Nintendo Switch - Joy-Con

Even though the Nintendo Switch has proven incredibly popular, like everything else out there, it does have some flaws. That said, these flaws can be subjective. One good example would be that of the Joy-Con controllers. Not everyone is a big fan of them, but I personally happen to really like them.

For the past few generations, Nintendo has taken quite an interest in giving us systems with very unconventional concepts and designs. The same is very much true for the Switch. When the initial reveal trailer dropped back in 2016, I was blown away. At first, I was busy freaking out over the fact that it actually did turn out to be a tablet (as the leaks suggested). After I calmed down, I then paid close attention to the Joy-Con. When I focused on them, I realized how weird they look. They have a strange crescent moon shape, which is definitely a departure from the ‘traditional’ controller design. But, once I saw how they effortlessly slide on and off the Switch, I was sold.

My first live interaction with the Switch was at a friend’s house. By that time, the system was already out for a few months, but seeing it in person filled me with that same initial ‘buzz’ all over again. “It’s so tiny!” was the first thing I said when I laid eyes on it, and I exclaimed even more once I actually felt the Joy-Cons for the first time. Playing multiplayer in a few games quickly made it real to me all the complaints of hand cramps that I read about online: these things really are tiny. But I have to admit I didn’t use the Joy-Con Strap at that time since I was too excited to remember it. They truly do make a difference.

I got my very own Switch back in December while on vacation. Now that I have the system for myself, I’ve been able to spend quite a number of hours getting acquainted with it. At this point, everything has pretty much settled in nicely, including the small size of the Joy-Cons.

Despite their small size, I think the Joy-Con are pretty comfortable. It’s that small size which makes them so versatile. 

Since I also happen to own a Wii U, moving onto the Switch and the Joy-Cons ended up being pretty much a night-and-day difference. I remember seeing complaints about the Wii U Gamepad being too big and ‘chunky’, so it’s as if Nintendo took that reaction to heart and opted to make the Switch as slim and compact as possible. Once again, I’m at odds with those complaints as I found the Gamepad to be really comfortable. I also happened to enjoy having a second-screen, even if it was a bit clunky in some games. Likewise, I really like using the Joy-Con despite their odd shape and small size.

Not even focusing on the great battery life, what I really like about the Joy-Con is their versatility. Creating the first true hybrid game console was no easy task, but Nintendo’s engineers really thought long and had about the system’s design. Pretty much everything about it has been clearly designed to allow the hybrid concept to work well, and that definitely applies to the Joy-Con. That ‘crescent-moon design’ is what allows them to be detachable with the Switch. When they’re linked up with the system, it feel pretty natural. It’s really how they feel when they’re detached that has caused so many complaints, but I have no problem with that either.

At home, I tend to leave the Switch docked and use the Joy-Cons with the Grip attachment which gives them a more ‘traditional’ feel. I adapted to this mode pretty quickly. But using them separated in each of my hands has also proven to be very useful. To bring up the Switch reveal trailer again, one of the scenes showed a guy playing the Switch while on a flight. I mimicked that exact scene when my aforementioned vacation was over, and the experience was just as comfortable as it was in the trailer. Having the ability to relax my hands as I played was really nice and showed me how practical the Joy-Con’s design is.

The versatility offered by the Joy-Con being detachable cannot be understated. It benefits the Switch’s portable functionality quite nicely. 

What’s really been impressing me about these controllers lately is all the tech that’s inside them. The announcement of Nintendo Labo was met with a mixture of positive and negative reactions, but I once again fall in the positive crowd. Not only was I blown away by the absurdity behind the concept of constructing cardboard toys, but what really sold me is how the Labo toys are essentially brought to life through interacting with the Switch and the Joy-Con controllers. As Nintendo has revealed more about Labo, it’s also served as a reveal of how intricate the little Joy-Con really are.

Some people aren’t too enthused by the HD Rumble feature that’s in the Joy-Cons. But personally, I do feel the difference compared to other controllers and it’s arguably even more impressive than traditional force feedback. I also find it nice how accurate the accelerometer and gyroscopes are, not to mention that deceptively powerful IR Camera inside of the right Joy-Con. One way that Labo makes use of the IR Camera is through heat vision, which is utilized by the R/C Bug Labo Toy-Con. Another one, the Motorcycle, can scan real-world objects and digitize them into virtual race tracks. That just blows my mind! Again, it’s pretty clear that Nintendo’s engineers really thought long and hard about the design of the Switch, and I really have to commend them for how the Joy-Cons came together.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that it isn’t a bad thing if you aren’t blown away by the Joy-Con like I am. It’s for that exact reason why Nintendo launched the Pro Controller alongside the Switch; just for the sake of satisfying players who want a more traditional control scheme. It is a bit pricey at $70, but that’s why there also happens to be several more affordable third-party options. You can even use an adapter to connect other controllers to the Switch like the Wii U Pro Controller, or even an Xbox One Controller or Dualshock 4. Still, I think the Joy-Cons are my favorite option. I own an XBO controller, and I love how comfortable it is, but I can’t get over the versatility of the Joy-Cons. The only thing they need is some analogue triggers, then maybe they’d just be perfect…

Nintendo Labo really demonstrates how complex these little controllers are. Small is powerful!

A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.

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