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!

Bullsh*t Boss Battles – Shadows of the Empire

Boss battles have a significant place in gaming, it can act as a test of everything we have learned in the game thus far or it can simply be the final(albeit stronger) enemy between you and the end of the level. The Legend of Zelda games have provided some memorable moments whether its Link’s encounter with Gohma inside the Great Deku Tree or delivering the final blow to Ganon and saving Hyrule. One of the most memorable moments in Super Mario Bros. for many is reaching the end of the castle only to have Bowser standing between you and the Princess(?) as he spews fire towards you. In Super Mario Bros. Bowser acted more so as another obstacle to overcome as you progress from point a to point b. Boss battles can be a litmus test as to our grasp on game mechanics and overall skill, just ask any Dark Souls fan. They can be both exhilarating and intimidating, but what about boss battles that…don’t do any of that. How about level boss encounters that aggravate us more than challenge us? Those instances in games where we find ourselves saying, “ok, this is bullshit…” An idea for a blog post that occurred entirely due to my sheer frustration with a particular boss encounter – the AT-ST boss battle in Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire.

Shadows of the Empire was released in December 1996 on the Nintendo 64, a couple months after Nintendo’s 64-bit, three-dimensional game machine was released in North America. The game takes place in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as you control Dash Rendar, a bounty hunter hired by Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian to aid in the recovery of Han Solo, who has been frozen in carbonite and taken aboard Boba Fett’s ship – the Slave I.

Despite starting the game piloting a Snowspeeder in the Battle of Hoth, the majority of the game is set in third-person view as Dash makes his way from Echo Base on Hoth, across the Ord Mantell junkyard, the Tattooine desert, and Coruscant – home to the menacing Black Sun organization. The game itself was fun to play, though its graphics, camera and controls haven’t aged gracefully. Going back and playing the game, I still enjoy many aspects of it, with its clunky camera and clumsy controls. I still stand by my assertion the boss encounters in the game are pretty weak, I’d even go so far as to say they kinda…sucked. One of the most memorable frustrating of which would have to be at the end of the second level – Echo Base. The Imperial troops have breached the rebel installation as Dash must make his way to his ship – the Outrider, located on the other side of the base. As you make your way through Echo Base and blast countless Stormtroopers(and Wampas), you have one final enemy blocking the hangar where your ship is located – an AT-ST. That’s correct, a lone bounty hunter armed with merely a blaster must square off against an All Terrain Scout Transport.

In Shadows of the Empire, larger enemies are given a percentage indicating their remaining life. A Probe Droid will start will 100% health(armor?) as you keep blasting away it will decrease down to zero before finally exploding. When engaged in a lopsided gunfight against an AT-ST, it only makes matters worse when the “legs” of the AT-ST are such a small target and very, very hard to hit with your standard blaster; add to this the fact you only do another damage percentage every 20-25 hits. The trick to the entire boss battle is aiming for the “head” of the AT-ST, but you are only able to aim your blaster slightly higher or lower than straight ahead of you, resulting in an over-reliance on aim-assist which doesn’t “assist” nearly as much as you’d think. The combined problems can make for a boss battle that is anything but exciting as you typically have to resort to running circles around the AT-ST and staying behind it so it can’t hit you(see below). When playing this recently, I stumbled into the fight with only two lives left and said there’s no way I’m replaying this entire level again, so I had to “cheese” my way through it. I believe it took me somewhere around 35 minutes just to pew-pew away at its legs until it finally collapsed, allowing access to the Outrider.

<Angry Video Game Nerd voice> yeah, that’s right…you have to fight an AT-ST!

I still enjoyed playing Shadows of the Empire, one of my favorite Star Wars games growing up, but I question whether or not the game would have been better off without some of the boss battles that seemed only to emphasize the game’s shortcomings back in the 90’s. The annoying AT-ST encounter isn’t an isolated incident as just a few levels later you find yourself in a duel of bounty hunters against IG-88 in the Ord Mantell junkyard, or finally reaching the end of the Gall spaceport canyons, only to square off against Boba Fett in the Slave I….seriously? I could probably write multiple posts about the boss fights in just THIS game, huh?

I think that’s all for now….what are some boss battles in games that you found infuriating despite enjoying the rest of the game or simply made you say “ugh…this is bullshit”? Thanks for reading!