/anime/video game connection, aka Kyle and Noah

Not a bad place, though it pales in comparison to the Sunshine Laundromat, as depicted in part one. At least it wasn’t too far from the skee ball bar. They have leagues there, and one of them has a bear…

Around this time was when my quest to complete my canzo had intensified. But as previously reported, I left the Bronx on that chilly Friday night completely empty handed. So afterwards I met my pal Dustin in Brooklyn for a drink. And this is the stuff you see when walking to the L train 4 in the morning…

When Earl Madness heard I was leaving, he wanted to take my portrait. Here we are on my roof, freezing our asses off…

Eventually it was time for my big going away party, which was organized by Joe with some help from Dave and Jason. Credit goes to Joe for not just the awesome party invite, but who have long championed the idea of a FORT90CON for ages…

Unfortunately Early Madness, who was going to be the unofficial photographer, couldn’t make the shindig cuz the bf was sick. And I was too busy yucking it up to take pictures, but there’s at least this one with myself and Sweet Rot…

… Joe, Dave, and Jason did an amazing job of rounding up a sizable contingency of peopleI’ve come to know during my time in the Big Apple, and for that I’m sincerely grateful. I definitely felt loved that night! Though the Swedish guy who tried to murder me a couple years ago wasn’t there, and was a tad bit bummed about his no show. Oh well. And my biggest regret was how I basically blew it with my farewell speech; wasn’t prepared and was drunk at the time. Then again, given how I’m still here, guess it’s a moot point. So moving on!

But that wasn’t it for me; was still in NYC for another two weeks. Was originally supposed to head out shortly after the party, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned these past couple of weeks and months, and it’s immigrating to another country is a very lengthy process. So that just meant more one on one time with b-fries, like Dave Mauro; here we are enjoying the first nice day weather-wise in NYC (it would snow again, like two days later), by having lunch outside at Shake Shack…

Decided to swing by Chinatown, one of my favorite haunts when I first came to New York, just once more. Sadly, the place is a former shell of itself…

At least J&L, the last vestige of the glory days, as far as gaming is concerned, is still kicking it…

You can learn about the so called glory days in FORT90ZINE #2

The underground mall is also a ghost town. The gaming shop no longer exists, along with the bootleg anime shop, plus there’s just one toy and model boutique left. At least you can still get cell phone straps…

Along with Totoro thigh highs…

Yet there’s still life in Chinatown; decided to check out Chinatown Fair 2.0, and I have to say, it’s the spirit of the original is stronger than ever…

In addition to favorite eateries, also made sure to swing by watering holes as much as possible. Here’s a view from my favorite seat, all the way in the back, at the best dive bar in Manhattan, Spanky & Darla’s…

And the outside of my fave sake bar on the island, which is also the best izakya you’ll find outside of Tokyo (and I’ve had plenty of peeps who actually hail from Japan who can vouch for that statement)…

Here’s my one last drink with Colleen. Before heading back to my place to watch the excellent GLOW documentary on Netflix and play some import PlayStation games. And before I found out that I’d be sticking around for a bit longer, hence why we’d end up seeing each other again not long after…

And here we have, bar none, the best damn Indian restaurant in all of New York City. You know such a place is good when there’s literally 27 cabs parked outside. And again, this was supposed to my last taste of the place, but I’ve been back twice already since…

I’ve been in Washington Heights for 6 and half years, and it’s been great for the most part, though like virtually all parts of the city, gentrification is making its way and ruining things. Case in point: my go to Puerto Rican rice and beans joint recently closed and in its place is this forthcoming abomination…

At least the local library is kicking it…

As already noted in part two, my pending departure date was the motivation I needed to check out things that had long been on my radar. Like Two-Bit’s, and gotta say, I’d much rather rub elbows with eccentric Lower East Siders than hipster douchebags in Billyburg. Sorry fans of Barcade…

That evening was originally supposed to my final chance to hang with Joe & June, before finally making my exit. Highlights include dinner at some SoHo pizza joint where this totally ditzy broad spilled wine all over me and wasn’t the least bit apologetic. From there it was overpriced drinks at an underground Chinatown bar, which meant I was back before my trouble at the border had even materialized. Yet the main event was karaoke…

After a little bit of bar hopping, we eventually found ourselves at Biny, and I was legit pissed that I’d discover the greatest karaoke joint in all of New York City, right before leaving the city. Not only is the song selection massive, but the interface is a large touch driven screen with a fairly intuitive OS, plus so long as one has a drink, you can sing as many songs at the bar as you’d like, sans any per song charge…

Even better was how the staff and regulars were super awesome! Unfortunately, a bunch of bridge and tunnel dipsh*t motherf*ckers crashed the party and committed the worst cardinal sign one can commit at a karaoke joint; they booed our choice of songs, and that’s just something that you just don’t do. And you’re telling me that idiots from Long Island are NOT fans of Billy Joel? Thankfully the bartender and his buddies had our back.

One last pic, of Joe and I tear down the roof with our take on “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (which Joe can recite, line for line, if you get him drunk enough)…

The rest of the weekend was simply taking care of things that needed be done before stepping on that plane. Wanted to fit in one last sojourn, out to Queens, to take one final set of pictures that seemed appropriate for one’s final hurrah of New York City. But the MTA basically said no to that idea (though at least I now have a second chance), which meant another opportunity to bitch online…

So instead, per Adam’s request, I took pictures of my toy shelves, before packing everything up…

Now this was what I thought was going to be my last official New York City meal. It might not look much, but trust me, it’s the best damn burrito you’ll find in the Big Apple (at El Rancho, near Times Square). I also chose Mexican cuz, despite Toronto’s many culinary wonders, tacos and burritos is not on that menu…

And once again, words of wisdom from Dannel

… It’s funny because it’s true; I’ve gained like 30 extra pounds from all the food I’ve been over indulging in. Actually, only 5 according to Wii Fit, which was kinda surprising. Anyways, because I was nearby, one last shot on New York, New York…

… Not! The following morning was when I flew up to Canada, and that afternoon, I flew back. Awkward! After all those heartfelt goodbyes and all. I felt like a major character on a sitcom that was being written off the show at least, but due to network executives not seeing the whole picture, I was dragged back in despite in making zero sense to the intended narrative. Or maybe cuz I’m such a popular character?

At any rate, Joe & June’s dog Lumi was happy to see her Uncle Matt once again. She’s totally in love with me, but unfortunately, that love is unrequited (hey, I’m a cat person, sorry) …

Because of my time extension, I figured I may as well go back to the plan A and revisit parts of the city, especially now that it was no longer a frozen hellhole. Like Washington Square Park…

There were also bars that I didn’t get the chance to hit before my first attempt at an exist, like at my fave tiki bar in Brooklyn, Zombie Hut…

Though my fave watering hole in that borough is easily Lucky 13 Saloon, aka the only non-douchey bar in Park Slope…

That pole is for dancing, go-go dancers to be exact, but that’s on Mondays and this was a Thursday…

There’s nothing like listening to old Rancid songs while watching old Van Damme flicks on a TV that’s hung next to a doll that has KISS make up, that’s for sure…

I’m also glad to have gotten the chance to take pics of my favorite bus stop ads at the moment…

On the aforementioned night of boozing, I got the drunk munchies, which is a thing that happens, and decided to finally check out Jum Mum on St. Mark’s. Can’t believe what I’ve been missing out on all these years…

As annoying as it is to have my new life in Toronto be postponed, there are some positives. Among other things, I’m able to get in a bit more packing, and while digging through the closet, I found an old box of bootleg anime from my days gone by. And because there is a bit point in which Netflix does become boring…

Everything I love about women, I learned from Goku…

So I caught the latest Muppet movie with Colleen. And I dug it! Even though her scenes were all cut, but at least they kept her around for the cardboard cut out adorning movie theaters…

At least she’s in better shape than Milton, this bear who also was cut from the movie, and whom we ran into later night, drunk off his ass…

By this point, spring had officially arrived, and I was elated to see my friendly neighborhood Pac-Man had not been painted over as previously feared. Turns out, he was just covered under ice the whole time…

I recently got myself a brand new 3DS XL, due to my inability to no longer deal with the original’s sh*t battery, plus the larger screen of the XL’s 3D doesn’t make my eyes hurt. And because I also registered a qualifying game, I received a free download token for Pokemon X/Y, which I already owned. And because it was Adam’s son Dante’s birthday, I figured it would make a decent gift. But only on the condition that he named a Pokemon after me…

Seriously the best thank you note ever…

Yet another restaurant, or in this case food truck, off the list: Korilla BBQ. Not bad, though the kimchee/bacon fried rice was a bit too lukewarm in my book…

Cuz Adam also got his son trading cards for his birthday, I realized that I hadn’t been to Economy Candy in forever…

On the way home, there was this sleepy kid on the train who had with him a stuffed squid of all things, and it was the insanely cute thing I’ve ever seen firsthand…

Time for the home stretch; this past weekend was a trip to Jersey, to Mitsuwa, to once again gawk at shellacked dinner sets…

As well as taiyaki stand guarded by Pikachu…

In addition to partaking in fine Japanese eats, it was a chance to soak in the fine world of Japanese print…

Of all the different kinds of Japanese magazines, I’d have to say that the ones on guns are my absolute favorites…

And as fine as the magazine selection might be, the video selection is even better (though I’m assuming you need a Region 2 DVD player)…

So how am I approaching the second quarter of 2014? I have a lot on my plate, both on the professional and personal fronts. Lots of awesome things are happening on all side! I also hope to finally make it up to Toronto, sooner than later. Oh, and I also want to see Jodorowsky’s Dune, cuz that just opened.

But before all that, I need to get back to catching them all, via Google Maps, before April 1st wraps up…

… I’ll be back Friday, with another rundown of totally wacky and totally random video game vids. And remember, this goodbye ain’t over yet.

TO BE CONTINUED

No comments yet