This is it. This is the Concorde moment in STG gaming. There is nothing, probably, to better or equal this monumental, epic and quite simply biblical piece of engineering brilliance.
Best of all it’s rubbish.
Well, it isn’t really, but it is one hell of a gimmick. Today I received what, in my opinion, I think, is a true cornerstone in game controller excellence. It’s also super rare. Not as rare as, say, the yellow Famicom Hudson Caravan joystick (you know the one…) but I would perhaps wager it is up there?
The odd thing about this controller is it is made in the USA. I know… Now, I’m not being xenophobic, that wasn’t what I was getting at. I made the remark because I would imagine the first thing you thought was that this controller was made in Japan. Wrong. It was made by Beeshu Inc. in the United States. Not exactly a country renowned in gaming circles for amazing game controllers for vintage consoles and computer (Turbo Grafx Turbo Stick anyone?). Beeshu were renowned for making a collection of rather unusual controllers, in particular for me, the Jet Fighter controller was the one to really stand out from the rest.
Modelled on, err, a Jet Fighter, this beautifully designed controller is somewhat dinky, but happily fits nice and snug in Western-sized hands. The overall design is very appealing, and unless you have hands the size of coal shovels, everything feels in its right place. The directional pad and four coloured buttons sit on the top of each wing on the aircraft, while under each wing, where you would expect to find maybe some missiles or engines or something of that ilk, are a couple of nicely placed shoulder buttons. I found this to be my favourite feature of the whole button layout and again, found that the controller does sit nicely without the need to overly grip the controller or continually adjust your grip. Unfortunately the directional pad doesn’t feel the best compared to other, higher quality controllers. It looks a bit cheap and just feels a bit clunky when you roll your thumb around it. Not entirely a deal breaker, but you probably wouldn’t want to be using it for hours on end.
This wonderful oddity hides a delicious little secret within its undercarriage! Hidden away is a small switch (thankfully recessed so you don’t accidentally knock the switch during gameplay or setting the controller down) which switches between Mega Drive and Super Famicom modes. An adapter cable is also supplied which converts the Mega Drive connector to a Super Famicom (or Genesis/Super Nintendo if you want to be precise) connector. This is a wonderful addition, one that I think makes this wonderful, odd controller all the more desirable. The Jet Fighter controller also shipped with a small decal sheet. Some of these I have seen for sale in the past (and it’s not many over several years, believe me) that have had the decals applied. Personally I think it makes the controller look ugly and to be honest, I prefer the controller plain and stock. Thankfully the controller I purchased has not had the decals applied, and in fact wasn’t even supplied with them so I won’t be tempted to have a ‘let’s see what it looks like with them on’ moment further down the road!
Finally, there is another neat little touch packed away in the Jet Fighter controller. Under the smoked black plastic of the cockpit windows is a red LED that lights up with each button press. There was no need to add such a thing, it’s so frivolous, so unnecessary, but I love it! It just adds to the character of this ridiculous product! Alongside the LED are the usual turbo refinements. Always useful and good to see added here.
Overall, the Jet Fighter controller from Beeshu is as wonderful as it is ridiculous. An exercise in the bizarre, the ridiculous and at times, loaded with genius. The Beeshu Jet Fighter controller isn’t something you would want to use on a regular basis, or for any serious play (though I am tempted to attempt an easy 1cc with it on something!). However as a curiosity it does excel, and as a collectible for STG fans, it is nothing short of a completely and utterly essential must buy.
Good luck tracking one down though. Now suit up and scramble!