For disclosure purposes, I bought a Nintendo Switch with my own cold hard cash.
Snitches get Switches
Nintendo, as you might well be able to tell at this point, is a company that I hold near and dear. In one form or another, I’ve owned every home console released by the Japanese giants, and every handheld they’ve put out since the Game Boy Color. Nintendo bore my video gaming education, and for that they’ll always hold a spot in my heart.
With their latest effort, Nintendo have gone for a dual approach. The foundations of the Nintendo Switch can be traced back as far as 2013, when the billion dollar company opted to merge their Handheld and Home Console hardware divisions. The result? A home console you can play anywhere you want. Brilliant.
I’ve had the fastest selling home console in Nintendo history in my hands (and in the dock) for just over a week, and I feel like I’m in a position to actually talk about the thing with some sort of conviction. Naturally, with all console reviews, the positives and negatives it currently has could be fixed through software updates and such. Should anything change, I will be sure to update this review accordingly.
Flipping the Switch
The first thing that strikes you with the Nintendo Switch is how much weight the console bears. Given how light and hollow the Wii U Gamepad, the natural comparison felt, it’s a surprise to hold the thing in its handheld form. That said, unlike the Wii U, the entire console is in the screen, rather than in a box under the TV.
The weight, tied with the matte finish, gives the console a very “premium” feel. You may recall, during the Wii/DS to the Wii U/3DS eras, Nintendo developed something of an obsession with gloss on their consoles. The decision made their consoles fingerprint and dust magnets, yet also have their products something of a cheap, toy like image. With the Switch, the console feels very…professional, and un-Nintendo. In fact, if feels like the decision made with their own image in mind.
You see the Switch represents a new dawn for Nintendo. The Wii-prefix era brought unprecedented levels of success in its first few years, but became something of a curse as the console lost momentum in its final years. I’d even suggest that it helped sink its much maligned successor. The name, the design, the overall feel of the console. Out of the box, you feel like this is a very different Nintendo making a console.
Switch-yard Docks (that’s a slow burner)
Included in the box is a dock, which is literally the only way to connect the Switch to your TV. While the dock acts as little more than a cable tidy, it does also charge the Switch when docked. Sticking with the same design as the console, the dock has a matte finish that will fit in with any television set up. It’s also small enough to place just about anywhere without standing out. A console that you can play anywhere you want, and a dock that will fit anywhere without fuss; Nintendo have made a console that will adapt to your requirements.
I must point out, while on the topic of the dock, that some owners of the console have noticed it has caused scratching on the Switch itself. After playing around with it on launch day for a while, I too noticed that a few cosmetic scratches had appeared on the bezel in the bottom left corner. If you do get a Switch, I recommend plastering a screen protector on it as quickly as possible. Nintendo isn’t making this thing with Gorilla Glass, apparently, so it’s probably for the best.
On the backside of the console is a kick-stand, which also acts as a cover for the micro-SD card slot. The kick-stand itself is pretty flimsy, it must be said. Nintendo took the route of the making it easy breakable and reattachable, because human being are idiots, and they don’t want to you to do much long lasting damage to the console, so at least there’s that.
Teenie Weenie HD Screenie
The kick-stand turns the console into a stand alone screen should you choose to play this way, although I found the 6.2 inch screen a tad too small to play in this set up. Unless anyone is absolutely gagging for a game of Mario Kart, I can’t see this mode getting much from me. That said, I plan on playing through Snipperclips with my girlfriend at some point, so that’ll be the ultimate test of this mode.
While I’m talking about the screen, it does look very good. The screen renders at 720p rather than 1080p, which is apparently the equivalent of having dirt kicked in your eyes, but the screen is small enough for it to not really matter, to me at least.
Pros and Joy-Cons
What should be added, of course, is mention of the Joy-Cons; the two wings to the console that give you control of the thing. The design of the Joy-Cons further presses home the idea that Nintendo have made a console to fit any need. Slot them on each side of the screen to play it like a conventional handheld; slot them into the Joy-Con grip for a more regular-feeling controller; turn them on their side for two player play straight out of the box; hold one in each hand ala Wii-mote/nunchuk; the choice available is outstanding.
The Joy-Cons feel fine. A little squared off at the back, without a lip to improve the comfortability like the Wii U Gamepad, but they’re fine. I find myself using them in the provided grip most often. It’s certainly odd at first, the shape of the Joy-Cons mean the bottom edges stick out a bit, but it’s something you get used to.
To save on space, for travel, I presume, Nintendo opted to shrink the size of the analogue sticks somewhat. In fact, all the buttons on the supplied Joy-Cons seem to be to-scale replicas of other models. While the buttons have a soft click, the sticks have a bit of a spring to them. I think, as with the grip, it takes a little getting used to, but it’s nothing major.
The Joy-Con pair house a handful of bells and whistles in the interior that makes them more than just a controller. Specifically on the right; an NFC reader under the analogue stick, to read all those Amiibo you bought last year, and an IR reader at the bottom to read…something. The pair have “HD Rumble” features as well, which, unfortunately, I’ve yet to enjoy. Being a scrub, I don’t have the money to buy all the games. I hear it’s good, though.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an issue that is clearly prevalent among early adopters. The left Joy-Con, seemingly when used at length while unattached to the console, loses its connection frequently. The suggestion appears to be the signal from the left Joy-Con is so weak that minor interferences will cause one half of the controller to lose connection. As my time with the console has increased, I’ve noticed the issue more and more, to the point where it’s almost impossible to play anything in the manner I have been forever. I have everything set up at the end of my bed, meaning I’m no more than 8 feet from the console when docked, and it’s near impossible to play for any extended period of time.
I understand Nintendo released a firmware update on day one to try and fix the problem, but this simply has not happened. What the issue does do, however, is hurt the “play anytime, however you want” idea Nintendo had done so well to create, both aesthetically and conceptually.
Life and Soul of the Battery
On its own, unplugged, as a handheld, the console has a battery life lasting anywhere between 3 and 6 hours; similar to what you can get out of a 3DS. I played Breath of the Wild for just over 3 hours on a coach between Manchester and Oxford. By the end of the journey, the console was left with about 15% battery. That’s pretty good, I thought.
In a previous piece, I stated Nintendo had taken the wrong route by marketing the console as a home console you can take on the go, rather than a handheld first. After a week with the thing, I have to say I kind of get it. I vastly prefer playing on television rather than in handheld mode, but there’s a strange thrill to playing a full on Zelda on the bus on the way home from work. It’s indescribable, really. Not really the best example to draw up.
Sticking with their grown up approach to video games machines, Nintendo have opted for a UI with nothing special to note. It shows what games you’ve played, it directs you to the eShop if you so choose, it’s all very standard. After the Mii filled “Waru-Waru Plaza” of the Wii U, the Switch is very neat and tidy. Easy to get into the game you want to play. That’s it, that’s all you really need.
Gotta be said, though, it’s a breath of fresh air playing a game with absolutely no installation times. Almost a throwback to a time long gone, something that became common place once the PS3 dropped, installations are a thing of the past, and boy is it welcomed.
Now, do I think you should rush out and get one NOW? Probably not. The Left Joy-Con issue is maddening enough for me to suggest you hold out until the library grows and a fix is in place. The concept excites me, however. Taking the console on the road, around the home, and back again, is something I’ve yet to grow tired of.
Nintendo have something they’ve not had for nearly a decade, however: momentum. It’s clear they believe in their product, and, when you look at what’s coming up in the immediate future, that momentum can carry on. There’s a buzz about the Switch, people are excited for it. Let’s hope that Nintendo make the necessary adjustments to keep the interest.
The Nintendo Switch isn’t perfect. It’s less than diverse launch line up leaves isn’t a criticism that can be levelled at the console itself, but it does limit what you can do on the system for a few weeks. That being said, I’ve put in more hours with the Switch in the first week than I did with the Wii U, and that is, in no small part, down to Zelda. I’ll be posting a review of Breath of the Wild this coming week, but I think you already know where I’ll be going with it.
If you are considering purchasing a Nintendo Switch, any games, accessories, or literally anything else, for that matter, please consider following this link to Amazon? It lets them know that I sent you, and I’ll get a cut of anything you buy. It won’t increase the price, but it will help me get more stuff to review, thus building the site and that.