Hardware Review: Retro Fighters Brawler64 Wireless Edition Controllers

The wireless Nintendo 64 controllers we all would have loved to have owned in 1996!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/02/2021 23:57 Comment on this     ShareThis

I will be 100 percent honest and say that when Retro Fighters’ Brawler64 Wireless Edition Nintendo 64 controllers appeared on my porch, I was at a loss as to where they had come from. The issue was COVID, or more specifically the massive time gap that had occurred between speaking with their PR rep and actually getting the pads in my hands. Delays have been especially common in shipping due to the pandemic, but after a quick search through my email I was back up to speed and realized I had not ordered four wireless N64 controllers without realizing it. Instead, I had a quartet of wireless wonders to try out and was very much eager to do so with the confusion (on my end) taken care of!

So, what makes these controllers special? A lot of things, actually. First off, let’s detail the features of the Brawler64:

  • Compatible with Nintendo 64
  • Next Generation N64 Controller
  • 2.4 Ghz Wireless Technology
  • Wireless range of over 30 feet
  • Ergonomic and comfortable design
  • Updated “Z” digital triggers
  • Battery life of 10+ hours
  • Ultra-fast turbo function
  • Compatible with memory paks
  • Responsive analog stick
  • Rechargeable Li-Polymer battery
  • Includes USB-C charging cable
  • Color-matched dongles

As the list declares right off the bat, Brawler64 controllers are made for use with Nintendo 64. As in, the original, real-deal hardware. For those who might have forgotten, the original N64 controller remains one of the most unique pads to have ever been produced for a console—right up there with Sega’s Dreamcast controllers and the original Xbox’s Duke pads. The reason for these comparisons is the oddball triple-pronged design of Nintendo 64 controllers. Here’s an image for reference:

Even by today’s standards, the N64 pad is far from typical. Yet, while it has many a fan, there is an argument to be made that a modern redesign wouldn’t be objectionable. This is where Retro Fighters comes in. While this isn’t the company’s first pass at a modern Nintendo 64 controller, the Brawler64 is the cream of the crop. The controller’s range is every bit of what has been advertised. The build is sturdy, with responsive, satisfying buttons and a quality analogue stick in tow. The redesigned double “Z” buttons are now positioned as triggers on the top of the controller, not unlike a contemporary set of “R2” and “L2” buttons. Interestingly, the triggers will by default both act as “Z,” regardless of which trigger is pressed. I had no issues with this; indeed, being able to find the arrangement that suited my playstyle the best was welcome. The actual shape of the Brawler64 skews heavily towards everything from a Nintendo Pro Controller to an Xbox pad, which is a definite positive, especially in regards to comfort.

Part of the appeal of the Brawler64 will be firing up Super Smash Bros. for some multiplayer mayhem with friends. In my experience, there was no interference or issues when playing with more than one Brawler64 plugged in. The controller felt great for Smash, and with its modern, ergonomic chassis it was easier for my hands to grip for extended periods of play. This was true of multiple games I tested out using the controller: Ocarina of Time, Banjo-Kazooie, Ridge Racer 64, and much more. It was the first time in quite a while that I had plugged in and played my actual Nintendo 64 and it felt wonderful. I have strong muscle memories for games like Ocarina and I was astounded how easily the controller facilitated rapid input of songs, as though it was an original N64 pad. Even details like the wireless dongle, which plugs into the front of the system, have been given special care. In this case, Controller Paks (memory cards) can be plugged into the dongle, which keeps the controller itself uncluttered.

If there’s any downside, it’s that the Brawler64 doesn’t have rumble functionality built in. The turbo functionality is all well and good, but rumble was a big part of the N64 experience and it’s a shame to see the feature omitted. Likely this was done to help keep costs down, but it’s the one “extra” that would have pushed these pads over the edge. As they are, they’re wonderfully crafted, but the lack of this one feature might disappoint a number of fans. That said, having multiple colorways to choose from, with hues pulled straight from the various styles that N64 sported across the years, helps soften the blow. Damn, these things look good.

Unfortunately, as of this moment it isn’t possible to order a Brawler64 directly, but Retro Fighters is taking pre-orders for the next batches. I say batches because there are different colorways landing on different days. Click through the ones you want to see for specific dates. It’s also worth pointing out that once the clear colors sell out, Retro Fighters doesn’t reproduce them, meaning every set is a limited edition. Standard gray, for instance, is sticking around, but if you want a matching Brawler64 for your particular transparent-colored N64 at home, you’ll have to act quickly (or depend on resellers).

Feel free to give Retro Fighters’ site a look here. The Brawler64 is highly recommended; its functionality is so smooth, its build so luxurious, that I couldn’t help but feel like these were controllers were very close to what Nintendo might have produced if it could have implemented wireless and a more contemporary design back in 1996.

Nintendojo was provided review units of this product for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation.

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