April 10th, 2008
Some time ago I posted my thoughts on Hard Copy Collection Vs Digital Distribution. Although there are pros and cons for each, I myself still remain stuck in my ways as a hard copy collector. One of the reasons being the issues with playing retro games on a controller designed for modern gaming.
The Wii’s Virtual Console is the digital distribution service for old school gaming, unfortunately Nintendo’s mish-mash of previous controllers; the Classic Controller can detract from the overall retro experience. So I’ve been looking around for some good alternatives. Heres what I found:
The Obvious Choices
I’m sure everyone knows this by now; so I will quickly go through the motions. You don’t need to recycle your old, faithful Gamecube pads as they can be also reused to play your favourite Virtual Console and Gamecube games as well as a whole bunch of Wii titles.
With this you can also take advantage of the Gamecube’s excellent wireless WaveBird pad. If you don’t already own one of these controllers then chances are you’ll have a hard time finding one. Nintendo ceased production of WaveBirds over a year ago and thanks to the Wii’s run away success, the demand for WaveBirds has also increased despite the number low Wavebird numbers. But don’t fear as there is an alternative to the WaveBird which I shall get to later.
The GameCube pad is great for Nintendo 64 titles in fact it’s probably superior than the N64 controller as the Gamecube’s dual analogue sticks lack the grindy feel of the N64’s. The N64 controller essentially has three main buttons (A,B and Z) which translates well onto the Gamecube’s 4 face buttons. The only disadvantage for N64 games may be the Gamecube’s shoulder triggers. The N64’s triggers are soft and light, conversely the Gamecube’s triggers are large and springy. This nuisance depends on the game at hand though as few N64 titles utilized the shoulder buttons.
The overwhelming majority of Virtual Console games aren’t 3D which is where things get a little frustrating. The Gamecube’s D-pad is just downright awkward for these games so you’ll have to toss up whether you want to use an analogue stick for 2D games. Personally I love using analogue sticks for 2D fighters to avoid blisters from all of those quarter circles but for other games like RPGs and platformers, where direct position movement feel more natural, it can feel a little odd.
Where to Buy?
GameCube Pads can easily be found online at eBay or at local pawn shops.
I’ve spoken about Wii arcade sticks before in my Reliving an Authentic Arcade Experience on the Wii article. Just like before there are still only a handful of sticks available on the market. Primarily the two major players are the Hori Fighting Stick and the Wii Neo Geo Stick 2, the latter of which is yet to be released). Both of these sticks are essentially Wii iterations of previously released PS2 arcade sticks. The Hori Fighting Stick currently retails for $49.99 while the Wii Neo Geo Stick 2 is set for roughly $70.
On the other hand there is also the Wii Shaft which is a slightly cheaper alternative to the other two. The Wii Shaft is in limited supply and must be ordered, it retails for $40 and is the cheapest of the three sticks. I’m not a fan of the overally simplistic design of this stick unlike the other two it lacks a certain spark which gives it an overall cheap, generic look. You can find some video of the Wii Shaft here.
Hori Fighting Stick
The GameBoy Player Controller
The GameBoy Player Controller was released by Hori several years ago with the intention to be played with GameBoy Player games. I’m sure that you’ll all agree that this looks much more suited for SNES games on the Virtual Console, purely because of the controller’s shape and button layout. I think that this controller is probably the best option for 2D games on the Virtual Console. In fact seeing this makes me question why other peripheral makers haven’t decided to make their own VC controllers modeled after the original controllers.
The only feature that appears to detract from the SNES design is the right hand button layout which is derived from the Gamecube pad. Even the curved bump underneath the buttons is present. The controller comes in two colours (Black and Indigo) which are intended to match the Gamecube’s original two colors.Unfortunately as of time of writing there was only one available through Amazon at the price of $49.95 which is a terrible price considering this originally retailed for $14.99. Look around.
Playstation 2 Controller
Last generation there were a surprising high number of adapters released for the Gamecube which would allow for you to use your Playstation 2 controller over the original Gamecube pad. The Playstation controller is one of the industry’s most iconic controllers and one of the reasons for this is because it works well for both 2D and 3D games which makes it a suitable controller for the Virtual Console.
On my search, I could only find three adapters which were the:
- Innovation INNOV3102 Controller Adaptor
- Hais GameCube Smart Joy (HS2125C)
- Cube Joybox
And out of those the Cube Joybox appears to be the most well received. You can still buy it from Play-Asia, eBay and other online retailers for around $8-10. Unfortunately I could not find any of the other two for sale online.
As for the Playstation 2 pad itself as I was saying it is very iconic. Unlike the Gamecube pad which favors particular styles of games the Playstation 2 pad is a one size fits all pad. All buttons are well balanced and comfortable. There may be some problems in configuring the button set up for certain games as you have to match the Gamecube and Playstation 2 buttons.
Cube Joybox Information
Thrustmaster T-Wireless NW
As previously mentioned Nintendo ceased production of the wireless Wavebird controller which has left some new Wii owners out in the dark as pre-owned Wavebird sales outmatch supply. Fortunately Thrustmaster released their own take on the controller to help fill that demand.
The T-Wireless NW is as you’d expect a 3rd party WaveBird replacement there are a number of significant differences though. Instead of being modeled around the original WaveBird controller the T-Wireless NW’s layout is based off of the PS2 pad. Which as you’ve just read isn’t a bad thing for Virtual Console games. I can see this being a problem for first party Gamecube games which worked well with the pad’s button layout. There is also rumble support included but this doesn’t mean anything for Virtual Console games. Turbo and slow modes are included as well and the controller runs of three AAA batteries.
The Thrustmaster T-Wireless NW retails for $19.99 and should be available in stores and online.
Thrustmaster T-Wireless NW Information