Nintendo’s highly anticipated hybrid console The Switch has finally arrived. Can Nintendo make up for the lackluster performance of the Wii U or will the Switch be an oddity only owned by the most hardcore of fans? Only time can tell, but I can give you my initial thoughts and impressions of the Nintendo Switch.
What is it?
Is it a home console? Is it a handheld? It’s both! (But there’s a good chance you’ll mostly use it as a handheld, more on that later). The console consists of a 720p 6.2″ LCD touch screen with 2 controllers attached to either side (this is the handheld mode) and an HDMI dock where the tablet can be inserted, which will seamlessly mirror what’s on the tablet and upscale the resolution to 1080p onto your TV (this is the home console mode). The side controllers are what Nintendo are calling “Joy-cons”, which of course means they are controllers with joysticks, very clever. The interesting thing about these controllers is that they can be detached from the side of the tablet and used as independent controllers, which is the only way you will be playing your games on the big screen. You can wield the controllers separately or you can insert them into a Joy-con Grip for a more classic controller feel. The tablet runs off of a custom NVIDIA Tegra processor with 32GB of internal memory, which can thankfully be expanded to up to 2TB using microSDHC or microSDXC cards. For more in depth specifics for the console and its hardware check out Nintendo’s official post here.
How Does it Feel?
Playing the console in it’s multiple modes is surprisingly comfortable. The joy-cons themselves are very slick and fit nicely in my average sized hands. I have heard of some people with larger hands having a harder time consistently hitting the buttons they want. When the joy-cons are attached into the tablet the consoles length is considerably large but the console itself does not weigh very much, less than pound, so it’s easy to hold onto. While the joy-con grip may look like a derpy dog if you look hard enough at it it’s also quite comfortable to play with as it plays just like many other console controllers. On the other hand, using a single joy-con as a controller is not a fantastic experience. I’m not sure if it was because I was playing Shovel Knight, a relatively difficult platformer, or what but there were many times I was smacking my thumbs together since the buttons and joystick are so close. Even my wife who has smaller hands was having the same problems I was.
How does it Play?
The handheld mode is where the console shines. The games that I have played have all run well while in handheld mode and there is nothing more satisfying than exploring Hyrule in Breath of the Wild while on a road trip or on break at work. I never would have thought I would appreciate the simple pleasure of being able to take my games from the big screen to bed with me in one movement. This feature alone makes the switch all worth it to me. However, there is a small problem with the handheld mode; the battery life. If you’re playing one of the switches more demanding games, such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you will only get about 2 and a half hours of game play. This can be combated with the use of an external battery pack, the fine people over at The Verge have their picks for the best packs here.
Playing in TV mode is also an enjoyable time but I’ve really only played Breath of the Wild like this, which has some issues in this mode. The frame rate has a tendency to dip into the teens in areas with a large number of textures. This is most likely due to the increased resolution from the 720p of the tablet to 900p in TV mode, also those sweet sweet HD grass textures. This does not bode well for the console in the long run if a launch title is already taxing the console this hard.
What Can You Play?
Undoubtedly one of the most important questions when considering whether or not to pick up a console is, “what games can I play?”. At the moment of publishing there really aren’t many games to chose from for the Switch. There were only 9 games available for the Switch at launch in North America, which is not the best way to get your console off to a good start. However, since the Switch isn’t region locked you can play games from anywhere including Japan, which launched with an additional 10 games. These extra titles are easily obtainable through the creation of a Japanese Nintendo account if you’re alright getting double the emails. There is also a great line-up of games that are scheduled to come out within the first year of the Switch’s life span. I think the drip feeding of big first party games is a good way to keep people interested and coming back to your system. First party titles on the Wii U were few and far between and many just weren’t that good, I’m talking to you Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival. Also unlike the Wii U, the Switch will have a larger line-up of third party developers making titles for the console. Having these two things going for the Switch is a good sign for what’s to come, but again, only time can tell.
But are any of the launch titles any good? Using Metacritic average scores the Switch actually has the second-highest review score average for it’s launch games with an average score of 71.77/100, just under the Nintendo GameCube, which had an average of 75.89/100. I feel this may be the effect having one of the highest rated games of all time as a launch title for your system, also having so few games to bring that score down helps too.
What I’ve Played so Far
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: This game is great. Easily the best game on the Switch currently. The game worried me at first because it did not feel like a Zelda game at all but after a playing for a few minutes I was totally okay with that. This game has absorbed almost all of my gaming time currently as I compulsively search every nook and cranny for those cute little Koroks. This game is good enough to justify the purchase of a Switch, honestly.
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove: This game has been released on just about every console in existence, I’m still waiting for my Atari 2600 version Yacht Club Games. This game continues to be one of the best retro throwback games to have come out in the past few years. Treasure Trove is a new version of Shovel Knight, which contains all the DLC that has been released and all the new DLC that will be released in the coming months/years. This version is also the first the have the Specter of Torment DLC playable too so that’s also a huge plus because it’s great. Go buy it if you haven’t played it already.
1-2 Switch: Well. It sure is a tech demo. This game is a collection of mini games that you play using a single joy-con, which shows you what the joy-cons can do. Most of the games are repetitive and have very little replay value. This game should have been a pack in game for all Switches. What’s more confusing is that Nintendo made this instead of a Wario Ware game. Come on Nintendo.
Is it Worth it?
This is all gonna depend on how much you want to play the new Zelda game and how much you are willing to pay to play that game on the go. If you are a die hard Zelda/Nintendo fan chances are you already own a Switch and didn’t need anymore convincing. For those on the fence I will say it is probably a good idea to just sit back and wait for a few more games to launch so you have some flexibility on what to play, also currently finding a Switch at a retail store is not an easy task. The Switch has a lot of promise but needs some time to mature and could definitely use a few more titles to entice a wider audience.