September 2013 brought me back to gaming (primarily PC) after taking about a decade off. In summer 2017, my XB360 controllers are finally starting to wear down and it’s time to find a new controller. Our family also recently picked up a Nintendo Switch, so if I can find a controller that works on both PC and the Switch, I will be very happy.
Enter the 8Bitdo NES30 Pro Controller. Let’s see how this thing works, shall we?
Update: The 8Bitdo SN30 Pro Controller is now up for pre-order, with a release date of December 10, 2017.
The NES30 Pro arrived in a nice box, packed in a nice foam. The packaging has a quality feel to it, implying a quality product inside. Once the box top comes off, I found the controller, a USB cable for charging and/or wired play, and a commemorative keychain. Huh. That was unexpected, but not unappreciated.
The controller feels good in my hand, but the point is to get in and play.
If you’re hoping to use the NES30 Pro with your Nintendo Switch, it’s important to note that it ships with firmware that doesn’t include Nintendo Switch support. However, 8bitdo has an updated firmware (v4) on their site which does include Switch support. The update is as simple as (1) download from their site, (2) plug the controller into your computer via the provided cable, and (3) run the update software. Congratulations! You’re done!
After the update, the NES30 Pro will pair with your Switch, as an X-input controller for PC via Bluetooth, and with Android systems. Selecting which mode you want to use is done by holding down one of the controller inputs while turning it on. After selecting a mode, pairing works about as expected. This also lets you pair with multiple systems; I had no problem using it with both PC and the Switch without having to go through the pairing process each time I turned a system on.
Before getting into how the NES30 Pro performs, it’s important to note what features it has and what it’s meant to be. It comes with a dpad, twin analog sticks, your standard four face buttons, and two buttons per shoulder. It does not come with any kind of rumble feature or gyro/motion controls. From what I can tell, the aim is to have the feel of a retro controller compatible with modern systems and games.
They nailed it.
The majority of my playthrough on Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was played with this controller, and it just felt right. Wonder Boy is a remastered retro game; the pairing with this controller was wonderful.
That’s not to say the NES30 Pro only works as a retro controller. I’ve used it on the Switch for more modern games, like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It felt great. This is now my main controller for the Switch when playing in docked or tabletop mode.
Connection with the PC works very nicely as well. LDSG’s Brawlhalla tournament was held the weekend we got the NES30 Pro, and my daughter used it the whole time. She likes how it fits her hand better than the XB360 controller, which is a bit bulky for her. The controller has quickly become her main controller for playing on PC. Bluetooth connectivity means I can use this with my Steam Link as well, whereas I’m out of luck using my XB360 controllers.
My primary issue with playing on PC is that the NES30 Pro is designed with Nintendo’s button layout. When looking at a compass (NESW) layout, Nintendo and Xbox swap the labels on their N-W and S-E buttons, so Nintendo’s is XABY, while Xbox is YBAX. As long as your brain can get around the game telling you to press B when the button on the controller is labelled A, you’ll be fine.
The shoulder buttons are also stacked horizontally, rather than vertically, as well. Games that make heavy use of RB and RT might get a few missed inputs as you’re mashing buttons which are horizontally adjacent on the NES30 Pro.
8bitdo is looking to address this issue with its next product. At E3 2017, they announced the upcoming SN30 Pro Controller, which is up for preorder with a release date of December 10, 2017. The SN30 Pro is essentially this same controller with rumble, gyro/motion controls, and vertical shoulder buttons. I’m looking forward to grabbing one at release.
Overall, I was impressed with the NES30 Pro. It fills its role as a retro controller extremely well, and can additionally take on the tasks that most modern games will throw at it.
For the moment, if you’re playing FPS or other games that would benefit from gyro or motion controls, it might not be for you, but it otherwise gets the job done well.
I’m looking forward to seeing what 8bitdo does with the SN30 Pro this fall.
- The NES30 Pro has a simple setup with compatibility for several systems, including easy switching between systems.
- The controller's form factor is very reminiscent of the SNES. If you're looking for a retro experience, this will give you that feel.
- With a dpad, two buttons on each shoulder, twin analog sticks, and the standard buttons on the controller's face, the NES30 Pro has the ability to handle most standard controller input.
- The NES30 Pro's shoulder buttons are stacked horizontally instead of vertically, making it easy to mash the wrong button when you're hitting a shoulder input.
- Like the retro controllers it seeks to emulate, the NES30 Pro doesn't have any sort of rumble feedback. This isn't much of an issue for retro-styled games, but it is generally part of the experience for more modern gaming.
- Similarly, there's no sort of gyroscopic or motion control. This often won't be an issue, but may be missed if playing an FPS or similar game.