Over the past few years 8BitDo has released numerous Bluetooth controllers that work with retro console adapters, computers, Android OS devices, and Nintendo Switch. Build quality and variety have helped the company stand out from the competition, and as evidenced by last year's M30 controllers designed for use with your Sega Genesis, 8Bitdo's craft continues to improve. Its latest product, the SN30 Pro Plus Bluetooth Gamepad, looks comparable to other Super Nintendo-inspired controllers from 8Bitdo (albeit with prominent handles) but it is actually one of the most advanced controller options for Switch owners. Though it doesn't feature the official Pro controller's HD Rumble or a motion-detecting gyroscope, the SN30 Pro Plus' distinguishing capabilities make it easy to overlook these arguably minor deficits.
A quick look at the SN30 Pro Plus reveals a familiar button layout, with four face buttons, four shoulder buttons (two of which are triggers), a directional pad, and start, select, home, and capture buttons. 8Bitdo sent us the model colored to look like the classic "DMG" Game Boy color scheme; it's generally on point, though a slight red tint isolated to the applique on the face of the controller does stand out against the more desaturated plastic that surrounds it. Otherwise, the overall build quality is solid, with mixed materials and good-feeling buttons lending a high-quality feel throughout. Most buttons relay a satisfying tactile response when pressed, and the triggers offer a notable amount of resistance, which is good to have in general but even more important when you consider the ways in which you can adjust their sensitivity.
With the SN30 Pro Plus connected to your PC (or Mac, once the upcoming software is released) 8bitdo's Ultimate Software tool lets you dive into the deep end of configurability. The first option you'll see is button remapping, with individual profiles for the controller's two operating modes dialed in for Switch or the Windows-centric X-Input API. Like every setting we'll discuss here, the Ultimate Software's user interface is clear, organized, and very easy to use, leaving little room for guesswork. Simply look to the panel on the right, find the button you want to change in the left-hand column, then pick which input you want to reassign to that button and hit the big purple 'Sync to Controller' button to commit your changes. If you ever need a visual reference, the image of the controller on the left of the Mapping tab will reflect your new settings.
This sort of visual feedback is helpful for button remapping, but it's essential for the next two options: adjusting the active area of the analog sticks and trigger shoulder buttons. In each case, you are given a real-time look at the components in question. Being able to set the dead zone for these inputs can make a big difference to the right player and game, and the fact that you can both test and visualize these settings in real time, with your controller in hand and the Ultimate Software reflecting your actions, greatly streamlines the trial and error process. Beyond dialing in the sensitivity, you also have settings for inverting the axis of your analog sticks, or swapping their relative functions entirely.
Though less critical, you can also adjust the intensity of the controller's basic vibration functionality (again, not proper HD rumble), with feedback coming from the controller as you dial in your preference.
8BitDo's Ultimate Software can also be used to manually assign macros (a series of inputs) to a single button press. This is useful in a number of scenarios like, say, creating an automatic Hadoken button for Street Fighter or a quick build-rearm process for Fortnite. Rather than record your inputs directly from the controller during the macro creation process, you manually assign buttons by picking them from a palatte within the software--up to 18 inputs per macro, which will also correspond to a flashing light around the home button when activated. Macros are definitely questionable in the context of competitive multiplayer games, but that fact doesn't detract from the benefit of having the option on the SN30 Pro Plus, should it prove useful in other scenarios.
8BitDo claims that the rechargeable battery driving the controller in wireless mode can last for 20 hours, but unlike its previous controllers the battery in the SN30 Pro Plus is removable via a simple hatch, and you can even put two AA batteries in its place for the same 20 hours of playtime. This flexibility is greatly appreciated, more so because you won't be stuck with a dead controller once the lifespan of included battery (like all batteries) eventually dries up.
In nearly every respect, the SN30 Pro Plus is an impressive product that goes above and beyond 8BitDo's previous offerings, and most competitors' as well. About the only thing you could wish for was the independence to remap buttons or create macros without the use of 8BitDo's software. That's only worth pointing out because it adds a requirement to the process, but in general using the tool is, like playing with the controller, a pleasant experience overall. In the SN30 Pro Plus, 8BitDo has delivered one of the best third-party controller options for Switch owners and a formidable option for PC users who have far more options to choose from. At only $50, it's also competitively priced in a market that tends to favor high prices for feature-rich peripherals.
The SN30 Pro Plus is available in the US for $50 on Amazon, and interested EU customers can pre-order on Amazon UK for £42.99, where it will start shipping on September 27.
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Editors note: 8BitDo sent GameSpot a complimentary review sample of the SN30 Pro+ controller for review.