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When it comes down to controller options, the Wii U has a plethora. In fact, last year’s Super Smash Bros. went all kinds of crazy with the amount of controllers you could use — making its now infamous \’8-Player Smash\’ mode accessible to many.
While the Wii U may have a lot of compatible controllers, there are two that stand out to the majority of core Wii U owners: the GamePad — the heart of the system and it’s non-screen companion, the Pro Controller. From since its release alongside the system in 2012, many have considered this to be the best controller that Nintendo has ever put out (not including the WaveBird). While a remarkable controller, the $50 price-point is a little steep for some who are looking to take a more \’traditional\’ route with some of their Wii U titles. Thankfully, there are some third-party alternatives, and today, we\’re going to take a look at what is arguably the fairest of them all — enter, the Afterglow Pro!
So, how does PDP’s stack up to Nintendo’s renowned quality? Let’s take a look!
?DESIGN & BUILD QUALITY
The first thing that you\’ll notice about the AG Pro, is it has a completely transparent shell. This gives it a very retro style, as this was a common thing back in the day of the N64 — which had its own line of transparent-hard plastic controllers and even console. Nintendo repeated this with the Gameboy Advance and recently with the 2DS.
Unlike the original, with a glossy black/white finish, this shell is made out of hard plastic. In all honesty, I prefer the transparent plastic to the glossy finish of the original. While the gloss is great for show, it’s also every fingerprint’s dream come true, especially if you have the black one. But the AG Pro’s transparent plastic shell isn\’t just to mask fingerprints — there’s a reason why this thing falls under the Afterglow brand. Who says stuff that light up are only for kids? PDP is well-known for their line of numerous of Afterglow controllers — and the Pro is no exception. The controller features 7 blue super-bright, LED lights that are evenly distributed across the front of the controller from left to right, under the shell. While not TRON-level cool, it’s still pretty cool. That transparent shell isn\’t just for the lights, though. The entire circuitry of the unit is open and exposed for all to see. Seeing as it is so neatly done, it’s actually rather cool to see the inside of the controller, and even cooler when you throw the lights on.
While it may have a different shell from the original, its shape and button layout is a complete replica of the original Pro Controller. The \’boomerang\’ shape is present, as well as the symmetrical analog sticks, with the D-Pad beneath the left stick and face buttons under the right, with Select, Home and Start across the top-center, and charging port at the top with shoulder buttons and triggers, just like the original.
When it comes down to the overall build-quality, as you would expect, it falls short of the original. Nintendo’s signature D-Pad has been replaced with a more XBOX 360-style D-Pad; while not terrible, it isn\’t as great as what’s found on the original. The 4 face-buttons are all quite snappy and responsive, and the analog sticks are maneuverable. Also, the analog sticks are actually concave, a better trait picked up from the XBOX 360 controller. The two shoulder buttons are also snappy and responsive. The 3 control buttons, strangely enough, aren\’t as snappy, and take a little bit of effort to push in. Still, the main problem with this controller lies with the two triggers. Nintendo made a strange decision to not allow the Wii U to register analog trigger inputs, but PDP made an even stranger decision to put analog-like triggers on the AG Pro. If they were actually analog, they would\’ve been alright, but seeing that they aren\’t, they just feel weird. You have to put a minor amount of force in order for the controller to signal an input. While not difficult, it does take some getting used too, especially for titles that have you holding it excessively (i.e Call of Duty, Need for Speed, etc.)
In the end, the controllers overall make-up isn\’t bad at all. For a replica of the original Pro Controller, while it’s a hit and miss in some areas, it’s not a total off-shot.
As mentioned before, the AG Pro has a stunning set of blue LEDs that looks really good in the nighttime (or any dimly lit room). With that, it also features dual rumble motors that are found in the lower left and right sectors of the controller, right where you rest your palms. Believe me, this thing can vibrate! I was taken aback when I played a round of Smash Bros. with it for the first time. Every Smash Attack, every explosion — I could feel it. This is sure to be a joy for any gamer that likes the rumble feature.
Now, with every wireless controller, there’s one feature that everyone wonders about — the battery life.
Nintendo dropped a few jaws when they announced that the original Pro Controller has an average battery life of a stellar 80-hours. PDP did a good job replicating the shape and button placement, but unfortunately, couldn\’t exactly replicate the battery life. The AG Pro can go for about 40-50 hours on a single charge — a little over half of what the original can do. If you plan to keep the LEDs on, then you\’ll end up with 20-30 hours. On the plus side, it charges in a little over 2 hours and that’s by USB-charging from the Wii U. Also, the controller actually comes with its own 8ft mini-USB charging cable, just like the original. Overall, while the battery isn\’t as great as the original Pro Controller, this is still really good for those who want to primarily have a backup for when the Gamepad’s small battery life puffs out.
? OVERALL VALUE
With any third-party product, most gamers tend to be very picky when it comes down to price. Since they know that there’s a chance it won\’t be anywhere near as good an experience as what a original product would give them, they tend not to want to spend too much. Thankfully, there are some trustworthy names out there, and PDP is one of them.
The AG Pro normally retails from $29.99 – $39.99, depending on where you look. I was able to snag mine for the former. With all things considered, the controller is reasonably priced; coming in at less than half of what the original Pro controller normally retails for. While that $10-$20 difference may seem small to some, that makes a big difference to others, so for it’s price, PDP is offering a pretty decent controller that will make you feel like your money was well spent.
? THE BOTTOM LINE
In the end, the PDP Afterglow Pro is a pretty decent controller. It’s transparent plastic shell gives it a retro-like design and mixed with the bright-blue LEDs, this thing is some serious eye candy. It’s also good for hiding fingerprints while not feeling completely cheap. The overall design is tit-for-tat with the original Pro Controller, making it an easy adaption for any who are migrating from the original or who plan to swap between the two regularly. The face and shoulder buttons feel great as well as the analogue sticks, but the 3 control buttons, D-Pad and especially the triggers are hit & miss at best, and bring down the overall quality of the controller. The battery life, clocking in at half of the original’s, also brings the bar down a little.
Even with its shortcomings, the Afterglow Pro is still a rather decent controller. So, if you\’re looking for a cheap but still solid companion to your Gamepad, then the Afterglow will do you just fine.
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