A wired controller that’s easy on the wallet — but is it worth your attention?
The Nintendo Switch — maybe as a byproduct of its… “unusual” control design scheme — is on track to having possibly the broadest selection of controller options of a current generation system. As innovative as the Joy-Cons are for games that utilize their features — such as ARMS — there’s a strong likelihood you’ll want a “normal” game pad for everything else. For fighting games, you need a control method that’s both comfortable and effective. If an arcade stick isn’t your weapon of choice — and HORI offers an excellent one — what pad should you look into? There’s a few choices, including Nintendo’s own Pro Controller. HORI sent us a sample of their lower-cost alternative: the HORIPAD. How does it shape up?
There are two ways to look at this controller: how effective an alternative it is to a basic “general use” game controller, and how effective it is for fighting games. This is Shoryuken, so we’re naturally going to primarily look at the HORIPAD’s merit as the latter. But first, some points of comparison between it and its higher-cost official Nintendo competitor:
- The Pro Controller uses a basic cross directional pad, as opposed to the Joy-Con’s separated buttons. The HORIPAD uses a removable cradled “rocking” cross d-pad that floats over four directional buttons, offering two different options (more details on that below).
- The Pro Controller is wireless, while the HORIPAD is wired, connecting via USB.
- Both sport similar analog stick and face/trigger button layouts, with slight difference in overall grip/shape.
- The HORIPAD has a turbo function, the Pro Controller does not.
- The Pro Controller has vibration functions, the HORIPAD does not.
In terms of general performance, the HORIPAD actually offers a viable alternative to Nintendo’s pad: by trading off wireless and rumble options, you can get a very serviceable pad controller for roughly $40 USD less. I would recommend it as a possible option in that comparison. But — how does it hold up for fighters?
There are a number of concerns with the HORIPAD when it comes down to fighting game use. First: let’s consider the d-pad. If you’re happy using the analog stick for your fighting game inputs, this is a non-issue. But the d-pad itself sports some interesting design options — and a sort of split personality.
In its default state, the directional pad is a cross cradled with an outside rim, reminiscent of some classic-style gamepads. I found this version actually very comfortable for directional-input based execution, of the fireball/dragon punch variety (Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers used as reference). Combos or supers, no problem. However, I found the rocking action made charge inputs (like Sonic Booms, for example) rather more difficult. I found the d-pad very uncomfortable for Pokkén Tournament DX, for some reason; I ended up switching to using the analog stick instead.
This controller sports the option of removing this d-pad to reveal the four directional buttons underneath, similar to the Switch’s Joy-Con directional button configuration. This proved to be a non-option for me, though: I found the buttons harder to press, since they’re recessed into the controller body and ringed by the raised edge. This seems like an interesting design idea that unfortunately doesn’t pan out in practice.
The face buttons worked just fine, at least, as did the upper set of triggers. The travel on the lower triggers felt too loose for me to be ideal for a digital-input fighter. I did find the controller’s overall shape to be pretty comfortable to hold and play on, and the lack of a battery/rumble helps keep it lightweight. The turbo function works great — it’s set up and operates pretty much exactly like it does on the RAP fightstick series — but that has pretty limited application to a serious fighting game player. So, in terms of overall effectiveness as a fighting game controller, the HORIPAD averaged out to be a mixed bag of good and bad options.
I wasn’t really very impressed with the HORIPAD, but after some hands-on time with the controller it does turn out to have some utility. While it risks becoming that cheap extra controller at a friend’s house that nobody wants to use but guests get stuck with, it does ultimately offer a decent pad for the price. For those interested, you can grab one for $29.99 USD (have a look at HORI’s site, or Amazon). However, with better pad options like the Pokkén Tournament DX Pro Pad (which is perfectly suited to fighting games, and actually a shave cheaper) or a HORI Fighting Commander (with the help of a Brook converter), the HORIPAD fails to warrant serious attention from fighting game fans.
- Comfortable grip, face buttons & analog sticks are comfortable and responsive.
- One of the lowest-priced control pads available for the Nintendo Switch.
- Wired connection reduces weight, eliminates battery/connectivity issues.
- Directional pad can be awkward for certain fighting game inputs; upper trigger buttons also not fighting-ideal.
- Secondary d-pad option is very awkward to play on.
- No vibration feature.