This controller had a lot of potential. Originally it was advertised as
the Wii Controller Pro U, a three-in-one controller, containing a Wii
Remote, Classic Controller, and Wii U Pro Controller, all in the shell
of a Wii U Pro Controller. However, someone royally screwed up in the hardware department, because this controller only functions as the first two, so
its appearance being nearly identical to the Wii U Pro Controller is
going to cause some major dissatisfaction for customers who buy it
believing it is a cheaper alternative to the Pro. It has been re-branded
the Retro Classic Controller, and the labels on the packaging have
changed to reflect the absence of Pro Controller functionality.
As previously stated, this controller has the same layout as the Wii U Pro Controller: four shoulder buttons, two analogue sticks and three menu buttons at the top and the D-Pad and face buttons at the bottom. There are also other additions to this controller, such as a pointer on the top, and clickable sticks. The clickable sticks are practically useless, as the left stick is just B and the right is Y. The most prominent feature of this controller at a glance, is that it has a mini SNES pad at the bottom of it, with all of the trinkets of the face of the original SNES pad. The A and B buttons are purple and convex, the Y and X buttons are lavender and concave, there's a very similar cross D-Pad, and there are even additional Start and Select buttons in the middle of it. It's a very nice touch.
There are five models of this controller: a limited-edition gold one, a black one, a white one, a grey one with the face button colours of the PAL and Japan SNES controllers, and a grey one with the face button colours of the North American SNES controllers. For nostalgia's sake, I picked up the North American variety, so I'm not aware of any differences between the models other than the letters for the buttons being printed on them for the first three varieties rather than on the sides like the SNES styled ones. From what I can tell by looking at images and videos of these controllers is that all of the models have concave X and Y buttons and convex A and B buttons, so if you're picking up the PAL/Japan variety of this controller, it won't be exactly like what you remember.
On the back of the controller are two switches: Tilt Sensor and Mode. Tilt Sensor switches the motion control calibration from horizontal to vertical, and Mode switches the controller from functioning as a Wii Remote to a Classic Controller. While in Wii Remote mode, only the bottom of the controller and the upper menu buttons work. The 1 and 2 buttons are mapped to Y and X respectively and the A and B buttons are mapped to their equivalents on this controller. It's not the most ideal layout for playing platforming games, but it suffices. The added benefit of this controller having grips definitely makes it more comfortable than a regular Wii Remote. In Classic Controller mode everything has the same functions as the regular Classic Controller.
The pointer at the top of the controller is a bit finicky. When holding the controller in my lap, the sensor bar would occasionally lose sight of my controller and my on-screen pointer would vanish. I had to hold the controller over my head in order to stop this from happening, whereas pointing with a Wii Remote in my lap works perfectly fine. However, when in Classic Controller mode, you might have to point the controller down if you're using the analogue stick to maneuver the on-screen pointer, or the pointer on the controller might take over and cause the on-screen pointer to skip across the screen. You might also have to point the controller down for games like Metroid: Other M where pointing the controller at the screen causes you to enter first-person view, lest you accidentally activate it in the middle of an intense fire-fight.
This controller, oddly enough, has Wii Motion Plus functionality. Playing Wii Sports Resort and Zelda: Battle Quest with this controller is ridiculously hilarious. It works surprisingly well, but you're better off using a Wii Remote for these games, as swinging this controller around gets uncomfortable fast. Unfortunately there is no Nunchuck functionality in this controller, so the days of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Cinderblock will have to wait for another controller to come around.
Ergonomically I believe this controller is a bit better laid out than the Wii U Pro Controller and Classic Controller. The face buttons and D-Pad are a bit easier to reach from the analogue sticks, and the added additional start and select buttons on the bottom of the controller are much easier to use than the menu buttons at the top of the controller. The analogue sticks being placed at the top of the controller, right where your thumbs would naturally rest, also makes this more comfortable than the Classic Controller.
While this controller is more comfortable than its first-party counterparts, build-quality wise, this controller is not so hot. The previously mentioned additional Start and Select buttons, while better placed, feel squishy and ridiculously cheap, the shoulder buttons feel far too loose, and the D-Pad is very overly sensitive. I noticed while playing Mario that when I tried to adjust myself on a platform, by moving my finger across from the right to the left of the D-Pad, just barely touching the bottom part made the controller think I was also pressing down, causing me to duck and slide to my death. It's a minor annoyance, of course, as you can just lift your thumb off of the D-Pad to get to the other side, but it's one worth mentioning as people using this as a Wii Remote will encounter this issue as well. The D-Pad does suffice for menu navigation and performing minor actions, to it will work well in games that use the Classic Controller like Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
The battery life is not very stellar either. The battery only lasts about as long as the one in the Gamepad does, which would normally be awful, but the controller comes with a USB charger that you can plug directly into your Wii U. Since it's so easy to charge, just like the Gamepad battery life it has become a non-issue to me. If you don't sit relatively close to your Wii U or a USB outlet while you're playing, the battery life will become an issue, and unlike the Gamepad battery, it's not easy to replace. It also doesn't help that the Wii U doesn't charge anything while it's not turned on, but that's not the controller's fault.
There is an issue with these controllers that causes them to sometimes stop working when booting up the Wii Menu on the Wii. The only way to fix the controller is to put a pin into the slot that says "RESET" over it on the back of the controller and press the button inside it, or just wait until the battery dies. Some of the earlier models don't even have a reset button, so make sure to check for it if you pick this controller up. If you end up getting one of these controllers, don't be discouraged. Just keep exchanging it until you get one that has a reset button.
The overall build quality is not as good as the first-party equivalents, but that's to be expected. This is a relatively cheap controller: about $40. It's about $30 cheaper than it would be to buy a Wii Remote Plus and Classic Controller Pro separately, which this controller packs into one. The added benefits of better stick placement and better button layout even out the cheap feeling of the D-Pad and some buttons. If you're looking for a relatively cheap controller for your Wii U to play all of your old Wii games with, this is definitely worth the purchase.