The Nintendo Switch is a hard console to review. I say this because the when I first saw the reveal trailer last fall, the child inside of me screamed. THIS was everything I wanted when I was a kid! The ability to take my game I was playing on my TV with me wherever I was. Sure, we had the Game Boy lineup and all of the great games there, but it wasn’t Super Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While it isn’t perfect, Nintendo sure have stepped up their game from the disappointing Wii U. 20 years after I first dreamed up the idea as a kid, have Nintendo struck gold, or should they have stuck with a more traditional console? Let's find out together, shall we?
I’ll be the first to say that after the disaster that was the Wii U, I was cautiously optimistic about the Nintendo Switch when it was first revealed. “A home console you can take with you? ...What's the catch?” I and many others of the internet cried out upon seeing the trailer last fall. January 12th, 2017 gave us most of the answers; sub-optimal 2-6 hour battery life, a 6.2 inch 720p screen, and no dedicated apps for anything other than games (at launch). I read countless stories about how the Nintendo Switch has to be vastly underpowered compared to the Playstation 4 and Xbox One’s of the world. And you know what? They’re right. Compared to those consoles, the Switch IS underpowered. However, Nintendo isn’t really going after that market. It seems they’ve placed the Switch at just the right price point and time (in the life cycle of the other major consoles) for this to become a viable second or third option for gamers (hardcore Nintend-ians?...Nintendites?...Nintendo fans notwithstanding.)
You can play with the Nintendo Switch in three different ways, Tabletop Mode, TV Mode, and Handheld Mode with each offering a unique experience of their own. TV mode is exactly as it's described on the tin, with your Nintendo Switch plugged into an (included--but if you want another, it will run you $90) dock accessory where you can use either the JoyCons in their various forms or the Pro Controller to play games. Tabletop mode allows you to flick out the Switch’s somewhat flimsy kickstand and use the JoyCons either one in each hand, or in the JoyCon Grip to play various titles. Handheld mode has the two joycons attached to the side of the tablet so it basically looks like a Kindle Fire grew two controllers out of its side. The JoyCons themselves feel just fine in the hands and function as they should whether attached to the console or grip or just having one in each hand by my side.
All in all, it's a very well designed package and each part works (mostly) flawlessly for its purpose. The console interface is clean, responsive, and just looks and feels better than any other Nintendo OS to date. We’re guessing that it's running a heavily modified version of Android, and if it isn’t, it's definitely inspired by Google’s OS. You can download games via the Nintendo E-Shop or purchase physical cartridges, which is the method we recommend considering the Switch’s paltry 32 GB of internal storage. You can expand storage via a MicroSD Card slot beneath the Kickstand, but as of this writing, you cannot actually backup your game save data or anything of major importance to the SD Card, so it really acts as a glorified game dump. Booting up a new game is easy and super fast! No mandatory installs required here. Some games may require a day one patch, but we haven’t seen any that are too large they can’t be handled quickly with sufficient wifi access.
I can’t speak to any of the reported issues about JoyCon syncing or devices freezing, as those issues weren’t experienced with my unit but I am glad to see Nintendo has offered replacements for each of the affected devices. That is not to say that the Switch is not without its own issues packed into every unit, however.
What I mean by that is that Nintendo seems to have launched this console in a public beta state. As of right now, the only thing the Switch can do is play the few launch titles it has and...that’s it. There are no streaming applications like Netflix or Hulu, no dedicated web browser (weird workarounds aside), and no other applications one would expect on a tablet like device. Nintendo have stated that this was by design to keep their focus on making a great games console first, and while I can appreciate that, it still feels like they could have waited just a little longer to launch the console with full application support and maybe one more title to really seal the deal.
As it stands, the Switch is an awesome device, one that I even recommend you go out and purchase right now if you can afford it. But you have to understand that, right now, this is a Legend of Zelda machine and nothing more. Give it a few months to a year, and that could and most likely will expand into other avenues and other great titles. There really is nothing like it on the market that can tout what it does, and that's where Nintendo has a great advantage. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft and Sony follow suit in the coming years or if we continue to see the rise of portable gaming PC’s because of Nintendo’s new console. Only time will tell.
We actually feel that a lot of the expectations and potential downfalls were realised when we spoke about them earlier in the announcement process. We'll leave you to judge how close to the mark we were but we'd like to think we weren't far off in our concerns. In the meantime, I’m going to get back to saving Hyrule.