The age of pixel perfect emulation for the many of the retro systems we love is with us. The C64, Spectrum (Happy 35th Birthday!), Amstrad, Amiga and many more can be fired up with our favourite games in an instant and an authentic experience is ready to be enjoyed. Mission Impossible, Jet Set Willy or Rick Dangerous prompt us to “Press Start to begin” and we duly oblige, on an Xbox 360 controller.
Convenience is of course a huge factor in our choice of game controllers but enjoying your old games with an original controller should be tried to feel the extra authenticity and enjoyment it beings to the experience, and what better place to start than with the DB9 Connector.
The Mayflash Mega Drive (Genesis) USB Adapter
The 9 pin DB9 connector was the standard on many 80’s and 90’s systems meaning one joystick can give you an authentic experience across many emulators. It was also the port of choice for the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) and Master System. If friends were visiting I would frequently tell them to bring their Mega Drive game pad to plug into my Amiga 500 for some 2 player action. Meanwhile my stick of choice was the iconic Competition Pro. It was this cross compatibility which lead me to the Mayflash Mega Drive to USB controller adapter (pictured above), offering two DB9 ports and promising Mega Drive compatibility for Windows and Mac. The question though is will my trusty Competition Pro work through it (and therefore hundreds of other DB9 joysticks)?
Plug and play, and play!
On plugging the adapter in (no drivers required) to a Windows 10 PC two new joysticks were immediately detected, one for each port. I began testing with a Mega Drive pad and sure enough all three buttons, the start button and the d-pad registered. In typical Mayflash fashion the d-pad is detected as a point of view hat just as I’ve found in other Mayflash products. This can cause problems in some emulators which don’t allow you to map the POV hat to the emulated joystick. It’s quickly resolved however by holding the start button and A on the pad for 3 seconds. The d-pad is then detected as a regular joystick.
Streets of Rage 2 with a genuine game pad
Within minutes the Fusion emulator was running and I was playing Streets of Rage 2 on a genuine Sega Mega Drive game pad. The adapter works flawlessly for its intended purpose. So what about that Competition Pro of mine? Can we resurrect non Mega Drive DB9 devices with this adapter?
Well there was good news and bad news but nothing we couldn’t overcome.
Hats off to the Competition Pro
Firstly, what a resilient and well built little stick my old Comp Pro is, it was still alive and kicking after 25 years. On plugging it in it works just like the Mega Drive pad with all inputs detected and working perfectly. Just like the Mega Drive d-pad the directional inputs were detected as a POV Hat, but unlike the Sega controller we don’t have a Start button, so we can’t pull off the trick of holding down Start and A for 3 seconds to detect it as a joystick input.
On firing up VICE, my chosen C64 emulator, I found I was unable to map the POV inputs to the emulator so a solution was required. Thankfully it’s an easy and free solution which gives the device more flexibility and limitless compatibility with your emulators. I installed the JoyToKey utility (JoytoKey.net) also known as Joy2Key. This handy utility will map joystick inputs to key presses. In turn you can then map these key presses in your emulator. With the POV hat inputs mapped to keys I quickly configured VICE and Turrican was up and running with my Competition Pro. Every micro-switched click made me grin like a kid again.
It’s convenient to have a modern gamepad to hand for your emulation but if you have an old DB9 joystick kicking around then the Mayflash Mega Drive adapter is a simple and elegant solution to revive it and make that gaming experience feel even more authentic.
Watch the full review on my YouTube channel