8bitdo Pro 2 Controller Review

A Go-To Choice for Retro Gaming

I have sold off many electronic gizmos, game consoles, and PC parts over the years, but something I’m much more reluctant to sell is a good controller.  I have amassed quite a collection.  Here are some of the best controllers I still have:

I bought the 8bitdo Pro 2 controller because my Raspberry Pi USB ports stopped working, and I thought I could connect via the Pi’s Bluetooth with no physical wiring.  Turns out, you do need a physical connection to set up the Bluetooth, thus rendering my Pi mostly useless, but I kept the controller.  I have now used it to play the latter half of GRID 2, all of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, and some of Bloodstained Ritual of the Night.  That is enough time gaming to leave an impression, so here’s what I think: It is probably the best pick-up-and-play controller for playing a retro game on a modern system.

The long version:  Those systems include almost anything that supports Bluetooth, Android, Switch, Windows, Mac and yes, Raspberry Pi.  No official support for Xbox and PlayStation.  I am a PC gamer, so this does not bother me.  There is a physical switch on the bottom of the controller for switching between acting like a Nintendo Switch Pro controller, and acting like a generic Xinput controller, and those are the options I switch between the most, because they are both supported on PC.

The build quality of the 8BitDo Pro 2 is solid.  The buttons give good tactical feedback when pressed.  The analog triggers have just enough give but not too much.  And the joysticks give you 360 degrees of motion.  I feel like ever since the so-called fifth-generation of game console controllers, the first to bring 3D to the masses, there’s been a war to try to make a controller as comfortable as possible.  To me, the most comfortable official controller was the Xbox 360 controller, which is actually just an evolution of the Dreamcast controller.  This may be the most comfortable unofficial controller.  No button was out of reach, and it feels good to hold.

The hands down best thing about the 8bitdo Pro 2 is the D-Pad.  Nintendo held a patent on the cross-shaped D-Pad that didn’t expire until early in the twenty-first century.  This is why the PlayStation controller cuts an X in the middle of the D-Pad.  Microsoft had no problem ripping off the cross after the patent expired, but Sony never changed their design.  The Pro 2 has an authentic D-Pad, and dammit, it’s big.  This is exactly what I want.  A big D-Pad halfway between feeling mushy and clicky.  Not even Nintendo makes D-Pads this good.  If you play a lot of 2D games on modern systems, this is worth the cost for the D-Pad alone.

For 3D games, this is less of a sure thing.  I played half of GRID 2, a 3D racing game on this controller, and just like what happens on the original PSX controller, my thumb has to travel too far to move the analog stick.  It’s not a deal-breaker for some, and I was able to control my in-game race cars just fine, but Microsoft did a wise thing by making the analog stick on the Xbox pad right next to your thumb.  I will hold on to my 360 controller for this reason alone.

Closing notes, I guess newer games use a third pair of trigger buttons (what a time to be alive), so you will basically never run out of buttons, unless you’re playing Steel Battalion or Flight Simulator.  The biggest complaint I have is that the “Guide” button can be accidentally pressed by the right thumb a little too easily.  There is an easy work around, which is to map the Guide button to the equivalent button on the left side.  I still haven’t done this.  This is an obvious choice for any 2D game, thanks to a big D-Pad and clicky buttons, and an OK choice for 3D games.



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