The Panda Controller was born after its designers realized that gamers (especially professional ones) each have a different idea of the perfect controller. With five different patents associated with its exhaustive customizable design, the Panda Controller aims to fix that problem by being the last controller a gamer ever has to purchase.
It's a bold claim that more than 10,000 backers pledging over 1.4M dollars on Kickstarter believe is true. The Panda Controller is an advanced gamer's cup of tea but, before its creation, there there was the humble Ultimate Gamecube Adapter.
The first successful Kickstarter by Panda Hardware, a studio by GearHawk Studio and Panda Global, raised $154,968 dollars to create the Ultimate GameCube Adapter. The adapter is a simple charging station and portable dock that allows for easy use of a GameCube controller when using a Switch. With the help of 2,200 backers, the Ultimate Gamecube adapter became a reality and you can still spot them around large Smash events.
Part of why the UGA was successful has to do with the relevancy of the problem it solves. Panda Hardware designers have a keen understanding of what smashers care about and the UGA solves one of their basic gaming-related gripes in a simple way. The appeal of the UGA was obvious to even non-smashers.
On the contrary, the Panda Controller is less about solving basic problems and more about optimizing just about everything. In aspiring to create the perfect Smash Bros. controller, Panda Hardware consulted with expert modders and pro players — this clearly shows in features like magnetic shell and S-tier stick box. In addition, the $90 price tag is a blessing for gamers who always wanted a pro-level controller but didn't want to shell out hundreds.
The Panda Controller: Affordable luxury is still luxury
However, the Panda Controller won't replace the original Gamecube one.
As inspired as Panda Controller is, it is still a third-party device more expensive than a Nintendo Switch Pro controller. The exhaustive technical upgrades are impressive, but that appeal feels quite narrow the deeper you explore. It is more accurate to imagine the Panda Controller as a deliberate best choice for a specific type of gamer rather than a defacto upgrade over the past controllers.
To be clear, the Gamecube controller is vastly outperformed by the Panda Controller. That being said, the Gamecube controller's 20-year rust that makes it unquestionably inferior to the Panda Controller is also responsible for the nostalgic draw and official aesthetic that can't be duplicated. For the same reason that many competitive Tetris players prefer the original NES controller, fandom and stubborn preference will still keep the Gamecube controller relevant.
Kickstarter cautions with the Panda Controller
Considering how Nintendo's own Joycons started experiencing unexpected drift after one to two years of play, it is also fair to wonder whether or not the Panda Controller will encounter eventual malfunction. Firmware updates should help mitigate this possibility, but it's just as easy to imagine updates being the source of user-error-generated problems as well.
Panda Hardware, in their own words, describes the controller as a "very precise machine" that was made so "no part is a single millimeter out of place." It's an odd contradiction for a controller that's main selling point is that the user can take it apart themselves. I trust that Panda Hardware has made it as simple, but it is still controller modding: you are either into it or you aren't.
The controller can start to feel a bit pricey if gamers read through the features and realistically only use a few of them. However, the magnetic shell colors options are a huge selling point and I wouldn't knock gamers for purchasing a Panda Controller for the style and feel alone.
The GameCube controller lives on in the Super Smash Bros. community
The strongest appeal of the Panda Controller comes from the people who are behind it. Panda Global has a history of authentically growing the Smash community and their Smash Circuit partnership with Nintendo of America even makes their new controller feel more official for smash esports than it really is.
if you are a competitive-minded Smasher, you likely already know the value of a good controller so the Panda Controller is a no-brainer. Melee, in particular, should really enjoy a reasonably priced option for a luxury controller feel.
You have to take hype product launches with a grain of salt, especially when they are on Kickstarter. The level of ambition of this controller warrants the hype and successful backing, but rumors of Panda Controller dethroning Nintendo staples are greatly exaggerated.
- It’s superior in every way when compared to a stock Gamecube controller that 85% of gamers have.
- The magnetic shell is a slick design that inspires creativity and expression in gamers.
- The level of care and attention to detail by Panda Global’s design team is admirable.
- $90 is a fair price for what is essentially a technical marvel.
- Getting the most out of the controller's features see a bit involved and tedious to someone who isn't into modding.
- No way to turn off the tactical click of the control stick is annoying.
- Kickstarter fulfillment is suspect to scrutiny — I'll believe it when it is in my hands!
- A compelling reason to upgrade but the Gamecube controller is already on my shelf
Warcraft 3 is my one true love and I will challenge anyone to a game of Super Smash Brothers Melee.