In 2018, when Nintendo released its official wireless NES controllers for the Switch, we talked about how nice it would be to see “joy-con options that offer a split-handed version of the GameCube control scheme, for instance.” Just over four years later, peripheral maker Nyxi Gaming is doing what Nintendon’t with the Nyxi Wizard, a set of two joy-cons that takes obvious inspiration from the GameCube’s iconic 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 makes a lot out of the Wizard’s special features, including “adjustable turbo and mapping functions,” light-up face buttons, and Hall Effect joysticks 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 huge, central green A button orbited by weird, bean-shaped X and Y buttons and a tiny 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 on Super Smash Bros. Melee.
The Nyxi Wizard stands apart from those previous efforts, though, by taking advantage of the Switch’s modular split joy-con design. That means the Wizard can be used wirelessly (even in two hands held far apart, if you want) or slid onto the sides of the Switch tablet for used in portable mode (this GameCube-style joy-con from an off-brand Chinese manufacturer does something similar). You can even mix and match the Wizard with other joy-con options, making use of the GameCube-style face buttons on the right and your own preferred analog stick or d-pad on the left, for instance.
We want options
This kind of snap-on modularity has been a hidden-in-plain-sight potential strength for the Switch since its release, allowing for the kind of control customization that portable game systems usually struggle with. Joy-con makers have seemed reluctant to take full advantage of the freedom granted by this modular design, though. Instead, we’ve received an array 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 for adult-size hands.
While these improvements are nice, we’d still love to see some joy-con options that get a bit more “out there” with the controls. Where’s our joy-con with a thumb-sized trackball for quicker 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 spinner-dial joy-con for use with games like Atari 50 or Arkanoid: Eternal Battle?
Custom joy-cons could get even wilder than that. How about a joy-con with PS2-style pressure-sensitive buttons? How about one with a miniature keyboard for sending in-game text messages, a la everyone’s favorite oversized GameCube controller (this comes 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 crank for… all those games that require a crank (RIP Dreamcast fishing controller)?
Would Nintendo actually allow officially licensed joy-cons that deviate so far from the standard set of Switch controls? Probably 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 show a bit more imagination when it comes to the endless-possibility space that is the Switch’s detachable joy-cons. The snap-on modularity of the Switch 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 cardboard Labo line showed that the company isn’t above this kind of control experimentation when it suits them. A GameCube button layout could be just the beginning. From this starting point, let a thousand weird Switch controllers bloom!