[Review] Nintendo Switch

I know it’s been an age since my last entry.  Truth is, things have been incredibly busy and in the time it appears I have been “away,” I’ve actually ended up with a boatload of half-finished entries of movies I’ve seen.  At some point, I will spend the time needed to finish them and have them posted.  More to the point though, the subject of this entry—the Nintendo Switch.  I count myself as one of the lucky ones who managed to obtain one of the consoles during its first wave release.  Specifically, I own the neon joy con version.  It’s been interesting to see how much hype has surrounded this console, and how many articles have been written about it.  Prior to the console’s release, I found that I needed to ignore all the negative speculative press—honestly I couldn’t help wondering if a lot of that came from how quickly preorders got snapped up and people were perhaps subtly trying to get others to cancel their preorders so that they could get a shot at purchasing a Switch.

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Anyway, that said, I was extremely excited for the Switch when I saw the first commercial spots for the console.  I’ve always been one of those gamers that prefer on-the-go handhelds, and often I’ve wished that stationary consoles could somehow be made portable or have a handheld component.  Prior to the Switch, I felt like the PS Vita came fairly close to this—I was happy that most of the games I personally was interested was available both in Vita and PS4 form, but the Switch is even better because it gives me exactly what I’ve always been looking for and then some.

I’ve owned this console for a little over a week at this point, and I wanted to wait until I’d played the system for a while before giving my two cents on it.  I can’t say that the system is without its flaws, but it has absolutely met my basic expectations.

So what’s there to love?

The Basics

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The setup is fairly easy.  Most people who have looked into it should know what comes in the box at this point—the joy con controllers, the tablet-like screen, and the basic accessories such as two joy con straps, controller grip, and charging dock.  Out of the box, all you really have to do is open up the back of the charging dock and make sure you connect the HDMI and charging cables.  After that, you can either slide the joy con controllers onto the screen to make it a handheld or dock the screen and either use the joy cons freely or slide them onto the control grip to go through the basic setup process for the Switch.  This doesn’t take a whole lot of time.  After that, you can pop in a game and you’re pretty much good to go.

The two games I own currently are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Just Dance.  I’ve found that the Switch uses the best parts of the Wii, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS.  In particular, using the joy con grips work perfectly with Just Dance, and I’ve even been enjoying the Just Dance Unlimited experience, but I’ll save all that for another entry.  I like how the graphics appear both when using the console with the TV or as a handheld.  The Switch is also fairly light, and I think might actually be lighter than my 3DS despite being bulkier as a system.  When transitioning between the TV and handheld experience, I’ve found it to be fairly seamless.

Controller Grip

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Apparently some users are experiencing issues of lag with the left joy cons.  Can’t say how prevalent the problem is because I haven’t spent a lot of time looking into the matter, but personally I haven’t experienced any problems with my own left joy con.

There has also been criticism about the included controller grip.  Again, I personally find the controller grip very comfortable and easy to use; I’ve had no issues with lag, and I personally don’t see the point in purchasing the pro controller.  I actually find that the layout of buttons on the pro controller might be more awkward for me than using the joy cons with the controller grip, but that’s just my own preference.

Battery Life

FullSizeRenderNot sure how anyone else feels about it, but I think the battery life on this console is fine.  My 3DS averages about 4-5 hours on a good day, and I’ve found that my Switch can last about the same, maybe even a little more.  I’ve been playing the system nearly nonstop, and on my first weekend with it, I spent pretty much the entire day playing the system.  I only recall needing to actually dock the system for a charge about 4 times the entire 24-hour period, which I didn’t think was that bad.  It takes about 4-5 hours, at least from my current experience, to charge the tablet for a full charge.  The joy cons take even less time, maybe 2-3.

The joy cons hold a charge at varying levels.  I think it heavily depends on what the type of game it is you’re playing.  When playing Zelda, I did not need to charge the joy con controllers at all for at least 3-4 days, and that’s with a heavy amount of use.  With Just Dance, however, I’ve found that I need to charge the joy cons after about a day or so depending on how long I played the game.

Multiple Tasks

I think this is one of the strongest aspects of the Switch I’ve experienced so far, and I was pleasantly surprised by it.  The 3DS had limited multitasking; you didn’t have to close software to go between web browser and game, but you did have to close out if you wanted to go to the eShop.  That doesn’t seem to be the case on the Switch, which is nice.  I only have physical copies of games so far, so I don’t know if they allow for you to have multiple games open.  If I find out about this later, I will either update that information here or in a subsequent entry.

Kickstand

I love this little feature as well.  Sometimes I like to play the Switch at my desk, and I don’t feel like rearranging all my furniture so I can play the system on my TV.  The kickstand is the perfect in-between compromise to allow me to use the screen like a very mini-TV.  Word of caution though, the kickstand portion of the Switch is a bit fragile and I could see it breaking easily if it’s not handled with care.

Screenshot Function

Switch Screenshot ButtonThere is a screenshot button on the left joy con that I discovered by accident when I first played the system.  This is a major step up from how you can save screenshots on the 3DS, and it has to be one of my most favorite features of the console.  I haven’t taken a crazy number of screenshots, but I’ve enjoyed being able to capture moments in games quickly and with ease.  Now, I haven’t really played with the social media posting aspect of this system yet, but I plan to try this at some point.  I enjoy posting my gaming experiences on social media.

Where could Nintendo improve?

Joy Con Straps

Sliding the joy cons on and off the main screen was a little tough at first, but once I got used to it, I haven’t experienced any additional problems.  With the joy con straps, on the other hand, it has been a major hassle trying to slide them off the joy cons.  On the one hand, it’s reassuring that the straps fasten so securely, especially for when playing games like Just Dance.  On the other hand, it’s rather frustrating when you’re trying to transition between two very different games.

Larger Selection of Gaming Titles

Switch GamesThis suggestion has been beat to death, I know.  I would have to agree though.  While I thoroughly enjoy the two games I own so far, the Switch could benefit from a wider range of titles.  I was a little surprised that the Switch had so few decent launch titles—I remember the 3DS having a wider range, but it’s also possible I’ve glorified the past in my mind.  Still, it would be nice to have more options.  Sometimes I get frustrated with a game when I feel like I’ve hit a wall, and it’s nice to be able to shift between games.  At the same time though, I currently have a game backlog on other systems as long as my blog entry backlog, so this isn’t really that huge a problem for me right now.

A Web Browser

This actually has to be the most frustrating missing feature for me.  With the Vita or 3DS, sometimes I’ll get stuck in a game and just want to check something quickly on the Internet.  That’s where having a web browser already built into the game system comes in handy.  I prefer the Vita’s browser to the 3Ds because there’s less lag and the touch screen makes it easy to search for the terms you want.  The Switch is proving to have even faster touch screen functionality than the Vita, and I think there is a lot of potential here.  I’m not looking for a web browser as fancy as what you’d find on a tablet, but I at least would like to be able to perform a Google search or be able to use GameFAQs.

Third Party Apps

Having Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, maybe even Dramafever, etc. would be nice to have on this device.  Netflix in particular needs some major TLC on the 3DS (the app currently doesn’t allow choosing different viewing profiles), though I doubt that update will be coming now that the Switch is here.  Hopefully these will come to the Switch soon.

Storage Space

It would have been nice if the Switch had started off with a larger base memory.  I also wouldn’t mind it if Nintendo decided to sell their own brand of memory cards like PS Vita did, although to have a greater deal of external storage space than the Vita offered.  I prefer to buy my games digitally these days because that’s less items to carry around, and I’m the type of gamer that only purchases games if it’s for the long haul, so I don’t mind skipping the purchase of physical copies unless there’s some limited edition items that are particularly enticing.

Joy Con Battery Percentage and Battery Life Warnings

Currently, you can see how much percentage is left in the charge for your Switch screen on the home menu, which I find to be incredibly helpful.  Right now, you can check your joy con battery percentage by clicking the joy con option on the home screen, but there are some problems with how the information is presented.

Switch HomeFirst, you don’t really see a percentage number; you have to approximate based on what the picture of the battery shows.  I think it would be nice to know how much charge is left on the joy cons.  Second, I’m not sure if this is something Nintendo would consider, and it’s possible the added function would actually either hurt battery life or annoy other gamers, but I personally wouldn’t mind receiving battery warnings like you do on cell phones.  Like an alert that indicates that either the tablet portion of the device or the joy cons are at 20% charge or something, so you know you have to charge it.  At the moment checking percentage is just a matter of going to the home menu to see what the tablet’s charge is at, provided you’ve activated that feature, and checking the joy cons under the separate menu option.  This isn’t a huge hassle or anything, but the addition of these features would most certainly be welcome.

Multiple Profiles

I think it’s great that Nintendo allows for multiple users on the same device, much like the PS4 does.  I think this is a great feature for family members sharing the console.  However, I wouldn’t mind if Nintendo did something similar to the PS4 that allows for guest logins and such.  That way, if my friends want to log into my Switch for a short time, they can.

Different Ways to Add Friends

Nintendo Switch PromoI think that the friend code process can be a major hassle when adding friends.  I think it would be easier if users could add each other either by Nintendo Network ID or the other username type (which I can’t remember off the top of my head at the moment what it’s called).  I think I’ve read somewhere that Nintendo plans to make adding friends on the Switch easier in the future, and I am eagerly awaiting this.

Communication with Friends

I like the Miiverse community on the 3Ds, and I hope Nintendo puts something similar in place for the Switch.  I also think I’ve read somewhere that Nintendo plans to allow users to voice chat with each other.  Honestly, if they could come up with some kind of platform similar to Twitch—video streaming/archiving plus voice chat interaction with viewers or people on your friends list, I think that would be pretty cool.  Whether the Switch would be able to handle something like that, however, is a different story.  Might be too complicated to execute on the platform.

Other comments?

Portability

This is not a pocket friendly device, but I never expected it to be.  I think those that wanted for this to be were asking to much and set some unrealistic expectations.  Any smaller, and I think the quality would just not be as great when using the Switch as a handheld.  I think the screen is just the right size for a handheld gaming experience.

Cosmetic Damage Concerns

Nintendo Switch PartsAs with all my devices, I look for some kind of ZAGG or Skinomi-like skin as soon as possible and do not play the device unless I have some sort of protector on it.  I think that scratches on this device without a protector is inevitable, especially when you’re docking the device.  The device also isn’t clamshell like the 3DS.  It’s more like the Vita, and so if you want to make sure the screen doesn’t get scratched, you’ll want to put some sort of covering on it.  To expect that your screen is just going to stay pristine no matter what without it is an unrealistic expectation, in my opinion.

Right now I’m using the full-body protector from Skinomi.  (As an aside, when installing skins like the one Skinomi offers, I highly recommend giving the skin time to dry and not playing the device for about a full day.  This gives the skin time to settle and you avoid peeling problems and the like.)

Games I am looking forward to.

The following games are titles that I regularly look forward to from Nintendo:

  • Fire Emblem (not the hack and slash game, but the upcoming tactics game)
  • Shin Megami Tensei (another currently untitled game I am greatly anticipating)
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • Xenoblade 2

These are franchises that I consistently collect.  In addition to these, I hope Nintendo also releases a new Ace Attorney game, and of course, Pokemon.  Maybe even a Kingdom Hearts or Professor Layton game.

Overall, I really enjoy this console.  For me, it perfectly bridges the TV/handheld console experience, and I’m pretty happy with it.  I can’t wait to see what other games are in store with the Switch, and I hope to be able to increase my game library soon.  Stay tuned for more from me regarding this console—I plan to review the two games I own in future entries soon.

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