Review: SGB Commander (Super Nintendo)

The SGB (Super Game Boy) Commander is a Japanese exclusive controller tailor made for the Super Game Boy peripheral for the Super Nintendo. It was made by Hori and is officially licensed by Nintendo. The SGB Commander takes it designs cues from Nintendo's original Game Boy.

The controller is rectangular in shape and features rounded off corners, like a Game Boy, rather than the dog bone style of a standard Super Nintendo pad. It even mimics the speaker placement on the original Game Boy with a fake speaker grill on the lower right hand side. The main action buttons are purple, and the start and select buttons are at the same angle as the start and select buttons on the Game Boy. It is an attractive controller that makes good use of the Game Boy styling cues.

What makes the SGB Commander special are the 4 additional buttons (over the Game Boy's A and B) which activate features specific to the Super Game Boy. The Window button brings you to the Window option in the Super Game Boy software and allows you to change the borders around the Game Boy screen. The Color button brings you to the Color option and allows you to change the 4-color palette of the Game Boy title being played. Neither feature is something that can't be done with a standard Super Nintendo controller, but it's nice to have the shortcuts.

The SGB Commander does have a few exclusive tricks up it's sleeve though. The first is a Mute button, which (surprise) mutes the sound. This is nice for games that don't stop the background music when you press pause. The most interesting aspect of the SGB Commander is the Speed button. Pressing the Speed button allows you to cycle through 2 different slowdown speeds as well as normal speed. This can be a useful way to cheat in games, like slowing the action down in Tetris. It's interesting that this is built into a licensed product as Nintendo has a history of going after devices which alter difficulty in games (such as the game genie).

In the middle of the SGB Commander is a switch, allowing you to select SGB mode or SFC (Super Famicon) mode. Sliding the switch to SFC mode makes the controller act as a standard Super Nintendo controller. As a Super Nintendo controller, the SGB Commander is a bit awkward as it does not feature shoulder buttons. Instead, the shoulder buttons are mapped on the Windows and Mute buttons on the face of the controller. This can be an issues for games that need the shoulder buttons, like F-Zero. For most games, this won't matter.

All of the action buttons on the SGB Commander are convex. The original Super Nintendo controller has 2 concave buttons in addition to 2 convex buttons. This is just a minor issue, and I am sure most gamers won't notice, or care.

Today, Hori makes high quality arcade style controllers for all of the major systems, including the official controller for Namco's Soul Caliber IV. So it's no surprise the build quality of this controller is excellent. The button presses are even crisper than a standard Super Nintendo controller. The SGB Commander is a little thicker than a Super Nintendo controller, but is still comfortable to hold.

The SGB Commander is a great companion to the Super Game Boy. It's a shame it was never released stateside, but it is easily available via online import shops and eBay. Expect to pay between $25 and $35 with overseas shipping. The controller is fully compatible with US Super Nintendo systems and Super Game Boys.

Overall, Hori's SGB Commander is a solid controller that unlocks a couple of exclusive features with the Super Game Boy. The build quality is excellent and is comfortable to use. The only downside to the SGB Commander is using it as a standard controller with games that utilize the left and right shoulder buttons. I would recommend this controller to Game Boy fans with a Super Game Boy as well as collectors looking for a unique item to add to their collections.

Performance - 10/10
Build Quality - 8/10
Value - 5/10
Overall - 8/10