The Nintendo Switch is the culmination of everything the company has achieved over the past three decades, and is by far the best piece of gaming hardware Nintendo has ever produced.
A bold statement to be sure. Nintendo continues to innovate every time it releases new hardware, whether it be your traditional home console or a humble portable handheld.
The Switch is no different in this regard.
Rather than simply redefine living room gaming like with the NES and Wii, Nintendo has thrown the rulebook out the window. The result is a console / handheld hybrid that enables its user to play HD, AAA gaming no matter where they are.
More than that, the Switch caters to the play style of almost every type of gamer. Want to play by yourself on the couch? You can. Out at a party and you want to play a few rounds of Mario Kart with your mates? You can. Feel the need to continue that quest in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the train while on your way to work? You can.
The Nintendo Switch is a diverse, dynamic system that ebbs and flows to the needs of its user. There’s no prescribed way to play it, instead the Switch adapts to your current play environment and lets you simply keep gaming.
Popping open the Switch’s box is a pure delight. Upon opening the top flap you’ll be greeted by the system itself and two Joy-Con controllers. Lifting them up and out, then pulling out that top lining reveals the Switch Dock, a HDMI Cable, two Joy-Con straps and an AC Power Adapter.
The first thing you’ll notice while cradling the Switch in your hands is how premium it feels. Nintendo products of yesteryear have felt durable, but plasticy and too much like a kid’s toy. Switch, by comparison, carries a more mature, more high-end design aesthetic.
A lot of people have already likened the Switch to an iPad, but in truth Apple’s tablets have nothing on this bad boy. This is a seriously nice piece of tech. The 6.2” capacitive LCD touchscreen is wrapped around smooth curves and bezel, and sports a slim form factor that is no more thicker than your finger.
The major issue currently surrounding the unit itself is the kickstand, which pops out from the back and allows you to prop the Switch up on a flat surface. Pulling the stand out the first time nets frustration, as it appears to be “stuck” in, with sheer force required to get it to flip out. After that it feels easily detached, which it can be, and flimsy compared to the weight of the unit itself.
Beyond the system itself — the touchscreen unit is the Switch itself — there are the Joy-Con controllers.
These adorable micro-controllers features all the fixtures of modern controllers, sans traditional D-Pad and analog triggers, but also include a host of other cool features.
Sporting an NFC reader, infrared sensor, motion controls, and a new feature Nintendo is simply calling HD Rumble, the Joy-Con is a fusion of the Wii Remote and the Wii U GamePad; but better. Comfortably small, these controllers can be used independently from each other, leaving huge amounts of space between your hands, slotted into the awkward Joy-Con grip, or glided onto the edges of the Switch unit itself.
Individual Joy-Cons can also be used by a single person, meaning the Switch ships with two controllers straight out the box. Using the Joy-Con in their NES style manner, flipping them to the side, feels awkward at first. But so did using the Gamecube controller.
There’s a lot I like about the Joy-Con, and some things I don’t. The Joy-Con Grip is exactly what it sounds like, but when paired with its mates, creates a weirdly shaped controller that leaves your fingers to awkwardly dangle behind it. It also brings the Joy-Cons too close to one another, meaning your hands are going to feel squeezed together.
I’ve seen others reporting of their Joy-Con desyncing with the Switch, and this is an issue I encountered within 30 minutes of using the system; after the day one update. A firmware update could easily fix this, but at time of writing Nintendo has not issued a statement as to whether it will be addressed.
Then there’s the all-important Switch Dock. This piece of plastic serves as the cradle for the Switch whenever you want to play games on the TV. There’s a C-USB port nestled in the cradling groove that charges the system, and the front and back slopes do a reasonably okay job of keeping the system in place.
On the back is a small flap that opens up to reveal a USB port, the AC port and HDMI out, and provides some space for cord storage. It’s a smart little design choice I really quite like, and hats off for Nintendo for thinking of it.
My major gripe with the dock is it feels cheap compared to the Switch unit itself. It doesn’t comfortably hold the system in place, leaving the unit to sort of hang there whilst connected to the C-USB port. Hopefully Nintendo addresses the build-quality and issues a revised design that holds the system a lot better.
As for the games, well, let’s be honest, the only Switch game you’re going to need is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The game is a sweeping masterpiece in design and is certainly big enough to keep your attention for weeks, if not months.
That said, not everyone is keen on the franchise or willing to drop hundreds of dollars to play Zelda. Sadly, beyond that one title there’s very little else available to attract would-be buyers. There’s some really fantastic games already on the eShop such as Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment and Snipperclips, but system sellers they’re not.
Right now, the reality is the Switch is a portable Zelda machine with some cool side distractions. 1, 2 Switch is a mini-game collection that showcases the unique aspects of the console, while Super Bomberman R plugs into the ‘90s retro craze, but fails to offer a rich experience.
The next few months are looking promising, with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS, and Splatoon 2 all making their way to the system. Then there’s the wave of quality indie games hitting the Switch starting from next week, some of which are exclusives or timed exclusives.
What are your thoughts on the Nintendo Switch and its launch lineup? Sound off in the comments below!