Happy Birthday, Nintendo Wii! You are four years old today, and boy has it taken you a while to grow up. Last year you finally upgraded yourself with the Wii MotionPlus attachment, and this year you learned how to put the Wii Remote and MotionPlus together. Now you just need to convince developers to actually make good games that take advantage of the technology!
Joking aside, the Wii Remote has finally come of age as of late, with Nintendo releasing its own Wii Remote Plus with built-in MotionPlus functionality earlier this month after Nyko had already released a third-party solution in September (the Wand+). Sunflex USA, however, beat both companies to the punch with the snakebyte Premium Remote XL+, first released in Europe all the way back in April.
It’s less than a month old in North America, though, and over the past week or so I’ve been putting the snakebyte XL+ through its paces to see if it is the all-in-one Wii controller we’ve been waiting so long to get.
To my earlier point about the lack of actual Wii games that use the MotionPlus, I only have three: Wii Sports Resort, EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis, and Red Steel 2. So, I pulled those games out and play tested them with the snakebyte XL+ (I also played non-MotionPlus games, like GoldenEye, for basic usage testing).
I don’t have the Wii Remote Plus or Nyko Wand+ to make a direct comparison of the all-in-one controllers, but in my testing the snakebyte XL+ stacks up favorably to the Wii Remote with MotionPlus dongle attached, and in certain areas it even outperforms the Wii’s stock controller.
As a MotionPlus controller, the snakebyte XL+ tracks gestures and waggles every bit as well as Nintendo’s offering, and I found that it also seems to hold its calibration with greater reliability. Grand Slam Tennis is one of my favorite Wii games, but one thing that has always annoyed me is how on occasion the MotionPlus calibration glitches out and you can actually see your character in the game with his/her arm immobilized while you try (and fail) to switch racket position. With the stock controller, this typically happens to me one point every return game. With the snakebyte XL+, it has yet to happen to me a single time.
The size, shape, and weight dimensions of the snakebyte are virtually identical to those of the standard remote (minus the MotionPlus attachment of course), and the button placement is also the same. However, as is the case with the vast majority of third-party accessories, the snakebyte’s build quality isn’t quite on par with Nintendo’s product. That doesn’t mean the snakebyte is a chintzy or inferior controller, but there are little things that don’t quite measure up.
The +, -, Home and Power buttons have been changed from a hard plastic to a soft rubber, and they stick out a bit higher from the casing. For the + and – buttons, I felt like I had to push them down a little harder to get them to register, and in the case of the Power button, because it’s raised, it stays depressed when you slip the remote inside a cover. And overall, the plastic of the casing and buttons feels a bit lighter and thinner and doesn’t have the same sheen to it. The speaker and force feedback aren’t of the highest quality either, with the speaker making a noticeable cut-out noise after certain sound effects and the controller rumble delivering tame vibrations. But hey, it’s not like the speaker and force feedback of the stock remote are that great to begin with – the Wii Remote speaker’s audio quality has always been rather shoddy.
The snakebyte XL+ does make up for these minor shortcomings in other ways, though. My favorite feature is without question the built-in USB recharge port. I’ve gone through a fair share of standalone rechargeable batteries, docking stations and battery packs, and none are as convenient or cost effective as being able to attach the remote to the Wii with a USB cable. You don’t have to worry about replacing batteries or taking up additional countertop space with a charging station; you just plug the controller in via a new mini USB port located on the bottom of the remote next to the Nunchuk slot and let it charge. Sunflex even provides the charging cable, a screwdriver to get into the sealed battery compartment, and a pair of AA mAh rechargeable batteries (they’re Energizer too, not some cheap brand you’ve never heard of). Just out of curiosity, I put in rechargeable batteries from my own stock, and they charged just fine too. So, once the provided batteries eventually wear out their charge, there shouldn’t be any problem replacing them and carrying on as usual.
The other benefit to the snakebyte is its value. Yes, it may be slightly less sophisticated in construction, but it’s also as much as $10 cheaper than Nintendo’s Wii Remote Plus depending on where you buy it from, and when you add in the USB charging and included batteries, the economical savings go even further than that. Plus, the calibration holds more reliably than the MotionPlus by itself, and the overall performance of the controller is no different.
Even with a few drawbacks, the snakebyte Premium Remote XL+ has become my go-to Wii Remote, and I have no problem recommending it. If you’re in the market for a new controller to eliminate the hassle of dealing with the MotionPlus and changing batteries, or perhaps you just need another remote to have on hand for multiplayer purposes, the snakebyte is a great all-in-one solution to consider.