Nintendo Wii Classic Controller (White) review: Nintendo Wii Classic Controller (White)

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The Good Comfortable design; enables play of downloadable Virtual Console titles.

The Bad Doesn't play GameCube games; needs to be tethered to the Wiimote, from which it also draws power and connectivity; offers few advantages over connecting an old GameCube controller.

The Bottom Line Unless you don't have a GameCube controller or any GameCube games, give this Wii peripheral a pass.

5.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 4
  • Performance 6

Next to its weird, motion-sensing controller, the biggest draw of the Nintendo Wii is its Virtual Console. This onboard emulation system lets nostalgic geeks download and play their favorite games of years past, including titles from Nintendo's previous game consoles--the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the Super NES, and the Nintendo 64--and even some of the company's past competitors, the Sega Genesis and NEC Turbografix 16. Unfortunately, the Wii's simple remote control--fondly dubbed the Wiimote--is suitable only for playing two-button NES and Turbografix 16 games. If you want to play games from other systems, you have two choices: use an old GameCube controller, or opt for the Wii Classic Controller. The latter product is a conventional gamepad that plugs directly into the Wiimote and can play any Virtual Console game. Unfortunately, while it's a straightforward enough concept, the Classic Controller doesn't quite live up to expectations.

The Classic Controller keeps with the minimalist, iPod-esque design of the Wii. Its white, gently curving oval shape will remind some of the old Super Nintendo controller. The unit matches the color scheme of the Wiimote itself, with a completely white motif interrupted only by the clear A and B face buttons. On its face, you'll find a four-way directional pad, two analog control sticks, four face buttons, and four shoulder buttons. There are also three control buttons (Select, Home, Start) for navigating the Wii's menu system.

The biggest problem with the controller is that it can't play GameCube games. (GameCube titles aren't offered on the Virtual Console, but the Wii will play any game disc from Nintendo's last-generation console.) It's an odd omission, since the dual-analog controller certainly sports enough buttons to play games such as Wind Waker and Metroid Prime. When a GameCube game is loaded, the Wii simply doesn't detect the Classic Controller. If you want to play your favorite GC titles, you'll need to get a GameCube controller anyway. Since we've yet to find a Virtual Console game that hasn't worked with the GameCube controller, it forces us to ask why the Classic Controller is even necessary.

Controller matrix courtesy
Like the Wii's nunchuk, the only other Wii controller accessory currently on the market, the Classic Controller must be plugged into the Wiimote in order to function. (The Classic Controller lacks batteries, instead drawing power from those of the Wiimote.) This leads us to the second major problem of the controller: it doesn't have any place to which the Wiimote it connects to can attach. Players are forced to play their classic games with the Wiimote either dangling freely or sitting on their lap. Two mysterious slots and a release button on the back of the controller seem to indicate that something should clip onto it, but we haven't figured out what or how. Enterprising gamers might want to use adhesive velcro squares on the back of the Classic Controller and on the underside of the Wiimote to keep their gaming relatively unfettered.

Objectively, the Classic Controller is a fine peripheral for playing retro titles. It's comfortable, it's semiwireless (despite its Wiimote tail), and it's the only controller guaranteed to work with all Virtual Console games. However, its inability to play GameCube games is a massive omission. Considering that any old GameCube controller (including the wireless WaveBird) will play all GameCube games on the Wii plus nearly all of the Virtual Console titles (compatibility with all Genesis and Turbografix isn't guaranteed), the Classic Controller is hard to justify, unless you really prefer the gamepad form factor or just don't plan on playing any GameCube titles. Of course, if it turns out that Gunstar Heroes doesn't work with a GameCube controller, all bets are off.

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