Nintendo has been fairly consistent in updating the Wii’s Virtual Console library with classic games every week. What hasn’t been consistent is the quality of their peripherals. Between the Wii Wheel, Zapper and Balance Board, we’ve gotten a lot of white plastic in the last year or two and not much else. One of the peripherals to launch with the Wii was the Classic Controller, a game pad designed to handle the older, more traditional Virtual Console games that wouldn’t work with the bizarre Wii remote. All VC games were compatible with the GameCube controller which incidentally plugs neatly into the top of the Wii, but Nintendo couldn’t count on their new audience of game-ignorant grandparents and homemakers owning Cube pads.
The Classic Controller, though, wasn’t a very good answer to this problem. It’s functional, sure, it gets the job done but in the cheapest, most utilitarian way possible. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the CC looks like the product of a whirlwind romance between an old Playstation pad and the Super NES controller. The CC has two analog sticks, four face buttons, a digital pad, plus, minus, and home buttons, and four shoulder buttons: the standard L and R triggers and the awkwardly placed ZR and ZL buttons. The whole setup is pretty bare bones, and it’s packed into a light, plasticy shell that’s a bit too cramped for comfort. What’s worse, the CC can’t even communicate with the Wii on its own; it plugs into the back of a Wii Remote like a Nunchuk, dangling by a long cord.
Thankfully Nintendo’s way isn’t the only way, with third parties providing better alternatives. Nyko led the charge with the Classic Controller Grip, a small shell that added some desperately needed handles to the CC, and a handy clip that let you wind the annoying cord around a spool and click the Wii remote beneath the controller. It was a decent workaround for a while but Nyko wasn’t satisfied. Now they’ve released the Wing, their own proprietary pad that replaces the Classic Controller entirely. It runs for 30 bucks, $10 more than the CC, but it’s well worth it.
The Wing is a completely wireless alternative to the CC. It still talks to the console by means of a Wii remote, but instead of a long cord the Wing uses a wireless receiver that clicks into the remote’s Nunchuk port. With a quick press of the sync buttons on both the controller and the receiver, the two will find each other within seconds and stay connected. It might not seem like much but the Wing’s cord-free design is a huge improvement over the first party pad.
Wireless functionality isn’t the only feature the Wing has to offer. It has a nearly identical button and stick layout to the CC but the overall ergonomic design is far more pleasant. The Wing follows Nyko’s new industrial design for Wii peripherals—clean lines, red and blue gem-buttons and comfortable grips. The Wing is slightly larger than the CC, making it easier to hold during long play sessions. The analog sticks are slightly stiffer and have more textured rubber pads, reminiscent of the GameCube’s sticks but flatter and easier to grip. The design of both the Wing and CC necessitate that you place your thumbs on the sticks at an odd sideways angle (think of a PS2 Dualshock), and the Wing definitely does a better job at making the sticks comfortable even in this awkward thumb position.
The shoulder buttons have a curved shape and are “stacked” better horizontally; this conforms perfectly to the curve of your index fingers, with the two Z buttons resting nicely beneath the tip of your fingers for easy clicking. The D-pad has a stiffer throw than the CC’s squishy cross, and it has some raised arrows on it for firmer grip, so I expect it’ll work better with fighting games. Rounding out the controller are the plus, minus and home buttons, which are all soft hemispheres and quite comfortable.The Wing’s one disadvantage, due to being wireless, is that it needs its own set of batteries, two triple-A’s to be exact. The receiver is draining the Wii remote’s power too, so you’re effectively eating two battery sources at once, but Nyko has implemented a decent solution to this. You can put your own rechargeable AAA’s into the Wing and charge them via USB; the Wing has a mini-USB slot between its grips, so in addition to buying Ni-MH batteries you’ll need to get a mini-USB to USB cable, but it’s a better option than chewing through a pack of regular AAA’s every months. Still, with the Wing’s $30 price tag it would have been nice for them to throw the cable in too.
As for draining the remote’s batteries, well, the CC does that too so it’s not like it’s a con for the Wing. I don’t want to sound like a Nyko salesman but if your remotes are burning through double-A’s I’d suggest buying the Nyko Wii Chargestation, one of the best remote charge solutions on the market.
The Wing does have some competition that I have to take into account. Thrustmaster introduced their T-Wireless last year at 10 bucks cheaper than the Wing. It’s a good little controller (a bit too small, actually), but it’s really more of a third party GameCube pad and not a dedicated VC controller like the Wing, so the Wing is a more comfortable fit for classic gaming. Nintendo is releasing the Classic Controller Pro sometime later this year, but it’s basically the old CC with a beefier design and a different shoulder button layout. It’s also still corded, which makes the Wing superior to the CC Pro before it even launches.
It’s kind of a tough choice between the T-Wireless and the more expensive Wing, but if you’re already covered for GameCube controllers and you still need a VC solution, the Wing is the best choice. With its wireless ability, ergonomic design and recharging capacity the Wing is really the best standalone Classic Controller alternative on the market right now, and will be for the foreseeable future. Don’t wait around for Nintendo to release the Classic Controller Pro; it’s frankly a waste of money and an embarrassment that it still isn’t wireless. For your Virtual Console needs, Nyko has you covered with the Wing.