With the release of the Nintendo Switch’s online capabilities was the announcement of, and subsequent preorders for, classic NES controllers that can pair to your Switch to be used in lieu of Joy-Cons (or other control schemes) for the Nintedo Switch’s library of NES games. Needless to say, I had to have a pair of these—if not necessarily for the functionality, but because of how damn neat the concept is.
First off, the build quality of these controllers is about what I would expect from Nintendo. That is to say: sturdy, with an extremely authentic feel. I’ve compared them to the original NES hardware as well as the NES classic and it seems like Nintendo has kept the look and button presses authentic. The biggest difference from previous versions is the lack of a cord, and the SL and SR buttons snuggled within the rail on the top of the controller.
These NES controllers come from an era when controller design was much simpler. Ironically, these small boxy controllers are a little more comfortable for my big hands than the small Joy-Cons.
These controllers were intended to be used with the Switch’s library of NES games, which are only accessible if you pay into the online services. Appropriately, you can only order these NES controllers if you have an account with an active subscription to these online services at the time of the order. I don’t know if this is to curb scalpers or there is another purpose. With these controllers still available to order on the store as of this writing, it might be working.
While Nintendo says these NES controllers won’t work with other games, that’s technically not true—though you won’t get much use from it. The few games I tried to play outside of the classic NES fare weren’t very compatible. It seemed like, at first, the NES controllers would work as substitute Joy-Cons. They do not, since they lack the extra two buttons that the Joy-Cons have. And While the NES controllers do have the SL and SR shoulder buttons, they are in an extremely awkward place and are extremely hard to reach in the course of normal gameplay.
The functionality inside the NES game emulators is flawless, though. The lack of buttons don’t hurt, as Nintendo’s software recognizes that you are using the NES controller and instructs you, on screen, as to how to access save states and other functionality as you get used to the new ways to navigate around the menus.
These controllers are faithful recreations of the NES controllers, but they aren’t required, nor will they give you an advantage while plays NES Classic games. It’s all about the nostalgia factor, and feel, and these controllers deliver in spades. They’re more of a novelty than anything that’s overtly useful, since they aren’t able to play anything reliably outside of the NES selection that is available. Still, if you’re a collector or an enthusiast, you won’t be disappointed in these controllers.