I’ve owned a Nintendo Switch since the start and the combination of the included Joy-Cons paired with one Per controller was enough to enjoy most of the games. The two controllers maintain the vision that this console can deliver the same experiences when docked to a massive TV in the living room or held between my hands.
However, some games interfere with that magic, and the game that shattered the illusion for me was Monster Hunter Rise.
This is not because the game is suffering from performance issues between the two modes of the console. Actually, Monster Hunter Rise seems to work fine in either configuration no matter where I play it. It is How I play the game that asked for change.
In docked mode, the Pro Controller is the best way to play. The large gamepad makes it easy to manipulate the game’s numerous shortcuts commands, new Silkbind attacks and complex play styles with the best weapons Monster Hunter Rise like the switch ax or the bow. Switching between multiple shoulder buttons, analog sticks, buttons and the D-Pad of the large Pro Controller is easy – especially with years of muscle memory on similar gamepads.
In handheld mode on the smaller Joy-Cons, dancing around with your thumb and forefinger felt a bit more awkward. Since Monster Hunter Rise uses both trigger buttons extensively, I often had to keep my index and middle fingers in an awkward position in order to hit both precisely. It’s an awkward grip that I haven’t had to adopt for any other game. It’s a shame because the tiny controllers are the only thing that brings me back to the reality that I am playing Monster Hunter Rise
It doesn’t have to feel like that though.
To make my solution Rise I feel just as good in my hands as I do when connected to my big TV, and a Pro Controller is just as big a set of controllers: The Hori Split Pad Pro.
What is the Split Pad Pro?
The Hori Split Pad Pro is a pair of controllers that are attached to the side of the switch just like the Joy-Cons. Each half of the Split Pad Pro mimics the left and right sides of a controller layout Nintendo’s Pro Controller.
For a sense of scalability, everyone half von Hori’s creation is about the size of two Joy-Cons sitting next to each other. Separated from the console and placed near a Pro Controller, they are almost the same size. The gamepads are just as wide as the switch.
What you get for the extra weight is a duo of controllers that mimic the proportions of a Pro controller, except that they hang on the sides of your switch. (Despite taking up more space, these controllers do not have batteries, so they need to be tied to your console.)
When I first attached them to my Switch, I felt like I had made a mistake. I wasn’t sure if the bulkier size was worth the option of a more comfortable experience. Within minutes these fears disappeared. I love my big son.
Is the Hori Split Pad Pro worth it?
Last year my colleague Russ Frushtick wrote a glowing Hori Split Pad Pro review that I turned down at the time, but that was before I came across a game worth slapping two aircraft carriers on the side of my Switch. In other words, I hadn’t started playing Monster hunter Rise.
I have pretty big hands and as a seasoned Monster Hunter player I knew this game would take a bit of skill. With that in mind, I spent most of the first few hours playing the docked game and using my Pro Controller. Once I felt more comfortable with it Monster Hunter Rise
I noticed the little Joy-Cons were making it a lot harder to keep up with some of the more challenging hunts. The muscle memory I built on the Pro Controller wasn’t as easy to translate as I hoped it would be.
For example, as a lance player, I have to react in fractions of a second to fend off large attacks, carry out counter attacks and exchange items. In addition, I constantly play with the shoulder buttons. On a Pro controller, there is enough space between the four buttons on the top of the controller to make hitting easier. With a Joy-Con, the shoulder buttons feel tight. It’s harder to hit them safely one at a time without holding the switch awkwardly.
I really wanted to find a way to enjoy my time playing Monster Hunter Rise in handheld mode, but controlling the game with the Joy-Cons was not. The Hori Split Pad Pro It turned out that this was the solution I was looking for.
This larger pair of controllers made Monster Hunter’s delight feel more accessible at all times. So I don’t have to compromise portability for playability. I can play the game comfortably and safely in handheld mode without having an uncomfortable grip. The Split Pad Pro comes very close to the experience with the Pro Controller, but I can hold the Switch in my hands.
I also like the extra buttons on the Split Pad Pro.
Each half of the controllers has a programmable button on the back that I can press with my ring finger. They can be mapped to either button in either half, and they were especially helpful when poking around monsters and performing certain commands.
Thanks to the two additional buttons, I can keep both thumbs on the analog sticks while using my ring fingers to press key buttons that I can use to quickly heal or trigger a shortcut. I don’t have to let go of the analog sticks for a moment – and possibly lose sight of my monster – to press an important face button or shortcut on the D-pad. There’s also a turbo button feature, but I haven’t found any use for it Monster Hunter Rise.
I’ve gotten so used to using those back buttons that playing in handheld mode is now my preferred way of playing Monster Hunter Rise.
The more powerful controllers make the switch too big for me Chrome Industries backpack that seems bespoke to carry a switch in the front pockets. The same goes for almost everyone Nintendo Switch carrying case that exists. There are not many Hori Split Pad Pro carrier bags on the market, but the ones you can find seem to be responsible for the added vertical height of the analog sticks and D-pad.
The best handheld controller for Monster Hunter Rise
The Hori Split Pad Pro will undoubtedly make your Nintendo Switch look bigger and sillier. What you lose in slimness, you gain in functionality. With the Hori Split Pad Pro, Monster Hunter Rise feels just as good in my hands as it does on my living room TV. I don’t think I’ll be playing other Switch games in handheld mode without it now.