The long-rumored, portable-only Nintendo Switch Lite was revealed on Wednesday morning, with all of the features we were expecting. It’s smaller, it’s lighter, and it ditches detachable Joy–Con controllers. Instead the controllers are permanently attached to the device itself, akin to a 3DS or Game Boy. But lacking support for traditional Joy-Cons means the Switch Lite can offer something that its bigger brother can’t: an actual D-pad.
Joy-Cons are designed to function in two ways: vertically, as the left side of a modern controller, or sideways, as a stand-alone controller. Because of this dual functionality, Nintendo needed to crack a way to have four face buttons on every single Joy-Con, no matter if it was the left or the right one. Its solution was to reimagine the classic D-pad as four discrete buttons, rather than a single, connected cross. That way when you turned the left Joy-Con on its side, it would have essentially the same layout as the right Joy-Con.
Third-party accessory makers have tried to address the Switch’s lack of a D-pad, but those solutions have come with major caveats.
But now that the Switch Lite is confirmed to ditch the Joy-Con model in favor of an always-attached controller, it opens the door for a true D-pad. This is fantastic news, especially for folks that enjoy retro-styled games that don’t feel quite right with the button-based D-pad. Not to mention, you ever try playing The Legend of Zelda with an analog stick? It just feels wrong.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is planned for release on Sept. 20 for $199.99 and will come in three colors. There will also be a Pokémon-themed Switch Lite on Nov. 8.
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