Monday, January 1, 2018

Hyperkin's SNES Mouse - A Curious Product out of Left Field

In the middle of 2017, one of the more prominent companies that make retro-video gaming products, Hyperkin, announced a new mouse for the SNES.  The SNES mouse was released with Mario Paint in 1992, and while some other games supported it, it was mainly associated with Mario Paint.  Needless to say this announcement came as something of a surprise, as few people were really clamoring for a replacement SNES mouse.  I was so fascinated by this product that I resolved to obtain one as soon as I could, budget permitting, and review it on this blog.  This Christmas, the budget did permit my acquisition of what Hyperkin calls the "Hyper Click Retro Style Mouse for SNES", so let us proceed to the review.

The original SNES Mouse was a ball mouse, which was typical for the year in which it was released, 1992.  It had two buttons and came with a plastic mousepad.  The Hyperkin SNES mouse is an optical mouse using a red LED to illuminate surfaces for tracking.  It works well on virtually any surface.  The Hyperkin mouse is longer, has larger buttons and is heavier (6.7oz vs. 4.5oz) than the Nintendo mouse.  On average it is wider and thicker, but more angular.  The Hyperkin buttons have more of a clicky feel compared to the rather dull thud of the Nintendo buttons.  The Hyperkin connector is a bit thicker than the Nintendo connector, making it harder to push in and extremely difficult to remove.  The connector has a death grip.

How well does the Hyperkin mouse work?  The Hyperkin mouse glides much more smoothly than the Nintendo mouse.  Given that there are no moving parts inside the Hyperkin mouse, short movements are easier to make than with the Nintendo mouse.  A dirty ball or rollers makes for jumpy movement, but the Hyperkin mouse does not have a ball or rollers to clean.  When it works, the Hyperkin mouse cursor movement almost always feels smoother, more responsive and more precise than the Nintendo mouse.  The Hyperkin SNES mouse does not come with a mousepad, but you may want to use an ordinary mouse pad if the nature of the surface you wish to use the mouse confuses the optical sensor.  My Nintendo mouse really requires a hard press to activate the left button, but that may be because it is old.

Unfortunately, there are games where the Hyperkin mouse fails.  In preparation for this review I tried the mouse with every released US licensed game released during the SNES's lifetime that is known to support the mouse except for DOOM* :

Acme Animation Factory
Arkanoid: Doh It Again
Fun 'n Games
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: Volume 1
Jurassic Park
King Arthur's World
Lamborghini American Challenge
Lemmings 2: The Tribes
Mario Paint
Mario's Early Years: Preschool Fun
Might and Magic III
Nobunaga's Ambition
On the Ball
Operation Thunderbolt
Revolution X
Shien's Revenge
Sid Meier's Civilization
SimAnt: The Electronic Ant Colony
Super Caesars Palace
Super Solitaire
T2: The Arcade Game
Tin Star
Utopia: The Creation of a Nation
Vegas Stakes
Wolfenstein 3D

Wolfenstein 3D and Jurassic Park require the mouse to be inserted into controller port 2.  Satellaview games also require it in Port 2.  Jurassic Park 2 does not use it in game except during the first-person shooting sequences.  Revolution X technically supports the SNES mouse, but pauses the game when the mouse's left button is clicked, effectively breaking SNES mouse support.  It will not work in a multitap because the multitap cannot provide enough power to the mouse.

None of the above issues are inherent to the Hyperkin mouse, but the Hyperkin mouse has issues in Arkanoid and Eye of the Beholder.  In Arkanoid, the paddle will gradually creep to the right side of the screen no matter how firmly you hold the mouse in place.  In Eye of the Beholder, the buttons will work but the mouse will not move the pointer at all.  Someone had reported the Eye of the Beholdet issue on the krikzz sd2snes forum, but it could have been caused by some parameters changed by the sd2snes.  I have a real cartridge of Eye of the Beholder and the same issue manifested itself when I used the real cartridge.  As I have explained earlier, using the mouse with these two games is NOT ideal anyway

The Hyperkin mouse has a small black button on the bottom of the mouse near the optical sensor window.  The mouse comes with no manual and there is no indication on the box or the Hyperkin website as to the purpose of this button.  It is a mystery button, pressing it does nothing obvious with any game I tried.  It did not fix the issues in EoB or Arkanoid.  kevtris told me that he tried the Hyperkin mouse and it functioned to adjust the acceleration in Mario Paint.  I could notice some difference between two presses of the button, but it was not as obvious as the built-in speed adjustment in that game with the original mouse.  The speed adjustments in Mario Paint seem to have no effect to the Hyperkin mouse.  This really does not matter, because after you use the Hyperkin mouse with Mario Paint, you won't want to go back to the Nintendo mouse.  I would not use the SNES mouse pad with the Hyperkin mouse because the black button makes contact with the plastic, resulting in a scratching noise.

The SNES mouse has three levels of sensitivity, low, normal and fast.  The low speed is a raw report of movement in terms of mickeys per second.  A mickey is a movement of 1/200 of an inch for normal mice, but the SNES may specify a mickey as 1/50 of an inch.  The speed reported is linear, the cursor speed is constant to the extent you move the mouse at the same speed.  The normal and fast speeds apply an exponential curve to the reported speed, so the speed of the cursor increases much faster as you move the mouse faster.  Software like Mario Paint can tell the mouse to change its sensitivity level, but it appears that Hyperkin's mouse does not respond to that function in the way that Arkanoid and EoB expect.  The mystery button seems to start where the official sensitivity options leave off.

Even though the Hyperkin mouse is a product that may be out of left field, but that does not mean it is a bad product unlike Hyperkin's junky clone consoles (RetroN 1 HD) and code-stealing emulator box (RetroN 5).  Other than the tight connector, the occasional incompatibility and the lack of documentation regarding the black button, the product is an outstanding replacement for the official SNES mouse.  I bet that when Mike Mattei recreated the 1987 TMNT cartoon opening in Mario Paint he must have wished for a better mouse than the stock one.  To rate the product using the baseball analogy, Hyperkin may not quite have hit a true home run with this product, but they earned a solid triple with its mouse.

* - Update 04/22/18 : I was able to try the Hyperkin and original SNES mice with DOOM thanks to the new gsu firmware for the sd2snes.  The Hyperkin mouse does not work at all with DOOM and the Nintendo mouse works pretty terribly with DOOM because it requires you to move with the mouse as well as aim, shoot and manipulate objects.  This means that as soon as your hand stops moving the mouse forward, you stop moving forward.  Needless to say, you will run out of mousepad very quickly and you can't use the controller in port 2 to move with the D-pad.  In the DOS version of DOOM, you can move with the mouse in the same way but most people prefer to use the keyboard for movement.  DOOM requires the mouse in controller port 1.

1 comment:

  1. Funny, I found the Hyperkin mouse to be terrible. It did not work at all in Chinhai, and I found the original mouse to work better elsewhere, and by no means is the original mouse good. I continue to hold out hope for a good replacement for the SNES mouse, but this ain't it.