Review: Jiikae Custom Switch Joy-Cons (Hardware)
In the past, we've taken a look at controller skins; vinyl decals that you apply to your controller, in hopes of making a normally drab gamepad have a little more color and personality. While there are plenty of options in that department, there's a lot of people who don't like the look or feel of controller skins. That's why we're reviewing something a little different, today: custom-made Joy-Cons, for the Nintendo Switch. Etsy user Jiikae has a shop where they sell painted gamepads and Joy-Cons, in a variety of different colors and styles. Ranging from a transparent purple that brings back the nostalgia of the 1990s, to an adorable Pikachu themed pattern, there are some definitely unique options to choose from. We got the chance to demo one of Jiikae's Joy-Con designs, to see how they stack up.
Whenever you talk about the Joy-Cons, one of the first topics that will get brought up is how they lack a D-pad. Opting instead for four arrow buttons, Nintendo's decision put off a lot of gamers who preferred the traditional style of a directional pad. There are a handful of options out there, for third-party Joy-Cons that offer a D-pad, but they come with compromises, such as lacking gyro-sensor capabilities, being made from cheaper materials, not having HD rumble, and most importantly, not being able to be used wirelessly. That's where Jiikae steps in, taking the hardware of a regular Joy-Con, and transplanting it into a new shiny shell, with the choice to add the much-beloved D-pad.
The Joy-Cons that I received were the deep-blue variant; a very lovely color, mixed with the fun of 90s-era transparent hardware. You can see all the bits and pieces working beneath the shell--the board, the wires, the battery--and I've always been partial to enjoying that style, ever since I owned my old Atomic Purple Game Boy Color. They look absolutely great, whether you're using them in portable mode, connected to the tablet, or slotted nicely into the Joy-Con grip. Both the purple and blue Joy-Cons are distinct enough to stand out, while not being too over the top.
Just as the arrow buttons have been replaced, so too, have the ABXY buttons. For the purple, you can go with the typical black buttons with white text that they come with normally, or you can opt for the colorful Super Famicom themed face buttons. As for the blue, you can get ones that match the theme, which have a frosted look, while the letters of each respective button are engraved, rather than painted on.
So, we've established that the controllers look great, but what about the quality? When I attempted to try my hand at replacing my own Joy-Cons' shell, prior to these arriving, I'd made the mistake of trying to cheap out on the shell, resulting in a plastic that was gritty to the touch, and squeaked whenever any pressure was applied. Not only that, but there was a noticeable bump which required me to file down some plastic in order for the pieces to fully snap shut. I lacked the tools to do that, so I was left with an awkward bootleg-feeling set of controllers. Fortunately, Jiikae appears to have the process down flawlessly, as his Joy-Cons have a quality shell--both smooth and durable, and the buttons are perfectly clicky. There weren't any imperfections that stood out to me. All the pieces fit together just as they do on a normal Joy-Con, resulting in something that looks and feels premium.
Already got a pair of Joy-Cons, and you're not looking to get a brand new set? Then you're in luck, because Jiikae also lets you send in your Joy-Cons to be transformed into whatever you desire, for a lesser cost. This is a good middle ground for those who want to get a custom shell for a little bit cheaper, yet are daunted by doing the task themselves or tend to be a little clumsy, like me.
So, considering the fact that a pair of Joy-Cons retail for around $70, and that it's another $30 or so to get shells off of Amazon, the base cost of $115 (for the Atomic Purple D-pad set) is pretty great, with the rest of the comparative price going towards paying for the labor of making sure the housing is replaced correctly by someone who knows exactly what they're doing. I'm a huge fan of how these Joy-Cons turned out, sporting their beautiful blue transparent shell and textured buttons. For anyone who's looking to get a shiny new set of Joy-Cons that have a little flair, or just have a desire for a D-pad without any drawbacks, I would not hesitate in recommending Jiikae.
Where to buy
+ Looks stylish.
+ Shell housing feels like good quality.
out of 10
Jiikae's Joy-Cons are well-made, and reasonably priced. If you've ever been interested in having some Joy-Cons in an awesome custom shell, you should definitely check out what Jiikae has to offer.