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Thursday, November 29, 2018

PowerA Wireless GameCube Controller Review: The WaveBird Flies Again

In 2002, Nintendo released the WaveBird controller for the GameCube. It was the first truly great wireless controller: functionally identical to the standard pad (sans vibration), with super-fast performance and long battery life. Now you can relive the joy of that on the Switch.

Every major home console since, from Nintendo and its competitors, has included wireless controller functionality built-in. It’s now the standard: wired pads are relegated to bargain bins and a few models made for die-hard purists afraid of a millisecond or two of wireless latency.

So it’s strange that, with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Switch coming out in a few days and Smash fans desperate to use the familiar, comfy GameCube controller layout, Nintendo hasn’t made any WaveBird controllers in over fifteen years.

You can play Smash with a wired GameCube controller—in fact, you’ve been able to more or less continuously for all of that time—but if you want that experience without wires, you have to track down an ancient, original WaveBird. And it’s not going to do you any good if you want to play other Switch games on it.

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PowerA, makers of the MOGA mobile controllers and various other gaming accessories, is here to fill that gap. The company’s new Wireless GameCube Controller features the classic layout that Smash players crave, with the Bluetooth connection and extra face buttons the Switch needs. It also has a second “Z” button (called L1 on more conventional layouts) and a “clickable” thumbstick and C-stick, covering all of the same control inputs as the Switch’s Joy-Con and Pro controllers. It’s the WaveBird come back to life, and it’ll work with all of your other Switch games, too.

In eager anticipation of Smash Bros. Ultimate, I picked up the PowerA controller at GameStop. You might need to do something similar: it’s sold out online, and scalpers are offering it at ridiculous markups over the $50 retail price. (Seriously. On Amazon it’s currently on a 1-2 month backorder.) See, Nintendo? There’s a market for this thing!

A Faithful Recreation

The PowerA controller apes the GameCube layout almost exactly. This isn’t the typical third-party imitation, the perennial “little brother’s controller” bought because it was half the price of the Nintendo option. You could tell me that this was an official Nintendo product, and I’d be prepared to believe it.

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