My Brief Sega Master System Controller Hunt: If you’re new to the Sega Master System, as I was until recently, you’ll not find a multitude of options outside of the original controller readily available. As far as hunting on eBay, I’ve found the somewhat uncommon Ultimate Beeshu Control Stick (arcade style joystick), which looks like it would be awesome if you wanted a joystick, the odd left-handed-only Master System joystick, and of course you can use Sega Genesis/Mega Drive controllers for your Master System, with buttons B and C taking the role of buttons 1 and 2.
Not having used the arcade joysticks, I cannot speak to how well they function for playing Master System games, but I was not entirely pleased with the original model controller nor a Sega Genesis controller. The main problem with the original controller is with the D-pad – it’s a flat pad rather than the more traditional ‘cross’ you find on D-pads of other older consoles. While in some games, I found that the pad worked perfectly, but in others, my on-screen character didn’t consistently crouch/climb/move when/where I needed him to. I found a Sega Genesis controller to be preferable (particularly ones that had a built in turbo feature), yet even that was not as enjoyable, and I didn’t like the mapping of the buttons to B and C rather than A and B.
The Honey Bee Controller: As far as I could tell, the Sega Master System Honey Bee Control Pad was not released in the U.S. I ordered mine new from Greece, and it was one of only a couple I could locate online. According to the excellent website smstributes, a nearly identical controller called the ‘Competition Pro’ was released in the UK.
Comparison to the original Master System Control Pad: Compared to the original controller, the Honey Bee is far superior, and for multiple reasons. First, and most obviously, the Honey Bee includes a traditional ‘cross’ D-pad. The difference between the consistent accuracy between the Honey Bee D-pad and the original Master System D-pad is night and day. I noticed this immediately when playing Mortal Kombat – for example, to do a ‘leg sweep’ in the game, you must hold Down/Away plus button 2. With an original controller (and even using a Sega Genesis controller), I could NEVER, say, execute multiple leg sweeps in a row – I might do just one then execute a regular kick despite not having done anything different on the controller. With the Honey Bee, I could leg sweep one hundred times in a row if I wanted because the D-pad worked perfectly. In the overhead action RPG, Gollvellius: Valley of Doom, my onscreen character would sometimes not turn exactly when I needed him to when using the original controller – with the Honey Bee, this never happened, and the game subsequently became more enjoyable.
Next, the buttons on the Honey Bee are concave, rather than convex, much like the original NES controller most of us grew up on. Here, I actually preferred the original Master System buttons, but that’s really only personal preference, because using buttons 1 and 2 works perfectly on either controller. Also, the buttons appear to be the same size, so it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to take an original controller apart and put its buttons into the Honey Bee if I wanted to.
Next is the addition of built-in turbo features on the Honey Bee. Much like the Turbografx-16 controller, the Honey Bee lets you set Turbo or Auto fire features without the need of the cumbersome ‘Rapid Fire’ attachment piece that was originally released for the Master System. This built-in feature is amazing, as games like Vigilante become vastly easier when you don’t have to pound a button over and over, but instead can simply hold down said button.
Finally, the Honey Bee is slightly thinner and slightly shorter than the original Master System controller, and it’s edges are slightly smoother as well, making it, ergonomically speaking, a bit more comfortable to hold for extended periods (the original model controller is far from uncomfortable to hold, mind you, as compared to say, the pointy edged original NES controller).
The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: A+ The Sega Master System Honey Bee controller is the controller that should have been released with the Master System. It’s highly reminiscent of the original NES controller, yet more comfortable. The build-in turbo features are outstanding and convenient, and the D-pad works exactly as you need it to in video games – accurately. Of course, none of this resolves the lack of a Pause button on any of the controllers (the ‘Pause’ button is located on the console itself). *As a side note, I know there is a website online that will mod your console and sell you a controller that is a hybrid/modded NES controller that will allow you to pause from the controller. Personally, I have come to love the 2 button-only setup of the Master System, and have gotten quite used to just getting up when I need to pause a game. I didn’t truly appreciate the Master System until I used the Honey Bee – true enjoyment of many of the games hinges on the accuracy a controller like this gives you. If you can find one, I highly recommend getting it.