Like many others, the GameCube Wavebird was the first game controller I ever seriously loved. Everything that came before it was fine; at best a novelty, at worst an oversized pain, but mostly just a means to an end. Now there’s a new controller for the Nintendo Switch that looks exactly like a spiritual successor to the 2002 peripheral and claims to have none of the stick drift issues the Joy-Con have become notorious for.
“The Nyxi Wizard combines the retro appearance of our long-run NGC controller with a much more ergonomic design and works perfectly with any Nintendo Switch console,” Nyxi recently tweeted. The controller is on sale for $70, featuring replaceable joysticks and adjustable turbo and mapping options. But the real draw are the hall effect joysticks that use magnets to prevent drift.
As Chris Person points out at The Verge, Sega used this technology for the Sega Saturn 3D and Dreamcast controllers. By using parts that are less prone to wear, the sticks should last longer without succumbing to drift whereby the directional controls are engaged even when the stick is left in the resting position. As someone whose modern controllers only seem to last a couple years before the pin springs break down or the rubber stars to disappear, it’s an appealing proposition, and one 8bitdo and other speciality controller manufacturers are working on offering.
The Joy-Con’s issues are well known at this point. I’ve gone through three pairs in six years. There have been issues with the locking mechanisms on the sides and button springs, but the drift is the most infamous, resulting in lawsuits, regulatory investigations, and overworked repair centers. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Sony’s DualShock 4 and new PS5 DualSense haven’t worn well over the years either. My old Wavebird meanwhile? Still fine for a friendly game of Smash Bros.
And that’s the other major appeal of the Nyxi Wizard: providing manufacturing polish to a nostalgic design that modders have been emulating for years now. While the look immediately conjures images of late night GameCube sessions, it also follows in the footsteps of a controller that would become the wave of the future, from the lack of wires to the offset joysticks. Almost exactly 20 years later, we’re still living in the future Nintendo’s Wavebird built.
Having not tried it yet, I have no idea if it will actually feel as good, or hold up as well, as the company boasts. But it is great to see the current renaissance in gamepad design continue to unfold.