How many feet of cords does it take to get to the center of HORI's Splat & Chat headset, themed after an in-game pair of headphones in Splatoon 2? According to my own measurements (actually, the box's): 15.3 feet. That's longer than my partner and I if we lay on the ground toe-to-toe. (Combined we would be about 11.3 feet. I'm extremely short and he is extremely tall, for reference.)
It was Saturday around noon when the headset arrived. I was playing a review game (Pyre, which you can read about right here), not expecting any deliveries for the day. I got a notification on Friday, the day prior, about my HORI Splatoon 2-themed headset shipping with an estimation of Monday for delivery. Little did I know, Amazon was keen on lying that day because that fateful Saturday the obtuse headset arrived.
I don't even know why I ordered it, honestly. I talk to friends in games primarily through Discord or the PlayStation 4's own party chat anyways, with a proper microphone and headphones equipped. After shopping around for a Switch case for awhile, I opted for the Splatoon one and along with it, I suppose decided "why not" on the headset too. Little did I know, the headset would prove to be controversial, the first tilt towards Nintendo's latest baffling gamble on online offerings.
The problem lies in a serious misstep: the Switch wasn't built with voice chat in mind. There's no microphone on the console (unlike even the Wii U), and no capabilities to plug it in. Instead, Nintendo has a roundabout solution for the problem. Using an app on your smartphone, Nintendo allows players to plug a mic in and through an adaptor with the special Splatoon headset, pipe in game audio in addition to it. The result is, uh, what you see below.
Before I got the headset, I gave Splatoon 2's convoluted voice chat solution a spin with USgamer's own Mike Williams (the app, by the way, gates grouping with Private Battles, the horde mode Salmon Run, and the elite B- rank and up League Battles only). Mike wrote about our frustrating experience in detail, where we decided the voice chat fumblings were honestly not that big of a deal since most folks use Discord anyways. However, the game's lack of natural grouping proved cumbersome, and proved itself as easily the game's biggest problem with matchmaking. This annoyance was seen again in our recent USgamer Lunch Hour stream of Splatoon 2, where some matches only had two of us in on the action, while a third teammate just waited patiently to gain access to our particular lobby.
Alas, I own this headset now for some reason, so I opted to give it an honest try. The arrow shaped splicer that connects the headphones to the phone to the Switch console (I'm out of breath just typing that) has a clip on the back of it. The clip is to probably enable it for portable use (like clipping it onto your pants or backpack or something), yet there's so many cords that I can't imagine anyone walking around while using this whatsoever. As I stated above: it amounts to 15.3 feet in wires, not counting the clunky trinkets attached. If you were to use it portably, maybe on the street, you'd be the polar opposite of the one dude using Apple AirPods. They would be your archnemesis, living a too-practical, cord-free life while you looked straight out of a William Gibson cyberpunk depiction of future-hell in the 1980s.
The lengthy cords have an obvious use: it enables use while the console is docked, and not portable. The cords are prime for tripping a roommate that opts to walk in front of your television screen, or even yourself if you walk away and are not careful enough. This is the first glowing downside of a console that operates both portably and as a home console: everything that attaches to it—like this headset—will inevitably have insanely long cords attached now.
All in all, luckily these headphones aren't tethered to sole use on the Nintendo Switch, just its bonus attachments help remedy its use with both the console and its online app. I can see it being a useful, officially licensed prop for enthusiastic squid kid cosplayers. For myself, I foresee a future of using these headphones for something that has nothing to do with the Switch, so I suppose all is not lost. They're a comfortable pair of headphones, even if they slip off the back of my tiny head from time to time.
All photos by Caty McCarthy.