Hyperkin Admiral Premium BT Controller

A couple months ago, I decided to order a couple replacement joysticks for two of my Nintendo 64 controllers. The control sticks in Nintendo’s iconic(?) three-pronged controllers have a tendency to lose most of their integrity and end up either too loose, making any remotely precise movement near impossible or restricting any freedom of movement as they get stiff from an accumulation of dust and dirt. As I mentioned in a subsequent blog post, I found a couple replacement joysticks on Amazon which were designed closer to that of the GameCube controllers and feel much smoother. The new control sticks felt pretty good and I was pretty happy with the way they turned out. I spent a little while testing the controllers out after the joystick replacements, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I noticed there was a little bit of a dead zone which means subtle movements in games like Perfect Dark or Rogue Squadron are near impossible as you have to push the joystick further before registering any movement in-game due to the dead zone directly in the center of the control stick. This is something I was fully aware of when buying the replacement sticks, as a few of the reviews had mentioned the possibility of dead zones…

One random afternoon, I decided to take a look online at some third-party N64 controllers and I came across the Hyperkin models. I ordered one of the Hyperkin “Duke” Xbox controllers last summer and really liked it; it’s actually turned into my main controller when playing games on my PC(non-FPS or point-and-click ones at least). After a little bit more research, I finally decided to try out the Admiral Premium BT Controller in atomic….um, Amethyst Purple. I still have my atomic purple controller that was packed-in with my N64 and have always had a fondness for the entire Funtastic Color series of translucent consoles and controllers, so I was pretty excited to see Hyperkin offered an equivalent to nearly every color offered by Nintendo back then, plus a few other unique ones.

The Controller

A few details about the controller(via the Hyperkin site)

• Wireless connectivity up to 30 ft. via included BT dongle

• Compatible with all N64® models, as well as PC, Mac® and Android® via BT

• Built-in lithium-ion battery lasts for 6 hours of gameplay and recharges via an included Micro cable

• Compatible with original game memory cards, third-party game memory cards, and standard storage memory cards

• Insert a storage memory card (not included) into the designated slot on the dongle

• Back up or transfer your game memory card save data

Growing up during the days of very…inconsistent quality of third-party controllers, especially Nintendo ones, I was cautiously optimistic, but my previous experiences with Hyperkin products provided a little more assurance. The controller performs much better than the old Mad Catz or cheaper Logitech ones I remember using during the N64/GameCube days. I *could* take this opportunity to mention the perception in Nintendo’s first-party controllers from years ago vs. the widespread Joy-Con issues today….but that’s another lengthy post for another day.

The Admiral BT doesn’t even look all that much like an N64 controller at first glance as it incorporates a more traditional two-handed design over Nintendo’s infamous oddball control pad. Instead of a third handle on the controller, Hyperkin moved the control stick over to the left side above the d-pad and has moved the Z Button to a left AND right shoulder position. This makes the controller’s form feel very much like the Switch Pro Controller. Of course, there remains just a single joystick, which meant I had to adjust to using the four C Buttons to assist in aiming the reticle while playing Perfect Dark. One could almost look at the Admiral as a design somewhere between evolutionary stages of Nintendo controllers….

Another thing I noticed about the controller(I guess my two Hyperkin controllers are the Duke and the Admiral?) is its very, very light weight; after being used to the more-substantial weight of modern-day controllers like the Dualshock 4 or the Xbox One Wireless, this controller is feather light. I compared it against one of my other N64 controllers and it isn’t too much of a weight difference, indicating how much today’s standard rumble features typical add to a controller’s heaviness.

The wireless dongle for the controller is a lot bigger than I had anticipated, but was pleasantly surprised to see that you can insert a memory card….or Control Pak and use the SD card slot to transfer your save data. I mean, I COULD do that if any game data I saved hadn’t been corrupted and erased years ago(totally NOT a bitter comment). If I ever get back to playing Buck Bumble or Beetle Adventure Racing, I can now save my data without as much worry.

Synching up the controller via Bluetooth was pretty simple, as it should be, and within moments I was able to play some Star Fox 64. I adjusted pretty quickly to the controller and it wasn’t long after that I had hardly noticed I wasn’t using one of the three-handed first-party ones.

What about any dead zones in the joystick? The control stick on the controller feels near identical to the replacement GameCube ones I installed into my other controllers, but, I was very pleased to play Star Fox and Perfect Dark without any noticeable dead zone right in the center of the joystick. My purchase completely justified right there….

After spending the weekend testing out the controller, there really isn’t much that I dislike about it. It works exactly as I’d hoped. My only minor issue was the fact that the Z Button has been adjusted to both shoulders of the controller and found myself fighting my own muscle memory a little bit. I stated above how similar the controller feels to the Switch Pro Controller, which meant I instinctively press the “ZL Button” to aim in Perfect Dark, but quickly remembered once Joanna randomly fires a shot in the vicinity of a previously-unsuspecting DataDyne guard, that it’s the R Button to stop and take aim. A very minor thing, but I don’t really have much else…the controller functions pretty damn well.

The Admiral BT Premium may not appeal to those looking for more of a direct substitute for an N64 controller, particularly in shooter games(not that there was many on the console) where the Z Button underneath the middle handle gave players the feeling closer to that of holding a weapon. For those looking for a more traditional replacement, Hyperkin does make the Captain Premium controllers, which are not wireless, but still resemble the shape of a Poseidon’s trident like the original Nintendo ones.

All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with the Admiral BT and being able to lie in bed and play Mario Kart 64 is definitely nice. Maybe some Ocarina of Time or Donkey Kong 64 next?

Thanks for reading!

Controller Repair Day

The past few weeks I’ve spent a fair amount of time going through my game collection, particularly those on cartridges. I have recently amassed a few dozen more games, most of which being Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, with a few N64 and Gamecube ones mixed in. For whatever the reason, I actually find the process of sorting, taking apart the cartridge cases, cleaning the connector pins and then reassembling oddly relaxing…I’m not sure why. I usually refer to this as “taking inventory” of my game collection. I’d like to say I have a more….complex system of management than simply writing down a list of games, grouped together by console, but…I don’t. I mentioned in last week’s blog post that I’d been toying with the idea of a spreadsheet or something similar to keep everything organized and could even keep tabs on what I’ve started playing, completed, or have yet to attempt, so that is perhaps something I’ll actually go through with in the next month or so.

One of my most recent….tasks(?) was a joystick replacement for one of my old Nintendo 64 controllers. If you’ve ever played any game on the N64, you’ll most likely know what I’m talking about when I state the analog joystick – as groundbreaking and intuitive as it may have seemed at the time, always felt a little stiff. They now feel more like an outdated piece of gaming history when compared to the smoother action and movement of modern joysticks. The thumbstick for my old gray controller had begun to get a little worn out and there was a slight catch in the ball joint of the joystick, which at best would merely click when pressing upward, or would become unresponsive altogether when playing a game(luckily, I still have my trusty atomic purple controller). I had ordered a replacement joystick from Amazon which was essentially a GameCube thumbstick in an N64 housing to allow easy replacement.

Making replacements and general maintenance for Nintendo 64 controllers is still relatively easy compared to something more complex like a Dualshock 4 controller or the DS Lite I’ve been tinkering with…
The replacement stick seems sturdy enough and has a lot smoother action than the original N64 analog sticks.

Rather than the original ball-joint setup, the replacement joystick is connected to the plastic ball within the housing somewhat similar to an old track-ball mouse. I was a little apprehensive when taking apart the controller and seeing a ribbon soldered to the circuit board coming from the joystick, but quickly realized this was simply the Z Button underneath. The process of replacing the joystick was pretty straightforward – detach the connector pin and swap thumbsticks. I spent a little extra time making sure I had securely connected the pin to the circuit board before sandwiching the controller back together.

The finished project. It even works afterwards!

When reassembling the controller, I noticed the replacement thumbstick fits a little more snug within the controller shell, leaving a slight bit of extra space between the two halves – maybe a couple milimeters. Holding the controller for a few moments, I was unable to tell the difference between the doctored controller and an another.

I was able to test out the new joystick in the controller shortly afterwards by playing some Mario Kart 64 and it feels much, much better. I had kind of forgotten just how stiff, and at times, restrictive the lateral movement could feel as I switched between different controllers to get a feel for the new thumbstick. The only other difference I was able to notice between the two sticks was the newer one is just noticeably shorter, but I think I prefer a lower-profile thumbstick that sits somewhere between the original one and the very short control sticks on handhelds like a PSP or 3DS. The improved controller feels a lot smoother and definitely feels more like the GameCube….you just have the infamous three-pronged shape of the N64 controller along with it. After seeing the improvement from swapping out the old, stiff thumbstick, I definitely want to buy a couple more and make the same replacement in my other two remaining N64 controllers.

I realize this week’s post turned out to be one part product review and one part “what I’ve been up to lately”, but I want to get in the habit of just writing and not having to force a post into a specific format. A shorter post this week also gives me that much more time to spend working on my contribution to NekoJonez’s upcoming Pokémon collaboration taking place on Feb. 27. Looking forward to talking about some Pokémon games!

The Amazon listing of the replacement joystick I used in case anyone is interested…

Thanks for reading!