Hori digital pad Joy-Con L Review

edit: The battery issue mentioned in this review was fixed by a Nintendo Switch firmware update!

You hear people complain about a lack of D-pad on the Nintendo Switch joy-cons all the time. Maybe you're one of them. In any case, there's been enough buzz about it at least in japan that the popular console accessory manufacturer Hori has gone and produced an alternative joy-con that makes traditional games more enjoyable in portable mode.

Or does it? While I'd have liked a D-pad on the left joy-con from the start, I have to admit that its lack never stopped me from enjoying 2D games in portable mode. The stick and even the 4 individual directional input buttons worked very well for me. But I grew up using D-pads, and with the newly released Mega Man X Collections there was no doubt I had get one of Horis newest peripherals for the sake of it.

So far I've played some hours Hollow Knight and Mega Man X with it. The D-pad feels good and precise for these games. However I don't own a fighting game on the Switch so I can't tell how managable, let's say, a Hadouken is with the new pad. But considering this is Hori I wouldn't be too worried here. The rest of the controller feels good too. It's not entirely identical in form to the Nintendo original product, but the difference is not noticable during play. All buttons feel good and the stick, despite being a bit of an afterthought, works well too. This is not a cheap controller inferior to the original.

Sadly there's some drawbacks to this alternative joy-con: It has no rumble, can only be used while attached to the Switch hardware, and tends to drain the battery in stand-by mode. The last issue appears to be unintended, since Hori's product page comes with a warning and note that they're working on a solution. There's a chance they might ask people to send them in for repair so it's probably not the best idea to import one right now. In any case the problem can be avoided by removing the joy-con when putting the switch in stand-by mode, or by simply turning the console off entirely.

Personally I'm happy with this purchase. The battery issue is a bit of a bummer, but not a terrible issue since there's simple workarounds. The missing rumble so far hasn't bothered me much - there's enough rumble in the right joy-con to be noticable. I have a pro controller for when I play on the big screen so the lack of wireless functionality doesn't bother me either.

Just gotta admit the low position isn't the most comfortable - ideally they should have placed the D-pad where the stick is. Is what I'd like to say, but in that case the stick would be kind of in the way, just like the stick on the right joy-con can be a problem when you're playing a game that heavily utilizes the B button. Still worth a buy for D-pad fans. Maybe Hori will eventually release this product in the west too - and if they don't it's not like it couldn't be readily imported. There's no region lock or anything from preventing it to be used on Consoles not bought in japan.

Also the color looks neat. :)