The 8Bitdo FC30 Pro controller is a nifty little device with retro Famicom charm that works wirelessly with Nintendo Switch, and is half the price of a new set of Joy-Cons. In this review I hope to answer the question many people have about the 8Bitdo Pro controller: is it worth buying for use with Nintendo Switch, or should you save your money for a new set of Joy-Cons or a Nintendo Pro Controller?
Unlike many other people who discovered the 8Bitdo line earlier, I only became aware of these controllers when 8Bitdo recently released their 4.0 firmware which allows their controllers to be used with the Nintendo Switch. My girlfriend is not a big fan of using a single Joy-Con to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe as it’s too small, and I agree with her – and since I wasn’t too keen to spend $100 (Canadian) right now on some Joy-Cons, I picked up the FC30 Pro on the Canadian Amazon site for $50. The FC30 Pro and its sibling the NES30 Pro controller were launched on the 30th anniversary of the release of the Famicom and NES, and are made to resemble those consoles. The controller also comes with a pretty sweet metal key-chain in commemoration of that anniversary, which is surprisingly classy-looking and well made.
8Bitdo has a whole line of controllers that resemble classic Nintendo console controllers, and all their controllers can even be used with the original Nintendo consoles or the NES Classic with special adapters (you can read The Well-Red Mage’s review of the basic NES30 model here). I picked up the Pro model as it has the same joystick and button configuration as most modern console controllers. So is it worth your money? It depends what you want to use it for. First, here’s the nitty-gritty of what ‘the little controller that could’ is capable of:
While this review is focusing mainly on using the FC30 Pro with Nintendo Switch, it is worth noting that this controller can be used with a plethora of Bluetooth-enabled devices, including PCs and mobile devices. It is lightweight and smaller than most modern controllers, making it easy to transport, and I had no problem setting it up (Switch recognizes it as a Pro Controller), nor has the battery run out after playing with it for four hours. The wireless works flawlessly with no lag, which frankly surprised me, and the joysticks have a nice amount of tension on them and are also clickable, but are also small and don’t have the best grip. One major shortfall is that while there are two shoulder buttons for both left and right, they are laid out horizontally, meaning you need to reach over L1 to reach L2 and same for the right buttons, and this can lead to fumbling in games where those buttons have distinct functions. Also, don’t expect any rumble features, gyro controls or Amiibo support. Whoever designed the D-pad here, however, is a genius – the directional buttons on Nintendo Switch left Joy-Con don’t really cut it, but this D-pad looks and feels like the authentic NES / Famicom one we all know and love.
To test out this controller’s range, I tried it with three of the most popular games out for Nintendo Switch, and here are my impressions:
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
This is what I bought the FC30 Pro for, and it actually works very well. You can hold your items behind you and power slide with no issues, and I was placing first in 150cc Grand Prix easily (well… most of the time). However, losing the rumble is surprisingly tragic, considering I play NES, SNES and N64 (without a rumble pack) with no issues. Maybe it’s the quality of the HD rumble, but when you’re used to getting the feedback as you race, it’s a little odd experiencing it without. That being said, strictly control-wise, the FC30 Pro is amazing here.
The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild
A huge adventure game like this is where the FC30 Pro will really fall short. Loss of the gyro controls aside, having to reach over other buttons to hit L2 and R2 makes drawing your bow and shielding fairly difficult. Also, the joy-sticks do work fairly well as mentioned, but they are smaller than those on the Joy-Cons, and the grip is not amazing, making it harder to perform sensitive movements. It certainly will work, but it would not be as comfortable or functional as a Nintendo controller.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
This is what the FC30 Pro and all the 8Bitdo controllers were really meant for: retro games. In this instance, all the extra buttons are overkill – you need the D-pad and the X A B Y buttons to play, and as mentioned, the D-pad was crafted with the utmost care to feel like a proper retro controller. Playing the game felt smooth, and in the case of playing a retro remake, actually felt more appropriate than using a heavy controller where half the buttons and the joysticks won’t even be used. I haven’t tried it yet, but I suspect this controller would also feel great playing Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers.
So should you get one? Short answer: if you’re strapped for cash, want a cheap extra controller for guests, play a lot of retro or indie games, want to use it with other Bluetooth devices or simply crave the old school controller feel, sure. Otherwise, I’d wait and buy a Nintendo Pro Controller or more Joy-Cons. At the end of the day, the FC30 Pro is a neat device and my girlfriend and I will enjoy it, but weirdly enough, I actually miss the weight, triggers, hand-grips and rumble feature of modern controllers when I use it with modern games. For example, I doubt playing Splatoon 2 with this controller would be effective. Also, while I’m not a fan of gyro controls, some Switch games including Breath of the Wild make use of them, so you’re selling yourself short by not going with a Nintendo controller – and yet, the FC30 Pro shines at what what the 8Bitdo line was created for in the first place: enjoying classic and simpler games.
So I’m sure my girlfriend and I will use this handy device until we get more Joy-Cons or Nintendo Pro controllers – but when I want that old school feel when Nintendo finally gets their virtual console lineup on Switch, I’m pretty sure this is the controller I’d reach for.
Have you tried this controller or any of the other 8Bitdo line? Remember Mad Catz controllers? Be sure to relate your experience in the comments! If you enjoyed this little slice of nerd cake, be sure to follow Nerd Speaker on Twitter and Facebook.
Aw yeah, Spoony! Infinite name drop loop! I am shocked at the price of a new set of Joy-Cons in Canada. And here I thought they were way too expensive in the US. I definitely don’t plan on buying a new set of those any time soon but since I mostly do play indie and retro games, the NES30 works perfectly for me. Did you have any trouble setting it up, accessing its modes, or getting it to sync?
I’ve only tried it with my Switch, but so far so good! The only hiccup was that the USB they gave me didn’t work properly for updating the firmware which was odd, forgot to address that in the review. But it’s a neat little device!
Surprised this thing is good for Mario Kart. Wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at it. I’ll have to give it a shot. I usually just use a regular Pro Controller.
I have yet to actually try the Nintendo Pro controller, but for the reasons I stated in the review, I have to imagine the Pro Controller feels better overall. Still, the FC30 is a cheap alternative!
Hm I DO really like the rumble feature. It adds a lot to the game play.
I got one to use with my Raspberry Pi, and I love it. I’m going to have to try it with my Switch after reading this.
Works like a charm!