PRODUCT REVIEW: PowerA Wireless GameCube Style Controller for Nintendo Switch
Updated: Jan 28, 2019
No doubt many of you are aware of the Super Smash Bros. series of fighters. No doubt many of you are currently playing the most recent entry in the series, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. And no doubt many of you prefer the expert level of control that the GameCube controller provides during gameplay as chaotic as Smash's. But what if you find yourself in a situation like mine, where the supply of GameCube controller port adapters for the Nintendo Switch has seemingly disappeared into thin air and your beloved Wavebirds, the pinnacle of wireless technology ca. 2002 and still one of the best wireless controllers out there, are left to gather dust? PowerA seeks to fill that gnawing void with their GameCube style wireless controller for the Switch. But how does it stack up to the real deal?
Right out of the box the PowerA GameCube controller feels like a true recreation of the original. It has the same curves, the same layout (albeit with the addition of a left shoulder bumper as well as the +/-, Screenshot, and Home center buttons replacing the GameCube's Start button), and also the same heft. After careful side-by-side comparison some minor differences are revealed, but none of them are immediately noticeable. For starters, the grips are just a smidge narrower. If your hands are on the larger side, like mine, this is a detriment but nothing I can't adjust for.
The D-pad is a good bit larger than the GameCube's. Here PowerA has copied the Switch's Pro Controller D-pad which is a smart move. The GameCube's D-pad, in my opinion, always felt minuscule under my brutish thumbs. The extra length and width are a welcome addition. The Left- and Right-Triggers retain their dual action from their GameCube days but they lack the satisfying spring-loaded 'click' when fully depressed. A minor nitpick, to be sure, but I felt it worth mentioning. The left Analog stick is the spitting image of the real thing and feels identical under thumb, but the C-stick, which takes the place of the traditional right Analog feels stiff and the rubber tip
Overall, it is a solid reproduction of the original GameCube controller and pretty to look at. But how about the performance? Here is where things take a slight downturn. The PowerA Wireless controller is easy enough to set up. Just a few simple menu prompts and a press of the Sync button on the top of the controller and we're off to the races. What I found interesting is that this thing shows up as a standard Pro Controller on the Switch. The Switch is capable of differentiating between different types of Joy Cons and Pro Controllers, even going so far as to depict the specific color scheme with the on screen graphic. But PowerA's controller registers as a black Pro controller. Did PowerA simply copy and paste the Pro's firmware, or is Nintendo still working on a update to provide a GameCube controller icon? This is an officially licensed Nintendo product, after all. Only time will tell.
Booting up Smash Bros. Ultimate I fiddled with the menus for a bit taking note of the responsiveness of the buttons. Everything seems fine. Next I jump into the Spirit Board, Ultimate's variation of the trophy snagging minigames from previous entries, though this version pits you in themed matches of varying difficulty to claim your prize. I start off against a few Novice and Advanced level opponents. I select my comparably-power Spirit team and away I go.
Almost immediately I notice a very slight lag in response to my button presses. It's nothing staggering, only amounting to about 0.2 to 0.3 seconds of delay. As a Ike player I'm used to having to adjust my playstyle to be more predictive than reactive. His swings and punches are sluggish by design so you have to always be thinking a move or two ahead of your opponent and your button presses must show just as much foresight. But for the Sheik, Zero Suit Samus, and Greninja fans out there I'm sure it could be end up being a considerable handicap.
Over the next few matches I adjust my position relative to my Switch. Getting closer does seem to reduce the delay but not consistently enough, and moving back more than 15 feet away the lag returns en force. I never found it impossible to play with the delay, but I could see it having a noticeable impact on tournament level play. Next I jump in against an Ace level opponent (Sorry, I didn't have a Legend class available at the time) and selected a Spirit team that was less powerful than my rival. Surprisingly, I was still able to best my opponent though I took a few good licks in the process. Then, the moment of truth: the Shield-blasting minigame that determines whether or not I take home the Spirit. The shield whirls at a fast clip and the opening I have to aim for is puny. I study the timing and....BAM! Even with a slight delay I hit my mark and blast through the shield to claim my prize.
I'll have to put in more time with the PowerA Wireless GameCube style controller to make a final judgement. The lag was a minor nuisance for my level of play, but I'm not an EVO-worthy contender by any means. Though physically a well-crafted reproduction of the original GameCube pad the wireless needs some fine tuning. Until that happens I'll wager that PowerA's controller will not be making any appearances at tournaments and will likely not be used by the top ranked online fighters. However, for the casual fighter it's a solid controller, especially if you're still hunting for a controller port adapter this late in the game. And at $49.99 MSRP is a economic choice over the standard Pro controller.
Until next time, gamerguys and gals!