First things first, I admit, I was swept up by the hype. Yep, it’s hard not to get excited with how well Nintendo marketed the Switch initially. The first reveal was awesome and even though many industry veterans knew what to expect, that first teaser was powerful. I’ve always loved handheld gaming systems and have always imagined what one would be like with the full power (or at least mostly) of a home console. Has Nintendo truly achieved their goals of creating a portable hybrid? Well, kind of.
For starters, the Switch tablet itself is a well built machine. The tablet has a heft to it that I wasn’t expecting, making it feel more akin to an older Galaxy tablet before making them thinner became trendy. The Joy-Cons don’t feel nearly as sturdy as the tablet though and I often feel afraid of breaking the thumbsticks. While the dock to make the action appear on the TV is lacking, it has done its job quickly and easily in my first week of playing. Dropping the Switch into the dock and seeing the game pop up to a home setup is a liberating experience.
That’s the beauty of the Switch and the concept Nintendo hopes to take full advantage of. This is a game system that goes with the player, wherever or whenever that may be. Everything the Switch stands for hinges on this feature and it delivers spectacularly. However, while the unit is a joy to use, there are plenty of flaws.
One of the weakest points on the unit is the kickstand. It’s small and flimsy, meaning even the slightest jarring of a table or desk will send the Switch falling flat. Underneath the kickstand is also where the SD card slot hides, so breaking the kickstand could leave the slot exposed. Now, this can be rectified with the Power A hybrid flip cover, making it more sturdy when propped up. I hope to taking a look at some of these accessories later on, but for now, all I am using is a simple screen protector and traveling case.
I also found the straps included for the Joy-Cons to be too stiff. Sliding the controllers onto the tablet is pretty smooth, but it seems to stick on the straps to the point that I haven’t trusted myself to use them in fear of getting them stuck. However, the Joy-Con Grip that makes them feel like a more traditional controller houses the two units easily.
As of now, I haven’t experienced the disconnect of the left Joy-Con like many people have. There was a single moment that I feel like that could’ve been the case, but it hasn’t been an issue since. It’s also important to note that I’ve been playing primarily at a desk, so a living setup may yield slightly different results. Most of my peers and colleagues haven’t had an issue with distance from the Switch though.
To get a really good feel for the unit, I’ve been taking my Switch with me to my day job at a TV Station, picking up Zelda where I left off at home. Doing so feels awesome. I always regret leaving my home console when traveling or leaving for work. I lamented this the most when I was hopelessly addicted to Dark Souls 3, a game with no good way to take it portable, aside from a beefy laptop or a ridiculously good connection for remote play on the Vita. Both of which, I did not have. With the Switch, any game put on it has that possibility of being able to take it elsewhere and that is surreal to think about. There are some games (only VOEZ so far) that only are playable in tablet mode, but this will be a game by game case.
As of right now, the Switch is a bit sparse on features. It can connect to a WiFi connection to download a few titles from the E-Shop, but most of the things we already use on the 3DS or Vita are simply not out yet. Those expecting the media features on all consoles right now will be disappointed as there is no Netflix, Youtube, Twitch, or anything similar. These services will likely be available later on though. This scarcity of features is probably due in part by Nintendo wanting to get the unit out as quickly as possible, which has its disadvantages.
For this review, no online connection service or the companion app was available and the only game I’ve played for it was Breath of the Wild. While Zelda performed well, its hard to tell what all the system will be able to do even a few months from now. Purchasing early, the buyer has to be aware that this is a unit still being developed.
I will say that the user interface is gorgeous. Game icons are displayed prominently with everything else being a smaller bubble. Using either the controller or the touch screen is snappy, easy, and even musical. This was the biggest surprise for me. Each icon makes a distinct, but subtle sound. Quickly going through options creates a melody. It’s really beautiful on how much effort was put into the sounds of the Switch itself, a feature that echoes in Breath of the Wild‘s sound design.
One feature sorely missing from the Switch’s launch is the virtual console, the way Nintendo has been serving their users older titles. At the moment, there is no way to play classics like Super Mario World, Metroid Fusion, or Earthbound. The retro gamer in me is pretty bummed that this wasn’t included, but hopefully this delay means Nintendo is looking at different ways to offer their older library of games. I’m still all for a Netflix style download service, even Xbox is playing around with that idea now. Playstation Now is almost there, but streaming and being able to actually download something are two different things. Let’s hope the virtual console gets a well-deserved revamp.
Exploring the settings connects things like social media accounts (just Facebook and Twitter for now) as well as parental settings. Now, for parents giving a Switch to their children, the control app is available already. I can’t say I’ve used this feature, but from what I’ve read it seems to work just how it should. I gotta say though, this app would’ve infuriated me as a child.
For those into creating videos or writing, the Switch has some cool features built in. Already the capture button on the left Joy-Con is easy to use to capture crisp screenshots. These shots can then be shared on Facebook or Twitter, as well as ported over via the SD card to another device. Later on, this button will also be able to capture video. For streamers, the system isn’t too taxing on even the humblest of capture cards, making it easier to stream on the highest settings than say the PS4. I have been keeping my Dock at my computer desk for this reason, making it quick to setup a stream. I will be covering various Switch games as they come out, which means I’ll also be streaming the ones without embargo. Find that content here.
Actually playing the Switch is loads of fun. I can definitely see myself carrying this around on trips or taking it with me to conventions as my regular unit. It feels less portable than the 3DS due to its size and the screen being exposed, but with a good case and a screen protector its not so bad. It is the type of console that should be thrown into a backpack or handbag though. It’s more like a tablet than anything in that regard.
While I have enjoyed playing Zelda on the system, I do feel like the placement of the right joystick is awkward. I have felt some cramping in the few hours I’ve played, making me yearn for the Pro Controller I hope to pick up later on. This may not be an issue for some, but I only see myself using the Grip controller for the first few months or when I’m specifically playing in portable mode. We’ll see how playing other games feel, but for Zelda this was an issue.
I also would’ve loved to see Nintendo pack in a travel charger. The base unit only comes with a single cable, which is usually dictated to the Dock. With how my setup is, it would be a pain to constantly run cables when traveling, so I’ll definitely be needing a second one. Just would have made sense to include it, but this is also the company that doesn’t pack in chargers to their newest 3DS systems.
Even though I have a lot of criticisms of the Switch, I’m glad I bought it. I am genuinely giddy about the unit as its (almost) the console I’ve always wanted. Pricing is fair, especially considering the launch of other consoles recently. Hopefully, many of my complaints will be worked out when a second unit is developed and some more patch files are applied. For early buyers, this will be a system that grows, not one that’s perfect out of the box.
So yes, I was smitten by the excitement leading up to the Switch’s release, but this is a console I’ll be enjoying for quite some time. Will it replace my Vita or my 3DS? Probably not for a long time, if ever. Then again, I still carry a Gameboy SP on occasion.
Now let’s just hope the library of games continues to expand at a steady pace. I’ll be patiently waiting for Monster Hunter.