When Nintendo announced the re-release of years old game controllers from the Nintendo GameCube home console, it was more than a little surprising. What's Nintendo doing re-releasing gamepads from 2001 for its still new-ish game console? And more importantly, why? It's because of crazy people like me. In case it weren't already clear, I'm a longtime fan of Nintendo's Smash Bros. franchise -- a 2D fighting game featuring a massive cross-section of Nintendo's biggest gaming franchises. Mario fights Zelda, for instance; I wrote a piece breaking down how it works and why it's such a wonderful franchise right here. So, what do GameCube controllers have to do with any of this?
Simple: The GameCube version of Smash Bros. (Melee) is considered by many fans, including myself, to be the series' best work to date. Beyond the game itself, the GameCube controller was heralded as a perfect fit for the series. And that's why Nintendo's re-releasing a gamepad from over 10 years ago, as well as an adapter: so the controllers will work with the upcoming Wii U version, dubbed "Super Smash Bros. for Wii U". Still weird, but a bit more logical now, eh?
I spent a few hours this morning both using the re-issued controllers and seeing how the NFC-based Amiibo figurines work on the Wii U version of Smash Bros. Let's get crazy.
First up: the re-released GameCube gamepad. When Nintendo says it's re-releasing the GameCube controller, the company means that literally. The single difference between new and old (we brought our own for comparison) is the logo in the middle: where the old controller says "Nintendo GameCube," the new ones have a Smash Bros. symbol with flames surrounding it. That's it! The buttons feel the same, and the controller's bizarre shape remains. It's not an approximation. It's not similar. It's the same controller.
Of note, you'll need the four-port GameCube controller adapter to make these puppies run on the Wii U (and yes, wireless Wavebird controllers also work in the adapter hub). Should your Wii U's USB ports be occupied, that's going to cause an issue: the GameCube controller adapter takes up two USB ports. If you've got any external storage sticking out of your Wii U (like I do), now's a good time to move it to the rear of the console -- GameCube controller wires are only so long and you'll want the adapter sticking out of the front of your Wii U. Gotta maximize that space, folks!
If you dreamed of Nintendo's Amiibo figurines ferrying your favorite Smash Bros. character and all of his/her stats from Wii U to Wii U, this might hurt: Nintendo's Amiibo figurines each contain a single, unplayable character's data. This isn't your data, but the data of a character you play with in eight-player Smash (among other modes). The character gains "levels" as it plays, as well as learning new moves and fighting styles. You can customize that character as you wish, but you can't actually play as the character housed in the Amiibo. Should you get a Pikachu Amiibo, you'll have a Pikachu to customize (and the same goes for the rest -- Mario houses Mario, etc.).
Given the latest Smash Bros'. proclivity for character customization, you might think that a single Amiibo could house multiple customized versions of its character. You'd be wrong! A Nintendo rep clarified to me this morning that each Amiibo houses one version of one character; you couldn't build a speedy Pikachu and a bruiser Pikachu, for instance, and put them both on a single Pikachu Amiibo. You're choosing one version or the other, which kinda stinks (especially considering that Amiibo figures cost $12.99 apiece).
Setting up and saving data on Amiibo is as easy as you'd think: simply tap and briefly hold the figurine on the Wii U gamepad's NFC spot (on the left side, just underneath the d-pad). If you're using Amiibos in battle, the game prompts you to tap any corresponding figurines to the gamepad after battle (to save out any data from the match).
The first twelve Amiibo launching with the game on November 21st are as follows: Mario, Peach, Link, Samus, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Kirby, Fox, Marth, Villager and Wii Fit Trainer. There's another batch set to arrive later this year. As for the GameCube adapter hub and controllers, they'll also be available alongside the Wii U game in November; the hub costs $19.99 and each gamepad costs $29.99. If you went all the way crazy and tossed out all your GameCube controllers from back in the day, Nintendo's putting together a Wii U Smash Bros. bundle with the hub and one GameCube controller (as well as the game itself) for $99.99.
Oh, and in case you're wondering: yes, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was tremendously fun to play and looks as sharp or better than Nintendo's best efforts thus far on Wii U. Eight-player is positively insane and seemingly exists solely for using Amiibo characters. I can't possibly judge whether or not the game is worth your time based on the hour (or so) I spent with it this morning, but as a longtime Smash Bros. fan I've thoroughly enjoyed the Wii U version every time I've played it.