This Week’s Purchase: Namco neGcon Controller + Games
This week I purchased a rather strange looking device; the Namco neGcon controller. Characterised by the large swivel mechanism in its centre, this PlayStation accessory was originally created to allow for full analogue control in Namco’s console port of the game Ridge Racer. Today it can be used with a wide selection of classic PlayStation racers, and I’ll be taking a look at its functionality, as well as some of these titles, in full detail below.
Anyone who’s read this article will know that I’m a big fan of weird looking controllers. Naturally it was only a matter of time before the neGcon had made its way into my collection. But dont let the silly name or strange shape put you off, the device itself is actually pretty good. Not only does the negCon give the added control advertised, but it’s easy and fun to use, and has an extremely high compatibility rate for a third party device of its nature.
As well as the controller itself I couldn’t resist getting a couple of new games to go with it. For the photos I’ve backed these up with the compatible games I already owned.
So the neGcon was originally designed for Ridge Racer, allowing for analogue control at the launch of Sony’s PlayStation (which was late 1994 in Japan). This was almost three years before the release of the DualShock controller, and many of the racing games made in that time period only support analogue control using the neGcon. Not only is the device compatible with many games that don’t work with Sony’s official analogue controller, but as it can be twisted in almost 360° (just under 180° in each direction) it allows for a larger amount of accuracy and control.
However it’s not without a couple of flaws that extend beyond its strange look. Firstly the face buttons have been changed from Sony’s standard ‘cross, circle, triangle, square’ arrangement, and Namco have instead used a rather odd ‘I, II, a, b’ combination. It’s particularly confusing to find the ‘a’ button located in where circle should be, and this likely reflects the fact that in Japan it is used as the accept button instead of cross.
The I and II buttons are also a little uncomfortable. These also have analogue functionality, but pushing them all the way down is a bit of a strain. Whilst they were a good idea in principle, and the concept of additional control when it comes to acceleration and braking is cool, holding them all the way in can be an uncomfortable experience.
Also, whilst loads of great games are compatible, including popular series such as Wipeout, Gran Turismo, and even the odd PS2 title, not all racing games work with it. And as the controller only twists in two directions (or along one axis) you are of course limited to certain types of games only. These are essentially racers and Tempest X3.
Fortunately the PlayStation has a huge selection of brilliant racing games, so this shouldn’t really be a problem. Also, with the right adaptors and drivers the controller can even be used with certain modern PC games.
My neGcon cost me £9, and you really shouldn’t be expecting to pay that much more for one online (you can check them out on eBay here). Like many retro items (SNES, white Saturn ect.), the neGcon was made using a flame resistant plastic that yellows over time, so I’d recommend looking out for one that looks nice and white! There’s also a fabled black neGcon that was only released in Japan, although I’m yet to see one of these for sale.
My final recommendation would be to hunt down loads of great games to use with it. PlayStation games are currently great to collect as they’re super cheap, and almost all of the titles pictured below cost me between 50p and £2 at local car boot sales. I’m sure they’ll be going up in value in the future too, as most are absolutely brilliant.
Only a couple of weeks ago I was completely blown away by an underwhelming looking game called Motor Toon Grand Prix 2 (in Amercia the game is missing the ‘2’ from its title as the first was never released outside of Japan). After doing a little research I discovered it was developed by the same team that would go on to create the Gran Turismo series, and I’d found my explanation for the game’s quality. The Moto Racer games also stand out as two of my favourites, as are the Rollcage games. As I discovered this week, these titles are even better with the neGcon.