Released on: September 13 2019
Price: $64.99 CDN ($49.99 US)
I love analyzing controllers. While it may seem silly to pay so much attention to an accessory, controllers are what every player uses to play their game. A controller can either enhance or ruin a game for people depending on its quality. This might be a controversial opinion, but I don’t like the Nintendo Switch’s Joycons. I appreciate the fact that they are compact, and that, in a pinch, they can act as individual controllers, but I find their build quality suspect. The analog sticks tend to drift after a few months of us, which is inexcusable for how much they cost. I have ruined a few Joycons when attempting to fix them sadly; this is where HORI’s Split Pad Pro controller comes in. As someone who plays the Switch in handheld mode quite frequently, I decided to pick one up. It looked like it could deliver the best handheld experience and seemed to be a much better alternative to the Joycons. Does the Slit Pad Pro improve the Switch’s Handheld experience?
When I first put the Split Pad Pro on my Switch, I was taken aback by how huge they were. It made the Switch itself look puny. The more I looked at it, the more it started to make sense. I had to remember that this is a Pro controller split in two to replace the much more compact Joycons. To my surprise, once I started playing games with it, the size felt natural.
Playing games with the Split Pad Pro is marvelous. It is exactly what I had hoped for from this controller. The analog sticks feel robust. I no longer feel like I will permanently damage my controller when playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The controller itself feels comfortable. Even when the Joycons worked as intended, they would cramp my hands after extended periods of play, which is not the case with the Split Pad Pro. The Split Pad Pro has handles that prevent cramping, and the placement of the analog sticks and the buttons make using the controller feel natural. The shoulder buttons (L, R, ZL, and ZR) are reliable and satisfying to press. I can easily see myself playing for extended periods without any sort of discomfort with the split Pad Pro.
One issue I have with Nintendo’s official Pro controller is its direction pad. It would often register the Up or Down inputs on accident, making precise inputs much more difficult. Thankfully, the Split Pad Pro has a tremendous directional pad. My list of games I used to test the controller are Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (for analog and shoulder button responsiveness), Tetris 99 (for precision testing of the directional pad), and Mega Man Zero (for overall comfort). I am happy to report that the Split Pad Pro passes all the above. I no longer feel like handling a ticking time bomb when using the Switch in handheld mode. It feels exactly like using a standard controller, but on the go.
One neat option the Split Pad Pro controller has is the ability to assign a turbo function on some of the buttons. By holding the Turbo button and pressing the button to be assigned, the user can choose to have the button repeatedly activate when holding them or have the button be on Auto-Fire mode. Auto-Fire will keep inputting the button by itself until the user decides to turn the feature off. It isn’t a feature that I would use, but it is an option for people that might need it.
There are a few things that confuse me about the Split Pad Pro, however…
For instance, the bottom of the controller has buttons atypical of standard controllers. I figured that these might be useful for Daemon X Machina, but I fail to see a use for them outside of that game. Holding Assign while pressing the button the user wants assigned will make the button on the back of the controller act as the assigned button. I do see the potential for this to be useful for some people. In my case, I don’t see a need for it.
The Split Pro controller does not have a battery in them, making it impossible to use with a docked Switch. If these had a battery and wireless capability, I would love to use these as an extra controller. The Split Pro also lacks NFC (Near Field Communication), which means using the Split Pro to scan Amiibo is impossible. The other significant occlusion of the Split Pro is the lack of a rumble feature. While a rumble feature is nice, it isn’t necessary.
Another critical feature missing from the Split Pad Pro is motion controls. I am usually not an advocate for motion controls, but for games that require aiming (like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, and Fortnite), I find motion controls surprisingly accurate. With the Split Pad Pro, the only way to get motion controls to work is to replace one of the Split Pad Pro controllers with a Joycon. When on the go, I do bring my Joycons with me, even though I have the Split Pad Pro just in case I opt to have motion controls. Most of the time, motion controls aren’t necessary.
While the Split Pad Pro is ergonomic, it is still quite big. Most cases fit the Switch with its Joycons attached, which is a problem for the bulky Split Pad Pro. While playing, the Split Pad Pro feels natural, but when it’s time to put them away, I must remove them from the Switch itself to bring them with me. It does sacrifice a little bit of portability, having to bring them separately, but it is worth not having my hands cramp up when playing the Switch in handheld mode.
*April 20 2021 update: I was recently made aware that there are case that fit the HORI Split Pad Pro when it is connected to the Switch. While they would be nice to have, it is inconvenient to track down a special case that fits the connect Split Pad Pro. Those interested in such a case can find out more information here.*
My final critique for the Split Pad Pro is its price. Even though the build quality is reliable, I do find that it is missing a lot of features for that price point. That said, it is less expensive than a pair of Joycons.
While the Split Pro controller is a little expensive, they are a fantastic replacement for the Joycons. Robust, ergonomic, and responsive: these are the qualities of a top tier controller. For those that can afford it, the Split Pro controller is a must get.