The Nintendo Entertainment System controllers for the Nintendo Switch are only available for subscribers of the Nintendo Switch Online service. I received an email about the offer to purchase the controllers, and you have to login to your account to prove you can purchase them. It took over a week to receive them in the mail, at least here in the United States since Nintendo only offered shipping via the Postal Service. An expedited method could not be used. The packaging was simple, and there were no instructions included. The controllers were in a simple red box in a plastic tray, and I was very excited to unbox them. I decided to purchase these as part of my Father’s Day gifts. I can say that I have mixed feelings about them, but in a good way.
The controllers are the same size as the original Nintendo controllers. They have the same feel to them that brings back many boyhood memories. Minus the cord, the controllers feel like they also have the same weight to them. The only differences between the original and the Switch version of the controllers are the addition of the L and R buttons at the top, the rail that mounts the controllers to the Switch, a Bluetooth sync button, the release button, and the LEDs at the top.
Setup is extremely simple. After removing your Joy-Cons from the system, simply slide the NES controllers onto the Switch and the system will automatically pair themselves. This is also how they charge. The main drawbacks of having them on the system is you cannot use them, and they also look like they really are out of place. The only useful purpose of having them on it after initial setup is to charge them. It looks like they should be smaller and have rounded edges when connected to the Switch, but this would, in fact, defeat the purpose of having the controllers look and feel like the originals.
The main purpose of the controllers is for using them to play the Nintendo games in the Nintendo Switch Online app. This is like the Virtual Console games offered on previous systems, except that it currently only has some of the original Nintendo games and some variants thereof. I tested it on all three of the Mario games, StarTropics, Excitebike, and Blaster Master. In all the games, the controllers worked just as well as a wired controller and felt like they had no lag to them, despite being wireless. On top of the standard controller functions in the games, if you press the L and R buttons together, it takes you to the Suspend Menu where you have the option to continue playing the game you are currently in, load and create suspend points, reset the game, and return to the game selection menu. Pressing just the L button in-game captures screenshots and videos. Pressing the R button by itself returns you to the Switch Home Menu.
While the controllers are meant to be played with the original Nintendo games, you can use them on some Switch games, if they only require basic controls. I played some of Final Fantasy VII with them and only had issues with accessing the menu. Fortunately, I still had my Joy-Cons connected and could simply press the X button to do so. The controllers also control the system flawlessly from the Home Menu and beyond. While you may be able to control some Switch games, I really did not find one that I own that worked perfectly with them.
As a bonus, I tried to connect them to my Raspberry Pi that is running Retropie. The controllers were supported with the current updates and even are distinguished between the left and right controllers. After configuring them, I played Final Fantasy and Super Mario Bros. 3 with no issues. This ended badly for me as I wasted half a day playing Final Fantasy for who-knows-how-many times and again beating the third Mario game for nearly the same amount of plays as Final Fantasy. While this adds to the use of the controllers, there are similar controllers that could be purchased for less and without requiring the online service account if you are simply going to use these for the Pi.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: December 2018