8BitDo SN30 Review: An Amazing Wireless Solution For 2D Games!

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8BitDo has made numerous good controllers over the last few years and I am sad it took me so long to finally get around to trying them out. I have owned the SF30 Pro for almost a year and in that time I have been happy with its solid performance and all around usage design. I enjoyed it so much I decided it was finally time to bite the bullet and branch out into 8BitDo’s more specialized controllers like the SN30. The SN30 lacks the thumbsticks and extra shoulder buttons of the SN30 Pro, making it the basic, less-universal model. Instead, the SN30 is more of a faithful recreation of the Super Nintendo controller only with wireless Bluetooth technology!

What’s In The Box

I picked up my SN30 from Amazon as part of an 8BitDo Retro Set that included the 8BitDo SNES Retro Reciever which I might do a review on at a later date. The box this set came in is just puzzling though. The box itself is pure black and instead of using a lighter font to really stand out against it, a dark grey is used making the whole thing rather dark and uninteresting. The SN30 can come in 4 different color variations, so the depiction of the controller on the front of the box is just a simple outline drawing of the design which is efficient. The outline design of the SNES Retro Reciever can also be seen right next to the controller with the 8BitDo logo above it.

The 8BitDo Retro Set name can be found under the controller with the awesome promise of being able to play my original system wirelessly! The same “Play your original systems wirelessly” branding can also be found along the top of the box. On the left side of the box, we can see the content list for what is included inside the packaging. The right side shows which of the 4 color variants your SN30 has come in. On the back, we get a nice demonstration of the SN30 working wirelessly with both the Super Famicom and Super Nintendo. There are also some details about the size of both the SN30 and Retro Reciever as well as connectivity. The support website for firmware updates is also listed just below this. The last real item of note is the 8BitDo logo and website taking up residence in the bottom left corner.

Opening the box we have the SN30 housed in a plastic shell with the Retro Reciever tucked away underneath it. Unlike other 8BitDo products, the micro USB cable isn’t housed directly in the plastic shell for this set, but rather stored loose behind it. The normal multi-language user's manual is also missing in this packaging. Replaced instead with a single page paper that highlights the buttons on the controller and instructions to plug in the Retro Reciever before powering on a Super NT console from Analog.

Aesthetics And Build Quality

The SN30 is a great approximation of the SNES controller with nearly every line, curve, and screw hole intact. There are some cosmetic differences, like the indented section of plastic encircling the D-pad isn’t here. The circle of darker gray plastic around the face buttons is also missing from the original design. The entirety of the inner front of the controller is now filled with a different shade of gray, with all buttons being outlined in the regular shell color. The biggest cosmetic difference comes from the orientation of the Start and Select buttons, which are missing their traditional slant. Instead, they look more like the buttons found on an NES controller or Gameboy Color. Where the old Super Nintendo branding was positioned has now been replaced with an aesthetically identical 8BitDo Gamepad one. There is also the addition of the micro USB port and LED’s at the top.

Other than these cosmetic liberties, everything about the SN30 is exactly as you'd expect from an original SNES controller. Button placements, sizes, and coloring are accurate to the real deal. X and Y buttons are even concaved while A and B are convex. It is worth noting that if you pick up the SF30 or the transparent and black versions of the SN30, all face buttons are convex. 8BitDo has also recently released a new line of Gameboy inspired colors for the SN30 that also feature pure convex buttons. The D-pad is also that same familiar D-pad I spent countless hours using. It’s honestly the little details like this that make 8BitDo products so appealing for me personally!

The SN30 is also built very solidly with a nice sturdy plastic and solid weight. It is also able to take a good amount of punishment while remaining usable. Since the SN30 doesn’t feature any thumbsticks, I decided to subject it to the entirety of my 90’s era brutality! Throwing it on the ground or against a wall, done. Pounding on it lightly to full on rage monster, easy. Bringing the full might of my feet down on its unsuspecting shell, terrifying but handled!

Gameplay

Being a Bluetooth controller the SN30 works on a wide variety of devices including 8BitDo’s own Retro Receivers, Raspberry Pi’s and smartphones. The SN30 is able to be used in both wired and wireless modes on PC, supporting both the direct input and Xinput standards. It also supports the Nintendo Switch allowing it to be used on many classic and sidescrolling titles flawlessly! Unfortunately, figuring out how to activate all these different modes isn’t as easy as it was with the SF30 Pro, which included documentation and a quick reference label on the back of the controller.

Heading to 8BitDo’s website to grab the full documentation revealed the process wasn’t much different from the SF30 Pro. Holding the Start button will turn the controller on (default is direct input mode) and holding down the Select button will begin the pairing process. To change to Xinput or Nintendo Switch mode, just hold the Start button and X or Y buttons respectively while the controller is turned off. To get back into direct input mode just hold Start and B.

In terms of gameplay, I honestly feel the SN30 handles better than the SF30 Pro. Games have responded quickly and accurately to all button presses. Buttons and D-pad also have the right feel about them requiring just the right amount of pressure to activate. R and L are hinged perfectly to be able to be activated from any position! There were some instances where it felt like a press would be missed while using the SN30 with the SNES Retro Reciever. Switching over to a PC or Switch in Bluetooth mode I wasn’t able to replicate these issues so I am more inclined to blame the Retro Reciever over the controller.

Playing sidescrollers on the Switch, like Shovel Knight, have handled without a hitch. The Switch’s NES library was also fully playable comfortably. I also spent an obscene amount of time putting the SN30 through its paces on Mega Man X1 - 3 where it felt just like using the real deal on the SNES. To my absolute pleasure, the D-pad didn’t register any mis-presses making the SN30 a capable fighting game controller! Well, as capable a fighting game controller can be with only 4 face buttons. Unfortunately, due to the missing shoulder buttons and thumbsticks, the SN30 is more limited in the scope of games it can be used with effectively.

As far as latency concerns go, I was once again unable to note any differences between the SN30 and a real SNES controller. All of my jumps happened right when I wanted them to and I never felt behind the curve. Seriously, unless you are sitting there measuring the trigger to action time with a high-speed camera you probably won’t notice a difference either. The battery life in the SN30 has also been amazing. The majority of my playtime with it has been in wireless mode and I get between 24 - 26 hours on a single charge. It only takes ~1:30 - 2:00 hours to charge also which is just fantastic!

What It Could Do Better

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As far as complaints with the SN30 go, I have virtually none with the controller itself. Its performance with the Retro Reciever had its hiccups on occasion, but these same problems never occurred on PC or Switch. I was also disappointed the typical users manual found in other 8BitDo products was lacking with this bundle. It didn’t even contain the necessary steps to sync the controller! Yes, the info is easily found online, but it's an extra step you shouldn’t make your customers do. Just as a side note here, also make sure to do all firmware updates for your products because that could fix any possible issues you might experience!

Verdict

8BitDo has once again knocked it out of the park with the SN30! Whether you are looking to add wireless functionality to your real SNES or want something more authentic to add to your emulator setup, the SN30 is a solid and capable replacement controller. It has handled everything I asked of it and more with excellent precision and reliability. Battery life and latency have also been top notch, to the point I couldn’t tell I was using a wireless controller! The SN30 won’t be for everyone that needs the extra functionality of the SN30 Pro, but I have been able to enjoy all of my games in a new, exciting way. So much so, I may be switching to the SN30 as my main form of input on a Super Nintendo full time!

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