Shoryuken review: HORI Nintendo Switch Battle Pad is pure nostalgia with a modern flair

By on December 11, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Hori Switch Battle Pads Resize

Its a little different, but that’s what makes it great.

I’ve had my mind on these controllers since I got a chance to check them out at Evo 2018, and now the HORI Switch Battle Pads are finally available for purchase, primed and ready for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. While the highly-anticipated title was not available to play while I was first reviewing these controllers, it’s easy to tell these controllers are the real deal from the time spent playing with them.

HORI logo black 750x400

Design:

HORI goes above and beyond by creating GameCube-styled controllers themed to match characters and franchises, and are packed with additional design features to give them their brand’s own “fighting edge”. The handles have a grippy texture that makes it easier to hold, and feel more “premium”. Some might be turned off by the feeling of the texture because it’s certainly not subtle, but I personally appreciate how it makes the controllers feel a bit more modern, especially when compared to the most recent offerings on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers. There is no vibration module, which can be either a pro or a con for some players, but this makes the controller very lightweight.

All of the buttons are in the exact places you remember them, and even the rubber on the sticks feels immediately familiar. While the trigger and bumper buttons have a different design than the original counterpart, this is done with a competitive advantage in mind. The buttons are easy to press quickly and repeatedly, making them ideal for quick shield and dodge inputs. The D-pad is also larger than the regular GameCube controller, much more viable for inputs. While the controller itself isn’t ideal for traditional fighting games like Street Fighter or BlazBlue, the fact it can be used more efficiently in those titles is a nice touch.

HORI continues the love for translucent casings found in their SoulCalibur VI fight sticks, this time with these character-themed GameCube-style controllers that (almost) perfectly emulate the franchises they represent. The Super Mario cast shines in bright colorful casings that are immediately recognizable and immediately set themselves apart from the rest of the GameCube styled offerings by both first and third-parties. Nintendo’s own original GameCube controller, re-released for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a simple black controller with the geometric Smash logo. PDP offers themed character controllers like HORI, but the designs are flat in comparison. PowerA does their best to recreate a traditional GameCube controller experience with a few differences like the trigger designs, but the colors used are meant to match classic GameCube options.

While most controller color options are vibrant and stunning like the Mario, Luigi, and Peach models, some — I feel personally — miss the mark. The Pikachu design inverts the translucent plastic with the opaque shell typically used for the bottom half of the pads, which makes it look a little flat. Some may appreciate this design a bit more, however, especially when considering how it makes Pikachu’s icon pop and how it makes it look more like a traditional GameCube controller. The translucent plastic that is used for the bottom half of the controller is so great though, that it seems like it’s a little put to waste on the bottom.

Also, the Legend of Zelda model, while appearing the most sophisticated when put among the rest of its bright and poppy brethren, feels too safe and not specific when there are so many great color pallets from the Zelda franchise. The Breath of the Wild version of the series protagonist Link is used for the controller’s packaging, but nothing about it aside from the Hylian crest shouts “ZELDA”, but this was most likely a calculated choice, showing HORI felt those using the controller would appreciate its muted and simple design.

All this being said, the overall design for the HORI Battle Pads is outstanding and a great improvement on the original controller.

Function:

There are a variety of features that give the player an advantage when using the HORI Switch Battle Pad. The triggers and bumpers are digital, as compared to their analog ancestors. This, coupled with the redesigned shape of the triggers that shortens the draw distance, allows for much faster inputs. Perhaps one of the best features of the controllers is that you can swap the inputs on the L/R and ZL/ZR buttons for whichever are more comfortable to use. All you need to do to swap the inputs is hold both the ZL and ZR buttons while plugging it into your Nintendo Switch dock or the HORI-made multiport USB playstand (which allows for up to four players to connect via USB).

The turbo feature can be activated easily and has multiple speeds to cycle between, being 5 times/second, 10 times/second, 20 times/second respectively. Those wanting to see just how quick their inputs can go will find the turbo feature valuable in training modes, single player, and competitions that may allow the feature.

Both of the sticks feature anti-snapback functions as well, ensuring that every direction that is input is precise and exact. Now there’s no need to worry about the C-Stick or analog stick flicking in an undesired direction, your controller does exactly what you want it to do. Both sticks are also clickable, making the Battle Pads more compatible with a majority of Nintendo Switch titles. Each controller also includes the standard Nintendo Switch inputs like the Plus, Minus, Screenshot, and Home button as well, ensuring your compatibility with the entire system experience.

On the flipside to the features the Battle Pads offer, there are a couple of drawbacks. As previously mentioned, there is no rumble feature, and while this isn’t necessarily prevalent in the Super Smash Bros. franchise, this is something that adds to the overall experience of many titles available on the Switch. There are also no motion controls found in the controllers either, limiting the controllers’ overall compatibility further. Still, the controller itself is designed perfectly for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. And while not necessarily a drawback but something to note, all controllers are wired with a 10 foot USB cable, with no wireless models to choose from. While a wired connection ensures the fastest connection, many casual fans might appreciate a wireless option in the future.

At the end of the day, you are tasked with a choice. You can either purchase the first party original Super Smash Bros. themed GameCube controller that you all know and love, that presently only functions effectively with Smash Ultimate and requires an additional purchase of the GameCube adapter, bringing your total purchase to around $50. The experience will be the same as its always been, and for some, that’s all they need, there’s nothing that needs to be changed.

Alternatively, you can go with the HORI Switch Battle Pad for $25 which is plug-and-play through USB, functions with most Switch titles, stands out among the crowd with its stellar design and implements unique features that improve a classic. The controller does make a couple of omissions, like the lack of vibration, which does make the controller a lighter, and that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The bumpers and triggers are shaped differently which may take some getting used to, but all in all, they make the controller even more competitively-minded with shorter draw distances and faster digital inputs. Those not worried about those aspects of the original controller have nothing to lose, and should definitely check out the HORI Switch Battle Pad — and those who may still be on the fence, from my time with the controllers, you should definitely try them out to see for yourself.

The GameCube controller has been the weapon of choice for many for the past four generations of Super Smash Bros. and HORI takes what’s great about the original design and improves it to fit the modern era. While it might have a couple of drawbacks, for the Nintendo Switch, the Battle Pads take home the (translucent) gold.

(Also, another thing to note when considering the HORI Switch Battle Pad, it’s completely compatible with PC on Windows 7-10. The controllers were tested on a variety of PC titles, and work like a charm.)

Pros:
  • Anti-snapback sticks
  • Swappable L/R and ZL/ZR
  • Eye-catching design
  • PC compatibility through Xinput
Cons:
  • No rumble
  • No motion control
  • The texture isn’t for everyone
  • Some odd color choices (Pikachu and Zelda models)

The HORI Switch Battle Pads can be purchased at a variety of retailers, including HORI’s official site (alongside a host of other Nintendo Switch accessories).


HORI provided Shoryuken with samples of this controller for the purpose of this review.


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Shoryuken.com Associate Editor. Austyn James Roney began his gaming journey with Super Smash Bros. on the N64 but learned the ways of the fighting game genre with Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Loves all fighters, regardless of dimension or playstyle.