The Wiimote, containing motion sensors and sound/vibration feedback in a small, lightweight unit, is a technical marvel. But there are still millions of gamers who, rightly so, want the feel and control provided by the more traditional-style device. Nintendo responded to that need with the Classic Controller.
It contains many of the standard features: clearly-marked A and B buttons, a four-way directional pad, two analog control sticks, four face buttons, and four shoulder buttons. Each game you load describes how to use all those buttons and controls, so there's never any problem adapting from one to the next. It also houses three control buttons for navigating the Wii menu system to Select, go to Home, and to Start.
The Classic Controller is lightweight and easy to handle. The layout is uncluttered, making it easy to learn and operate even by novice gamers. That fits in nicely with the overall design motif for the Wii: the ability of anyone to set up a Wii and begin having fun with it right away. The learning curve is extremely flat for this system and the Classic continues that theme.
There is one downside to the Classic that is a little surprising: it can't play GameCube games. It is designed to be used with games offered through Nintendo's Virtual Console online offering. The Wii system itself can play any GameCube game, but that requires a GameCube controller.
Fortunately, that dilemma is easily overcome, thanks to the Wii's four ports that allow a number of controllers to be attached. It also presents only a minor difficulty, since so many of those Virtual Console games are so well designed and enjoyable. Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, Mario Kart, Zelda: Twilight Princess, and others are great fun. There are tons of games you can download using the VC. You won't run out of options anytime soon.
The other minor drawback probably should not be labeled as such anyway: the Classic Controller plugs into the Wiimote, which provides it with power. Still, if it needs to be plugged into something, connecting to the Wiimote can easily be seen as an advantage. It gives more flexibility and distance than if it plugged into the console itself. It also means that the Classic does not require its own batteries, reducing cost and weight and increasing convenience.
For those who want the ultimate in legacy-style gaming control, Hori has released a version of the Classic Controller that goes by the same name. It offers numerous controls and the layout is superb.
The function of the Hori's buttons are clearly marked and the boomerang shape is in line with many of the controllers that experienced gamers 'grew up' with. It even offers easy-to-use autofire switches. Anyone interested in utilizing all those hard-earned skills from years of traditional gaming will want to check it out as well.