The Switch N64 controller is great, shame the Expansion Pack isn't


Patches, please

So as you may have heard, the Switch Online “Expansion Pack” [Pak] came out recently and added N64 and Genesis games into the mix. Some people aren’t happy with the quality of the service and the price. It’s a whole thing. For now, at least we got a new Switch N64 controller out of it.

Switch N64 controller 1

For reference, when you buy the (currently out of stock) $50 Switch N64 controller as a Switch Online subscriber, you’ll get the hardware, plus a USB charging cable (which can also be used to easily pair it to your Switch, just like the Pro).

Switch N64 controller 2

I immediately busted out my original N64 controller and started with the hands-on comparisons, and I have to say they did a fantastic job: especially with the aesthetics. The original N64 controller feels a little heavier (especially with any paks in it): a factor that’s just going to come down to personal preference. They both feel great in my hand.

Wow, an N64 controller “feeling great.” That’s definitely going to be subjective! The N64, along with the Dreamcast and a few other consoles, has a relatively polarizing control method. Some hands just straight-up don’t agree with the weird shape, and reaching up to hit c-buttons is going to get on some people’s nerves. With that in mind, I have a few decades of muscle memory embedded in my brain, so it was easy to pick back up.

The new controller has a few extra modern conveniences, like adding home, ZR, and a pairing button on the top. It also has rumble built-in without the rumble pak, and the actual slot to put that pak (and the controller pak — man remember the ’90s?) is sealed up for your protection. I’ve put it through the paces and really like this retro remote: it might be my favorite of the four (NES, SNES, Genesis) to date.

But the way the games actually play on the Switch itself also betrays the quality craftsmanship of the controller. As you may have heard, there’s a degree of input lag for specific titles, and proper button mapping doesn’t exist. There’s also some restrictions for local and online play, online play has been incredibly inconsistent and in some cases is as laggy as the rest of the service, and the literal expansion pak functionality doesn’t work in the Expansion Pack paid subscription. You’d think they’d check that first!

Of course, there is hope. Maybe a false hope, given how there isn’t precedent for a Switch Online retro engine rework, but hope nonetheless. If Nintendo patches the service and fixes some of these issues, people who already have decided to pay will at least get more enjoyment out of it. After all, it would be a crying shame if the modern N64 controller didn’t get enough love from a new generation of folks clumsily navigating it, and earning their palm marks in Mario Party as a rite of passage.

It sucks because the initial salvo of games is pretty decent. I mean Star Fox 64 holds up the best of all of them, Sin and Punishment is something not everyone has experienced in their lifetime, and I dig the dark horse pick that is WinBack: that takes balls. Man, the memories of playing that quirky shooter in basements: it’ll live on forever (give it a shot, even if it’s a physical N64 cart for dirt cheap and not via the Expansion Pack!).

There’s also reportedly a heap of new games on the way, including at least 38 N64 titles and 52 for Genesis. For now, I have the controller for science (and future use on other platforms like PC), and the hopes that the Expansion Pack will be worth the money.