Considering how ubiquitous the Wii is, you’d expect it to have as many third party controller solutions as the equally plentiful PS2. There aren’t too many Wii remote-alikes on the market right now, and while you might not have a huge selection to choose from at least one company is giving you a good alternative to Nintendo’s controllers. Nyko’s track record on the Wii is already excellent, with standouts like their can’t-live-without-it charging station and the Wing, a Virtual Console pad that is vastly superior to Nintendo’s cheapo Classic Controller. The Nyko Wand, though, might be their best Wii product yet.
I tested the Nyko Core Pak, which includes the Wand and Nyko’s answer to the Nunchuk, the Kama. Rather than split them up into separate reviews I’ll discuss them together, considering they are companion pieces of the same set that you’ll probably buy together anyway.
First, the Wand. Its appearance is functionally similar to the Wii remote but has styling similar to the Wing, in order to keep Nyko’s peripheral line consistent. The A, 1 and 2 buttons have the Wing’s distinctive red and blue color scheme, but more importantly, those buttons and power and home buttons are all square and just slightly larger than the Wii remote’s tiny circular ones. You’d think that this would drastically change the feel of the Wand, but after only a minute of playtime I wasn’t even registering the difference consciously.
In fact the Wand might just be a little more comfortable. The bigger buttons make sideways NES Virtual Console play easier on the thumbs, and it also improves using the Mario Kart wheel, if you even play with that piece of junk. The home button is just a tad easier to hit, and the power button is on the right side instead of the left, which was more natural for a righty like me. My only minor concern is the D-pad; it’s just a tad looser than the Wii remote’s, and like the buttons it’s a little bigger.
The B trigger is a huge improvement. It has a stiffer throw and is coated in textured rubber, which is great for long sessions with an FPS or lightgun game. The Wand’s battery door has a similar rubber grip, and while the Core Pak doesn’t include one of Nyko’s rechargeable batteries, you get those with the charge kit anyway.
In terms of performance the Wand is essentially identical to the Wii remote. I put the Wand through its paces in Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime Trilogy and The Conduit, and detected no loss of accuracy in either the accelerometer or the pointer. It seems to register the sensor bar at a slightly higher angle than the Wii remote but I got used to this fairly quickly. My only real complaint is with the Wand’s speaker—it’s about as crackly and tinny as the Wii remote’s, one area I had hoped Nyko would improve on.
I didn’t test the Wand with WiiMotion Plus (I don’t have one yet), and while the earliest Wand models aren’t compatible, Nyko guarantees that all recent Wands will work with the add-on and if you have one that doesn’t work, they’ll give you a free firmware update that adds compatibility.
The Wand comes with its own rubber jacket and wrist strap, very similar to Nintendo’s but colored in Nyko blue. The Wand might function equally as well as the Wii remote, but overall I prefer how it looks and feels, much more like a video game controller than something stolen from Steve Jobs’ R&D lab.
The other half of the Core Pak is a corded version of the Kama, Nyko’s wireless Nunchuk that was released a year ago. This Kama might not be wireless but it gives you an extra feature by using Nyko’s Trans-Port technology. The Wand’s accessory socket is similar to the Wii remote’s Nunchuk jack, but lets the Wand communicate digitally with compatible Nyko accessories. You can plug a regular Nunchuk or other Wii accessory into the socket and it’ll work just fine, but Nyko accessories take advantage of the proprietary Trans-Port.
The Wired Kama, for example, has a rumble motor that mimics the feedback you get from the Wand, so any rumble you feel in the Wand also happens in the Kama. This is a nice extra feature—both Nintendo’s Nunchuk and Nyko’s wireless Kama have no force feedback—and Nyko promises Trans-Port tech will be used in a whole line of peripherals they have planned. It’s definitely superior to the clunky mechanical methods Nintendo uses in its Zapper and Wheel shells.
In terms of ergonomics Nyko’s product once again trumps Nintendo’s. The Kama doesn’t look as elegant as the Nunchuk but it’s a whole lot more comfortable. The Kama’s body is significantly wider and its underside is coated with the gray rubber that’s become a staple of the Nyko line; both changes make for a more solid grip. The base for the control stick is circular instead of the octagonal socket Nintendo’s been using since the N64, and I found it allows for finer control. The C and Z buttons are wide and rectangular, and the Z button has a sloping plastic lip to keep your finger from slipping off. To top it all off the Kama’s cord is several inches longer than the Nunchuk’s and includes a Velcro strap for bundling the cord, similar to a laptop power supply.
The best part about all this? Both the Wand and Wired Kama are cheaper than their first party counterparts, bundled or sold separately. On their own the Wand goes for $35 and the Kama for $15, and the Core Pak is $50. Nyko did what Nintendo should have done from the beginning: bundle both halves of the controller together, and price them competitively. If you’re in need of an extra Wii remote and Nunchuk, don’t drop $60 on the Nintendo peripherals. Save ten bucks with the Nyko Core Pak—the Wand and Kama are overall superior, and hey, even the packaging looks cooler!