Simple and elegant
Whenever a new shmup arrives on PC or Switch, you typically hear people clamoring for “TATE mode.” In short this phrase basically translates to “vertical” support, originating with the Japanese word for the orientation. Not just in the sense that the game is actually vertical, but the ability to tilt the screen (or monitor) to make full use of the screen real estate and play an arcade-specific experience.
Not every developer is keen on adding it or even paying attention to it, but the tide is turning with dedicated devices like the Flip Grip.
So what is it? For $12 (shipping is generally $4 extra) you can order a device direct from Fangamer that slots in your Switch console to run vertically in portable mode and still allow the Joy-Con to function. It’s basically a small piece of plastic with a cute logo (and an equally cute packed-in sticker) and a credit card insert to serve as a stand.
It’s unassuming as hell, but upon inspection I found that the construction is sound. It looks frail but it’s not: I had to apply a huge amount of pressure to get the sides to start buckling. There’s also soft inserts for the Switch when it enters the grip and a small tab for discharging the console. Just make sure you read the insert, as it explains exactly how the Switch needs to be placed in the grip (the little chipped corner of the console needs to go into the bottom left of the device). You can’t access the sleep or volume buttons on the Switch, but as the insert suggests, you can press the home button on the Joy-Con to access both functions by way of a menu.
The folks over at Flip Grip have a comprehensive list (that’s been updated as recently as the end of November) going that showcases everything that the device supports. And I mean comprehensive, as they even jot down games where support is pledged or it seems like there would be support but there’s not.
The gist is that right now the big compilation packages and retro subseries will work with the Grip (Arcade Archives, Namco Museum, at least one Sega Ages title for now, and the SNK 40th Anniversary). There’s even support for non-shmups, like the story-based A Normal Lost Phone (and its sequel), as well as pinball titles.
Most of my tests were with the SNK lot, all of which work as advertised. Ikaruga is probably where I spent most my time though as I sat down to get another full playthrough in with the Flip Grip. In my experience, the only thing that takes getting used to is the orientation of the d-pad and face buttons while the Switch is initially in the grip. I’d recommend setting up the resolution first, then slotting the Switch in. More touch-screen support would help tremendously in this regard, but that’s on developers.
Even if you just play one game religiously on it, I feel like the Flip Grip is a worth accessory. It’s sturdy, it works, and it’s going to be facilitating Ikaruga portable playthroughs for a long while.
[A retail version of the hardware was provided. Jeremy Parish, who worked on the Flip Grip device, is a gaming industry writer that has interacted with this author online, but not in a professional capacity or in person. As always, no relationships factored into this assessment.]