Official Review: 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ (Hardware)

By Scarlet Bell, Oct 21, 2020 (updated Oct 21, 2020) 52 12

8BitDo is a company I’ve followed for several years now. With a collection of some of the most stylish controllers at a consistently reasonable price, they’ve tempted me in time after time. SN30 Pro+ in hand, I’m excited to revisit one of my favourite third party controllers in its ultimate form.
Scarlet Bell

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From so much as looking at the SN30 Pro+, you can see something is different. Embracing modern design principles, 8BitDo have stepped into the present day to deliver a controller that is both stylistic and comfortable for the large-handed among us in extended play sessions. That’s right, an 8BitDo controller has grips for you to hold onto! At a surface level, I can’t deny my conflict. It feels like a compromise on the traditional designs they’ve so fondly embraced time after time, making it look like any other third party controller from a distance. On the other hand, however, controllers abandoned the old-world’s flat design for a reason, and using this controller for around a week at the time of writing, I can say I do thoroughly appreciate how it feels to hold.

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With three colour variants available, you still have your recognisable Nintendo designs, should you want them. While the iconic Super Famicom buttons are surprisingly absent here, in its place you can choose from an American SNES design, one based on the original Game Boy, and for those wanting something a little more plain, a simple black design. It’s a reasonable range to choose from, and the Game Boy design I have definitely looks the part; I just can’t fathom why 8BitDo would favour the American SNES controller over the widely more popular European and Japanese design. It’s an odd choice, but I’m sure some will still favour the concave X and Y buttons that come with the purple beast.

On the features side, the SN30 Pro+ packs everything the SN30 Pro did, with a few nice additions. That means you have all your standard buttons for Switch gaming, including a screenshot and home button, as well as the more uncommon motion control and rumble functionality. Too many third party controllers miss out on these, so it’s great to see 8BitDo continue to deliver on complete functionality. You do of course miss out on Amiibo support, and the rumble remains standard definition, but these are the luxuries you pay twice as much for when you buy Nintendo’s Pro Controller. Perhaps the most strange addition to the controller when compared to its predecessor is the inclusion of analogue triggers; after all, the Switch’s ZL and ZR buttons are digital. Though they have little impact on the controller’s performance on the Switch, these triggers feel divine, and sit on par with that of a PS4 controller’s. With 8BitDo’s great range of compatibility in mind, you’ll find these triggers coming in handy if you decide to use the pad on the PC, be it for your regular bout of PC gaming, or something like GameCube emulation.

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The biggest standout feature comes from the companion app: 8BitDo Ultimate Software. If you can get past the cheesy name, you have a genuinely fantastic tool to support an already great pad. First, it handles updates for you. I’m quite fond of this, even if it is somewhat basic of a feature. The more exciting stuff comes after your controller is up to date though; 8BitDo really went to town. Not only can you remap every button, you can customise analogue stick sensitivity, vibration strength, and even create simple macros. What is a bit of a shame to me is that there’s no kind of option to setup the triggers for the Switch. While you can customise the stick sensitivity for the XInput mode, it would’ve been great to see more options here. For example, if you were able to map one button to a trigger if it’s held down up to 80% of the way, and another if it’s held down more than 80% of the way, you’d essentially have Mario Sunshine's analogue shooting in its 3D All-Stars release. I’ll admit this is a bit of an obscure desire, but I do hope something like this gets implemented down the line. For the bulk of my time with the controller, the triggers, while delightfully smooth to press, felt useless to me. Overall though, the software is brilliantly simple to use, and even lets you save profiles you can load onto the controller as you want them. You basically get all the configuration options available to an official Nintendo controller, and a cherry on top.

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When using the controller, there are two parts that should be scrutinised more than the rest: the analogue sticks and the D-Pad. After all, these are your two main portals to controlling your characters, and with Joy-Con lacking a D-Pad, there are many understandably eager to find their perfect third party controller. In this respect, the SN30 Pro+ might not be for you. The D-Pad is fine, but that’s about as far as I’d take it. I’m perfectly comfortable using it to navigate menus, but as a primary means of control, it just doesn’t feel fantastic. The directional inputs lack a degree of definition. You hold right, and it feels as though you might also be holding up or down. When looking at D-Pads on the Switch, I’ve yet to find a controller to match the feel of Hori’s Pokken Pro Pad. If you’re after a controller for your platformers, definitely check that one out. Having said that though, the analogue sticks are great. The motion controls are great. The buttons feel great. Put simply, the controller, as a whole, is great, and for the vast majority of games, you’ll have a blast. If you’re primarily moving with the analogue stick, there’s amazingly little to complain about; it’s comfortable, it’s responsive, and it has the classic 8BitDo support for multiple platforms.

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I'm always looking forward to seeing what'll be next!

This is a controller that excels in every aspect except the one that people will probably be looking to it for, but to me, this alone shouldn’t be enough to put you off. The SN30 Pro+ is a fantastic controller as long as you know what you’re buying it for. As long as it isn’t the D-Pad, you’ll be having a blast.

Want to check out the SN30 Pro+ for yourself? You can find it by clicking the links below:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07TDTXHJP
Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07T8JKVNT

Verdict
What We Liked . . . Faithful and recognisable designs Great build quality Compatible across multiple platforms Incredibly comfortable to use Simple to use companion app for customisation Motion controls and rumble functionality What We Didn't Like . . . D-Pad isn't fantastic as a primary control option No thorough analogue trigger customisation for Switch No Super Famicom design available
8.9
out of 10
Overall
A fantastic controller to both look at and use. While I do lament the fact I can't recommend it for its D-Pad, rest assured its remaining strengths are more than enough to warrant its price tag. You've got a quality product full of customisation options that's built to last, and designed to be used across a great array of platforms. 8BitDo delivers again.
Gekkodox, tfocosta, godreborn and 9 others like this.

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