Summary: Nintendo has set a new standard for wireless controllers with its WaveBird. Read our review and find out why we think it's an essential accessory for any GameCube owner.
Those of us who’ve played consoles extensively have had it happen. You and three of your friends are having a heated match of NHL or Madden, you’re pounding away at the buttons, screaming your heads off, and making incredible play after incredible play…and then your (circle one) mother/sister/girlfriend/cat/dog picks that key moment to walk across the TV and trip over one or more of the controller wires, yanking the pad out of your hands and/or pulling the console down off the shelf. It’s a tragic scene, and in this country, it happens once every 4.673 minutes.
We’ve seen wireless controllers in the past. In an effort to reduce the clutter in front of the TV, I remember my father about 15 years ago buying an infrared 3rd party joystick for me to use with the NES. Unfortunately, it was a piece of junk. Compared to the NES Advantage, the stick itself had a horrid, clickety feel to it, the base wasn’t as stable, and the infrared sensor could be interfered with by someone walking in front of the TV or setting a soda can down in the wrong place. The NES Satellite was a better option; it was an IR hub that allowed you to plug any controller (4 ports) in and use it remotely, but the IR nature still made it susceptible to interference. Those were my first and only experiences with using wireless controllers on console or PC. Obviously I wasn’t impressed.
Fast forward past the death of the NES, SNES, and N64, and here I am with my GameCube, finally healed from the trauma that was wireless gaming, ready to give wireless another chance. This time, I went with a first-party solution, Nintendo’s WaveBird controller. Unlike the horrible joystick I tried before, the WaveBird has the same solid construction you’d expect from a Nintendo product. And unlike the previous IR wireless solutions, Nintendo’s WaveBird uses RF, which means that you don’t have to be pointed directly at the console, nor will obstructions hinder its effectiveness.
The WaveBird has been one of the GameCube’s most highly anticipated accessories since before the system even launched. At least, to hardcore console/Nintendo fans. This particular editor hasn’t exactly lost a lot of sleep waiting for the WaveBird to come out, but I happened to be at an Electronics Boutique when it arrived in stores last week so I picked one up to take it for a spin.
What do we get for
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|Testing||Page:: ( 2 / 4 )|
The WaveBird controller looks almost exactly like a regular GameCube controller. The buttons, joysticks, and D-pad are all exactly the same as a standard ‘Cube controller. There are only a couple of differences. The WaveBird has no rumble functionality – the compromises on battery life would be too much, and weight was also a factor, since the WaveBird needs to carry two AA batteries, which slip into a compartment underneath the controller. An on/off switch is present on top of the controller, unobstrusively placed between the D-pad and the C-stick. An orange power LED appears below the on/off switch. Finally, the frequency selector dial on the controller is on the “back” of the controller, facing the user when you hold it. Since this is RF, not IR wireless, there is no window in the front that can break or get scratched.
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Nintendo claims the range on the WaveBird to be 20 feet. Surprisingly, this turns out to be a gross underestimation. Maybe you’ve seen the review on IGN where they take the controller and run 90 feet behind the television and the controller is still working. I tried a similar test at our house. I had my roommate stand in front of the TV in my bedroom to confirm operation of the controller, while I walked around the house. I walked out the door of my bedroom (10 feet to the side of the console, obscured by the TV and partially by the bedroom door) and mashed some buttons. Check. Down the stairs halfway. Check. All the way to the bottom of the stairs. Check. To the front door. Check. Out the front door. Check. Past the porch. Check. To the edge of the street – finally it failed. Put simply, the WaveBird’s wireless capability is comparable to that of a good cordless phone. You can use the WaveBird sitting anywhere in any sized room, and not have to worry about the signal cutting out or having line of sight to the console.
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|Ballistics Report||Page:: ( 3 / 4 )|
Wireless: Duh, that’s what you bought it for. No worries about tripping over messy entertainment centers, tripping on tangled wires in the middle of games, tripping over cords and controllers you left lying around while you find the bathroom in the middle of the night. And you can sit down anywhere you like in the room without having to worry about extension cords.
Insane range: The WaveBird has more range than you will ever need. And since it uses RF instead of IR, you don’t need line of sight from the controller to the box.
Solid construction: It’s a first party product – you don’t have to worry about it falling apart or that it uses cheap parts. The WaveBird is just as solid as every other Nintendo product.
Familiarity: It looks and feels just like a regular GameCube controller. Performs like one too.
Price is excellent: The WaveBird costs just about the same as a regular controller plus an extension cord. And you get batteries with it too. What more can you ask for? I’ve looked around and wireless controllers for the PS2 cost 50 and 60 dollars, far higher than the $35 asking price of a WaveBird.
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Batteries required: The WaveBird comes with batteries, and all indications suggest that you won’t have to replace them any time soon (100 hours claimed battery life). But the fact that you eventually will still implies a recurring cost. Don’t worry, it’s worth it. Just don’t forget to flip the on/off switch when you’re done playing. It would be all too easy to set the controller down after playing and forget to shut it off.
No rumble: If you’re like me, this actually belongs in the pro section. But in the unlikely event that some game comes out where rumble is a necessity, you may not want to throw out all your corded controllers just yet. WaveBird has no rumble.
Only one color for now: Isn’t it ironic? Nintendo, the company that produces everything in 20 pastel shades…neglects to produce the WaveBird in multiple colors when it would actually be useful. GBAs started out in 3 different colors. GameCube consoles are in two colors. Regular GC controllers come in three colors. N64s eventually came out in like 10 or 12 different colors. But the ONE device where it would actually be useful to have multiple colors (so you don’t get controllers mixed up when everyone gets up for a drink break during a 4-man NHL session), Nintendo only makes in one color – light gray. Surely there will be more colors coming later on, but for now, there’s only one.
SIDEBAR: Lots of good games to look forward to with the GameCube – Eternal Darkness, Mario Sunshine, Metroid, Zelda, and Resident Evil Zero to name a few.
|Final Verdict||Page:: ( 4 / 4 )|
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