Ol’ Reliable makes its way to the Nintendo Switch
If you are a fan of FightPads, odds are you are familiar with HORI’s Fighting Commander. The series of controllers has been around for a while and the current design available on PlayStation 4/3 and Xbox One/360 has finally made its way to Nintendo Switch. Fans of the controller have been clamoring for this moment and it definitely doesn’t disappoint.
HORI’s execution of the Fighting Commander is phenomenal. It’s home to one of the best directional pads around and the more you use it, the harder it is to ever think about going back to a regular controller for more than just your fighting games. Platformers, metroidvanias, and other 2D titles feel right at home as well. While it might not have all of the bells and whistles as the PowerA FUSION Wired FightPad or the Razer Raion, (comparable for PC support) it has everything you need to experience the core benefits of a FightPad controller in a solid package.
If you have used the HORI Fighting Commander on another console this generation, this design should be familiar. The best way to describe the controller without holding it yourself would be to compare it to a larger Super Nintendo controller with a few extra buttons and longer handles. Once you do hold it, you notice how incredibly light the controller is. This helps ease strain during long play sessions. Personally, I prefer a bit more heft to my controllers, but it makes sense in the context of its design.
While it might not seem all that different from its two predecessors, the adage comes to mind, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The directional pad and the six primary buttons are well sized and well placed. The bumpers and triggers, while not very triggery in design, are designed perfectly for fighting games. When fractions of seconds can make the difference, all you need are these short buttons to press to activate your inputs. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the core design of the Fighting Commander that put fighting game players first.
The function buttons are perfectly placed with the Capture and Home buttons being recessed so you don’t accidentally press them. The + and – buttons are just fine standing out since the odds of hitting them on the accident are minimal and you are more likely to use them than the other two functions. With four function buttons needed to perform all of the basic Nintendo Switch controller functions, there wasn’t enough room to include Turbo or Assign functions like the ones found on the PS4/3 and Xbox One/360 versions of the Fighting Commander. While this might be a slight disappointment to those who have come to appreciate those functions, it’s understandable that they were omitted to maintain the tried and true form factor.
My main gripe with HORI’s Nintendo line of products is the decision to make every default accessory gray. While black and white are fine options for PlayStation and Xbox since those align with their respective consoles, but Nintendo has always been the more colorful option out of the three. That might have changed partially with the Nintendo Switch where the gray option is made to appeal more toward the older demographic of fans, but the main designs advertised are bright reds and blues.
The HORI Fighting Stick Mini was in a similar situation until they released colorful Street Fighter collector editions. Hopefully, the Fighting Commander on Nintendo Switch will receive a similar treatment, like the BlazBlue Central Fiction model made for PlayStation 4, but only time will tell. There are also some slight imperfections with the coloring of the plastic that create some line blemishes, and while I feel these add character, they definitely aren’t supposed to be there.
As mentioned previously, the D-Pad on the Fighting Commander is pure gold. It works flawlessly in 2D fighting games along with your favorite sidescrollers and arcade classics. While there isn’t any kind of click to it, you know exactly where your thumb is going thanks to the excellently designed curve of the + shaped pad. It’s responsive and moves as quickly as you need it to, requiring just the right amount of force. It might just be one of the best D-Pads out there and I wish it was on all of HORI’s controller products.
The 6 primary buttons are a little large, but their flat design makes it easy to swap between buttons and their placement makes it possible to hit multiple buttons at the same time. They activate quickly and give a solid amount of feedback so you are aware of when you press them. The bumper and trigger buttons are digital as well and have a fast response. The body curves with their placement making it comfortable to hold the controller in either standard or claw grip with your index and middle fingers resting on the bumpers and triggers respectively. This is actually the first controller where claw grip might be the most comfortable for me since it is built to handle it so well.
There are two functionality switches on the Fighting Commander and while they are nice to have, I can’t imagine too many instances where they will be necessary. The first switch lets you change the behavior of the D-Pad. At its default, it acts as a D-Pad, as it should, but it can also switch over to operating like the left or right stick. There are bound to be some games out there that require the other functions aside from the D-Pad, but you should be fine just using it as.
The other switch is located on the top of the controller and lets you swap the L, ZL, and RSB/LSB inputs between the right and the left sides. While this selection of inputs ensures you have access to every button at any time, it’s not necessarily useful. The PowerA FUSION Wired FightPad also has the RSB/LSB on the left and L/ZL buttons on the right as an option but the switch changes the bumpers and triggers to behave as they naturally would with L/ZL and R/ZR respectively. This layout is more convenient for 2D action titles like Mega Man where you need to be pressing multiple buttons at the same time repeatedly where overextending your thumb to press the R/ZR face buttons might be less than ideal.
The Fighting Commander works great on PC through Steam. Since the platform has native Nintendo Switch controller support, it registers without a hitch. It can also be used in either the Nintendo Switch or Xbox button layout since they use the same face button symbols. I actually go for the Xbox layout which inverts A/B and Y/X so the buttons behave similarly to the way they do on both PlayStation and Xbox FightPads and Arcade sticks. If you use your Switch for your fighters on the go but your PC for your beefier gaming experiences like Street Fighter V, the Fighting Commander is a solid option that works on both with no additional work necessary.
While the Fighting Commander does everything a FightPad needs to do, it is worth noting the things it doesn’t do since I mentioned some features it lacked at the beginning of the review. The cable isn’t removable and can be a bit cumbersome if you don’t have a cable tie to keep it down during travel. There aren’t any customizable features like additional faceplates or things of that nature. There isn’t a headphone jack, which isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for the Nintendo Switch due to the way it handles voice chat, but it does limit it for PC use. None of these features are necessary to the FightPad experience, but they definitely help make things feel more premium. That being said, the Fighting Commander is the least expensive licensed FightPad on the market, running at $39.99, and it handles the essentials extraordinarily well.
Whether this is your first FightPad or your third, the HORI Fighting Commander is a fantastic controller that gives you exceptional direction over your inputs that isn’t possible on a standard gamepad. This is definitely a controller designed to put fighting game players first. If you’ve ever been interested in picking up a FightPad, this is definitely the place to start if you want a solid experience and aren’t worried about extras like removable cables, faceplates, or headphone jacks.
- Solid D-pad works great for all titles.
- Comfortable shape for standard or claw grip.
- Buttons are well shaped, sized, and positioned with fast activation.
- Works great on PC through Steam.
- Least expensive licensed fightpad option.
- No detachable cable.
- A tad too light.
- No headphone jack.
- Trigger switch options aren’t ideal.
- No assign or turbo mode like on previous iterations
Bonus Review: HORI Blue Light Screen Filter for Nintendo Switch
I am a huge proponent of protecting your eyes from as much blue light as possible. I am one of those people who set their phones and computers to automatically adjust to warmer tones when the sun sets and Dark Mode is my best friend. Whenever I started working at my office job, I found myself getting major headaches as the week went on. Eventually, I invested in a pair of blue light filtering glasses and I immediately noticed a world of difference. The headaches were less frequent, my eyes felt less strained, and I found myself less drained overall from the abundance of technology I have to look at throughout my days.
The Nintendo Switch, for as many features as it has, lacks any kind of blue light adjustment setting. I have taken these options for granted realizing whenever I play my Switch at night whenever I get a moment for a quick game, that its the only screen, aside from my TV, that doesn’t adjust to the time of day. While it didn’t make my Switch unplayable, it was definitely something I noticed when playing my console/handheld hybrid. Then enter 2020 whenever we are seeing a lot more of our screens as we find ourselves at home more often than ever and HORI comes along to make things a bit brighter and a bit less blue. HORI recently released its Blue Light Screen Filter for Nintendo Switch and I’ve got to say that I am grateful that the team was able to make a product that attempts to make up for Nintendo’s missteps.
Installation only requires a handful of steps and is pretty simple once you know what you are doing. While the instructions are a tad cryptic since they lack any written direction, there is a handy dandy QR code that takes you directly to an official installation guide. On top of the filter itself, the kit only comes with a fairly flimsy cleaning cloth and a piece of hard paper to help press out the bubbles. There isn’t any kind liquid cleaner and the cloth isn’t reusable like others you might find in screen protector kits. That all being said, the Blue Light Screen Filter only costs $9.99, so you shouldn’t really expect all that much.
The screen filter itself is very thin, so you shouldn’t expect it to protect your screen from any kind of fall or sharp object. HORI doesn’t market this product to protect your screen though, only to protect your eyes. I had a glass screen protector on my Switch prior to applying the Blue Light Screen Filter so to get the best of both worlds, I placed the filter over my screen protector. If you are thinking of going for this method, I recommend trimming the Blue Light Screen Filter down a bit since it will most likely hang over your screen protector.
Once you place your filter on your Switch, you will notice that the colors look a little different than they did before. This is a natural effect of blue light filters since they block out a portion of the blue light from your display. The colors don’t look too drastically different and after a few moments, you won’t even notice there is something actively altering the way things appear on your screen. Remember, this is all done to protect your eyes and reduce strain. If HORI decided to go with an amber-colored filter, it would block even more blue light, but it would be a harder sell since the color variation would be stronger because of it.
If you play your Switch for an extended period of time or most often after sundown, I strongly recommend getting the Blue Light Screen Filter. So far, I have appreciated having the Blue Light Screen Filter applied to my Switch and feel better about playing it since it now aligns with my blue light blocking lifestyle. It is only $9.99 and whether you already have a screen protector or not, the benefits it provides are definitely worth it. While the photos taken don’t do the actual work done justice, you can get an idea of what your display will look like with the HORI Blue Light Screen Filter applied to your Nintendo Switch.
The HORI Fighting Commander for Nintendo Switch can be purchased online from retailers like Walmart for $39.99.
The HORI Blue Light Screen Filter can be purchased from online retailers like Amazon for $9.99.
HORI provided Shoryuken with the HORI Fighting Commander and Blue Light Screen Filter for Nintendo Switch for the purpose of this review.