Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is on the horizon. Naturally, this is going to lead a lot of players to ponder as to which controller they intend to smash with. Some will make do with the Joy Cons or Pro Controller. Others will stick to their guns and use the good old-fashioned GameCube controller. Maybe someone wants a GameCube style pad that’s updated design-wise to work with other Switch titles. To those of you in that last group, rejoice, for the PowerA GameCube style controller has arrived to satisfy that niche. This sample was provided by PowerA themselves for reviewing purposes, so let’s not waste any more time and get into the good stuff.
Something to mention beforehand: the version of the GC style controller reviewed here is the wireless variant. For those looking for a controller that’s easier to bring to tournaments and the like, there does exist a wired version without select added features but overall works the same. With that out of the way, let’s continue.
As advertised, the PowerA GameCube controller is built to resemble the original. Compared side by side, the two look and feel alike. One of the key differences between a standard GameCube controller and the PowerA variant is the added shoulder button. This ensures full compatibility with all Switch titles, which is technically possible with a standard GC pad but will gimp you in certain games.
The wireless version specifically runs on two AA batteries, and has a slot underneath for them. It’s a bummer that it couldn’t have been rechargeable like most other third party wireless Switch controllers, and this is possibly the controller’s most notable downside, but on the flipside, two AA batteries are provided in the box to get you started, and the issue is rendered moot with access to rechargeable batteries. With the two AA batteries installed, the controller is ready to pair.
The wireless variant of the PowerA GameCube style pad goes a bit further than its wired counterpart and adds in motion controls to give the controller extra compatibility with games supporting the feature. There’s something about the motion controls in this controller that just feel better than similar counterparts, but it could be just me. Either way, the motion controls work as you’d expect them to. This feature, as you might expect, is excluded from the wired variant. Compared to an official Pro Controller, the PowerA GameCube variant is missing HD rumble and NFC functionality. The latter is understandable since most third-party controllers opt to exclude it, but the lack of rumble is a slight bummer.
Speaking of the Pro Controller, the PowerA GC pad is essentially a Pro Controller in a GameCube shell. Muscle memory might throw you off at first, and you don’t normally push the sticks down on GameCube controllers, but give it time to adjust and the PowerA can feasibly serve as an alternative Pro Controller due to the added shoulder button. The feel of this controller is fantastic. Every button responded as I wanted it to and there wasn’t a hint of input lag as I played despite being wireless. This was especially handy for those kinds of games that demand fast reaction times, so the PowerA controller won’t let you down there. It’s also nice that the PowerA controller cuts down on the kind of fluff you’d see on other third-party controllers, namely turbo functions, which are situational as is and maybe not the most optimal thing to use.
Going off track for a moment, considering that I was specifically asked this by someone once I received the controller, the D-pad is actually pretty good. I loaded up the NES library and played some titles to see how it handled for 2D platformers exclusively, and it didn’t fail me. If you’re into that kind of functionality, then it won’t fail you either.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room: I obviously can’t speak to the controller’s performance in Smash Ultimate yet, which sucks considering that this aspect is the most advertised thing about it. As such, since we’re just under two weeks away from Ultimate’s release at the time of this video, there may be a separate follow-up to this review detailing how optimal the controller is for regular Smash play. Judging by my thoughts on the controller right now, though, I don’t expect to see a huge difference in quality.
This is it. This is arguably the best Pro Controller alternative that money can buy. Full compatibility with Switch games, solid controls, comfortable to use, coming in wired and wireless variants, all in a familiar, fan favorite controller design. It also helps that Powera products are licensed by Nintendo and won’t fall victim to system updates making them unusable, which is a nice bonus. Going back to the wireless variant, the fact its battery powered is the controller’s biggest downfall. They’re kind enough to package a pair of batteries to get you started, but those run out eventually. Invest in rechargeable batteries if you want the wireless version or stick to wired. But otherwise, there’s not much else to say, and this controller is a must have for anyone seeking Pro Controller alternatives or extra controllers in general.
The PowerA Gamecube Style Controller is available from PowerA’s website.