8BitDo has revealed the 8BitDo Pro 2, which they say is their most advanced controller ever. Is it worth the upgrade from the original SN30 Pro+, and is 8BitDo’s products still a viable alternative to the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller?
8BitDo makes great retro-styled controllers that take design cues from classic 80’s and 90’s consoles like the Famicom, NES, SNES, Genesis, and more. They used to be just novelty products that bank on your nostalgia and remind you what ergonomic nightmares those controllers of old until the release of the SN 30 Pro+. The addition of grips to their SNES look-a-like immediately elevated these controllers from nostalgia bait and into legitimate Pro Controller alternative.
In my review of the original 8BitDo SN30 Pro+, I called it the strongest contender over the official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. If you didn’t mind not having the ability to turn the Switch on via the controller, or scanning Amiibos via NFC, the 8BitDo Pro+ is an amazing value at a fraction of the price of the official controller.
Most of what I said about the original SN 30 Pro+ applies to the Pro 2, actually. Great Bluetooth connectivity, great d-pad that is leagues above the official Pro Controller’s, and having D and X-input makes it a compelling device not just for Switch owners, but for PC gamers as well. So what makes it an “advanced” controller, and why should anyone pick this over the Pro+?
Oh hey, back buttons
While not everyone feels the need to have back buttons as they can be clunky and they can be accidentally engaged, the addition of two programmable back buttons are a huge reason why I bought the Pro 2 the moment they went on preorder. And while the games I’m currently playing don’t exactly give me the need to use these buttons just yet, ow I can probably go back to Dark Souls and use the right back button to spam the hell out of rolling.
Switch between modes easily
Using the SN30 Pro+ over the last few months, using it between PC and Switch, made me develop a very specific pet peeve towards it – using keypresses to jump between modes. Start + Y for Switch mode, Start + X for X-input, and more. While it was never inconvenient, it may not be easy to remember what mode you left the Pro+ on, and it can lead to some funky behavior when you’re playing with it on Switch mode on the PC. Heck, sometimes I’m not even sure if the mode I’m changing to was engaged to begin with.
Well, the new Pro 2 finally has a 4-way slider that lets you jump between Switch, Android, D-input, and X-input. While this may seem like a small deal, the fact that I don’t have to guess if I was successfully change modes, and I can just check by looking at the back of the controller is a huge deal.
Slight Changes to Ergonomics, Big Deal
One of the first things that I noted with the original 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ is that the ABXY face buttons were arranged in this weird rhomboid layout that made playing with it weird at first. I got used to it of course, but once Bim of Geekout pointed it out, I could not unsee – and un-feel – it.
The new Pro+ thankfully fixes this issue by having the face buttons be symmetrical to each other and if you’re coming off the Joy-Cons or Pro Controller, going to this new controller would feel like home.
They also made slight changes to how the back is curved, and with a change on how the grip is textured – I prefer this more subtle grip that fits my hand better. However, this slight change to the curvature initially made pressing the trigger buttons a bit awkward. I stopped noticing it an hour into Resident Evil 2, though. The trigger buttons also have slightly shorter travel, which I appreciate.
I noted in my Pro+ review that the ABXY buttons felt a little mushy, and I’m happy to report that this does not seem to be the case with the Pro 2. The Pro Controller’s ABXY buttons are still the gold standard when it comes to feel, but the Pro 2’s buttons are way better than the previous iteration.
New Ultimate Software
Now 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software is available for mobile as well – so you don’t need to download a separate app on your PC to just change a couple of settings. Just fire it up on your phone and you’re good! Like with the previous controller, you can customize key mappings, trigger sensitivity, analog deadzones, and record macros with the Ultimate Software.
And the Pro 2 now also stores those custom profiles and keymaps as well. There’s a new profile button in between the analog sticks that lets you jump between up to three profiles.
Waiting on these improvements
While I really liked the Pro 2, there were some features that I wish they’d implement:
- You still can’t turn on the Nintendo Switch by long-pressing the home button
- There still isn’t NFC
- While I understand that it’s an aesthetic choice, I’d love to have an option to purchase a version with asymmetrical analog sticks( i.e. Xbox and Switch), as I prefer that over the Playstation-like layout on the Pro+ and Pro 2.
So, what controller should I get now?
The official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, while really good, is still extremely expensive. 8BitDo’s controllers give you an option to have Pro Controller-like features at a fraction of the price. While the Pro 2 may not be as refined as the Pro Controller, you won’t be able to notice it at all. And being able to instantly jump from PC to mobile to Switch is a huge deal for multi-platform users. However, if you already have the Pro+, upgrading to the Pro 2 might not be necessary unless you really want those new features I mentioned.
You literally can’t go wrong with any of these three controllers – it’s just really finding out what you need and getting the one that works for you. The 8BitDo Pro+ gives you around 80% of the Pro Controller experience, plus adds a few more things unique to it.