A humble request for more weird Nintendo Switch controllers
Enlarge / Nyxi’s GameCube-style button layout shows just how much more we can do with the Joy-Cons. Back in 2018, when Nintendo released its official NES wireless controllers for the Switch, we talked about how great it would be to see “Joy-Con options that offer a hands-free version of the GameCube control scheme, for example”. Just over four years later, peripheral maker Nyxi Gaming is doing what Nintendo isn’t with the Nyxi Wizard, a set of two Joy-Cons that takes obvious inspiration from the iconic GameCube controller. And the release got us thinking about what other unique Switch Joy-Con designs deserve to see the light of day.
Nyxi’s product page touts many of the Wizard’s special features, including “adjustable turbo and mapping functions,” illuminated face buttons, and Hall Effect levers that they promise will “never develop drift in a lifetime.” But it’s the unique GameCube-style button layout that caught our eye, complete with a giant central green A button, surrounded by strange bean-shaped X and Y buttons and a small auxiliary B button.
This isn’t the first GameCube-style controller released for the Switch, of course. Nintendo released an official GameCube controller adapter years ago and even sells new wired GameCube controllers to go with them. On the third-party side, PowerA offers a wireless “GameCube Style” option for players who trained their muscle memory in Super Smash Bros. Melee.
The Nyxi Wizard stands apart from those previous efforts, however, taking advantage of the Switch’s split Joy-Con modular design. This means the Wizard can be used wirelessly (even in two hands held far apart, if you want) or slide into the sides of the Switch tablet to be used in portable mode (this GameCube-style Joy-Con from a Chinese manufacturer of old brand makes something similar). You can even mix and match the Wizard with other joy-con options, using the GameCube-style face buttons on the right and your favorite analog stick or D-pad on the left, for example.
We want options Expand / If the Dreamcast can get a fishing controller, surely the Switch can get a fishing Joy-Con…
This kind of snap-on modularity has been a potential strength in the Switch since its release, allowing for the kind of control customization that portable gaming systems typically face. However, Joy-Con manufacturers have seemed reluctant to take full advantage of the freedom afforded by this modular design. Instead, we’ve gotten a number of third-party Joy-Cons that make only minor changes to the standard design, usually focusing on a better D-pad and/or improved ergonomics better suited to the hands of adult size.
While these improvements are nice, we’d still like to see some Joy-Con options that get a little more “out there” with the controls. Where’s our Joy-Con with a thumb-sized trackball for faster aiming in first-person shooters? Where’s the Steam Controller-style Joy-Con with a touch-sensitive thumbpad for point-and-click mouse pointer movement? Where’s our custom Joy-Con controller for use with games like Atari 50 or Arkanoid: Eternal Battle?
Enlarge / The Nintendo DS era saw some unique controllers that connected via the GBA cartridge slot. Custom Joy-Cons can get even wilder than that. How about a Joy-Con with PS2-style pressure-sensitive buttons? How about one with a miniature keyboard for in-game text messaging, everyone’s favorite GameCube controller (that’s close, but can’t be used in portable mode)? How about a Joy-Con with a built-in microphone for talking to Pikachu or a Playdate-style controller for… all those games that require a controller (RIP Dreamcast fishing controller)?
Would Nintendo actually allow officially licensed Joy-Cons that deviate so far from the Switch’s standard set of controls? Certainly not. Would any or all of these control options be economically viable as actual products? Also probably not.
Still, we can’t help but hope that the powers that be will show a little more imagination when it comes to the space of endless possibilities that is the Switch’s detachable Joy-Cons. The modularity of the Switch’s flash could usher in a new era of innovative controller design that we haven’t seen since the days of the Power Glove, the Miracle Piano Teaching System, and the Guitar Hero DS controller.
Nintendo’s Labo line of cardboard showed that the company isn’t above this kind of control experimentation when it suits them. A GameCube button rendering could be just the beginning. From this starting point, let a thousand strange Switch controllers flourish!