Disclaimer: This review is being written by someone who likes the N64's controllers. If you hate N64 controllers you will probably hate this controller too, and should therefore hold out for the ProElite controller coming out Q1 2000. Thank you.
The first third-party NUON controller has hit the market in the form of the "Stealth" from Hot Products, Inc. Obviously borrowing it's look and feel from the N64's style of gamepad (thanks, no doubt, to developers using hacked N64 sticks during NUON development), this controller is surprisingly solidly-built. HPI also developed the Extiva pack-in controller (the "Warrior" digital pad), and this one feels much sturdier and is much more responsive. The Warrior always felt a bit flimsy and the directional pad too "clicky" (if you've used one you'll know what I mean). On the Stealth the D pad is much smoother and playable, rather than feeling like you're hitting buttons on a keyboard or some other non-gameplay-oriented control. For users used to an N64 controller it will take a bit of getting used to not having the side handles on the controller, but after a few laps around the tracks on Merlin Racing you won't miss them at all.
The Analog stick is much better than I'd anticipated. The stick itself is a bit taller and the head is slightly bigger than you're average N64 analog stick, but the resistance is good and is designed for easy directional movement thanks to the inside of the analog part of the base being partitioned off rather than circular. While the analog is not functional on Ballistic, it works wonders on the Tempest 3000 and FreeFall demos (Tempest is much faster and more responsive), and Merlin Racing. The analog stick even provides owners of the Toshiba SD2300 the ability to interact with their built-in VLM, something that was previously thought to only be available in the upcoming European NUON machines.
The controller also looks quite cool - rather than having the C button cluster be yellow like on N64 pads, the ones on the black Stealth are silver, as are the shoulder buttons (on the purple/blue Stealth they are yellow though). There is a big, honkin' HPI logo on the top, which is kind of obnoxious, though - I would have rather seen the NUON logo nice and big up top with a smaller HPI logo down where the NUON logo is now.
Flipping the controller over reveals a slot where a memory card *should* go, but there's a plastic piece screwed in there. I tried to unscrew it to see what was inside but my screwdriver was a bit too short. My guess is that memory card support is not available for this controller, but it may be added on future revisions (just a guess).
One thing that is a bit strange is that the Z trigger button isn't mapped as an independent fire button - it performs the same function as the A button. While this may not seem like too big a deal, think about playing FreeFall with the analog stick and not being able to reach the L shoulder button since Z does the same thing as A. If anything, the Z should be mapped to perform the same function as the L button since that's what it's basically replacing when you use the analog stick.
Overall, you'll find the Stealth to be a much better controller than the Warrior, both in design and durability. If there had been memory card support and proper execution of the Z trigger it would be a must-buy, but with the Pro Elite just around the corner it's hard to recommend buying this one if you've already got a pack-in Warrior. For Toshiba owners this would be the way to go to enjoy games before the Pro Elite comes (then you can use it as a second controller), and Tempest freaks will want this controller for optimum playability from the get-go. But otherwise I'd suggest holding out for the Pro Elite for the ultimate NUON controller (or so we hope).
The blue/purple Stealth
The black Stealth
An early prototype - transparent black color and gray NUON buttons.
transparent Yellow stealth controller.
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