I have been insanely excited about the Switch since the hardware reveal back in January, and almost a week after launch, I’m still very much enthralled with the hardware, as well as the unique premises that present itself through the hardware. It takes two, workable premises and completely merges the two, but is it effective, and will it last the test of time?
Name: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 3rd, 2017
So, before I start this review, I MUST preface that this will not be typical. Whereas you can find everything about the Switch on various sites, we will not be running down the tech specs and such. What we will talk about is my personal experience with the Switch, allowing for you, the reader, to come to your own conclusions on whether or not to buy this console. My experience so far with the Switch has been overwhelmingly positive, with little complaints.
I came home with my Switch around 2:30 am on the morning of March 3rd, and I immediately opened the box to see what was inside. As I opened the box, I saw the screen and the Joy-Cons and I was instantly excited to get the ball rolling with the Switch. As I pulled out everything that I would have needed to take the Switch to work, I noted how small it appeared, definitely bigger than my Nintendo 3DS and my old PlayStation Vita, and smaller than the Wii U Gamepad, by far. If I had to compare it to a tablet that I had, I would have to say that it is similar in size to the Amazon Fire Tablet (this is without the Joy-Cons attached to the side.) Snapping the Joy-Cons to the side of the main body of the Switch felt amazing, as the quaint clicking sound that it makes provided me with even more excitement as I was getting ready to set up my console.
Setting up the Switch was a breeze, as it took me less than 5 minutes to do so. This pleased me to no end, as the Wii U’s setup was significantly longer, as was the PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and 3DS by comparison. The speedy set up left me absolutely floored. I was shocked and amazed how quick it took me to set up, despite putting in my Wi-Fi password in wrong one time (this is something I should know by now, yet I still tend to make errors.) Now, before really realizing that the Switch had touchscreen controls, I did everything via the attached Joy-Cons, up until the accidental brush against my screen which bumped me into the News section of the Switch’s main menu. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised and proceeded to use the touchscreen more, especially for typing while in tabletop or handheld mode. The 10-point capacitive touchscreen is as responsive, if not more, than your higher end smartphones and tablets on the market today.
Later that morning, I took my Switch to work with me, and since I live in Brooklyn, NY and had to travel to work in Manhattan, I took the opportunity to play my Switch on the train ride. Dare I say it, the Switch is loud. I had my headphones on and I was still able to hear it. I turned it down to 50% and it was still loud enough for the people in my general area to turn around and take a look. Needless to say, 25% ended up being an acceptable volume level for public consumption. The Switch’s speakers output stereo sound well, and that’s a good thing, especially for the tabletop multiplayer experience.
Now, for split screen multiplayer, the Switch is kind of small, at 6.2 inches, however, it is manageable for certain games. Games like Fast RMX benefits more from being docked, while games like Super Bomberman R, Snipperclips (low-key the best game on Switch) and Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove can benefit from tabletop mode multiplayer as well as TV mode.
There isn’t much available in terms of online functionality outside of multiplayer, and that’s a little disappointing. Having access to the eShop is nice, and the overhaul of the Friend Code system, where only one person needs the friend code is a refreshing change, but the lack of Netflix and other similar apps somewhat bothered me, however, since I already have Netflix, Crunchyroll and PlayStation Vue on my PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the focus for the Switch was playing the games, and that is something I got in spades. In fact, after I while, I don’t even think not having media apps is a problem that the Switch really wants to have. The main hurdle is filling out its deficiencies of not having the Virtual Console at launch (which is honestly par for the course with the 3DS and Wii U,) as well as details about the coming online service.
Speaking of multiplayer, the Joy-Cons are damn awesome, if I had to speak truthfully. Despite several reports that they felt cramped and uncomfortable, the individual Joy-Cons as self-contained controllers do the job. Smaller than an NES controller, they feel much more comfortable than I expected and saw myself playing Snipperclips using the individual Joy-Con a lot more than using portable mode. However, when playing games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it was a necessity to play them using the Joy-Con grip, as there is only one control scheme for the game (that, and I don’t have a pro controller…yet.) As one unified unit, whether attached to the main screen or in the Joy-Con grip, the Joy-Cons didn’t feel all that uncomfortable, so much so that I ended up losing a ton of time just playing Breath of the Wild, frame drops and all.
The three different modes are the beauty of the Switch, and each of them serves its own individual purpose. The Handheld mode was fantastic for those moments where I’m on the bus or the train to work. I used the Switch way more than I ever used my PSP, Vita or 3DS (except for Phoenix Wright) on the road, and its performance in sunlight is pleasing. I never had a real glare problem over the last week, and even when the glare seemed to be a problem, a slight adjustment was all that was needed to get back on course with my gaming. Tabletop mode served me well during my lunch breaks, allowing me to place it on the table while eating my lunch. The kickstand did pop out on me once, but that was because I wasn’t paying too much attention. Fortunately, it was very easy to pop back into place, and I was back to playing tabletop in less than 30 seconds. TV mode is exactly what it says it is. The dock allows for seamless transition from the system itself to your TV, especially considering that the day one update, which was exceedingly small to standards, enabled HDMI-CEC functionality. By the time I placed my Switch in its dock, my television recognized that it was on, and automatically turned itself on in preparation for me to switch (no pun intended) to the appropriate channel on my AVR. Each of its modes has its purpose, and none feels any more or any less important than the other, and for that, I must give Nintendo their due. It’s a smart move for them, and the innovation feels fresh enough to keep impressing for the months to come. It’s the idea behind the Wii U but implemented in a far better way. The only potential issue I saw with the console out of the dock was the fact that the battery life is so short, being only 3-6 hours worth. Fortunately, I never let the battery get lower than 20%, however, it is a good idea to get a second AC adapter, just in case. I just wish that I did, but getting my case and the screen protector was more important.
In addition, the lack of a TOSLINK (also known as S/PDIF or optical audio) connection was something that absolutely rubbed me the wrong way, as I tend to use the optical connection more times than not with my home theatre setup.
The games library for the Switch mostly consisted of 9 games, and while everyone is saying “Zelda is the only reason to own a Switch right now,” they couldn’t be any more wrong. Yes, Breath of the Wild is probably the most ambitiously great title in the Zelda franchise (and the most sold console launch game for Nintendo that isn’t a pack-in,) however, Snipperclips is certainly slept on. I didn’t pick it up until the Tuesday afternoon after launch, but I ended up spending quite the amount of time playing it, even going as far as to call it the low-key best game on the Switch. Shovel Knight is always an instant classic, and Fast RMX is a fun futuristic racer. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get a Mario title at launch, but that notion had subsided once I actually got to play some of the games that were available.
The Hybrid Console You Didn't Know You Wanted
All in all, the Nintendo Switch is perhaps one of the most innovative and ground breaking ideas in video game history. A modular home console that can be played on the go. There are no doubts that the Switch will more than likely be left in the dust graphically by the Scorpio and PlayStation 4 Pro, however, the sheer innovation will keep it in the conversation for a very long time. The Switch doesn’t do one thing absolutely great, but this is definitely something where the whole is better than the current sum of its parts.
- Unique premise
- Seamless transition between TV and tabletop mode and vice versa
- Intuitive and fast UI
- No Netflix/Hulu, etc.
- Battery life may become an issue