When the Nintendo Entertainment System hit the U.S. gaming scene in late-1985, the arcade scene was still burgeoning. So it was that around the same time as the NES Max, Nintendo released another alternative input device for their runaway hit console.
The NES Advantage hit shelves in 1987, providing an arcade-like form factor which differed greatly from the standard NES controller, all while making some improvements along the way. The primary aspect of this, of course, would be doing away with the Dpad and replacing it with an arcade-style joystick for directional input.
Larger versions of the A and B buttons were accounted for, but unlike the NES Max, the two separate buttons resting above them would activate the turbo functions of each button individually. Furthermore, two dials resting above the turbo-toggling buttons would allow players to increase or decrease the rate of turbo fire according to their desires — handy in games such as Contra, where rapid button-mashing can make the incredibly powerful Laser item all but useless when compared to more measured, timed presses.
Another unique option at the time was the inclusion of a “slow-motion” button. Pressing this would enable the titular feature in some games by way of what amounted to rapidly pressing the Start button. This worked better in some games, such as Metroid, while others with more involved functions (like The Legend of Zelda‘s slow-scrolling item screen) did not see effects that were as appreciable.
Finally, depending on the game, one NES Advantage could serve two players. The cord which connected the device to the console featured not one, but two separate controller plugs. While those with two NES Advantages could enjoy simultaneous play in games such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, games with alternate play could allow both players to use it with ease by way of a simple switch which toggled between the Player 1 and Player 2 inputs.
Though the NES Advantage was designed to be placed on a flat surface for use, and features a stainless steel bottom plate and rubber feet to accommodate this, some older gamers have found the device to nonetheless be a little light, even going so far as to hold it like a normal (albeit oversized) controller.
While Nintendo hasn’t kept the ideas of the NES Max or NES Advantage going beyond their heyday in the 8-bit era, their legacy still lives on. Today, it’s not uncommon for professional fighting game players to utilize much pricier “fight sticks” to emulate the arcade experience.
Moreover, while Nintendo couldn’t even provide enough stand-alone controllers to accompany their release of the NES Classic Edition, Emio attempted to help fill the gap by releasing their own version of the NES Advantage called the “Emio Edge Joystick.” However, the ability to facilitate two players is not included in their version, replaced by a button which allows for both B and A buttons to be pressed simultaneously.
Unfortunately, the first run of controllers were incompatible with the NES Classic Edition (though they are said to work fine with the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles). A second run purportedly fixed the issue, while adapters to allow the original run to work with the mini-console as well were offered to those who purchased the joystick.