Cloud streaming gaming has had a bad rap over the last few years. With the closure of Google Stadia and the negative response to some Nintendo Switch reports, it's easy to see why. This being said, the Razer Kishi V2 mobile gaming controller is by far the best argument for it I've seen so far.
Being a controller to play your mobile games with, there a few main things it has to get right. It needs to feel nice in the hands, it needs to look good, and it needs to roughly imitate what console gaming gives you. Luckily, it does all three
Though its best parts are limited by a technology that is functionally still in its infancy, there's an obvious selling point here that is as strong as the Kishi's design. Once you've jumped through a few hoops and got used to it, it's hard to go back to its competitors.
Unlike traditional Razer hardware, the Razer Kishi V2 is not covered in RGB lighting and unnecessary flair. It's surprisingly understated, with enough buttons to emulate the console experience. It has a nice weight to it that feels comfortable in the hands without feeling overbearing. Weighing just over 120 grammes, it's a very light piece of tech that is easy to carry around.
Coming in black, it manages to work together with the colour of most phones to look pretty good in the hands. I have a red iPhone 12 and this contrast looks good without detracting from the screen in front of me. I also tested the Razer Kishi V2 on an iPhone 13 Pro Max. The layout of the Kishi is similar to an Xbox, with one thumb stick on the top left and one on the bottom right.
It also has some extra buttons to select, go back and capture that also mimic the Xbox. Luckily, it's a super solid controller design that doesn't fatigue after hours of play.
How does it feel?
The first thing you will likely notice with the Razer Kishi V2 is how clicky the buttons are. From the front-facing ABXY buttons to the back triggers, everything comes with a satisfying tap, clarifying when you've hit the right button. They are noticeably louder than the DualSense controller but rather in line with the current Xbox Series X pads.
Triggers are responsive and spring back quickly and two new buttons near the triggers allow for some customization in how you use the controller. Holding the two sides of the controller together is a thin strap that can be extended or pulled back at will. This feels less strong than the rest of the Kishi - a shame as it leaves me less likely to be adventurous with it
The entire Kishi isn't quite as strong as I would have liked for something I might throw in my bag before I leave the house. As well as this, the lack of an earphone jack is disappointing as it seems perfect for the machine and lets down some of its functionality. Luckily, it's pretty easy to get up and running.
The Kishi V2 in use
To use the Kishi, you simply have to open the strap on the back and slot your phone into it. It is super simple and easy to get going at a moment's notice. It would have been nice to see replaceable ports to let it work with both iPhone and Android phones but the limitations of it do give it a clear purpose. This is one single unit that you plug into your phone and go. There are two ways you can game with the Kishi: App store games or through cloud services like Xbox Game Pass.
The games you play directly from your phone work well but a Kishi feels a little unnecessary for them as they already tend to have robust phone control support. Many of them are toned down mechanically and work just fine with touch. Cloud gaming, on the other hand,is simply fantastic (when it actually works).
With just a subscription to Xbox Game Pass, you get access to hundreds of games on the go, assuming you have the internet connection to run them. What is especially great about all of this is that cloud saves mean you can take the game you were just playing on the Xbox to the shop with you and back, keeping all of your data whilst doing so.
You can set it up with streaming options on PlayStation and Steam to stream your own games to your phone on the go. With iPhone, you do have to go on the Xbox Game Pass webpage and save it to your home menu for easy use, but this shouldn't take more than a few seconds to set up. In the weeks I've been using it, I've had very few outages and a performance comparable to that I get out of my Xbox - a frankly astounding feat.
The Software Problem
As well as being held back somewhat by cloud gaming capabilities, the Razer Nexus app lets down the great controls. Being the central hub you use to play games with Kishi, it is hard to navigate and missing many of the quality-of-life features we expect from many modern game storefronts. It is just a mess of genres that you can browse through, without even a search menu.
If the Razer Nexus were significantly better, it could work as both a store and a great hub of information for the Kishi. It's a shame that it didn't try to explain a little more about how to get the most out of it and this lets down its great performance in other areas.