Back in October there were reports of a third party Wii U controller that functioned like a Wii U Pro controller but was fashioned in a classic Super Nintendo style.
It was nothing but a pretty dodgy Photoshop render at the time but now the controller has reached retail as Interworks’ ‘Controller Pro U’, a pad promoted by its manufacturer as a ’3-in-one’ Wii remote, classic controller and pro controller combo compatible with Wii and Wii U. It’s a pretty big claim and one that the controller doesn’t quite live up to, but depending on your needs there’s still plenty here you could find appealing.
The gimmick of this controller is that it’s fashioned to look like a miniaturised Super Nintendo controller sitting below the twin sticks and extra buttons of the Wii U Pro controller. You may notice in the images below that I’ve opted for the four-coloured motif of Japan and the PAL regions, but rest assured North American friends there is a lavender-on-purple version available too.
There are also black, black-and-white and horrific C-3PO lookalike versions. Interestingly the X and Y buttons are concave across all models of the Controller Pro U like they were in North America, even though all four face buttons were originally rounded in other regions.
The grey finish is matte and textured like the SNES controller, although truth be told it feels much cheaper. The D-pad is a four-way rocker and feels surprisingly similar to the original that Sony and Microsoft have been very careful to avoid.
The face buttons are not quite as clicky as they could be but are still nice and the sticks are sturdy enough, though the shoulder buttons and triggers feel very cheap indeed, probably owing to the need for internal springs to hold them in position.
It’s light, but feels quite nice in the hands. The overall size of the controller is somewhere between the Wii U Pro and Xbox 360 controllers. It’s an improvement over the Wii U Pro in that there’s quite a bit less thumb travel needed to get from the right stick to the B button, but obviously the Wii U Pro controller is a much much classier product overall. Small inelegant factors like the printing on the + and – buttons or the too-spongy select button make it very clear that this is a middle-grade third-party controller, but then it’s priced accordingly.
As promised the controller can function as a Wii remote, and as such it features a pair of speakers, an IR transmitter on the top and a switch underneath that lets you set the pad to either ‘remote’ or ‘controller’ mode.
For simple menu navigation the controller works surprisingly well. I was worried that using and IR pointer coming out the top of a controller would be very awkward but it’s fine. The controller of course also has a full compliment or internal motion sensors and a rechargeable battery (recharged by USB).
Wii mode and virtual console
If you’re into an SNES-style controller you’re probably into virtual console, right? A problem you may have already spotted is that the Wii remote is set out very differently to a traditional SNES pad. So how have the buttons been mapped? Well with the mode switch set to ‘remote’, A and B on the controller are the equivalent to the remote’s A and B, while Y and X are 1 and 2. Set to ‘controller’ the controller functions as a Wii classic controller and the buttons are mapped accordingly.
This is not the ideal solution for playing Sega and NES games on the virtual console. For example if you play Super Mario Bros in remote mode Y will be dash and X will be jump. In controller mode B is dash and A is jump. Both of these feel wrong on an SNES controller (though they’re useable).
Thankfully when you play a SNES game like Super Metroid, and the button configuration is perfectly accurate. It’s pretty weird to play a Super Nintendo game on a miniature pad with handles attached, but it works well. The start and select buttons mirror the functionality of + and -, which is a nice touch.
Nintendo 64 games always had a bit of an issue feeling right with the Wii classic controller, and this issue is neither fixed nor worsened by the Controller Pro U. I tested it extensively with Mario Kart 64, Super Mario 64 and Majora’s Mask, and they all functioned just fine.
But there’s one question most the Nintendo faithful are probably asking right now – “Does it work for Smash Bros?” The answer is yes, it does. And quite well in fact. The functionality for disc-based Wii games either exactly mirrors a Wii remote or exactly mirrors a classic controller (no nunchuck support unfortunately, so you can’t play Super Mario Galaxy).
Obviously in remote mode it works best for games that expect you to hold the remote sideways. Games like Metroid: Other M that switch between horizontal and vertical remote orientations technically works, the only issue is that the IR sensor is always facing forward, so you’ll need to make sure you’re pointing the controller down or you’ll have issues. A second switch on the underside of the controller switches the motion sensors from horizontal to vertical, so you don’t have to worry about the roll being sideways if you’re playing a game designed to have you always pointing at the screen.
For Super Smash Brothers Brawl none of these concerns about tilt or IR come into play, and the controller simply works like you would expect it to. In fact the analog stick here is much better for smash attacks than the standard classic controller. The pad still can’t hold a candle to the GameCube standard as far as I’m concerned, but it’s a nice compromise. I also looked at Kirby’s Epic Yarn and the controller worked fine.
It might seem like an obvious statement but this controller is at it’s best when playing a Wii game designed for the classic controller. Remote-held sideways games work great but feel a little off (like the NES games), and motion-heavy gimmick games like Zack and Wiki, which expect you to move your remote as though it’s stick-shaped, work but are completely bizarre to play.
Wi U mode
Moving on to Wii U functionality and we come across the Controller Pro U’s first major stumbling block - it’s actually not capable of acting as a Wii U Pro controller. The pad is always connected as a Wii remote or a remote and classic controller, so it’s only compatible with Wii U games that can be played using those accessories.
This means although it looks just like a Wii U Pro controller, you cannot use the Controller Pro U for Darksiders II or any other game that exclusively uses Nintendo’s official pad. You of course can use it for Wii U games that support the Wii classic controller, like Chasing Aurora, but these games are few and far between.
For remote-compatible Wii U games like New Super Mario Bros U this controller provides everything you need to dash, jump and spin jump. Unfortunately we see the same problem here as we had with the NES games – the A and B buttons are used for the A and B Wii remote functions, meaning you’ll be dashing and jumping with the Y and X buttons respectively. It isn’t an ideal solution and it’s certainly more awkward than a standard Wii remote, but as a cheap alternative for getting in on some multiplayer fun it isn’t bad.
Hopefully when the Wii U virtual console finally arrives this controller will come into its element, especially if Nintendo implements some kind of custom control-mapping solution.
This is not an expensive controller. It doesn’t feel as good or function as well as an official Nintendo product. It does a lot of things but almost all of them are compromised in some way. That said, it does some things perfectly well. SNES and N64 games on the Wii virtual console work great, and it’s certainly more simple than finding a Wii remote and classic controller for each player.
Wii games like Super Smash Bros play well with the Controller Pro U, as do Wii U games designed to use Wii controllers . If you don’t have stacks of old Wii remotes and classic controllers lying around or would like a wireless solution for the occasional game night this is a good controller, just don’t expect an amazing controller. In my opinion it looks pretty cool too which is a plus.
- Fine SNES pad, and looks the part
- Combines several Wii accessories into one wireless one
- Smash Bros!
- No Wii U Pro Controller functionality
- Average build quality
- Awkward Wii remote button placement
Final Score: 6.5/10
The Controller Pro U is available at Amazon and some retailers (I got mine from EB Games).
Let me know in the comments: are you considering getting one? If you want to know how it fares with any games in particular be sure to call them out and I’ll test them if I can.