The Virtual Console is certainly one of the Wii’s many gems. It serves up an ever increasing array of games from their first party platforms. This is, of course, not forgetting their expanding list of other platform holders, such as the MSX and NeoGeo, queuing up to get in on their growing user base. Nintendo needed to be prepared for the success not only of their own games, but the wider library; they needed a killer controller that would become the de facto way to control retro games. They came up with what we now call the Classic Controller.
With the NES controls already handled perfectly via a sideways Wii-mote, the classic controller sits somewhere between the SNES and N64 controllers. It provides both the combination of analogue sticks required by the N64 and the four button configuration made famous by the SNES. In addition to this it has the Wii home and plus/minus buttons to provide an easy way to pause and reset the emulators. Round the back there are four trigger buttons, one large and one small on either side. Pretty much every conceivable combination of buttons that could be needed by past consoles is to be found here, in all their glorious white high-impact plastic.
The controller comes packaged much like the Wii-mote and Nun-chuck; clean white styling with a blue tint to the blister pack. I particularly like the fact that I can take the controller out without any cutting or ripping, just in case something is amiss and I need to return it.
Once out of the box, there really is very little setting up to be done. It piggybacks off the Wii-motes bluetooth connection and therefore doesn’t require its own batteries. Simply plug it into the Wii-mote and away you go! As with the nun-chuck you can pass the wrist strap cord through its connector to ensure that it doesn’t go flying and break your TV, window or lampshade. That said, as the Classic Controller doesn’t include any motion sensors you don’t have two many reasons to throw the thing around, apart from the frustration of being beaten by those old games.
The build quality is top-notch, as we have come to expect from Nintendo. The buttons and D-pad each provide a good positive click with minimum travel. The analogue sticks provide good all round motion with the usual eight compass point trim to enable you to hit a particular corners with ease. There seemed to be very little dead zone before the sticks start to respond, they really did behave exactly as I asked them to.
As I mentioned above, the controller has to be plugged into the Wii-mote when in use. This is where we hit the first downside. This means that the Wii-mote has to be trailed around wherever you are playing. I found it easy to forget this. I once picked the controller up to leave the room and inadvertently swung the poor little Wii-mote into a passing table. After a while you do get used to balancing the Wii-mote on your lap or on the floor while you play. I have seen some third party add-ons that attach the Wii-mote to the bottom of the Classic Controller, but I don’t think this problem warrants such an over-engineered solution.
The only other down side is that for some reason you are not able to use it to control your Gamecube games. This means that in addition to the Classic Controller you will need to purchase an WaveBird if you want to play your entire Nintendo collection wirelessly. My hope is that an update from Nintendo will rectify this issue in the near future, fingers crossed!
Whilst researching this piece I was surprised to find the price fluctuates from store to store. I had previously assumed that it would be price fixed by Nintendo, like the console itself. I paid £14.99 at Comet, which was the cheapest I had seen it. Other retailers were selling it for as much as £22.99 which is a good 50% more expensive.
Overall, this little guy really does do what it says on the tin. It’s a great controller for both N64 and SNES games, whilst still being usable for the other Virtual Console platforms. With the only alternative being to use an old GameCube controller this really is a must buy for anyone using the Virtual Console.