Originally created 12/25/96

Special joysticks may be better than regular video game controls



(KRT) So you got the kids that new Nintendo 64 (or Sony PlayStation or Sega Saturn) for Christmas?

Well, if there's any money left in the gift fund, here's something you could do to make them really happy: Plunk down as little as another $15 to $80 for a special control pad or joystick.

OK, spending even more money after you've already laid out 200 bucks on a new video-game system may not sound very appealing, especially since it already came with a controller. And what sane person wants to deal with the last-minute crowds at the mall?

But I've seen how a lot of these things work, and I can tell you that your kid may be so happy that he offers to skip his next birthday present in thanks.

Some of them just plain work better, or faster, than the controllers the games come with. And most can be programmed, so once your kid figures out a way, say, to do a great maneuver by pushing a combination of several buttons, he or she can program the controller so the next time, the same maneuver can be done with the press of one button.

Besides, you need a second one if you have two kids and you want them both to be able to play at the same time so you don't have to listen to them arguing about who gets to play first.

There are nearly 100 controllers available, most of them made by InterAct Multimedia Products, CH Products, Thrustmaster or ASCII Software. To help sort through the choices, I tested a sampling that worked particularly well with these game systems. The prices listed are suggested retail, but discounts are often available.

FOR NINTENDO 64

Interact's Superpad 64 Plus ($24.99) - This looks like the controller for Sony PlayStation, but with all the features of Nintendo's cutting-edge, three-handle controller. Only, it's easier to use. It has five fire buttons, eight-way digital direction control, analog joystick control and a memory-card slot.

Interact's Sharkpad Pro ($29.99) - This has the same functions of Superpad 64 Plus, but with a clear shell that's 15 percent larger (to make things easier for those with large hands, like Dad).

Nintendo also sells extra controllers ($20) in red, green, yellow or blue.

FOR SONY PLAYSTATION

Interact's PS GamePad 8 ($19.99) - This versatile, eight-button control pad offers auto-fire and slow motion, both good features for action and sports titles.

PS Super Pad 8 ($14.99) - This standard, eight-button pad is fine for multiplayer games or as a replacement controller.

ASCII's Vortex Analog Controller ($59.99) - An eight-button pad analog joystick, this is good for PlayStation games that need that extra push. InterAct also makes a similar controller - the PS Arcade for PlayStation ($59.95).

FOR SEGA SATURN

Sega Mission Stick ($79.99) - This one's great for flying games.

Sega Arcade Racer ($79.99) - Good for driving games.

Sega Analog 3D Pad ($39.99) - For fighting, flying and driving games.

Virtua Stick ($64.99) - Good for fighting games.

Virtua Game Gun ($39.99) - Good for shooting software.

Also, InterAct makes several programmable control pads and arcade sticks that work well with all Saturn games, like the Eclipse Pad ($19.95).

FOR SUPER NINTENDO

InterAct's SNPropad and Acclaim's Dual Turbo Wireless Control pad (each $20) are good choices.

FOR SEGA GENESIS

InterAct's Genesis Propad and Acclaim's Dual Turbo Wireless Control pad (each $20) are both good.

FOR PCs

CH Products' F-16 Fighterstick ($69.95) - This gives you an authentic Falcon jet grip, with the same buttons real pilots use in combat. Has 20 programmable button functions.

Interact's Multimedia Starter Kit ($69.99) - This is good for someone with a new PC. The kit includes a two-button PC joystick, a Propad Game Pad and a Soft Pack CD Wallet, plus CD-ROM games.

Also, the best control pads for PC games come from InterAct and CH Products and retail for $12 to $35.

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Roy Bassave can be e-mailed on America Online at RBASSAVE(at)AOL.com or on the Internet at the address Tekzar(at)Shadow.net

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(c) 1996, The Miami Herald.

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