Nintendo has always been a leader in creating interesting and new controller designs which allow for ease of play and more fun, such as the GameCube’s controller, or the Wii’s Wiimote and Nunchuck. The new generation of console is no different, and Nintendo aimed to continue their efforts of creating new and fun controller designs. Since the Wii U came out, many games have used the Gamepad in several different ways, from it being a necessity to hardly having any use at all. While some like the Gamepad and enjoy some of its functions, others believe it is a pointless addition or a gimmick and would prefer to use a normal controller. That is where the Wii U Pro controller comes into play. Nintendo realised that some people did not like having to use the Gamepad, and created a controller in the same fashion as other platforms, such as the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. So, just how do the aspects of both the Gamepad and Pro Controller compare when looked at side by side.
One of the biggest differences between these two controllers is the battery life. Due to the screen and the motion controls, you would be lucky to get more than 4-5 hours of solid gameplay out of the Gamepad before it needs re-charging. The Pro Controller, however, lasts an extraordinary amount of time and it is hardly even comparable to the Gamepad. Once fully charged, the Pro Controller can easily go without charging for weeks, possibly even months, if you play casually that is. It is safe to say, the Pro Controller easily beats not only the Gamepad, but most other controllers from other platforms out of the water when comparing the battery life. Both come with their own cables which allow you to play while you charge, so you will never really have to stop playing in order to charge your controller. The cord that comes with the Gamepad requires you to plug the other end into the wall, instead of the console, causing some players to need a longer reach in order to charge, whereas the Pro Controller’s cord plugs directly into the Wii U and is a decent length as well. The Gamepad will take around two and a half to three hours to charge, and the Pro Controller will take around double that. But taking into account that you will not need to charge the Pro Controller for quite some time, the Pro Controller is better for overall battery quality.
One of the reasons that controllers have two handles of sorts is so players have something to hold onto comfortably, and curl their fingers around. The Pro Controller continues this fashion perfectly; your fingers naturally grasp the controller with ease and it can be held for hours and hours without issue. It is very easy to reach all of the buttons and thumbsticks, a lot more so than the Gamepad. The Gamepad isn’t necessarily uncomfortable, but it doesn’t really feel like a relaxed hand grip either. As it is practically a slab of technology, there is nothing for your hands to grasp onto, nothing for your fingers to curl around. So, they just lie flat against the back, which simply feels wrong. The spacing of the buttons and d-pad to the thumb sticks is also slightly further apart, which doesn’t sound like a big issue at first, but if you have been playing games for a while, you will notice it when you go to use them, and it could annoy you a lot. In fast-paced games especially, the Gamepad just does not cut it, and you are better off going with the Pro Controller.
Now, the gameplay is one of those things that is difficult to compare, as there are many different games out there with vastly diverse gameplay elements. Some games use the Gamepad as an inventory or map screen, allowing you to quickly look down at the pad instead of pausing and sorting through menus. This is a pretty handy use of the Gamepad when handled correctly, but it is rarely necessary. Take Xenoblade Chronicles X for example, the gamepad has a fully interactive map which you can use in order to fast travel and even make small decisions, this is a good way to integrate the Gamepad into your game. If you don’t care about these additions at all, you are again, better off going with the Pro Controller, if the game allows it of course. There isn’t much to say about the Pro Controller gameplay wise. It plays and feels like all other controllers similar to its own design and just generally has a better feel to it overall.
The design of both the Gamepad and the Pro Controller are in keeping with the style of the Wii U. The sleek shiny look and feel to both give the hand devices a good aesthetic, and really apart from the shape and the big screen in the middle of the Gamepad, there is not a lot of difference to the look of them. If you care about the look of your controller, this one would be completely up to your preference as they both look great and continue that fun and simple Nintendo look.
Both the Pro Controller and the Gamepad can be used to navigate the system menus and screens, but oddly enough, the gamepad works better in this sense. You get two screens, one on the TV and one on the gamepad, both of which have their own settings and uses. You can use the Pro Controller to control the hand which appears on screen to go and select your buttons, but this is a slow process. It is much easier to simply navigate the settings and options with the gamepad, using either the thumb sticks or using the touch screen. Plus you also have the option to swap the screens so you can use whatever was on the TV on the gamepad instead.
One of, if not the biggest functions of the Gamepad, is being able to use it like a handheld game device, much like the 3DS, but in a larger sense. Some games give you the option to turn your TV off and solely use the Gamepad to play, which is great for families or when you simply can’t be bothered looking at the TV. Again, this only works with certain games, but if you are a big fan of playing games with a handheld device, the Wii U Gamepad is a good choice, although you still need to have the Wii U on in order to run the game and send it to the Gamepad.
The Wii U Gamepad comes standard with the console, whereas you would need to shell out 70 AUD for the Pro Controller. Unless you like the integration of a screen which allows you to do what you can also do from a pause menu, ease of access in the system settings and the admittedly handy handheld uses for the Gamepad, the Pro Controller is the way to go. The battery life, comfort, and gameplay of the Pro Controller overall, trump the Gamepad in many ways. If you don’t play your Wii U that often, the Gamepad is a decent device to use, but for those who use the console often, 70 AUD is a good price to pay for the comfort and utility which the Pro Controller provides.
Please note that some games may require the Gamepad in order to play.