Wavebird controller

Gamestyle Archive intro: the team were big fans of the Nintendo Gamecube and this spilled over into the Wavebird controller that liberated gamers from the restraint of short leads and tangled webs. This article dates from August 2002. Just checking online now; Games Importer is no more.

Writer: JJ

wavebird

With each new Nintendo console you are guaranteed a controller that ultimately breaks the rules in one way or another, often overshadowing even the machine itself.   Therefore it came as a considerable surprise when the Wavebird was first revealed, not only because of the superb design of the current Gamecube controller, but also Nintendo never try confuse the consumer with a range of accessories.   Once a controller is released, it is stuck with, through thick and thin, despite criticisms until the next machine brings the next revolution.

In an age where we are able to send men to the moon (allegedly), split the atom and clone sheep, up until now one thing has remained firmly out of reach from each and every scientist: the cordless controller.   For sure there have been attempts previously, but these were made by third party manufacturers, where quality and budget were compromised on a daily basis.   Nintendo are the first hardware manufacturer to pick up the gauntlet and try to achieve the impossible.   What they have created is a controller that it is cordless, operating by radio frequency only, and is promised to offer the same level of control from up to 20 feet away.  To date this revolutionary device is currently only available in America, with Europe, as ever, waiting eagerly for confirmation of a release date.   Patience is always a virtue that each and every European gamer has to acquire, but Gamestyle could wait no longer to bring you our impressions of the Wavebird, which does work on a European machine.

The advantage of such a device is immediately clear: one more lead removed from the strands that litter your audio visual home set up.    With the recent exception of the Xbox controller, the leads between the pad and console are consistently too short, never mind potentially dangerous to passers by, with extensions only increasing the dangers.   The Wavebird fits in well with the complete transportability of the system: the cube handle, discreet size of the memory card and unit.   Nintendo not only want the Gamecube to be the smallest, most environment friendly system but also the most transportable.   Many of us no doubt hate wrapping the wire around the controller or looping the cord after you’ve finished playing in a desperate, ill-advised attempt to clear up the console clutter.   These days are now a thing of the past.

Despite its hippy-esque name, the Wavebird is a carbon copy of the current Gamecube controller with two noticeable differences.   The first is the added bulk at the base of the unit, which houses the two AA batteries (supplied) and necessary signal equipment.   The Wavebird does not contain a rumble function, which is not only an attempt to conserve battery life but also to prevent an idle controller moving along your coffee table, while you attend to matters elsewhere.   Given recent health warnings and friends, who specifically turn off the rumble function on games, I sincerely doubt many will mourn its absence.   The two supplied batteries are adequate but do not offer the durability of Duracell Ultra, which I promptly installed.  Worries about rapid battery consumption are in my opinion unfounded, and instantly erased by the performance of the Wavebird.   Nintendo have included a light on the controller to display the status of the batteries and an On/Off switch to limit any wastage.

The first thing I noticed about the Wavebird was its weight, I had visions of an almighty handful but I could not have been more wrong: it is extremely light and because it’s from Nintendo feels just like the standard controller.   As the system uses a radio frequency, and given the amount of invisible signals bouncing around lives, you would think that tuning would be a major hassle.   This is simply not the case because Nintendo have devised a system so simple that even your parents could figure it out.   On the receiver, which plugs in the Gamecube, there is a dial that goes from 1-16; these are the possible frequencies that correspond to the same dial, which is located on the base of the Wavebird.   Simply select whichever works for you and then you can get on with playing.   Nintendo have included a green light that will flash on the receiver whenever you press a button or move the stick, thereby showing that everything is functioning correctly.   The additional frequencies can be used to accommodate more players, taking advantage of the four player capabilities of the system, regardless of the number or combinations of Wavebird’s and standard controllers involved.

Great you may be thinking, but just how does it perform during games?   Are we looking at a slight delay or variation in the signal?   To answer these questions I tried the Wavebird on a variety of games, over a variety of distances, to give you an indication of its performance.  For the record the games were Super Monkey Ball, Rogue Squadron 2, Pikmin, NBA Courtside 2002 and Bloody Roar.   These were selected on the basis of what each game demanded – Pikmin (every button), Bloody Roar (combos) and Super Monkey Ball (analogue) and so on.   Throughout each of these and regardless of the distance, I did not encounter any problems or noticeable delays between my actions and the on screen response.

Out of curiosity I picked up the Wavebird and marched out of my living room, across the hall and into the bedroom.   Even here I could still hear those familiar Pikmin responses to each button press, so I went the opposite way, through the entrance hall and out onto the front lawn.   Again, much to my surprise, the controller worked perfectly and is a testament to the quality of the design.  On the product box the maximum distance Nintendo quote is 20 feet, this is obviously a safe distance because on testing it can theoretically work from greater distances.   The only factor I believe you have to contend with is the positioning of the receiver as if it becomes blocked or hidden, which is likely if the unit is on the ground, but such problems are about positioning, rather than the inner workings themselves.

Using the Wavebird soon becomes second nature and opens up your gaming space even more.  Previously I had plonked myself on the floor, leaving room for others to move around with no fear of tripping or utilise the sofa if they so desired.  Now the whole room is a new playing space, I could even sit at the dining table and play during dinner, although this may be hazardous to my health.  Still I do suggest that you try the Wavebird as it could be the answer to your problems.

The Wavebird controller was kindly supplied by www.gamesimporter.com and if you would like further information on purchasing a Wavebird then please email g.importer@blueyonder.co.uk for further details.

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