If you were looking forward to using the GameCube controller with any Wii U game other than the new Super Smash Bros., Nintendo had some bad news for you today: the forthcoming adapter will only be compatible with the new fighting game when the two come out next month.
The company's explanation today answers a question that had been left strangely open ever since Nintendo first announced that it was making one of its most beloved controllers from console generations past compatible with the Wii U: what about using it to play other great games like Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, or Pikmin 3? Even the way that gamers and game journalists finally arrived at a straight answer speaks to how their expectations have been a bit...muddled over the past few months.
Nintendo offered a definitive answer by releasing a statement in response to reports from several gaming sites claiming that the GameCube controller would work with other Wii U games in addition to the new Super Smash Bros. These reports drew from Nintendo's product description for the GameCube controller adapter for the Wii U as it was listed on Nintendo UK's website. According to Eurogamer, the relevant section of the product description originally said that the new adapter "will allow you to connect your GameCube controller to the Nintendo Wii U," and this it would be "compatible with all games supported by the Wii U Pro Controller."
Nintendo has now removed those details from the product description. In a statement given to several gaming outlets, a Nintendo UK spokesperson clarified that the "GameCube Controller Adapter for Wii U is compatible with Wii U and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U specifically - it is not compatible with any other Wii U software." The spokesperson also noted that the adapter is not compatible with the Wii console.
Well, there you have it. This news might not be disappointing, or even surprising, for Smash fans in particular. Adapting the GameCube controller for the upcoming Wii U game was always seen as a welcome bit of fan service on one level—one that would offer veteran Smash players an easy way to play the new game the way they've preferred to for nearly 13 years at this point (the GameCube's version of Smash, Super Smash Bros. Melee, first came out in December 2001).
On one level. Today's clarifying will probably leave some other Wii U owners feeling a bit let down. By what, exactly? Well, that obviously varies from gamer to gamer. Personally, I was looking forward to getting the new GameCube controllers becauseI figured they were essentially putting a new coat of paint on a classic controller. As a result, I was holding out on purchasing additional Wii U Pro controllers to better play Mario Kart 8 with. Well, that and just looking forward to playing excellent games like Pikmin 3 and Super Mario 3D World with a controller that, again, is pretty classic as far as console controllers go.
I currently own two standard remotes and one Pro controller in addition to the Wii U GamePad. This combination always seems to result in people jockeying over who's gonna get stuck with the remotes whenever friends come over to play Mario Kart. I guess now I'm just gonna have to get another Pro controller or two. Which is fine. But the Wii U Pro controller just doesn't measure up to the GameCube one no matter how I look at it. The prospect of using one of my all-time favorite controllers to play one of my current favorite games was, well, very exciting. And speaking more generally, I love the idea that a game company would bring something successful from previous console generation into the present to see how it might complement new games in turn. Not being able to use the GameCube controllers in this way, and therefore having to spend a lot more money to buy a bunch of extra peripherals just to play two fairly standard games on the same console in the best possible way, doesn't sit well me.
For what it's worth, my boss and Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo said that my opinion here is "bananas," and "possibly absurd," since the Wii U doesn't support any GameCube games at this point anyway. I don't think that a game titled Super Smash Bros. for Wii U should count as a GameCube game either, technically. If we're just talking about new Wii U-ified games that riff on earlier concepts, Mario Kart Double Dash is considered one of the best in the series (Luke placed it at the very top of our ranked list, for one), and Nintendo did make some suggestive comments during GDC about bringing certain GameCube-era features back into the mix for Mario Kart 8. But OK. As I acknowledged above, Nintendo never said that the adapter would work with other Wii U games, so being disappointed by them failing to deliver something that they never actually said they'd deliver might indeed sound bananas. But am I really the only one who feels this way?
Given how quickly a small detail on a region-specific product page was picked up by the gaming-friendly internet, I'm willing to bet that today's news has sent some other gamers and Nintendo fans on an emotional roller-coaster of sorts as well. Because while Nintendo never actually said anything about the GameCube controller's additional compatibility, failing to explicitly deny it gave people ample opportunity to indulge their hopes and expectations.
Let me give one admittedly small example of this. I've been keeping my ear to the streets in Mario Kart 8 ever since the game came out. Those streets have been getting a bit quieter lately, but I can tell that there are still a lot of people who care about this game on many different levels. Here's how a few fans on the Mario Kart subreddit responded when someone cross-posted a story originally claiming that the GameCube adapter would work for Mario Kart 8.
(You can find similar reactions, and a much larger and healthier debate, at other Mario Kart 8 forums like the ones over at GameFAQs)
"My life is complete now," one person wrote. "I always had hope," another said, "I can't wait for this to come out!"
Then someone came in to break the news. "Wow, what a disappointment," the original poster responded. "Sorry about misinforming everyone!"
I'm sorry, too.
UPDATE (4:44 pm): My original draft of this story incorrectly associated some snazzy-looking third-party controllers that Kirk had written about during E3 with Nintendo's official GameCube adapter and the related peripherals. I tweaked the two sentences that referenced Kirk's post and removed the relevant images. I apologize for misleading anyone.