Hardware Review: Nyko Wireless Core Controller (Switch)

Has a real contender stepped up to the plate to face off against Nintendo’s Pro Controller?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 01/02/2019 06:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

As a bit of a controller fiend, this generation of Nintendo hardware has been maddening. As far as official, straight-from-Nintendo controllers go, it’s already tough keeping up with the different Joy-Con and Pro Controller variants on the market. Yet, this time around, Nintendo’s really hit things off with third party peripheral manufacturers, meaning everyone from PDP to HORI to Nyko and countless others in between are producing a huge array of controllers for Switch, far surpassing anything that Wii U ever saw. For those wanting 8-bit images of Mario and friends or bright, shiny chrome works of art, there seems to be a controller for everyone. What about, however, those who simply want a quality, no-frills alternative to Nintendo’s own Pro Controller?

The pickings have been slim since launch because most companies are hesitant to invest in the functionality that a Pro Controller offers. Typically, third-party Pro Controllers are wired and don’t afford players motion controls, rumble, or an NFC reader. This can be doable for some games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but there are plenty of titles that require at least one or two of a Pro Controller’s unique functions in order to be played (Captain Toad: Treasure Tacker comes to mind), effectively negating those pads’ usability. Thankfully, there’s been improvement lately, with some manufacturers finally coming around and providing Pro Controller variants that skew much closer to the real thing.

Enter Nyko and its Wireless Core Controller. This little wonder offers everything a Pro Controller does with the exception of an NFC reader. Otherwise, the two pads are virtually identical in terms of functionality. Unlike some of the other controller options on the market, though, the Wireless Core Controller isn’t adorned with mascots or retro patterns of any kind. The presentation is far more subdued, with a form factor reminiscent of a Pro Controller and only the option to choose from a range of five clear plastic color variants (and one solid black option). Some might bemoan the more understated style of the Wireless Core Controller, but it’s arguably a nice contrast to the more bold, (some might say) garish designs of the competition.

Really, the Wireless Core Controller comes across as a pad for serious gamers, and it follows through on that in its execution. Beyond its more restrained style, the controller itself is, again, replete with nearly every feature a user could want. The exception being, of course, an NFC reader. Yet, taken as a whole, it’s a small sacrifice to pay for access to a pad that’s very close to the level of Nintendo’s own first-party Pro Controller. The rumble is strong and distinct, the motion controls are precise, and the form factor of the device is sublime. For $29.99, players are able to get 90 percent of what $69.99 for a Pro Controller will net them. With an included USB-C cable for charging, the Wireless Core Controller can quickly be plugged into a Switch Dock and be ready to use within a few hours.

Speaking of battery life, the Wireless Core Controller does seem to come up short compared to a Pro Controller in this regard, at least. The battery life of Nintendo’s own pad is godly, remaining charged for days and days on end before needing a refuel. The Wireless Core Controller does hold a respectable charge for about 20-25 hours, but the Pro Controller can go well beyond that mark, in my experience. I will note, however, that when I was testing the Wireless Pro Controller, I was breaking in Ultimate for the first time, so maybe I was being a tad more… exuberant than normal while playing. Regardless, for the cost and all the features it boasts, the Wireless Core Controller isn’t going to flame out on players in an unreasonable amount of time.

If there’s any other complaint to be levied at the Wireless Core Controller beyond its shorter battery life, its actual build might prove to be polarizing to some players. There’s no skirting around the fact that Nintendo’s Pro Controller is built like a beast. Its wonderful texture, heft, and precise control sticks and buttons all feel like they were made for their namesakes: pros. While it’s fun to play with Joy-Cons on the go, there’s no replacing the pleasure of sitting with a Pro Controller in-hand when gliding around Hyrule in Breath of the Wild, for instance. The Wireless Core Controller is no slouch, but it’s noticeably lighter and smoother. Smooth to the point that some might argue that the pad is a tad bit slippery. I found it a very comfortable controller to play with, but maybe a better comparison here would be to describe driving a Chevy versus a Porsche. The Chevy isn’t bad by any means, but, come on… a Porsche is the epitome of luxury!

In case it’s not obvious from this review, however, the Wireless Pro Controller isn’t about luxury. It’s about delivering a close facsimile of Nintendo’s Pro Controller at a cheaper price point. In that respect, Nyko has delivered yet another winner. Alongside its equally economic and solidly built Dualies, the company is churning out some of the best alternatives to Nintendo’s first-party offerings on the market. Not having an NFC reader might frustrate some players who like to take their Amiibo on the go, but for most players it’s a small setback that likely won’t impact them. The Wireless Pro Controller is a gem and fans owe it to themselves to pick one up if they’re in need of a new Switch pad.

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