Well, technically three were destroyed, but two were reborn.
Nintendo’s Switch is an excellent gaming console, but it is noticeably not Watermelon Red and painfully un-transparent. Over the winter holiday I decided to fix both of those glaring issues. All it took was an inexpensive third-party shell replacement kit, and an extra set of Joy-Cons to replace the one I broke in the process.
I’ve wanted to pull the trigger on this seemingly-simple Switch mod since we posted about the clear and/or coloured Switch replacement shells last year.
Evoking the look of the gorgeous Game Boy Colour and Nintendo 64s of days long past, they seemed like a cool way for my Switch to stand out in the increasingly large crowd.
Yes, they make Atomic Purple.
With two weeks of vacation following Christmas and a plan to not play many actual games while I was off, I finally pulled the trigger. I grabbed a replacement case set off of Amazon from Basstop, an importer of the original shells that popped up on sites like Aliexpress last year. $US40 ($51) got me a full set, two Joy-Con shells and one for the Switch’s main body.
Though Atomic Purple was my first choice, I eventually decided on Watermelon Red, to match my red Nintendo 64. I also grabbed a $US12 ($15) toolkit, as I needed a tri-wing screwdriver to open everything up.
The multi-colour buttons are a nice touch. There are also kits that swap the buttons on the left Joy-Con with a real d-pad. Since I have an extra left Joy-Con now, I’ll probably grab one of those too.
Replacing the main Switch housing was the easiest part of the process. There are no ribbon cables or small electronic parts to worry about. It’s a simple matter of removing a series of screws, taking off the back cover and screwing the new one on. The trickiest part is swapping out the kickstand, which involves moving a piece from the original back plate over to the new one, but even that was pretty simple.
Anyone can do this.
If you’re worried about muddling about inside the delicate innards of your Joy-Cons, you can skip those and just grab a replacement back plate for under $US20 ($26). That’s probably what I should have done.
Swapping out the Joy-Con shells is nowhere near as easy as it seems. These aren’t just plastic housings covering the mechnical bits. Each Joy-Con is a multi-layered device, and changing them out involves unplugging batteries, pulling up Wi-Fi sensors, removing circuitboards and swapping out tiny buttons and springs.
While there’s no soldering involved, there are plenty of ways to completely screw up your hardware.
Does this look complicated? Good, it is. Be afraid.
The trickiest part of either Joy-Con is the mid-panel that houses both the battery and the trigger buttons. Removing the button involves twisting and turning it in a way that feels like the plastic of the housing is going to break. You have to press down on one end, while pushing up on the other and pulling the button away from its base.
That last bit is very important — I broke plastic pegs off my original Joy-Con doing it wrong.
Once the button is off, swapping it out involves two tiny springs that must be lined up perfectly to a pair of pegs on the underside of the black plastic trigger. Not only are they very hard to see, the springs bounce like the bounciest things ever. I spent the majority of the hour and a half it took to swap the Joy-Cons out searching for escaped coils on my office carpet.
When I finally got it assembled, I discovered I’d broken the tiny rubber sensor that detects when the trigger is pushed. It’s a very small piece located on a tiny circuitboard, and replacing it involved purchasing a new set of official Joy-Cons, because I didn’t think Nintendo sold singles (I’ve just learned that they do and I am an idiot) and a used one wouldn’t arrive fast enough.
So the $US40 ($51) mod became a $US120 ($153) mod. Thank goodness it’s pretty.
If you’re looking to make the modding leap yourself, there are several great videos showing how it’s done. I followed along with IGN’s video, which does a pretty good job. I mean, I still broke a Joy-Con, but you probably won’t. Probably.