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Neo S Review: Postmodern nostalgia in your hands

Neo S Review: Postmodern nostalgia in your hands

We're getting serious NES controller vibes

I’m passionate about customisation, especially when it’s an aspect of my video game experience I can easily personalise. One such way I do this is through the accessories I purchase.

Arguably, one accessory that can make or break your experience, not just because of the way it looks, is the controller; poor performance or an awkward shape can be detrimental to your playthrough.

The number of times I’ve struggled to hold a controller because of how it’s shaped is alarming, and has led me to come to terms with two things: I have very small hands, and controllers tend to be too chunky.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I love the Xbox controller, and even the classic abomination that is the GameCube controller. However, they’re not friendly for small hands. This might upset some people, but I much prefer how the Nintendo Switch Joy Cons feel (when in their charging grip); they don’t cause my hands to ache or cramp. The same can be said of the DualSense wireless controller.

Nonetheless, I get bored merely relying on the hardware provided with that original purchase, not least of all because they look boring. Certainly, they’re beautiful to behold when first unboxed, but after several weeks, the plain white and/or red and blue colours feel flat.

Now that Endless Ocean Luminous has released, now is the time to update your controller

All this background information is building to something... and that something is the NEO S, a controller designed to be used with your PC, Switch, mobile, or your Smart TV.

Upon first seeing the NEO S, while I loved its looks, I was concerned it wouldn’t feel right in my hands; it’s shaped like an iPhone 15 Pro. There’s no ergonomic flare to it (despite what its description claims), simply a rectangle. Still, I was willing to try it out because I loved the retro aesthetic of it; the design is very reminiscent of the NES controller.

To my pleasant surprise, it fit nicely in my hands, and doesn’t feel too angular. In fact, once you can look at the controller up close and personal, you'll notice subtle curves that make it pleasant to hold. What’s more, it’s easy to reach all the buttons, with the triggers delivering a satisfying experience. Mainly due to the NEO S’ “adjustable sensitivity”, meaning the triggers don’t just have a harsh up and down motion, but are instead more fluid when in use. I also appreciate the precision of the thumbsticks, though that could be in part due to my Joy Cons having seen better days (the dreaded drift has started).

For those of you who like to tweak your controller performance further and map additional/alternate buttons, you can do that with the NEO S. I’ll be honest, this isn’t a feature I really bother with, mainly because the type of games I play don’t require that level of attention to detail. However, I still tested it out so that I could give you accurate feedback, and found it simple enough to remap the buttons.

What I didn’t find simple, I’m ashamed to say, was connecting the NEO S to my Switch. It’s described as being a “seamless” pairing between the controller and your device, but I didn’t experience that. Instead, I found myself ready to have a breakdown at the minor inconvenience of it not automatically recognising the controller.

The only way I was able to resolve the issue was to connect the controller via the USB cable into the base of my Switch dock; then once it recognised the NEO S, I unattached the cable and everything switched over to Bluetooth, thankfully.

Could this have been an error caused by me? Of course. However, if something is going to claim “seamless” connectivity, it needs to follow through for even the most technologically challenged of individuals. Not that I’d say I’m easily dumbfounded by tech, but hopefully you catch my drift.

Partnered with this grey area of installation, I also need to discuss the quality of this controller. As previously mentioned, aesthetically, it's pleasing to look at. However, I don’t think it feels of the highest quality, which is a slight issue considering it costs £49.99. The NEO S don’t necessarily feel cheap, but nor does it feel as solid as the DualSense; the NEO S falls into a middling area where its quality neither excels nor disappoints.

Overall, I’m satisfied with the balance the NEO S strikes between looks, usability, and price. I’d be telling you falsehoods, though, if I claimed I’d be in a rush to purchase this controller with my own money. However, that isn’t due to me being disappointed, but rather because there are other more unique options available. That said, I’m glad I have my NEO S as it gives a tangible link to the nostalgia of classic controllers, married with the contemporary advancements the industry has made.

Review sample was provided by Embracer Freemode

Featured Image Credit: CRKD

Topics: Nintendo Switch, PC, Tech, Reviews

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