With the announcement of Nintendo's mysterious Revolution controller supposedly only days away, 1-Up has taken a moment to chronicle the evolution of the video game controller from its humble beginnings up through the introduction of the Control Pad, into shoulder button territory, past the world of analog sticks, and into RF wireless abilities. There are a few quirky third-party controllers featured in the article's sidebar (did anyone really own a U-Force?), but one controller missing from their list that deserves a mention is Capcom's Pad Solider controller for the Super Famicom.
The Super Famicom (and by extension, the Super NES) had a great controller, but arcade fans of Street Fighter II were dismayed when the game landed on the 16-bit home consoles in 1992. The SFC controller had the requisite number of buttons to play the game properly, but they were not in the standard arcade formation of two rows of three buttons. Capcom sought to fix that by releasing the Pad Solider, a controller that rearranges the SFC buttons to match its arcade counterpart. It's designed for fighting games, but it works with any game for the console.
In 2000 I was browsing through an Electronics Boutique that was going out of business, and as such the store had a large cart full of merchandise found in the back of the storeroom that had to go. In the pile of Mega Man action figures and Sony PlayStation t-shirts was a single Pad Soldier still in its Japanese package. For a mere $5 I bought it, took it home, and gave Mega Man X a whirl on my Super NES. It's a comfortable controller to hold, although by placing the L and R buttons on the end of each row of buttons, games that assume the player's L and R buttons are on top of the controller can be a little frustrating. For instance, it's easy to cycle through X's weapons with shoulder buttons while still jumping and shooting, but I just don't have enough fingers to pull that off with the Pad Solider.
The Pad Solider's cord is also a few inches shorter than the standard Super NES controller, meaning that while I can sit in my recliner and play Donkey Kong Country with a regular controller, using the Pad Solider means I have to either sit on the floor or push the recliner closer to the screen where there is not enough space to recline. I could sit on the piano bench to play a game instead, but that's just uncivilized. The fact that the cord comes out of the bottom of the Pad Soldier means that in order to reach the Super NES it has to cross the diameter of the controller, making the cord another two inches shorter in terms of its reach to the console.
I wasn't a fan of fighting games during the 16-bit years, so my Pad Solider has never actually been used to play Street Fighter II or its cousins. It's a great controller despite its quirks, and anyone who stumbles upon one in a clearance bin is advised to scoop it up and give it a good home. Ryu will thank you for it.