Generally speaking, there are two types of gamers. There are those with the utmost refined taste in peripherals, and there are those not above making a sacrifice to save a buck. It is this latter group that keeps the third-party controller market afloat.
For countless console generations I wasn’t above picking up a potentially shoddy gamepad for my player 2. However, in our current cycle I have resisted temptation. It’s not as if third-party products are universally bad, but, given that my play time has been greatly reduced by the rigors of family and a full-time job, I demand a certain level of responsiveness from all my controllers.
This is especially true with regard to the Nintendo Wii. While friends and fellow bloggers have had varying levels of success with non-Nintendo Wii Remotes, I have chosen to steer clear. The first-party Wii-motes may be a bit more expensive, but they have a proven track record.
Yet recently Nyko has seen fit to sweeten the deal by releasing the first remote with Wii Motion Plus support built right in. That’s right, kids – no dongles necessary.
The Nyko Wand+ builds on the design of their original Wand controller, a fairly apt analogue for the proper Wii-mote right down to its perfectly sculpted shape. The Wand+ even goes so far as to fix one of the obvious shortcomings of its predecessor by forgoing the garish red and blue buttons for a newer, more muted color palette.
The Wand+ comes in a very smart matte gray with black accents on the B trigger as well as the rubberized grip on its battery compartment. But more interesting than the color of the controller is its unique texture. Cleverly blending style and substance, the Wand+ has a nice visual aesthetic that actually feels great in-hand.
Of course, none of these bells and whistles are particularly important if a third-party controller doesn’t stand up to its name-brand counterpart, but I’m happy to say the Wand+ actually does. You’ll find its one-to-one movement response in titles like Motion Plus standard Wii Sports Resort to have no more latency than your Nintendo-brand Wii Remote and dongle. And, though I could easily believe this to be a possible fluke of my own user experience, I actually found myself forced to reorient my Wand+ less often than my original Wii-mote in marathon play sessions.
Not only is the Wand+ properly accurate in Motion Plus play, but it works perfectly as a standard Wii pointer to boot. In fact, my only real knock against the functionality of the device comes as a side effect of an unfortunate design choice. Like the Wand before it, this controller forgoes the standard d-pad configuration for something slightly more cumbersome. (Imagine a small square overlaid atop the traditional t-shape representing your secondary directions.) This makes the Wand+ less effective in the horizontal-style play of Metroid: Other M and downloadable NES titles, not to mention decreasing its response when housed within my favorite add-on, the BOSS.
Other than that, there’s very little not to like about the Wand+. Sure, the included controller jacket feels a bit cheap and you’ll likely find yourself forced to remove the slightly convex battery cover to get it to fit in some controller accessories, but that’s really a small price to pay.
Speaking of price, that’s where the Wand+ really shines. For $39.99, the price of a regular Wii Remote, you get all the functionality of a Motion Plus enabled unit without adding bulk to the original footprint. For the price you get a controller with fantastic response, an integrated speaker that’s a bit less tinny than the original and some added tactile stimulation thanks to its satin finish. While it irks me a bit that the color doesn’t exactly compliment my white Nunchuck, it does look nice with my black Classic Controller Pro. And with a coordinating Kama on the way, I can easily forgive this single fashion faux pas.
If you’re in the market for a new Wii controller and are also looking to save some coin, the Wand+ certainly delivers. More than some cheap knock-off, it not only refines the formula of Nyko’s original Wand, but also bundles the functionality that the Nintendo product should have rightly delivered from the get-go.
WIRED: Wii Motion Plus functionality with no additional cost or bulk, as responsive as first-party product, good color scheme, unique texture
TIRED: wonky d-pad, battery cover may need to be removed to get it into some accessories
Review materials provided by Nyko