The Joy-Cons themselves are really neat bits of kit. The neon ones I got with my set are small and cute but feel comfortably ergonormic, even in my giant hands. It can be a bit tricky moving quickly from the analogue sticks to the face buttons, but this is solved by slotting the Joy-Cons into the included grip, where supported. Connected like this, they feel closer to a traditional controller – though for in depth games like Zelda (which has a confusing control scheme as is – look for our review later this week) the device can still feel inadaquate. I’d recommend a Pro Controller if you’re planning on spending any extended time in Hyrule.
The pair of Joy-Cons are intended to be split for multiplayer games, and it’s here you can start to understand not only Nintendo’s pricing scheme, but also their vision. By sliding the included wrist straps onto the devices you can add shoulder buttons onto the set and make for an almost complete minature controller. I wouldn’t like to play many games for long periods like this, but for a quick round of Mario Kart or Smash Bros. when you’re out and about with mates it’s an elegant solution. It also means you don’t have to carry round loads of spare controllers: bundle up the Switch in handheld mode and you already have console-quality gaming with two pads in a single, small and sleek package.
The Joy-Cons also feature Nintendo’s new flagship HD rumble tech, which has been much touted since the Switch’s announce. What it means is that the rumble in the controllers have a lot more fidelity than the standard motors that come in normal game controllers. Whilst playing Zelda I haven’t really noticed it, but on 1,2 Switch there are a couple of games that show off the tech – and its really quite impressive. The one example everyone seems to be talking about is indeed the best – the ball bearing game. Holding the Joy-Con against your palm, you tilt and turn it and the HD Rumble gives off the effect of small balls rolling around the inside of your controller. It’s bizaare and accurate and really quite impressive, and I hope that full games make good use of this tech in the future.
The premium Pro Controller is where it’s at, for me at least. As I’ll likely be spending most of my Switch time docked at home, the wireless controller is Nintendo’s most tradtional, and best. The offset analogue sticks have finally caught up to the current standard, and the controller is incredibly comfortable and pleasantly weighty. There are textured grips and a nice enough transparent finish that is only made slightly ugly by the controllers unsightly innards. I usually love see-through controllers, but the screws and strange, haphazardly placed circles and squares make for an unpleasant look.
The controller also comes with motion control (great for natural bow-aiming in Zelda, for instance), an Amiibo reader and the HD rumble of the Joy Cons. Once you take all this into account – as well as the impressive forty hours of battery life and the lightning fast USB-c charging – it’s easier to see why the Pro Controller costs as much as it does. For me it’s totally worth it, but it’ll depend on how much you’re looking to play core games on the Switch whilst docked.