HORI Split Pad Pro Review

Released 2019
Platform Switch
By HORI (Website)
Homepage (Visit Website)
Category Controller

Big hands? HORI has you covered – with a couple of caveats

I enjoy playing on my Switch. I tend to play docked with the Pro controller, but being able to continue playing when I travel is fantastic. True, the Vita had this first for a few games, but Sony dropped the ball in terms of supporting the undervalued console.

When I travel for work, it tends to be day trips or for the better part of a week. The Switch shines here. I can sit in the airport and continue playing, but unless I wanted to bring extra equipment, I am limited in what I could play comfortably. Astral Chain on Joy-Cons for example words, but it’s uncomfortable and hurts my hands.

The solution? Bring a stand and pair my Pro controller. But putting the Pro controller in my bag worries me. Nothing to protect the sticks, and I also worry about button presses trying to wake it and drain the battery.

There have been a few third party cases that try to emulate ‘full’ controller feel, and they have all missed for me. The extra ‘wings’ to fit in my hand were nice, but I was still playing with Joy-Cons and their stick/button placement. It wasn’t great.

It works well, but not the most easy to carry around setup

HORI has come out with new controllers to address almost all of these issues, and I am loving.

Introducing the HORI Switch Pad Pro (Daemon X Machina Edition) controllers

First things first – Daemon X Machina Edition? Yep. I haven’t seen any other edition, but all it means is a black and red colour scheme with a stylised ‘X’ on the X button. In the future, there may be different game tie ins, but today it just means slightly off norm colouring.

So what is the Switch Pad Pro? Take the general layout of the Switch Pro Controller, break it in half, and slide them into the Joy-Con rails on your Switch. That’s it. You now have a pro controller with a screen in the middle, and it’s incredible.

There is no other way to describe it – that’s what it feels like, with all the pros and cons that entails.

It's not just the angle, the Split Pad Pro has everything that little bit bigger

What cons can there be with a screen inside a pro controller?

Size. Straight up, this makes the Switch longer and deeper. Now for myself, this made playing the Switch in handheld mode more comfortable. I am 6’3″ tall, and not everyone has hands and arms the size of mine – individual experiences will vary.

The changes to the dimensions also make the Switch impossible to not only put in a pocket, but any case on the market I have seen. This puts you squarely back in the ‘take extra controllers with you’ camp, which I was hoping to escape.

It doesn't look much here, but the Joy-Cons have the switch flar and it all fits inside the Split Pad Pro setup

HORI makes Switch cases, I would love them to make a case I can store the Switch with the Pad Pro attached, Joy-Con’s underneath just in case, and maybe a pocket above for carts. This would make the Switch perfect for taking on day trips for me. Get on it, HORI!

What it does Switch Pad Pro does do well is when you are home and want to put the Switch down between sessions. Because the Switch itself is above the surface, picking up the Switch is much more comfortable. I have trouble sometimes picking my Switch up from flat, and that is no longer a problem.

OK, fine, so what’s the Switch Pad Pro like to play?

And here is the crux of the matter. The Switch Pad Pro is like a Pro Controller, but a little oversized and most importantly, not a Pro controller.

It’s tough to explain in words, but while the Switch Pad Pro is great to play on, you still know you aren’t playing on a Pro controller – probably my favourite controller in general.

Everything is oversized on the Switch Pad Pro. Not comically, at least not for my hands, but it’s noticeable. The sticks are just that little bit larger than the Pro, but the same ‘mushy’ feel in the movement. The seems to exaggerate the loose feel to the sticks, even though in gameplay they are quite responsive. It’s a learning curve, but not a steep one. I was playing Astral Chain comfortably within a couple of minutes, and that was after not playing for a couple of months.

Even with one hand for the shot, you can see the more 'normal' placement of the Dpad

Like any controller, the ultimate form is very personal. What do you want in your controller? If you like the clicky feel like the Xbox controllers, this will not feel great to you. I prefer the feel of the Dualshock, but this is softer again. 

If you are comfortable with the Joy-Cons, the Switch Pad Pro will probably be too big for you, but if like me they are too small this is a viable option.

But that’s not all of the caveats!

That’s right – even after all that, there are still things to watch out for. These are not Joy-Cons – and that had a more significant impact than I imagined.

You lose NFC (Amiibo) support and HD rumble. The rumble I was surprised at, the Amiibo support was a little annoying, but if required I can switch controllers mid-game. The big one you lose is motion control.

If you are like me, right now you are thinking to yourself “It’s attached – that’s fine.” and no, no it isn’t. Not for some games anyway. Realisation dawned on me when I tried to fire up Asphalt 9 Legends, thinking the wider grip would help my arms last longer.

I couldn’t play it at all. The vital ingredient that makes Asphalt so fun to play is missing in the Switch Pad Pro. Everything worked, right up to the point I needed to steer the car!

Not a game I would play without the Pro controller previously

Then I tried Pokemon Let’s Go. The game worked as expected, right up until the time I tried to move the Switch to aim. Ooops. Not the end of the world, but not a hurdle I expected to have to deal with.

That sounds like a lot of negatives with not much going for it!

Yes, it does. And it’s important to flag them, not because the Switch Pad Pro is a bad product, but it is a more niche product than I imagined.

There are a couple of features I haven’t touched on. The first is the Turbo button. I don’t know why, but it has one. I have yet to find a use for it. The second though is an on the fly assignment to buttons on the back of the controller. I haven’t used it yet, but I can see times where a simple button press (or even the dreaded L3/R3) combination needs to be used a lot, so you can hit this button instead of taking you thumb off the stick.

This doesn’t change the fact that for a lot of people, the Switch Pad Pro controller won’t be the best choice for all situations.

The assignable button without third party software is nice

So who should look at buying a Switch Pad Pro?

If you find the Joy-Cons uncomfortable and play in handheld mode a lot at home, these will probably do the trick. If you play docked a lot or don’t want to take the Pro controller with you when travelling because of space, this probably won’t be the best choice.

Playing on the plane, I considered playing The Witcher 3 but instead tried Astral Chain again in the more cramped quarters. Playing felt good, and I wasn’t locking elbows more than usual with the passenger next to me. I also didn’t have tired fingers 20 minutes in, a big plus.

What was a pain was taking a bag for my ‘flight’ stuff, the Switch case and the two Switch Pad Pro sides separatly. I really would have preferred a single case I could have lifted the unit out of, but I have already described that.

Travelling with the Switch Pad Pro is about as fiddley as moving with the Pro controller and a stand, but the price is about the same. If you travel a lot, it might be worthwhile, but if it’s occasional, I don’t think it’s worth the select purchase and custom travel storage you will need to create.

HORI Split Pad Pro

Final Thoughts

The Split Pad Pro controller is great for me, but I am not using it as much as I thought I would. Missing motion controls is a pain for some games, but I miss the rumble more than a couple of games.

Because I already have a Pro controller, I am more likely to drop the Switch in my dock and grab it than setup the Split Pad Pro at home. On the move, it’s almost perfect – except for the size and carrying it around safely.

Add a case to hold the Switch and this HORI, put Rumble back in, and everything else can be forgiven.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

  • Feels like you are playing with a pro controller with a screen in the middle
  • Using the controls feels better when playing action games, especially with my large hands
  • DPad is very responsive and works great

Cons

  • Could use more resistance in the sticks
  • An extra item to carry around with you, as actually two controllers
  • Unable to use a case with the controllers attached (May change in the future)
  • Rumble would have been nice

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Pokemon Let’s Go Review

Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Pokemon Lets Go Eevee is Happy 20181119
Released 2018
Platform Nintendo Switch
Publisher Nintendo (Website)
Developer Game Freak (Website)
Homepage Pokemon.com (Website)
Players 1 (2 player is a little deceptive)
Category Light RPG
Collectables

Let’s Go on so many levels indeed!

To call Pokemon a marketing phenomenon would be fair.  Even if you are not into games, it’s even money you know Pikachu.  You may not realise what Pikachu is, but you know the little yellow mascot by sight and possibly the call.

This all came to a head a couple of years ago with a massive surge in popularity due to Pokemon Go.  Droves of people were walking everywhere trying to catch all the Pokemon.  True, initially it was probably the sizable number of fans that always wanted to catch a Pokemon themselves, but the media frenzy that followed definitely got a lot of people that had never played a Pokemon game loading Pokemon Go onto their phones.

So what is Pokemon Let’s Go?

To say Pokemon Let’s Go is a remaster of the original Gameboy Pokemon Yellow isn’t quite right.  A lot of the story elements are there, the basic map and abilities are all present, but a lot of the game has been modified as well.

Pokemon Let’s Go is a new gateway game to the world of Pokemon, with many nods to the old school fans.  Gameplay has also been tuned to make the game accessible for the players that Pokemon Go is their only background to the world of Pokemon.

Pokemon Lets Go Meeting Oak
Your first meeting with Professor Oak! This time you don't pick your partner Pokemon first.

This made the initial reception to Pokemon Let’s Go mixed for some.  The hardcore audience screamed that the series had been dumbed down, while some new players were overwhelmed with the adventure and complexity of the world compared to Pokemon Go.

My take: Game Freak, Nintendo and the Pokemon Company took the opportunity to not only update a 20-year-old game, but to update the entire series in such a way that a whole new way of playing was introduced.

And it works well.

The Story

I’m not going to beat about the bush – the story isn’t anything super special.  If you want a deep narrative that rivals the greatest literary works, this isn’t it.

Yes, you get to beat the 8 gym leaders and then take on the elite 4 to become a Pokemon Champion.  You get to stop Team Rocket and their ‘evil plans’.

The overall story is enjoyable but predictable.  As I said – kids game.

But.

There are moments that are beautiful.  Playing with your Partner Pokemon is adorable, even if it’s not part of the story proper.  And reuniting Cubone with its mother pulled more heartstrings than a story like this deserved.

Pokemon Lets Go Facing Brock
80's kids already know all about Brock, the first Gym leader you meet on your travels.

Describing the story of Pokemon Let’s Go is like describing a day out at a park or something similar.  You remember the highlights and the individual moments and somehow gloss over the mundane things that you did for most of the day.

Yes, like any adventure game you grind facing other trainers to be strong enough to battle the next leader.  You run around for hours catching various Pokemon.  But the individual moments make it all worthwhile to see it through to the end.

The old school changes – the story run

One of the biggest changes to a traditional Pokemon game (even ones as recent as Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon) is the random battles required to capture Pokemon.

You used to walk around and wander in fields of grass and hope that the Pokemon you wanted to catch would appear.  Then you had to battle it, and hope you didn’t knock it out, then when you wore it down, you could throw your Poke Balls at it to try and catch it.

This worked and allowed you to give your Pokemon experience to level them up and improve their stats.  Just like any other RPG, your individual stats don’t matter, it’s your parties stats that count.

Unlike most other RPG’s however, you aren’t the hero of the quest battling whatever comes along – that’s what your Pokemon do, so they need to increase their skills.

While fun, this quickly became repetitive, the very definition of ‘the grind’ of RPGs everywhere.  Coupled with the random chance of Pokemon appearing, this quickly put off a lot of casual gamers in the past.

Pokemon Let’s Go takes advantage of the much-improved graphics and storage capabilities of the Switch to change this up.  Now as you explore Kanto, you can actually see the Pokemon inhabiting the land around you.  Don’t want to capture any more Weedles?  Don’t walk into them, and problem solved!

Pokemon Lets Go Seeing The World
Being able to see the Pokemon around you makes it both easier to collect them, and more immersive.

You also don’t have to fight the Pokemon first.  Taking inspiration from Pokemon Go, if you see a Pokemon all you have to do is capture them.  Better Poke Balls give better odds of capturing them, and you can use different berries to stop Pokemon from running around the screen or like you a little more to help.

Pokemon can run away, which can be frustrating.  You can throw a lot of Ultra Poke Balls at a Pokemon,, run out and capture the same Pokemon with a standard ball first time.  But what you can’t do is accidentally knock out the Pokemon, stopping you from attempting the capture at all.

Pokemon Lets Go Catching Pokemon
Catching new Pokemon is almost the same as Pokemon Go - just time the throw with the circle, and see how you go!

The Old School Changes – Post Game

For those that screamed ‘It’s too easy!’ when Pokemon Let’s Go launched, this is where they should probably have stuck with it.

A lot has been added to the post-game content.

You can hunt down and catch some legendary Pokemon, such as MewTwo, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres.  Not that unusual as post-game content, but it’s there!

Finding the Mega Evolution stones should also be on your list.

Also on the cards are the original two rival trainers, Red and Green as well as Blue.  Finding more powerful trainers sounds standard as well, but these aren’t the only three.

Pokemon Lets Go MewTwo
The legendary MewTwo. Guess who I am running around with post game?

Pokemon Let’s Go also has Master Trainers.  These are trainers that have trained one specific Pokemon to level 75.  Not only do you have to beat them with the same Pokemon, but without any items or assistance as well!

Now people were complaining about levelling up Pokemon as the main experience source was catching Pokemon, and Poke Balls cost.  Unlike any other Pokemon Game I have played, you can continue to face Gym Leaders and the Elite Four for experience and a cash boost at any time!

Pokemon Lets Go Master Trainers
Not only do you have to train all of the Pokemon, you have to find the right trainers as well

While not everyone will want to do these activities, this should be what every hardcore Pokemon player was hoping for.  Yes, you have to finish the game to get to this, but this becomes the biggest collectible/side quest Pokemon I have ever seen!

And fair, I have only finished Yellow, Sun and Ultra Moon until now – but that’s kind of the point.  Pokemon has been almost the same game for over 20 years – it’s great to see something new in the mix!

Pokemon Go Integration

A game heavily influenced by Pokemon Go, many including myself were intrigued by the idea of importing between the two games.

I managed a connection once, imported Ditto, and then didn’t do it again.

Don’t be put off by this though – if you are a keen Pokemon Go player with all of the Pokemon to transfer, the ability to play with Pokemon in Let’s Go is amazing!  You just don’t need to do it to play the game, and I found the process annoyingly unintuitive.

Pokemon Lets Go Transfer with Go
Exchanging Pokemon is a whole lot of fun. There are even cool descriptions I won't spoil 🙂

Biggest issue – Pokemon Let’s Go doesn’t like sharing Bluetooth connections.  If you have a Fitbit or similar tracker, prepare for some issues.  But once it was working, the experience was fun, and it’s a great way to bring in some missing Pokemon if you don’t have anyone to trade with for the missing Pokemon between Eevee and Pikachu.

Poke Ball Plus

I already talked about this in my Poke Ball Plus review, but this was a fun add-on to the whole game.

Controller wise, it worked reasonably well.  The motion controls I actually found better than the single Joy Con.  I wasn’t as happy with the fact that you had to shake the ball to use the Y button though.  Overall this isn’t an issue, but because shaking in battle brings in a partner, if you don’t know exactly what a move does (bought up by the Y button) you are in trouble.

But taking your Pokemon for a walk makes up for all that in a lot of ways.  Read the review for my full thoughts, but if you are only going to get Pokemon Let’s Go, it may be an expensive luxury.

Poke Ball Plus Battery Level Check
If the light is green, the trap is clean! Wait, wrong franchise...

What’s this about 2 players being deceptive?

The one thing I was hoping to try was playing with my Partner, but timing kind of killed that.  In some ways though, it’s kind of lucky it did.

It’s true you can have a helper in the game, the second player.  But that player controls one of your party and uses your Poke Balls to try and catch Pokemon.

They don’t get any benefit at all other than helping you out, and you don’t even need another person.  Pokemon is turn-based, so if you are having trouble in a fight you can just play both ‘trainers’ yourself with a second controller.

Now this is great if you have little ones that are having trouble in a fight or catching Pokemon.  You will be playing together and helping rather than taking over the game.  But playing the whole game like this?  I feel it’s a little less than advertised.

Pokemon Lets Go Two Player Roaming
The help works, but it's not what I would describe a true two player game

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Pokemon Let's Go

Final Thoughts

I didn’t play constantly, but I enjoyed Pokemon Let’s Go every time I picked it up.  Personally, I don’t have a preference for Eevee or Pikachu so my choice was dictated by my partner getting Pikachu.  Both games are almost identical, with a few Pokemon only available in the other game.

If you are interested in Pokemon or are curious about turn-based role-playing games, Pokemon Let’s Go is a great choice for you.  Light enough with a little handholding in-game to teach you the ropes, but enough in it to keep the interest intact.

Even as a relatively hardcore RPG player, Pokemon Let’s Go was a fun experience that I will probably keep picking back up to beat all those Master Trainers for some time to come.  It has a surprising amount of depths and layers around it, making it one of the better examples of ‘the game you want it to be’ for quite some time.

Overall
8.7/10
8.7/10

Pros

  •  Modern take on a beloved franchise
  •  Playing with your partner Pokemon is amazing
  •  Great to pick up and put down as you need to

Cons

  •  Music is so repetitive
  •  Second player isn’t really a second player
  •  Veterans may not see it through

Another game is coming to the Switch! And it’s Saints Row the Third?

Saints Row the Third Feature

Well if Nintendo wants to show it can be adult, this is the series to do it with a smile!

Way back in 2011, I grabbed this game from Steam that a friend said would appeal to my admittedly warped sense of humour.  I had heard of Saints Row games before, but they were mainly described by the words ‘GTA Knockoff’.

But the player that recommended Saints Row the Third to me does know my gaming habits and what grabs my attention, so I looked at the Steam page.

I had bought the game by the end of the trailer.

Unfortunately om 2012, THQ went bankrupt.  But the series was kept alive with the even more over the top and just plain wrong Saints Row IV with the help of Volition and Deep Silver.

Well a couple of days ago, Deep Silvers Twitter account showed this little gem:

When I first saw this, I was thinking to myself how it would be fun to fire Saints Row up on the Switch and do a couple of side quests or generally just run around being an annoying character.

Then almost immediately after, I thought to myself “Why the Third?”

Saints Row IV was in a lot of ways the perfect send off to a silly bit of fun.  This would have been the game I would have thought would be first to bring across.  Maybe Saints Row IV is just technically too much for the Switch.

Going back this far Just doesn’t quite click.  Even if the Third is the first game that became ‘fun’ in the series, why go back to the start?  The Saints aren’t exactly retro nostalgia worthy yet.  Could this be a testing of the waters for a Saints Row V?

There is no timeline for when Saints Row the Third will be coming out, but there are two things for certain.

  1. The Switch is getting a crazy library of past games bought to it.
  2. The Australian Classification Board will probably be all over this again, as both 3 and 4 in the series has had to be modified for classification.

I’m going to concentrate on number one for now.  Politics in Australia is just insane at the moment.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Fire Emblem: Three Houses coming to the Switch next year

Fire Emblem Three Houses Feature

How can one little console make me so happy

I do enjoy my video RPGs.  JRPG’s though have a very special place in my heart.  Sitting down and learning the secrets of an entire world while usually all but single-handedly saving it are hero fantasy to the extreme.

Everyone nowadays has heard of the Final Fantasy series, but classics like Chrono Trigger and the like are still sadly neglected.  Over the last few years, the Disgaea series has been my main poison of choice, mainly on the PSP and the Vita.  JRPGs are great as mobile games, their turn-based nature thriving in the pick up and put down environment.

Being a Sega and then PlayStation child, I admittedly missed quite a few classics growing up.  One such series was the Fire Emblem series, that I started with Fire Emblem Fates on my 3DS.

The mechanics of Fire Emblem are typical of a lot of JRPG games – seemingly superficial until a critical mass hits, then incredibly complex.  These same systems can also lead to unique mechanics though as well.  For example, in Fates, you can romance and marry other characters in the game.  You can even have children.  Great from a branching narrative perspective to be sure, but there is more.

Through time shenanigans, your children can grow and fight alongside you, beginning with traits from both parents and then becoming another member of your army.  Find another game that not only does that but makes it seem natural as you play!

Fire Emblem on the DS has made great use of the system, but now a lot of hallmarks of the series look set to change as the series makes it’s RPG debut on the Nintendo Switch.

There isn’t much more known about the game now, but I am sure much more will be coming to light over the coming months.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is set to release in Spring 2019.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

My Little Scythe is real! And why are there so many games coming out?

My Little Scythe is so cute it’s almost terrifying

Last year, the Print and Play game that came out of left field was definitely My Little Scythe.  Designed by Hoby Chou and his daughter Vienna, My Little Scythe borrows some of Scythes mechanics and takes you on an adventure in the world of My Little Pony.

It sounds like an unlikely alliance I know, but the response was off the charts.  It even won the 2017 Golden Geek award for best Print and Play game!

Here is definitely one of the most kid-friendly how to play videos ever:

I always meant to get around to downloading it and having a good look at the game at some point.  Unfortunately, my chance to download this PnP award winner has passed.

But for the best reason!  Stonemaier games, publishers of Scythe, have announced that they are publishing My Little Scythe as a ‘proper’ game!

There have been some obvious changes, mainly because My Little Pony is a licensed product.  But the core of the game seems to be intact, and I can honestly say I am looking at adding this to my ‘Games with kids’ portion of my collection.

My Little Scythe Game
My Little Scythe is 'REAL'!

Changing the setting from Equestria to the Kingdom of Pomm, the core Pony mechanics of friendship are definitely intact.  In fact, looking through the original Print and Play video tutorial and the new rulebook, you can see that the change of the My Little Pony characters really is the primary change!

My Little Scythe plays 1-6 players, and while it says from 8+ early reviews say that six-year-olds with adult assistance for reading cards had a great time.

If you wish you could get your younger kids into playing your board games, this looks like a great first step!

Enjoy the teaser video below, then check out the official Stonemaier games page here.  And as usual, the Board Game Geek page here.

So many games, so little time!

My gaming backlog is huge, and this years release schedule promises zero catch up time.

Today marks Donkey Kongs’ big day for the Nintendo Switch.  Yep, It’s time for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze!

I essentially skipped the Nintendo generation, with the exception of the original Game Boy and playing some Game Cube games with my nephew.  But I do remember everyone saying how fun Donkey Kong Country was, so I am really tempted to pick this up tonight and give it a go!

Donkey Kong
He's Back!

Even though I am an older man who’s twitch reflexes are starting to fail, there is a new ‘Funky’ mode that makes the game a lot easier with more health and I believe protection from certain environmental hazards.

I want to play this and see for myself.  But you know what else I want to play on the Switch?  Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 2.  And they are only the ‘big’ games on the wishlist.

What do you think, should I give it a try?

A couple of weeks ago I put up a Facebook post that Battletech had finally unlocked, and I couldn’t wait to play it.  Sadly, I still haven’t, but there is a long weekend coming up so maybe…

But then another fly appeared in my ointment.  As a backer of Pheonix Point, my first early access release version is available, and I REALLY want to five that a try!

Pheonix Point is the latest game from original X-COM creator Julian Gollop, and it looks simply AMAZING.  See for yourself:

You can pre-order on the Pheonix Point site still and get access to the backer builds yourself with the Digital Edition and up.

And on that note, the weekend is almost here!  See you tomorrow with the newest Board Game Review!

JohnHQLD