Family Champ Turbo for the Nintendo Famicom Review

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The Family Champ Turbo was a joystick peripheral for the Nintendo Family Computer . It was released by a company unfortunately named Spital and it came in two versions. Type 1 makes use of the Famicom’s expansion port. Type 2 plugs into Type 1’s controller.

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The Family Champ, unlike many other joysticks of the time has the control stick
positioned in the center, with the A and B buttons on *both* sides, so you can use this controller if you’re left OR right handed. A nice feature, especially since it was still SOP in Japan to try to make left-handed kids learn to do things with their right hands.

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At the top of the controller, you’ll find the start and select buttons, along with switches and toggles to adjust (or disable) the turbo features for the A and B buttons.

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Joysticks for early Nintendo consoles aren’t always remembered fondly. How does this one stack up today? Well, I tried the joystick on five classic games, just to make sure I gave the Family Champ Turbo a fair shake.

First up was F1 Race. A Famicom racing game that’s become famous for being bested in every way by Hang-On. The joystick worked very well with this game. The controls were smooth and I had no trouble playing the game. The larger joystick allowed for a bit more precision in turns than the regular control pad.

Next, I tried out Space Invaders. Here is where the Family Champ Turbo really shines. The left and right motions feel much crisper than the usual D-pad.

But those are just simple left/right games. I wanted to try out something where the player had to move about the screen a bit more, so I tried out Super Star Force. Again, the controls were very smooth. To me, Star Force is one of the best arcade shooters of all time. The Family Champ Turbo really added to that arcade feel.

Keeping with that old-school arcade theme, I tried out the Family Champ with Pac-Man, one of the greatest video games of all time. I was underwhelmed. The joystick is a bit too precise. If you don’t move it in the proper direction at the EXACT right second, Pac-Man will miss his turn and usually wind up plowing headlong into a ghost. I learned to adjust after a few minutes, but I don’t think it’s worth that extra effort.

Finally, I gave a platformer a shot with the original Rockman. There’s not much to say, really. It was no better or worse than the Famicom d-pad. But, if you’re somebody who *prefers* joysticks to control pads, then this one may be right up your alley. It’s all up to personal preference.

The Family Champ Turbo from Spital is a darn fine joystick for the Nintendo Famicom. It’s compatible with the original Family Computer, the AV Famicom, and the Twin Famicom. If you decide to add one of these to your collection, though, make sure you get Type 1. Type 2 will ONLY work if you already have the Type 1 version.

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Happy hobbying!

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