After a few months of me being down with COVID, being made redundant, losing another job, moving house, and having the worst anxiety of my life, I HAVE FINALLY WRITTEN THE KITSCH-BENT REVIEW!
I’ve been wanting to finish the Kitsch-Bent review and analysis for quite some time now as their parts came back on the market recently. When initially researching for the N64 stick mega thread Kitsch bent part easily were the most referenced and raved about parts. The general tone is that of respect for the parts and a overall longing when they went offline for months. And honestly, I had a sense of longing too. When doing this initial research, I was baffled by the KB site being down. How could a website that provides the most sought after N64 replacement parts… in the world not be active, or at least have some sort of presence on eBay for an interim solution?
Honestly, given the reasons provided by Kitsch-Bent were justified, a perfect storm should I say of trying to upscale, provided high quality customer service all while trying to negotiate the tireless task of constant R&D….. well yeah probably best they went offline for a bit to clean house and get all the plates spinning again.
If you want to read the full KB statement about this, then… here: https://mailchi.mp/kitsch-bent/kitsch-bent-news-restocks-550v1sznyn-799384
Regardless, Kitsch-Bent is gone, and Kitsch-Bent 2.0 is here.
*28/12/2021 Video now up.
Getting the parts and first impressions
When I first got these parts I was extremely impressed. They look like injection moulded parts which is always a good sign, nice smooth sheen to the gears which differed from OEM slightly as the OEM look like a higher quality ABS plastic. I can only assume that KB gears do not use ABS but a cheaper alternative.
Where the X axis gear sits in the bowl, that arm is 0.11mm bigger on the Kitsch-Bent gear than compared to its OEM counterpart. This could present as an issue as if the bowl gear slot is too wide or too thin means grinding or looseness.
The stick slot gap on the x-axis gear is almost like for like, only being 0.01mm smaller than its OEM counterpart, which is honestly the most important as the stick needs a tight slot of sit in.
Likewise, the inner slot where the gear sits in the Y-axis was only 0.01mm – 0.06mm off in my measurements
The bowl looks and feels good to the touch. The Kitsch-Bent bowl is slightly more cream/yellowed compared to its OEM counterpart, however its 2021, almost 2022 Nintendo aren’t making these parts anymore, who cares about the colour.
When it comes down to the tiny details…. Kitsch-Bent does excel, the bowl shape looks like for like and the edges look tight, if not a little rounded due to the mould quality used by KB.
I just have two things I’m not keen on. The slots where the gears sit in are slightly shallower in depth and slightly wider in width compared to OEM. This is a minor flaw it may have some slight bearing when it comes to playing with a full module. For example, I measured the KB gear slot to be around 3.09mm with the OEM width to be 2.84mm.
Again, these numbers may seem small, but unless the gears that fit in these slots match the bowl, then this may result in additional stick wobble/dead zone.
The last issue with the bowl, which is something I have found with Kitsch-Bent and other 3rd party bowls in the Y-Axis encoder wheel slot. When I first started reviewing N64 parts I thought I was going mad as I found this defect on Tom’s 3D printed parts. He insisted his other reviewers found nothing like this, however it did exist. Now this issue is also present on these products and may explain why some users have been experiencing a “grinding effect” when playing with these. The issue may lie in 3 parts:
– The encoder slot is too small
– The finish on the inner part of the slot is rough
– The arm on the gear is too small, causing the encoder to be at an angle
Now, comparing OEM to KB to TOM3D I have found the following
– The encoder slot hole is almost exactly the same +-0.02mm on Kitsch-Bent and OEM parts
– Tom3D slots are about 0.40mm larger (However, this was due to me having to bore a bigger whole in, increasing the slot size to get the wheel to turn).
– The KB inner encoder slot area does in fact have a few, un sanded down parts of plastic left over from production, very easy to remedy but could interfere with the encoder turning
– The Tom3D parts did not have any loose plastic, or it was bored out when I shoved my screwdriver though it
The Y-axis encoder arm measurements are as follows:
– OEM: 14.23mm
– KB: 14.14mm
– Tom3D: 14.09mm
Although this isn’t the most scientific test in the world, the encoder arm length may have some part to play given the grinding or tight encoder wheel sensation that I and others have felt.
Now I want to stress that making the hole bigger or doing some simple sanding can remedy this, however, as is the way with precision parts, if some measurements or parts don’t function like the original part does, when mix and matching, this can cause issues down the line.
To be perfectly honest, I was very excited to get some new sticks. There are many options nowadays for replacement bowls and gars but the environment for sticks isn’t that great. In addition, KB do White, Black, Clear and glow in the dark sticks….. cool right!
The sticks feel good, nice plastic used and the tops of the sticks are smooth, so no thumb callouses to worry about.
One interesting point to mention is that the Kitsch-Bent stick is significantly shorter that the OEM stick (From top of thumb cap to nub):
Used OEM stick (Nub wear present): 27.21mm
KB white stick (No wear): 26.66mm
Now this is an issue as where the stick sits in relation to the notches in the enclosure means some differing range and sensitivity reactions when playing. Furthermore, when a bowl where down the stick will drop into the enclosure more cause further issues with dead zone. This include deadzone and stick drifting.
When it comes to measurements at the top of the shaft, where the stick itself hits against the enclosure:
A modest difference, however, this will affect range values given that narrower sticks enable the maximum amount of movement. You will typically see thinner sticks being used for Super Smash Bros players as they enable the maximum amount of movement needed to pull off combos, however for the casual gamer a higher sensitivity may feel off. For Goldeneye, for the most part, an 85 range value all round is the sweet spot, however saying this everyone has their own preferences and it’s important to find what works for you!
One part about the stick that I noticed is the notch on the rounded part of the stick about 3/4 of the way down. Little nubs on the enclosure bowl sit in these slots to assist the range of movement and help keep position of the stick centred. On the Kitsch-Bent stick this slot is significantly larger:
OEM: 4.90mm height/2.50mm width
KB: 5.44mm Height/2.49mm width
Now the width isn’t much of an issue, however the hight is prominent in terms of difference from OEM. I have found previously that you can push further with bigger slots to get more range out of a stick. This could be a design choice to offset the thicker stick which makes sense, however the stick will always restrict this slot from maximum movement, unless you push hard. This is not idea as it can cause uncomfortable play and wear to the plastic parts due to excessive pushing.
Game: Goldeneye 007: (As usual) Silo, Archives, Train, Cavs
All OEM parts used are 9/10 – 10/10
I used the white Kitsch-Bent stick as the feel of it was closest to OEM and for a couple of tests, I used glow in the dark.
Test 1: KB Bowl – KB Gears – KB Stick
The full setup using all the parts felt very good actually. So much so that Breakneck (Current UK Goldeneye champ) endorses them! When I first used them a few months back I wasn’t convinced, however this time round, I really enjoyed the feel of them. Smooth and consistent with no consistent dead zone. Ranges were almost perfect as well, however there was a small amount of shortfall on the down and left angles. All in all the shape provided by the parts looked great.
Archives, Train locks and Dam felt nice to play. There was no overextending, pushing, over tensing of my hand whilst playing to hit movements, they just worked very consistently.
My personal preference is to have a stick that is slightly sensitive for tight movements, this is where the set up failed for me. Especially in Goldeneye where in archives you need to snap back and forth in the library or on train where you may have to adjust on the fly.
However, this is my preference and I think that if you were to use this set up, you wouldn’t be disappointed
An easy 85/100 for these.
Test 2: OEM bowl – OEM gears – KB stick
I used the glow in the dark stick for this test, just as a fyi the glow effect only lasts about 5 mins but is kinda cool but pointless and does not offer any tactical edge. Deadzone left and right was very pronounced which isn’t amazing. Stick is dead centre so no worry about drift in anyway.
The ranges were great, low to mid 80’s all round, however the shape is something you would expect from a 3rd party set up. The mid points between the 4 main points are rounded which may affect gameplay. When resetting the stick to centre and then testing, the results resemble closer to OEM.
The stick itself has a nice smooth finish so no callouses on your thumb any time soon. I observed that the stick was slightly wider and shorter that OEM. This was confirmed via measurement; this will affect gameplay as movement will be restricted. On Archives quicker finer movement was affected probably in combination of the deadzone and shorter wider stick.
It’s also worth mentioning that the benefits of the OEM were being thrown off by the stick itself when doing bigger, wider movement. But saying that, smaller fine-tuned movement was good as demonstrated by the Train locks, maybe the deadzone helps in that regards…(????)
The stick material feels softer and more plastic than OEM which was not to my taste.
Now beyond my comments, this set up is okay. I think given time you could adapt to this combination; personally, picking a OEM stick over Kitsch-Bent any day. Finding that snappier movements were just harder to reproduce using this combination, The overall dimensions of the stick have the biggest part to play here
I JUST give this combo an 80/100.
Test 3: Kitsch-Bent Bowl – OEM Gears – OEM Stick
A small off-centre amount affecting the x axis and the deadzone isn’t too bad. Not a spongy feel to movement so it feels snappy when flicking the stick back and forth. When moving the stick around it does feel a tad grainy but it’s not the worst feeling and can be gotten used to.
The range readings are boxy, uneven, and inconsistent when shoving them in Neoflash. 80-point ranges being achievable then really pushing the stick in some directions (See video of the results to see what I’m talking about).
Gameplay wise, the bowl is hurting the range of movement as you expect to turn the same way one direction as you do the other. When playing Archives this was horribly present as you are required to perform precise left and right movements in quick succession. Although the bowl is very usable, there will be a learning curve and getting used to the feedback that you get from the bowl itself.
Silo was fun to play, the bowl again made left right movement stiff and hard adjustment and overcompensation had to be made. Train again highlighted the issues with moving left and right, however to the bowl’s credit, up and down movement felt very nice indeed!
IN terms of price to performance, you simply cannot go wrong, the bowl costs a couple of bucks and can be adapted to.
This combo gets 78/100 as I’m all about performance, however the price is a major selling point here.
Test 4: OEM Bowl – Kitsch-Bent Gears – OEM Stick
Combo feels very good indeed. Very little issue with being off centre. The ranges are almost comparable to OEM with just a few points 80 on all sides in some tests. I suspect that the plastic feel that I have been experiencing is coming from the bowl/stick and not the gears which is nice. Also, no stick drift to speak of.
Archives feels great from the outset. Movement feels smooth, solid and the feedback is close to perfect. The deadzone in the middle kinda sucks as you will natural over compensate for this, however the FEEL is great and the FEEL is the most important part of using a controller. One person may love a combo whilst another wont.
Train was a joy to play, where you move the stick, you move. A simple ask for N64 parts but let’s get real…. many parts to struggle with this reality.
I can keep praising this combo endlessly, however I put it best “Maybe I should be using these!”: 89/100
Test 5: Kitsch-Bent Bowl – Kitsch-Bent Gears – OEM Stick
Grindy. It feels like there is sand in the controller….. you don’t want this feeling. N64gears.com had a similar feeling, however the POM material was good to use in the long run. So not great at the offset.
The range shape looks skewed, however the ranges themselves are pretty good. It does suffer on the left and right angles with them sitting in the mid-70s. These parts just do not like the OEM stick!? When centering the stick before doing the Neoflash movement we hit the 80 point ranges….. but the shape looked cursed. Stick drift was particularly bad with this set up to.
When it came to gameplay, the plasticly feel returns. When you look at the gears they look very very shiny, as apposed to OEM which have a slight matt look to them. This may affect the overall feel when using against a OEM stick as the materials don’t match? An educated guess….. but still a guess.
With Archives left and right movement suffered due to lack of range/sensitivity. Streets and Facility was played and again, there was under turning due to the uncalibrated sensitivity.
When it came to playing train I remarked that this combo was the most “un-fun” to use out of all the tests. There was a lot of over compensation to make the parts do what you wanted. Cavs highlighted a creaky sensation when turning. Direct feedback like this means that over/under compensation and play style adapts.
A tricky one to rate as you can 100% play any N64 game with these and even speedrun with them. However, the FEEL isn’t top notch and for that I give this combo a 79/100.
Test 5.1: OEM Bowl – Kitsch-Bent Gears – Kitsch-Bent Stick
Initial impressions were good. Very smooth movement, no resistance in any direction. No off center readings, or at least any to write home about. A slight bit of bump when turning left… easily remedied by a bit of sand paper.
To my horror, when it came to the range readings everything was just below 80….. however the left reading was firmly in the high 60s which is completely unacceptable. There was a simple remedy for this, and it was really pushing the stick in every direction. Doing this made the readings jump to near perfect.
I want to stress that this is very very bad. Straining yourself when speedrunning, let alone gaming, can be very unhealthy. Gameplay should be fluent and done with ease. Push this hard to get the best performance out of your gears should not be done.
Archives: Stick feels great, but the left movement is seriously hurting/tight movements suffer and you simply should have to push that hard to get your desired movement. I don’t think this issue will bother the casual player to much, however it might so it’s hard to recommend.
Interesting when going on Silo.. the combo felt good, caking a 1:13 with easy and hitting the main points of the run. On this level the feel of the combo overrode the glaring issue with the set up.
With Caverns, the left movement issue reared its head again, overcompensating for movement made me overextend before the spiral part of the level.
Honestly, consistency is key and this combo doesn’t have it. Playable but you can use better combos: 77/100
Test 6: Kitsch-Bent Bowl – OEM Gears – Kitsch-Bent Stick
First impressions… Plasticy. Like there is nothing there when moving the stick around. Personally, I don’t like this. Stick does not sit perfectly centre, however the ranges are very small. Ranges are pretty solid, from mid 70s to mid 80s so exactly what you want when looking for replacement parts. Interestingly the up, down, left, right points meet, this combos readings were slightly off of them. I did the video play through before I measured the stick and mentioned that the stick looks shorter and thicker, to which this is the case.
Gameplay wise… the combo feels sticky. Even with the usual amount of lubrication the KB parts felt sticky against the OEM gears. Because of this Train, Silo and Archives required over compensation of movement to achieve a semblance of good gameplay.
You can adapt to this set, but I really don’t like it: 75/100
Test 7: Grade A SS64 Bowl – KB Gears – KB Stick
I wanted to do a range of test with SteelSticks64 bowls and many speedrunners and N64 lovers have these bowls and I think very important to cover these parts with them, especially when Linus himself recommends KB.
First impressions, the plastic feel is back with slight readings indicating there sit off centre. The first reading I took was disgusting. I believe this was my error, as when I actually got my self together the readings looks promising. High 70s to mid 80s. Worth mentioning that the whole shape looks skewed but honestly very strong.
In terms of gameplay, Archives played well, I did comment on sluggish movement at one and overcompensation is an issue. In combination it led to overcompensation of movement in gameplay.
During play I identified a clicking sensation when pushing down on the stick. This could be down to it of plastic that needs sanding down. Turning on Silo felt difficult, forcing out movement from the set up which I don’t agree with. Precision with these set up was severely lacking and the feel was completely off for me.
You can use this set up and adapt to it. It’s sluggish and the plastic feel isn’t my flavour: 72/100
Test 8: Grade A SS64 Bowl – OEM Gears – KB Stick
The plastic feel is diminished, however it has that issue where you need to push the stick beyond a certain threshold to get the full angle. I believe this is due to a wider slot for the stick to it in the outer enclosure at the bottom on the angled outer bowl. It could also lie in the nib size and configuration.
Range wise, the hard push issue to get a full range is back with a vengeance. This should not be an issue here. Without pushing we are looking at ranges of around 80 apart from the left which is in the high 60s, however with pushing we are sitting in the mid to high 80s. Consistency is key with ranges as when you turn any direction, you want the same feedback from all directions, no matter how hard you push, particularly when it comes to N64. Other may feel differently about this, however for me… nah.
Archives was a struggle, not being about to consistently hit the first guard and get a quick door open. I felt like I was under turning on purpose given how the parts were set up. The mere fact there were almost 2 sets of ranges (the inner, lower ranges and the outer, high 80’s ranges) made playing difficult and confusing and you could slip into the higher range on accident or go from 80 in one direction and 60 in the other.
This intern causing tensing of your hand, a stiffer control style which could end up casing physical problems in the long run.
Inconsistency leads this combo to a 75/100
Test 9: Grade A SS64 Bowl – KB Gears – OEM stick
Just a bit of context to the video, I accidently put OEM gears in the first time so here we go!
Deadzone is minimal and shouldn’t cause much issue during play at all. The plastic, sluggish feel is back, it has to be a by product of the material the gears are made of, I am not a fan. The shape of the range is great, however ranges are in the mid to high 70s. I do think the range values are very good here, even if they are slightly than perfect.
With regards to gameplay, the gears are surprisingly sensitive given the range values being what they are. The plastic feels really throws this off as in other tests as the plastic feel links in with sluggish response. This could be something you could get used to the more you play but im not keen. I mentioned that the bowl is too good for the gears, the bowl is pushing the sick up, putting it right against the gears causing a great sensitivity feel.
A solid set up which transcends my annoyance about the plastic feel: 80/100
The review is based of my opinion based on my experience of a 10/10 OEM controller being the best, so I decided to also include some points from the Elite community to expand the scope of review itself. If anyone reading this wants to add their opinion to this wall, just message and I will screen grab.
The point is to really show that the feel of a set up is different from person to person:
Final thoughts and analysis
Let me clarify from the start that I had low expectations for this review. A few weeks ago, during my pretesting, I had a terrible experience with the glow-in-the-dark stick and the Steelsticks bowl, which made me cringe. The stick would often get stuck in an upward position and refuse to move. However, after completing the full testing, I can confidently say that my assumptions were partly wrong.
I must admit that I’m not a fan of the plastic feel. OEM sticks have a satisfying, snappy crunchiness to them, whereas KB parts feel buttery and soft, which isn’t ideal. Some combinations resulted in inaccurate ranges, and when compared to OEM or steel bowl parts, the playability and score suffered.
The overall KB setup feels great, especially when combined with a full OEM setup and a few parts from KB. The more KB parts you incorporate, the more varied the results become, and one particular configuration with the Steelsticks bowl received the lowest score of them all.
Please keep in mind that this review is based on my personal experience and interpretation of the parts. Your own experience may differ. I didn’t appreciate the plastic feel, but you might not mind it. You may have found the KB Bowl – OEM Gears – KB Stick combination to be perfect, and that’s perfectly fine.
the price of these parts is unbeatable. Considering the limited control over the final product when purchasing N64 parts from certain shops on Shapeways, I cannot recommend them. KB, on the other hand, seems like a safe choice. I would definitely use their gears and parts in the future. Please use the information below as a guide when deciding how you want to purchase and use these parts for your own needs.
If anyone has any tips on how to improve the parts, or if you have your own experiences that you’d like to share feel free to reach out.
Full KB set up
KB Bowl – KB Gears – KB Stick: 85/100 Test 1
One part replaced with KB
OEM bowl – OEM gears – KB Stick: 80/100 Test 2
KB Bowl – OEM Gears – OEM Stick: 78/100 Test 3
OEM Bowl – KB Gears – OEM Stick: 89/100 Test 4
2 Parts replaced with KB
KB Bowl – KB Gears – OEM Stick: 79/100 Test 5
: OEM Bowl – KB Gears – KB Stick: 77/100 Test 5.1
KB Bowl – OEM Gears – KB Stick: 75/100 Test 6
Steelsticks A grade bowl/OEM/KB mix
SteelstickS64 Bowl – KB Gears – KB Stick: 72/100 Test 7
SS64 Bowl – OEM Gears – KB Stick: 75/100 Test 8
SS64 Bowl – KB Gears – OEM stick: 80/100 Test 9
Average score: 79/100
Buy your parts here:
90>: Near perfect/OEM standard – Competitive Pro+
80>: Great/Near perfect – Competitive Pro
70>: Okay/Great – Starter Competitive
60>: Casual only/Okay – Causal play only
<60: Bad – Causal play but only if you hate yourself
Disclaimer: I am solely responsible for the thoughts, pictures, and opinions shared in this post and any other post. I have not received any payment, financial benefits, or incentives to provide exaggerated positive reviews. These views are solely based on my personal experience. If your experience differs from mine, I cannot be held accountable in any way. Enjoy gaming and strive for personal bests!Home