Opinion: The Joy-Con Embraces Simplicity Without Sacrificing Complexity

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

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DISCLAIMER: The following is the author’s own opinion and does not reflect that of oprainfall as a whole

Joy-Con | | Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons

A new Nintendo console means a new Nintendo controller, and it may be their most ambitious yet. After introducing motion controls to a wider audience with the Wii Remote and attempting to offer a second-screen experience with the Wii U Gamepad, Nintendo has presented to the world the Switch Joy-Con. This new, versatile controller brings its form factor closer to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk when separated from the Switch system, but offers a more traditional controller experience when in the Switch itself or provided Grip accessory. The Joy-Con pair can also be used as individual controllers for multiplayer gaming. While simple enough to grasp, I’d like to take some time to point out why I think the Joy-Con may be the perfect marriage of simplicity and complexity in a game controller.

I can’t begin this argument without bringing up the Wii Remote. I remember reading an article in GamePro magazine back in the summer of 2006 that had a spread about the Wii Remote. It mentioned how gaming controllers had become really complex, featuring upwards of 17 buttons, dwarfing the layouts of controllers from the 8 and 16-bit eras. The Wii Remote had fewer buttons overall and a more retro form-factor, providing a simpler gameplay experience. It was a nice contrast to the more standard gamepads, allowing people more unfamiliar with games a less intimidating control scheme.

Joy-Con | Joy-Cons and Switch (Tablet Mode)

Now the Wii Remote was not perfect: the lack of a second analog stick was a pain for games that required camera controls, and fewer buttons meant more actions had to be given to motion controls, making certain actions less precise than some players wanted. This article always stuck out to me, however; the more games evolved, the more complex they became. Now, this is fine for games that benefit from the complexity, but it’s unnecessary for games that don’t really need it.

This is something I love about the design of the Joy-Con. While it has more buttons than a Wii Remote, it is able to give players a similar experience when on its side, albeit way smaller. It even has things the Wii Remote never did like shoulder buttons and an analog stick, while keeping things like the wrist strap to prevent it from flying into HD sets. Other bells and whistles like improved motion controls, HD rumble, and a decent charge time help round out a great overall controller.

Joy-Con | Joy-Con Grip

However, the best thing about the Joy-Cons is the ability to utilize the Grip accessory. This essentially gives players a more modern controller set-up that was not possible with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. While the Pro Controller may still be an attractive option for players who want a traditional D-pad, the fact that you don’t need one at all is pretty awesome. In general, the number of ways you can use the Joy-Con allows the players more options in how they play, beyond custom button configurations.

Now the Joy-Con is not perfect. They may be a little too small for some, games that are better suited for a regular D-pad might suffer, and they’re pretty pricey outside of the ones you get with the Switch itself. However, the Joy-Con may very well be the most original, versatile game controller in years. You can play how you want, pass a J0y-Con to a friend for some multiplayer, or use the grip for a traditional game experience. It definitely feels like a return to the simplicity of the Wii Remote, while not sacrificing the complexity of modern gaming. While I’ll have to wait until March to try out these controllers for myself, they sure look like a joy to use.

About Andrew Mathieu

My name is Andrew Mathieu. I'm a college student and I work part-time in my home state of Connecticut. I'm working towards being a writing and host three blogs on WordPress about animation, comic books, and video games. I hope to one day be able to write comic books and voice my opinions about my favorite fields of entertainment.