In our first installment of Controlling the Game, Ultimate pro Dabuz shares what makes his GameCube controllers unique to him.

It's been over 20 years since Super Smash Bros. Melee came out on the GameCube but the Smash community has continued to use GameCube controllers to play Melee, Brawl, Smash 4, and Ultimate. But not every GameCube controller is the same.

Pro players bring their own GameCube controllers to tournaments because their controllers are unique to them — they are decorated a certain way, customized differently, and broken in a certain way based on the pro's playstyle. To celebrate the 20-year reign of the GameCube controller, Esports.gg presents a series on modded and customized GameCube controllers.

The first interview is with Samuel "Dabuz" Buzby, a top Ultimate player that is known for being unapologetically himself. And his controller is no exception. His controllers are instantly recognizable, embodying his love of anime and showcasing his most-played characters — the characters that he has used to become the eighth-best Ultimate player in the whole world, according to UltRank.

Dabuz explains his GameCube controller mods and skins

Esports.gg: How old is your current controller?

Dabuz: I actually recently switched to a controller that had been repaired. It's probably a couple years old but not used for a couple years. I started using it a week ago. My other controller had snapback issues... During sets, I'd start grabbing, but then do a turn around grab for no reason. 

It had snapback issues for a few months now. I started noticing it at Let’s Make Big Moves. I didn’t want to break something in before Genesis. By Gensis, I lost to Marss because game one or two, I had a stock lead, right? But at some point, I went to dash grab and it did a turn around grab. I literally got punished and died pretty much.

This is the main thing about controllers, GameCube at least — a lot of them have issues with snapback. It gets worse over time. I find myself switching controllers quite frequently. Every half year. It probably means I should be more actively aware of that. It's the main reason I switch or fix controllers… 

Image via Dabuz | Dabuz was using this controller until it had some snapback issues, which he started to notice impacting his performance at Let's Make Big Movies and Genesis
Image via Dabuz | Dabuz was using this controller until it had some snapback issues, which he started to notice impacting his performance at Let's Make Big Movies and Genesis

Are your most recent controllers modded at all?

I used to get mods in Smash 4 for snapback, but not anymore.

In Ultimate, people who try to mod controllers just causes more issues than it fixes. A lot of controller modders, in my experience, try to fix snapback but opening up the controller messes up another button. They don’t put it back right or something. The stick doesn't flick back as much. But as a result, it causes issues with pressing the stick in a direction in the first place, just initial input. Holding the stick in certain direction... Like it doesn’t flick as well to the left for example. Or holding it up feels awkward.

[Modding] always feels weird and makes it feel inconsistent. I'd rather have snapback than another potential issue a mod does to my controller. I messed with mods for buttons. Triggers, spring in GameCube controllers. Mods for buttons that makes input faster theoretically. But whenever I get a mod for that, it's too sensitive or breaks frequently. 

After playing the game for so long, you just have muscle memory and are used to the controller already behaving or feeling a certain way.

Exactly. I'm comfortable with certain things. As a result, I’ve got used to using controllers right out of the box. I have a graveyard of controllers with mods I tried out. But all of them broke and all of them I don’t like using. 

What have you done to modify your controllers or make them special? 

I like commissioning controller skins to make them look nice. If I’m not sure if I like the controller, I get a tiny sticker — nothing crazy. But when I know I like using a controller, I use skins like this. This controller is about three years old.

Image via Dabuz | This is Dabuz' most current controller, which has a custom designed skin over it featuring his favorite Ultimate fighters
Image via Dabuz | This is Dabuz' most current controller, which has a custom designed skin over it featuring his favorite Ultimate fighters

How do you pick the skins out?

I just wanted something new. A lot of it is picking an artist that has a style I want. I tell artists I want it to feature Rosa prominently. Or I say, ‘Hey, I want a skin for a controller and I want it to have Rosa, Min Min, Olimar…' Whatever character I’m feeling.  

I like the art against the black!

I like the design of the first one [that features Olimar and Rosa]. So much is happening. But the second one, it fits better with the black of the controller for sure. It has personality. But getting a custom design is also a way to know which one is yours. If a controller doesn’t have a skin yet, that means I didn't like it enough or never broken it it in or used it. 

Dabuz on button layout in Ultimate, breaking in controllers

Do you change any of the button layouts? 

It's not too rare of a set up. I'm so used to the Smash 4 3DS default… You could not change your control settings for the demo so I got so used to playing the Smash 4 3DS demo… When it came out, L was grab so ever since then, my controls are L is grab, R is shield. Z is jump but only for Rosalina. For everyone else, X to jump. Most people use X or Y. But I prefer X.

With all my three characters, there's different analog and C-stick setting. With Olimar, the C-stick is set to smashes because you need quick smashes. Rosa and Min Min, the C-stick set to tilt. But the analog stick, it's easier to do smash inputs or harder depending on sensitivity. It's high for Rosa because smash inputs are easy with analog. Whereas with Olimar, the sensitivity is low. Min Min is set to low because it’s easier based on how her movement works. So there's low stick sensitivity and low tilt on C-stick. 

In Smash 4, you couldn’t up B out of shield easily. You actually had to jump cancel. So I had specifically set Y button as special. Slide X to Y to jump cancel out of shield. For Rosa, I set it to attack for jump cancel out of shield. 

Is it hard switching between these different configurations between each character you use?

No, the controls are mostly the same. I associate my controller noot with buttons but with what they do. When I’m playing Olimar and then Rosa, I don’t associate C-stick with smash attacks. I associate it with just doing a certain move. That makes it easier to play. It's weird because I’m doing some things with Olimar and not Rosa. But I’ve trained myself enough with different characters.

I've always been comfortable swapping out control schemes to try things out. I’m very used to having different control schemes. 

Would you ever play with a random controller at a tournament? 

No, I always use my controller. The only time I played with a random one is when it got stolen once. I think I used Cosmos' spare controller. That was awful. Each player breaks in their controllers differently. How they press buttons, the intensity. As a result, every controller has a certain feel to it. That feel can throw you off.

I press my buttons very lightly. As a result, my controller has a very sensitive feel. You don’t need much force. You can tell when using my controller, L is more used than R button. The X button is more used than Y. There are little things you can tell, like how I do inputs with my stick.

When using someone else's controller, I have to adjust the amount of force I’m using with each button. That’s why I don’t like people using my controller ,even for casual games. I won’t let theme use my GameCube controllers because I don’t want them breaking it in their way at all or messing with things.

How often do you switch out controllers? 

Even without snapback issues, I tend to swap my controller half a year to one year. I like the feeling of a very fresh controller. Not stiff. But I hate a very loose controller that's broken in too much. I switch controllers kind of frequently as a result. I want to keep that fresh new controller feel. 

Would you ever use a super OG controller?

I tried using older controllers. They feel too broken in to use.

Probably nobody does. One of the worst things is that wire length. It's too short. I cannot imagine using that nowadays.

I have my old controller from Brawl days… You can tell… It’s so funny. It's sad, I used to have sticker on it. But it was so aged, it was browning. That's probably why I tossed it in the first place to be fair. I also have the Orange Spice… But it has the rubber falling off, the color is discolored… It’s bad.

Image via Dabuz | His old orange controller with a much-too-short wire
Image via Dabuz | His old orange controller with a much-too-short wire

Dabuz has one more note for Ultimate players: Clean your controllers!

I have a habit lately of not playing with gross dirty hands. I found myself having a hand towel behind me. If my hands feels greasy, I wipe both hands before using my controller. Controllers build up grease really quickly so it's important to wipe it down, clean it up…

When you're using it too much without wiping it down, gunk gets in and can cause snapback and other issues. So it’s just making sure you’re actively wiping your controller. It's super important for controller health.

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