Perhaps one of the coolest things about the Wii is having the ability to download classic video games directly to the Wii’s internal memory. While some games are compatible with the wiimote controller (held sideways like a NES controller), other games require more buttons and a more traditional controller. Until this point, if classic gamers wanted a classic controller, they had only one option: the first party Nintendo brand controller (or use a GameCube controller). Nyko, keeping up with their usual habit of seeing flaws with gaming hardware and trying to improve upon them, has hit the market with a classic controller of their own, having advantages over Nintendo’s design and giving gamers a new option to avoid Nintendo’s classic controller monopoly.
The biggest advantage that this Nyko based controller has over Nintendo’s model is the fact that this unit is wireless. Nintendo’s controller always has to be tethered to a wiimote, forcing players to keep this motion controlled controller on their laps while they play. Nyko’s Wing, however, is completely wire free of the wiimote, but still dependent on it.
Similar to Nyko’s wireless nunchuk, the wing uses a dongle that easily plugs into the bottom of the wiimote. Once plugged in, simply hit the sync button on both the Wing controller and the dongle will link the controller’s connection. The sync button’s color and blinking speed will also indicate whether or not the unit has been properly linked up, is searching for a connection, or is charging. Syncing the controller to the dongle is quick, painless and takes only one moment.
When I first picked up this controller, I was absolutely amazed at how light it is. In fact, this controller might be too light…or perhaps a more correct expression would be, too hollow. When tapping the face buttons or even the d-pad, they feel and sound hollow. In many ways, this kind of makes the controller seem a little on the cheap side. But on the other hand, having a light controller can make extended gaming sessions a little more comfortable.
All the shoulder buttons closely resemble the GameCube’s. Instead of being more like a quick trigger button, each shoulder button can be depressed into the base of the controller until a final “click” noise is established. These pressure sensitive buttons may seem unnecessary when playing classic games, but it will come in handy for newer games like Smash Bros. Brawl. Unfortunately, pressing these buttons also makes the unit feel too hollow for its own good.
The analog sticks remind me a lot of the N64’s, but instead of being plastic based, these thumb joysticks are rubber, which is a good thing. Both sticks are highly responsive and are comfortable to use, however, their click-in feature does not feel satisfying. Unlike the PS3’s “L3” and “R3” buttons, the Wing’s clicky analogs are entirely too shallow and will have users wondering if they depressed them or not. Pressing them down makes a small click noise, but it is so minute that gamers will have trouble hearing it over their TV’s speakers. Luckily, there really isn’t a purpose to using these extra buttons as many classic games only needed a couple buttons. Because of this, it is not a make or break deal.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this controller is the d-pad’s comfort and functionality considering that most games on the Wii Virtual Console will use this thumb controlled plus sign. Luckily, it is pretty accurate but still a bit on the cheap side. No matter which direction you tap, the d-pad will always recess into the face of the unit, giving off another hollow sound and making this cross shaped piece of plastic feel like a button as opposed to a directional pad. When not playing a game, this detail is easily apparent to the user, but when playing a game, it is hardly noticeable. The Wing’s d-pad is unlike any before it and will probably take some time to get used to.
Because this controller is not plugged into the wiimote, it needs its own power source. The packaging states that the Wing will run for 30 hours on a pair of AA batteries (included) which seems like an accurate estimate. One of the most surprising functions of this controller is the ability to run off a mini USB cord even when no batteries are installed. On another positive note, rechargeable batteries will recharge when plugged into the Wing with a USB cable. Yes, this defeats the whole purpose of having a wireless unit, but it is another great option available to gamers. Having a USB slot on the controller can also open up the possibilities of one day using this controller with your PC. Nyko has not announced anything of the sort, but the possibility is there for future expansion. However, the controller does not come with a USB cable.
This may seem like a minor detail, but the package design of this controller is a lot better than many of Nyko’s previous products. You can actually see the unit through the clear plastic, the blue casing makes the unit looks like it belongs to the Wii family, and it even displays the dongle. Some of Nyko’s other units were housed in this flimsy plastic casing that, again, made their products look a little on the cheap side. It is always a huge pain in the ass to cut open these damn heat sealed plastic casings, but the product does look good sitting in it.
After giving the Wing a pretty extensive play through (tested with Sin and Punishment, Smash Bros. Brawl, navigated the Wii menus, and several other classic games), I admit it is a pretty decent product. The hollow gummybear buttons, d-pad, and overall shape of the controller will be a little awkward at first, but comfort level is apparent after an hour with the product. Having the unit feel really light and hollow is its biggest flaw, but having a wireless connection is a lot more convenient than being tethered to a wiimote. Selling for about $30, ten dollars more than Nintendo’s controller, Nyko is giving gamers another choice when it comes to how you want to play your games. Both controllers have their positives and negatives, but each function at about equal terms. The main reason you would get a Wing versus Nintendo’s model really comes down to whether or not you want to go wireless or not. If you hate the restrictions of a cord, then the Wing will not disappoint.