The next big wave.
Game Revolution is no stranger when it comes to the need for wireless controllers.
In fact, we bitched about it first. Duke just about pops a vein in a
The thing is, wireless controllers have, by and large, been pretty weak. Most
of them are second rate attempts by third rate...I mean third-party...companies.
The wireless controllers we've seen so far are often poorly made.
now, Nintendo has gotten into the game with their wireless Wavebird controller,
the first first-party controller of its kind. Now that our dreams have come
true, is it everything we hoped for?
Oddly, yes. The Wavebird proves true to its name as it ushers forth
a new wave of freedom, bringing high-quality first-party construction with performance
that works beyond the specification, all at an attractive price.
"So why go wireless?" you ask. Just think about never having to wind up your
cords again. Never having to leave them in a messy clutter strewn between the
TV and the couch. Forget having to skootch the system from out of its cozy home
in the entertainment center just to have enough cordage to reach the sofa, leaving
the system vulnerable to getting kicked, stepped on, sat on, etc. The advent
of wireless controllers also means that kids can no longer swing a controller
by the cord like a mace, whacking their little brothers in the skull. Instead,
these Wavebirds can be chucked like projectiles, which is both more aerodynamic
The Wavebird is molded in the exact same shape as the original GameCube
controller, but the space between the digital pad and the C-stick has been filled
in and slightly extended. A 'frequency channel' dial is set at the bottom of
the controller and the slots for 2 AA batteries are located in the back. Your
knuckles will be a touch snug between the handgrips and the battery slots, but
no more so than the Dreamcast controller.
They've also improved the B button, increasing its size and making it feel more like a normal button and less like an accidental drip of plastic. Huzzah!
The receiver unit is a small plastic rectangle without any obtrusive antennas. There is a similar dial to select the frequency channel underneath this unit. Obviously, the controller and receiver dials must be set to the same channel in order to communicate.
The controller uses radio frequencies just like your everyday wireless phone.
But unlike older wireless controllers, the Wavebird doesn't require a
line of sight like an infrared system (i.e. your remote control).
In short, the Wavebird is about as powerful a wireless controller as
I've ever seen. It has worked despite the presence of other wireless devices
and through all kinds of barriers. It easily worked through more than 3 walls,
far past the 20 feet listed in the manual. I felt no delay or lag, even in the
heat of smacking up that little punk, Pikachu. I even tried batteries that were
too drained to start up my GBA, and they still worked without a hitch.
The tradeoff for going wireless is no rumble feature. Frankly, I'd rather go wireless than have the occasional gimmicky rumble, but I suppose it's different for different games, as certain titles use the rumble as part of the gameplay.
Understandably, the Wavebird represents merely Round 1 of what quality
first-party wireless controller have to offer. In keeping with GR's tradition
of ranting endlessly about things we care about, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention
some features that I'd definitely like to see in future wireless controllers.
Not even the Xbox and the PS2 DVD remote controls have a power button. Imagine
playing 'til the wee hours of the morning and are just about to conk out from
sheer exhaustion. Instead of stumbling to turn off the system, you could just
shut it down from the couch and fade away into slumber. I guess it would have
to be relatively hard to access to keep you from accidentally turning off your
system in the middle of a game, but it's still a thought.
The Wavebird currently only comes in boring gray, which can get confusing
if you plan on multiple Wavebirds. If the controllers get mixed up, the
only way to identify which one goes with which receiver is by wayward button
mashing or checking the tiny indented numbers on the channel dial. Not to worry,
though - Nintendo has consistently reissued products in Technicolor. I bet they'll
follow suit with these puppies.
Auto off or Sleep mode
An automatic low power consumption mode to switch into during long periods of
inactivity would help save battery life even further. Though how about...
Even though the batteries promise up to 100 hours of charge, in the future,
I'd like to see these devices do away with the batteries altogether. As Duke
mentioned in his rant, how about having a recharger built right into the receiver?
It would function like a phone. You could just put the controller back in the
cradle after playing, and the next time you sit down, you're all charged up
and good to go.
I can foresee controllers getting lost inside couches, in the fridge, behind
the toilet, etc. How about a page function to help locate missing controllers?
Again, they do it with phones, so why not here?
Nintendo's pricing strategy makes these controllers affordable. The MSRP is
$34.99, but the Wavebird is easily found for a refreshing 30 bones. Plus,
they've lowered the cost of normal controllers to boot. The PS2 and Xbox should
play catch-up to the price and innovation of the Wavebird. Nintendo has
taken a bold step forward in what will surely be a wireless revolution for controllers
across the board.