Saturday, August 8, 2015

Power Tools: PS2 to Xbox 360 Controller Adapter

This isn't going to make me too popular with my fellow nerds, but confession time... the Xbox 360 was my favorite of the last generation of game consoles. Maybe it was because it was my first, or maybe it's because its history mirrors an older favorite of mine, the Sega Genesis. The Xbox 360 was vastly more popular in the United States than it was in Japan, and it launched well before the Playstation 3, forcing that system to spend years playing catch-up. And like the Genesis, the Xbox 360 tends to be cheaper on the second-hand market than its competitor. The Playstation 3 still commands a three figure price on auction sites, but the Xbox 360 can be had for about the cost of a game for one of the latest consoles... and I can tell you with little hesitation that it's a smarter investment.

I've got just one gripe with the Xbox 360... the controller. It's perfectly fine for your first-person shooters and your sprawling sandbox adventures, but for the kinds of games you might have played on the Sega Genesis twenty years ago, it comes up mighty short. The mushy, imprecise D-pad feels like an afterthought, and it took many years before Microsoft addressed the issue with a new model of the controller that's almost as tough to find as it is to look at without eye protection. 
Augh, so much silver! I'm pretty sure there was an episode of Spongebob Squarepants that looked like this.

But hey, there are USB ports on the front of the Xbox 360! You could just plug in your favorite controller from another system, right? 

Uh, not right. Xbox 360 controllers have to be licensed by Microsoft in order to work. If it doesn't have a special security chip inside, the system won't recognize it, which means that you're stuck with either a stock Xbox 360 joypad or an even crappier third party model. Wait, it gets better! Microsoft is pushing to make these controllers the standard for home computers as well. More and more games on Steam require them, and although there's a workaround, it's a royal pain to install. (Well, it's certainly less convenient than just plugging in the controller you want to use, anyway.)

There have been past attempts to beat Microsoft's vexing security chip and give players the freedom to use their favorite controllers with the Xbox 360. However, these adapters typically require daisy chaining, an awkward solution that still requires an official controller and results in a tangle of wires. Sure it works, but couldn't there be something more convenient?

There could be now! Enter the PS2 to Xbox 360 controller adapter.
These have been available for at least a year now, but I wasn't aware of their existence until I found one a couple of weeks ago in an eBay search. I still don't know who manufactures these adapters or how they're made, but I know from personal experience that they work as advertised. You plug a Playstation controller in one end and the other into a free USB port on your Xbox 360, and your headaches with the stock controller instantly vanish. There's a guide button on the adapter, but you can use the analog key on a Dual Shock pad instead if you'd rather not get off the couch.

I like the Dual Shock slightly more than the Xbox 360's stock pad, but that's not the reason I bought this adapter. It's compatible with over ten years of Playstation joysticks and steering wheels, including this guy right here:

Image courtesy of RetroCollect
Yep, it's a Saturn controller, released for the Playstation 2 near the end of that system's life. As expected, it works beautifully with the mountain of fighting games I have for the Xbox 360, and the face buttons align perfectly with the ones on the system's stock pad. I could play Radiant Silvergun or Guardian Heroes with this, and it would feel exactly the same as it did on an actual Saturn. It just doesn't get any better than this!

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