On the eve of Nintendo introducing the Switch Lite into the Switch family of systems, Hori is releasing the Split Pad Pro controllers that encourages those 36.9 million Switches currently in the wild to go be played in handheld mode. At $49.99US these “Officially Licensed by Nintendo” replacement controllers might just be a nice inexpensive replacement for the drift prone OEM joycons, but are they worth it? I’ve already added the D-Pad Controller (L) – Zelda Edition to replace my left joycon, (btw where’s my matching right joycon, Hori?!?) so the Split Pad Pro just seems like a natural transition.
I play my Switch religiously in handheld mode and on initially seeing the design of the Split Pad Pro, I was drawn to its potential for comfort on the Switch as the standard joycons are a little cramped. So I immediately pre-ordered mine on Amazon to ensure that I would be receiving them. This turned out to be a very wise decision as these are nearly impossible to find and I’m not going to pay $80US on Ebay by those price gouging chiselers, shame on you. Hey shysters, don’t buy it if you’re not gonna use it. Save the inventory for those that actually want it at MSRP… but I digress. Hori’s website for the Split Pad Pro only shows Amazon as the retailer, but of course that didn’t stop me from visiting my local video game shops, Targets, and Walmarts only to verify that no one sold them. As of this writing, you can add your order for the Split Pad Pro on Amazon with the stipulation that they “usually ship within 2 to 4 weeks.” This actually turned out to be fairly applicable to pre-orders as well since I received mine about a week after the official release date. Ultimately, with these being such a rare commodity right now the questions arise: Do these controllers live up to the expectations and are they worth the wait?
The Hori Split Pad Pro is essentially what you get if you were to take a Switch Pro Controller, take out most of the stuff you don’t use or can live without, cut it in half, and attach joycon rails to it. It’s branded with the Daemon X Machina logo on the X button, which makes sense as this was developed for the release and use with Daemon X Machina on the Switch. There’s full sized red analog joysticks and D-Pad along with oversized ZL and ZR triggers. All the standard buttons on the Switch joycons and Pro Controllers one would expect are there, including a total of three new buttons on each Split Pad Pro you don’t traditionally see on the standard Switch controllers: Two additional buttons on both controllers below the Capture and Home buttons respectively: Assign and Turbo; and, a third large diamond shaped rear button on each located on the underside of the controller that comes undefined but is programmable. Assigning buttons is only for the new programmable rear buttons but it’s a nice addition that nearly all the buttons can be reprogrammed to it. It takes a bit of research in the instructions but once you understand the process, it’s a simple procedure of just holding down the assign button and the button you want to map. Turning on turbo is also just as simple as the assignment processes and can be a pleasant improvement for those retro NES and SNES games on the Switch. One thing to note though, when you press the home button the assigned buttons will remain assigned but the turbo will turn off and need to be set again.
Each controller feels really nice to hold and I would even say the set I have has a tighter, more secure fit than the standard joycons when attached to the Switch. The grips have knurling (crisscross pattern) on the underside to help grasp the controllers and the overall shape of the Split Pad Pro places my hands in a more natural position. Button presses are met with a firmness that puts confidence in my actions when playing. The D-Pad and analog joysticks are a great complement to the controllers with large, comfortable positioning making them easy use with very solid and pleasing center button clicks. Moreover, with the full-sized analog sticks the Split Pad Pro should not suffer from the drifting issues plaguing the standard joycons.
But what are all the stuff you don’t use or can live without I mentioned above? Both Split Pad Pro controllers weigh in at 154.5g together which is about 50% heavier than the standard joycons at 101.4g but significantly less than the Switch Pro controller at 246.2g. While the sheer size of the joycons is evident from the moment you put them on your Switch (seriously, when attached it creates an optical illusion that the Switch screen is smaller), they are extremely light for their size. The Split Pad Pro is definitely more comparable in size to the Switch Pro controller and that decrease in weight comes from components being taken out of the design. These include those components for the HD rumble, gyro and motion sensors, NFC, and the IR camera. I’ve really enjoyed the HD rumble in games that accentuate it like Tumbleseed but it’s not absolutely necessary for me to enjoy those games usually. The gyro and motion sensors tend to annoy me in many of my games than help especially when trying to aim. NFC is one thing I think I might also miss though as I love my huge collection of Amiibos and try to use them every chance I get, but the IR camera is a novelty that I don’t think I’ve ever used in the entire time I’ve owned my release day Switch. Things I can live without? Mostly, but the trade for the size and comfort is definitely worth my money and it’s not like I can’t connect the joycons or Switch Pro controller anytime I want or need it.
The general styling is appealing and doesn’t stray too far from standard controllers although when placed together remind me a lot of the shape original XBOX controller. Red color accents on the analog joysticks are a nice balance with the Daemon X Machina logo on the X button and work well with the overall look of the controllers. The thickness of the controllers mean they protrude above the Switch screen but this bulge leads to one of my favorite parts of using the Split Pad Pro: Docking. I am a creature of habit and my OCD commands me to dock my Switch when not in use. So after a long night of gaming, sometimes in dark or dim lighting, it is very satisfying to slide my Switch into its dock with the assistance of the Split Pad Pro groove that’s created. There’s even stoppers on the top of the controllers that appear to set right on the dock.
Travelling with these controllers attached will require some finesse though as the absolute size of the controllers cannot be understated. Standard cases will not fit around when attached to the Switch and don’t try to setup the Switch in tabletop mode with the Split Pad Pro attached. Even if you can get it to stand up it’ll be very unstable and won’t be standing up for long. You don’t have to get too inventive trying to travel with these though as you can easily get a controller case to haul them around or even haphazardly toss them in your bag and keep your Switch in your normal case. Personally, I toam going be picking up a controller case because I’ve got an old Zelda leather-esque 3DS case that fits the Switch without controllers attached like it was made for it.
The most important part of evaluating these controllers is how they handle gameplay. Combining good response time, some ease of use elements with the turbo, and extending comfort for longer gameplay the Split Pad Pro definitely begins to carve a place in my gaming heart. I’ve tested it this past week on Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee, Pilotwings (SNES), and Super Smash Bros Ultimate along with a variety of other games. In normal game play the Split Pad Pro does exactly what you expect it and more. In Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee, the absence of the gyro and motion controls completely kills the annoying aiming wander with the slightest movement when throwing Pokeballs. This would also apply to any first-person shooters that integrate the gyro and motion controls for aiming. I’m also in the middle of shiny hunting an Articuno and you can lock the turbo for the A button which speeds up the soft resetting process adding that little extra. Pilotwings (SNES) shows off the wonderful interactions with the D-Pad that the Hori controller gives. It’s a big and robust D-Pad that just cries out to be used with the variety of retro games available on the Switch. Playing Pilotwings with the Split Pad Pro felt very organic and authentic and even facilitated some perfect scores in the license training. Lastly, what controller review is complete without including a high paced fighting game and what better to assess it with than Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Of all the games I prefer to play on the television, Super Smash Bros Ultimate is definitely one of them and the Switch Pro controller has been a must. This is already putting Split Pad Pro at a disadvantage since it’s only for handheld mode. Super Smash Bros Ultimate is one of those games that playing without the HD Rumble absolutely lessens the gameplay. The Split Pad Pro analog joysticks work wonderfully and the buttons are mash worthy but that simple controller buzz of the HD Rumble magnifies the gameplay in such a dynamic way, it really hurts the overall value of the Split Pad Pro by not including it in the controller.
Being an Officially Licensed Product by Nintendo, the Split Pad Pro adds that important sticker that means these controllers should be supported at each update of the Switch software and have a long life with the system. Sporting a traditional controller look in a wicked split style, these controllers add a level of comfort that the Switch has been lacking in handheld mode, even with an attachable ergonomic grip around the standard joycons. With that added comfort, the Split Pad Pro makes those extended handheld gaming sessions convenient and enjoyable. These controllers beg to be playing retro and side-scrollers but can still hold their own with virtually any other game. Furthermore, the full-size analog joysticks shouldn’t ever be tormented with that irritating drift we know on the standard joycons. These are the epitome of everything the Switch needs in joycons for most of the games I use in handheld mode until Nintendo decides to offer up a full Split Pro controller with all the bells and whistles that include HD Rumble and NFC for a true split pro feel Switch owners crave.
Rating: Solid 4/5
A must have for those needing that extra comfort in handheld mode and those extended gaming sessions.