I had never owned an Atari Jaguar Pro Controller when I had my Jaguar in the 90s (bought on clearance from KayBee). Strangely, I did have Atari Jaguar controllers before I had a Jaguar because they worked on my Atari Falcon computer and used it for the handful of games that supported it.
I have always found the Jaguar controller to be unfairly maligned. I suspect that a lot of criticism comes from people who have not used it based on how it looks. True, it is fairly hefty, but I always found that the contours of the controller felt great in my hands. I am unable to palm a basketball – I don’t think I have particularly large hands.
I also liked the keypad concept. For those not familiar, the Jaguar had a phone-style keypad at the bottom of the controller with the numbers 0 to 9 and an asterisk and pound key. Certain games would come with overlays that would slide into the controller and be used for game-specific functions. Since the Jaguar was able to run some of the popular PC games of the time, this was great for a console without a keyboard. Shooters like Doom could have keys for switching weapons and you could also accommodate more complicated games like Syndicate and Theme Park. The controllers also offered a handy way to reset the system from the couch by holding the asterisk and pound keys down together.
So, really, I was pretty happy with the stock Jaguar controller. I think one of the most valid complaints against the controller was that, in an age of fighting games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, the controller only had three main buttons. Atari addressed this deficiency a bit late in the Jaguar’s life with the Pro Controller. You got the additional three main buttons along with shoulder buttons. Even better, the controller was slimmed down a little and, in my mind, makes the controller a bit more comfortable.
By the time I started looking around for a Jaguar Pro Controller, they were already, and still are, fetching ridiculous prices in eBay. I have never seen one out in the wild so the only place I have seen them available for purchase was at that well-known ethereal garage sale. From a quick search, I see that recent Pro Controllers have sold at around $200. For that price, I was never going to own one of these controllers.
Well, the math changed recently when an enterprising member on AtariAge announced his intention to produce and sell replica Pro Controllers as close to the original as possible. Unfortunately, I cannot compare with an original. One difference, understandably, is that the controller does not have the Atari branding on it. Other than that, I can only really comment on the controller on its own.
Like I mentioned before, the controller is a bit thinner. Given a choice between this controller and the original, I gravitate to this one for that reason alone. There are not too many games that utilize the extra buttons since the controller came out so late for a failed system. The main buttons all feel great to me. I also really like the joypad. It doesn’t feel substantially different to me and it doesn’t creak and squeak like my originals. The cords are suitably long and I can enjoy gaming from the couch across the gaming room.
The cost for these controllers are $120 for 2 and they are sold as sets of 2 through Hoskinson Industries’ site. I feel like the quality is great, although, obviously, I haven’t used them for years like my other Jaguar controllers so I cannot speak to how they will hold up over time. There have been some reports of quality issues in the AtariAge forums. The most common problems I have seen are bent pins on the connectors which causes a problem plugging into the system and upside-down joypad assembly which causes the joypad to be stiff. It seems like most people were able to fix these issues and that the seller of the controllers, Hoskinson Industries, has replaced some. The maker of the controllers has also been active in the AtariAge thread helping out people with any issues.
If you are looking for Jaguar controllers, even if you don’t care about the extra buttons and slight design changes of the Pro Controller, I would recommend the Pro replicas from Hoskinson. They are probably about the only way to get brand new controllers for the Jaguar today. And, I am hopeful that if this project does well, maybe Hoskinson will surprise us with other Jaguar products in the future. If you have always wanted a Pro Controller but haven’t been able to find one for a reasonable price, I think that this is a must-buy.