If there’s one thing the Nintendo Switch isn’t short of, it’s controller options. Either having the Joy Cons strapped to the sides, having them in the Joy Con grip, having one of them horizontally or even the good old Pro Controller. And with the often praised local multiplayer aspect of the system it’s always good to have multiple controllers on hand. Sadly many of them are coming with a premium price tag, making those multiplayer evenings not so financially viable for many. Here comes 8Bitdo, however, who have recently made their popular line of Bluetooth, retro inspired controllers compatible with the Nintendo Switch. In this review I’m taking a look at the NES30 Pro.
Upon first using the controller you’ll notice that it feels fairly nice although the first party build quality isn’t quite there. It’s a little plastic-y if that makes sense but overall it feels fine. The buttons have less tangible feedback but once you’ve wore it in a little it starts to feel a lot more natural.
It has all the buttons you need for use on the Switch. It has the classic Nintendo four-button A, B, X and Y layout, a nice D-pad that has as much movement as you’d want, two small but really quite adequate analogue sticks, it has four shoulder buttons which mimic the New 3DS shoulder layout, start and select and, finally, underneath the controller are two buttons which function as the home and screenshot buttons. For a tiny third party controller, it’s surprisingly well equipped.
There are a couple of problems with it though. Firstly, the home button doubles as the power button for the controller. Sharing usage is never a good idea especially for controls but this particular function sharing didn’t affect my enjoyment that much.
The other nag with the actual layout is with the shoulder buttons. Whereas on the Switch these buttons are ordered in front and behind each other, here they are next to each other in a similar fashion to the New 3DS, which for many games is fine. Those that make heavy use of them may not fair so well, however. I can foresee slight incompatibility with FPS’s of the future for example, even playing Zelda using the bow and shield was not the optimum experience in my opinion. Usable, but not ideal.
Getting your Switch to recognise this controller is pretty simple. You connect your controller to the computer and download an update from the 8Bitdo website. Following the Read Me file it’s a fairly error free process. It will take about 10 minutes at the most. Your controller is now Switch ready!
Overall it’s more finicky and less smooth than connecting official controllers. With the Joy Cons or Pro controller you can pick it up and instantly wake the console from sleeping, continuing your game. With the NES30 Pro, however, it appears you can’t wake the Switch up from sleep. To connect it, you need to hold the power button and Y button together. That’s works fine for the most part but occasionally I did have a slight issue where it wouldn’t recognise it, I hadn’t realised if I turned the controller on or off, or if it had connected at all. It took some getting used to.
Another issue I had was the occasional rogue button press. I can’t exactly confirm but I think that once in a very blue moon (maybe twice in a 100 hours of play) the game thought I pressed a button that I didn’t. A perfect example was when it randomly took a screenshot of the game. It’s unsettling and could be disastrous to a game given the right, but highly unlikely set of circumstances. Its very rare occurrence though, makes it not a huge problem and shouldn’t deter you from the controller.
Maybe I’m being overly negative but I just want you to clearly understand the small problems this controller has before you jump in. They are small problems. Because the fact is that I love this little beast. For most games it’s now my controller of choice. It’s far more capable and ergonomic than a single Joy Con and it’s a lot more portable than the Joy Con grip. Once you’ve gotten your hands on it and played around it’s genuinely awesome. It fills the purpose of an official Pro Controller just with a third of the price tag.
As far as lag goes. I didn’t notice any at all. I tried the NES30 Pro with almost every game that I own and it was perfectly 1 to 1 in my opinion. It was just as perfect as the official controllers. It’s the best experience of a Bluetooth controller I’ve ever had.
It doesn’t have everything in the package though. It’s missing a few expendable features such as HD Rumble (in fact any kind of rumble), amiibo scanning support and gyro sensors. Any game that relies on gyroscopic aiming is a no-go. Thankfully in Zelda you can still manually aim your bow, but some Shrine puzzles may need the Joy Cons to be broken out.
You also need to be warned. This compatibility is not official from Nintendo’s stand point, as far as I’m aware. Any future update from the Big N may result in 8Bitdo’s controllers being useless. As for me personally, I can still use it on my phone and Mac but those who just want it for the Switch I would say wait a few updates just to see if compatibility is lost.
There is a second warning. During E3, 8Bitdo recently announced the SNES30 Pro controller. Aside from being an SNES skin of this NES30 Pro controller, it has a few very interesting extras that make it a more exciting proposition. For a start, the shoulder buttons are in the ideal position. It also has rumble and gyro sensors, making it the perfect match for the Switch.
That said, personally I think this controller is just great. It offers just about everything an official controller can do, with all the vital functions. It’s generally more comfortable and portable than other options and fits into a hole that you wouldn’t have thought existed. It’s a high recommendation from me.
Controller was bought by the reviewer