Home / Gear Review: Pelican PS2-to-PS3 Controller Adapter

Gear Review: Pelican PS2-to-PS3 Controller Adapter

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You'll see these things marketed a variety of ways, from a dance pad adapter to a guitar controller converter, but they all do the same thing: make PS2 controllers work with your PS3. This has a few distinct advantages, from saving battery life in the cordless PS3 controllers to reusing controllers yo've already invested in. It also has a few disadvantages. Let's take a closer look.

When I bought my PS3 over a year ago, dropping about $500 for a console was asking a bit much, and when you throw in a couple games with that, its enough to wipe your savings out quick. The system came with one wireless controller and a two-foot USB charging cable, hardly long enough to play from the couch if your batteries are low. On top of that, you can't swap out the batteries should the controller wear out down the road, and at $50 each, I'm not eager to buy more PS3 controllers. I was in need of a better solution.

Enter these controller adapters. Granted, the one mentioned in the title is one of the first, and I don't think it's actually in production anymore, but several other manufacturers have stepped in to pick up the slack. Most of the complaints I've heard about these things are leveled at the fact that Guitar Hero 2 doesn't work properly with them. It does work, just not exactly how it should. You can't properly execute hammer-ons and pull-offs for some reason. The controller doesn't register buttons until and unless the strum bar is plucked. However, this was explained pretty clearly in the documentation that came with the adapter. I don't see how people can be that upset when they put it right on the box.

Also, don't people play anything besides GH2? What about God of War or Need for Speed or any of a thousand other excellent games? When the adapter works for all but one or two games among hundreds, I have a hard time feeling that bad for those who fall down crying about it. Of course, being able to play any of these PS2 games on your PS3 depends on which model of the hardware you got. I have a 60GB, which was the last model to include the original full hardware backward compatibility. From what I understand, the 40GB model doesn't feature hardware or software compatibility for PS2 games, and once the 80GB is phased out, word is that unfortunately PS2 backward compatibility will be nixed from all future PS3 SKUs.

This begs the question: does the adapter allow you to use PS2 controllers to play PS3-specific games? The answer is yes, most of the time. The main thing missing is Sixaxis support since PS2 controllers simply don't have the built-in hardware to do that, and fortunately, not many games rely on it heavily (I'm looking at you, Lair and flOw).

The other thing you'll run into is rumble, or a lack thereof. In both PS2 and PS3 games, rumble has not worked yet through these adapters. However, with rumble being included from now on with the Dual Shock 3, a firmware upgrade may make it work. As it stands, on a 60GB PS3 with firmware v2.41, I get no rumble with a PS2 controller running through one of these adapters playing The Incredible Hulk. If ever there was a game that cried out for rumble, that was it. It's supported in the game according to the Options Menu, and probably works with a standard $60 Dual Shock 3. But hey, you could get three PS2 controllers for that much, and just live without force feedback.

So what about the PS button? Obviously it's missing from the PS2 controller, but if you look not-all-that-carefully, you'll notice one thing it has that the PS3 controller does not: the Analog button. Yep, this is emulated to work as the PS button, and works perfectly, near as I can tell. You can reset the console with it, toggle the controller on or off, check the battery charge (always full!), and do anything else you'd use the standard PS button for.

With the restriction of four (or fewer, depending on your model) USB ports, you'd think you may be limited to only four (or fewer) players. When considering the PS3 hardware by itself, that may be so. However, I plugged a Targus four-port PC USB hub into one of the PS3's slots, plugged two PS2 controllers into the hub via these adapters, threw PS3 Lego Star Wars in, and voila: two players through one USB port. I don't have more than two adapters to try, nor do I have a game handy that supports the max of seven players for PS3, but all indications are that you can add as many as needed with a single hub.

I can't speak to the functionality of every make/model of controller adapter out there now, but despite a few minor problems, my experience with these early ones has been just fine. Newer adapters may have fixed problems with specific titles, and should certainly offer better emulation for PS3 games at the very least. In any case, they're a fraction the cost of standard PS3 controllers to continue using an older one you're already familiar with. The corded connection also means you don't have to worry about interference or signal interruptions between the controller and the console.

All in all, I've been using these off and on for over a year and have hardly any complaints. If you're on a tight budget and want to both extend the life of your PS3 controller batteries and add more players to your system, these adapters are a worthwhile addition to your living room. As an added bonus, they even allow your PS2 controllers to work with PC games when plugged into USB ports there (tested and worked fine in WinXP SP2). For the price, these can definitely extend the life of yester-year's most popular game input device.

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About Mark Buckingham

  • Brad

    I wonder if any PS2 to USB adapter would work on the PS3? I bought a dual one off of ebay for my PC; would be nice if it worked on the PS3.

  • Yo

    do u know the ps2 controller adpater for ps2 does it work on the ps2 to ps3 adapter ?

  • VinTheDean

    Nice article, but I wanted to let you and your reader know that the you can change the battery on the PS3 controller. The instructions are in the owner’s manual. [Edited]

  • A nice useful article/review. Thanks.
    How do the shoulder buttons perform though? The L1 and L2 ‘triggers’ are used a lot in PS3 racing games for acceleration but they have a much smaller range of movement on PS2 controllers. I am a little worried you might have a lot less control over speed. Just out of interest, have you had a chance to test them?

  • Mark Buckingham

    @Vin, thanks for the tip. I caught the bit in the manual on how to replace the hard drive; must have missed the info on batteries. It’s certainly not well publicized. They’d make more off selling another controller. 🙂

    @ Frank, thanks for the compliment. Personally, I always loved simply using the right analog stick for gas/brake in racing games, and no modern games seem to embrace that, or even allow it in many cases. The range of motion in the L2 and R2 triggers is also a little bothersome for games like R6 Vegas, where it’s mapped to throwing grenades and bringing up the map, things I’d rather just click to get. However, the PS2 controller buttons were all analog as well; they made a bunch of noise about this when the PS2 came out, then nobody used it for much. So the triggers are still pressure-sensitive, but obviously if you’re well attuned to the amount of play you get in the PS3 triggers now, it won’t feel the same, though you still have some range of control between just all or nothing with them being natively analog.

  • NEO

    I’m looking forward for this, i have a Hori Arcade Stick for the PS2, and now I just bought Soul Calibur IV for the PS3 and want to use my old Hori… i hope it works flawless…

  • mattcm

    thanks that realy helped but i have the 60gb and i was wondering if it would work on ps1 games

  • Here are my findings….

    PS1 controller with PS1 game, all digital controls work fine. If you hit the Analog toggle button and go to Controller Settings, you can toggle between analog and digital, but when I toggled it to Analog, the controller stopped responding (tested with NFS3: Hot Pursuit). PS2 controller did the exact same thing (digital works, analog nothing works), and even a PS3 controller behaved this way.

    So it would seem that analog functionality is not emulated properly for PS1 games (I also have a 60GB PS3), and it’s not just the adapter since a PS3 controller did the same thing. Looks like Sony screwed it up (on purpose?).

    You’re probably okay with RPGs and action games, racing games will be hit or miss (can you still drive with the D-Pad nowadays? I can’t very well), and FPS or other analog-dependent games seem like a no-go I’m afraid.

  • jim

    has any1 tried using the PS2’s EdgeFX controller on the PS3 with the converters? does it work? will it work? plz help… thnx

  • BigChinnedC-Word

    I have a slimline ps3 120gb. Will these adapters work? I’ll be using new games like Modern Warfare 2 if that has any relevance?

  • I don’t see why they wouldn’t. It’s just a USB adapter; works to connect these controllers to PCs as well, so unless Sony deliberately did something to make them not work, you should be fine. I’m still using my PS2 controllers with my PS3 every day, despite many firmware updates and new games coming along.

  • roshan

    will this work with a racing wheel i purchased for ps2…its about 4 years old?
    otherwise i would have to buy a new racing wheel

    please help me soon

  • Mark

    I have no idea. You might want to try searching through Google or similar for compatibility. If it’s been that long, something’s probably been posted by now about it.