Despite being available the same day the Nintendo Switch hit store shelves back in 2017, the official Pro Controller remains the interface of choice for the many people who prefer to play docked – and with good reason. It’s a comfortable controller with decent battery life and support for a robust range of features – including HD Rumble and NFC, the latter of which allows you to use your amiibo figures in-game.
Over the past four years, we’ve seen many rivals to the Pro Controller appear, and while some of them manage to get a lot of things right (8BitDo’s offerings almost always hit the mark), there’s usually something missing. PowerA’s Fusion Pro comes closer than most, but still doesn’t quite provide the full Pro Controller experience – although the unique benefits it does offer might be enough to convince some people to stretch to the $99 asking price.
PowerA is, of course, no stranger to the video game peripheral market, and has already produced several decent budget control options for Switch (some of which are officially licenced by Nintendo itself). However, its Fusion Pro controller is entering a rather more upscale market and looks set to challenge the official Pro Controller more seriously than any other rival. This is largely down to the fact that PowerA is positioning this product as a premium offering, not just with its lofty price tag, but also with its ‘pro gamer’ feature set. Those of you familiar with the work of SCUF Gaming will know the drill here.
The Fusion Pro comes with a removable ‘Pro Pack’ on its rear, which contains four paddles that sit beneath your fingers as you hold the controller. The idea is that you can map each of these paddles to a standard button, allowing you to activate that command more easily. Say you want to keep your finger firmly jammed on the ‘A’ button during gameplay and don’t want to have to shift your thumb to press the ‘B’, ‘X’ or ‘Y’ buttons. Simply map each of these buttons to a different paddle and bingo – you can keep your thumb on the ‘A’ button for the duration of your game.
Mapping buttons is a breeze – you simply hold down the button on the back of the controller until the white LED on the front starts flashing, then you tap the button you want to map before finally pressing the paddle you wish to map the button to. Mappings are stored in memory so they don’t have to be entered every time you play, and you can remove mappings by holding the button on the back for three seconds before pressing the paddle. It all works really well, but if you don’t think you’d find this of use then you can simply unclip the ‘Pro Pack’ and fit a blanking plate in place (in fact, we’d advise this if you’re not going to use the paddles, as they do tend to get in the way if you’re not using them).
Elsewhere, the Fusion Pro’s faceplate can be removed and replaced if you so wish. The default black faceplate has a soft-touch finish which picks up greasy fingermarks quite quickly, but you can swap it for the fetching white version that ships with the pad. The plate is held on by magnets and is easy to remove; you’ll need to do this if you want to take advantage of another of the Fusion Pro’s selling points: swappable analogue sticks.
You get four different sticks in the box. The default sticks are short and have a concave top, but you can replace one of these with a taller alternative if you so wish. You’ll also find a fourth stick that also has a taller profile, but features a convex top. We personally preferred the default, short sticks, but the point here is that the pad can be customised to suit any taste, which is definitely a positive.
When PowerA announced the Fusion Pro, much excitement was caused by the fact that it has a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom. However, this comes with some caveats. You can only pipe audio through the controller when it’s set to wired USB mode (selected via a switch on the back of the pad) and connect to the Switch dock. The braided cable included in the box is impressively long so you should be able to connect it to your dock and sit a decent distance away from the TV, but some people will nonetheless be disappointed that wireless audio isn’t available.
A 900mAh rechargeable battery offers around 30 hours of use on a single charge, and it’s worth noting that the Fusion Pro supports motion control, too. The rubberised texture on the underside of the controller is brilliant and really aids grip. Overall, the Fusion Pro feels sturdy and well-made, while the buttons and sticks are responsive – the low-friction rings which surround the analogue sticks really do make a difference, as gimmicky as it sounds. The D-pad is also great to use and, in our opinion, is slightly better than the one on the official Pro Controller.
When you take into account the fact that the Fusion Pro comes in its own carry case (which also holds the replacement sticks, faceplate, charging cable and Pro Pack), the whole package becomes even more tempting. It’s a shame, then, that there’s no rumble support, HD or otherwise – a massive oversight, especially at this price point. NFC also doesn’t make the cut, and this will definitely hold the Fusion Pro back in the eyes of people who like scanning their precious amiibo figures for in-game bonuses (although you could argue that this process can still be done, you just have to use your Switch Joy-Con instead).
Unless the idea of customisable parts and remappable rear paddles excite you, then it’s likely that you’re going to be better off with the official Pro Controller, which not only includes HD Rumble and NFC, but is also cheaper than the Fusion Pro, too. Still, PowerA should be applauded for attempting to offer the same specialised interface experience as companies like SCUF Gaming – even if the Pro Controller and 8BitDo’s superb Pro 2 remain better options for casual players.
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