Keep Watch for In-Stock Hardware
Nintendo has had a very rough past few years with the Wii U, whose sales flopped harder than a fish out of water, but they seem certain that the Switch will brings back the fans, the community of casual gamers, and even some hardcore gamers that enjoyed their hardware in the past. Originally passed off as project codenamed NX, it was ultimately revealed to be the Switch at last year’s E3 press conference. Gamers across the globe had no clue what to expect, what it was built with, or what it was going to be. When Nintendo further revealed that it was some weird tablet device that could be played in three separate ways, making it both a home console and the sort of handheld machine that Nintendo is known to do super well with, it raised a lot of questions among the community. Originally, I wondered what the specs on such a tiny machine might look like and how far you could actually take the portable version before it disconnected. I was wary after the same promise was made with the Wii U, which could not be moved farther than five meters from your home console. Fans were skeptical, but gradually, more and more started to believe that this could be Nintendo’s saving grace among home console gamers. Once it was revealed that the Switch is built with a Nvidia Tegra processor, also used in Nvidia’s shield tablet, excitement among fans shot up - especially the players that use Nvidia brand GPU’s in their home gaming PC. Closer to the end of the year, we found out the Switch was hitting shelves on March 3rd, 2017. Now that that date has come and gone, we are going to take a look at what the Switch is and how well it performs in the current gaming market.
Nintendo’s new home console comes in two different color schemes. You can pick the blue with one red joy con, or you can stick with classic gray. I was instantly impressed as I took the screen out of the box. I knew it was going to be small, but I was still quite shocked to see that the console has an iPhone 7+ sized screen. Upon unwrapping the plastic, I noticing the ventilation systems and the kickstand, which also hides an opening for expanded storage via microSD cards. The game cartridge slots feel very flimsy, and I worried they would break with repeated use over a short period of time. I also noticed that the console charger port was on the bottom. This may not seem like a con, but because of the location, you cannot use the console in its tabletop mode to play games while charging, because the kickstand will not work with the USB-Type C adapter in at the same time. One of the best parts of the hardware's presentation is easily the fact that the joy cons can be broken down into two different controllers or used as one, with or without the joy con grip. This makes for seamless local play, which has always been a strength for Nintendo. Another con is dock itself. I felt that there is a chance you might wind up scratching the screen of the console if you placed the Switch into the dock since the plastic is so cheap and rugged. However, I was able to take some of the foam packaging and place it over the plastic to comfortably transition the screen to docked mode. Upon further investigation, I realized that there is no “best” way to play games on the console. Every mode, whether it be tabletop, handheld or even docked, has its perks, making it an all-around amazing piece of hardware. I hope this is supported for years to come, as it is almost revolutionary. My last complaint regarding the hardware is that the button scheme on the controller is a serious pain in the ass for any gamer to adjust to compared to the standard layout of the Xbox or PlayStation.
II: UI (User Interface) and Online Play
7/10 (for now)
Nintendo has had a history of clunky interfaces, but the Switch proudly breaks that cycle. Upon booting the system for the first time, I instantly appreciated the smoothness of the set up and the intuitiveness of the “dashboard” menu. Online play is free for the time being, but will require a subscription fee later this year. Unfortunately, as of launch, there are not too many games to play online seeing as the major contenders are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or the locally-played 1-2 Switch. Hopefully, the online playing service will beef up for the launch of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Splatoon 2, but there is no way to tell. It does seem likely considering how Nintendo has addressed common issues with their hardware. You cannot preload or preorder any games on the Nintendo eShop, which is a major drawback in comparison to the rest of the console market. However, Nintendo, seems to be doing pretty well following their own path with the Switch.
III: Price Point
6.8/10 (also, for now)
Unfortunately, $300 for a console that comes with no game to play is very steep, especially for skeptics burned by the Wii U. But given the performance capabilities of the console, the price makes sense. $300 is pricey for a handheld machine, but it’s also the same price the Wii U still goes for. Nintendo is on their last straw as well, so this console is going to have at least a six year life cycle if the company wants to make it in the home gaming market. If the sales and third party companies that back the console don’t make you believe that this is a console for an on-the-move generation, wait for E3 this year: we will definitely see some major announcements that will make these consoles fly off the shelves like it’s release weekend again, so watch for that if you need some reassurance. Yes, this console is weak around launch with only one real title to its name. I do have to say, with this price point, 1-2 Switch should have been included with the console like Wii Sports was back in the day. The major problem that I have with this consoles price is the fact that the accessories are stupidly expensive. $70 for a Pro Controller and $50 for one joycon? What’s really up with that?
IV: Switch Moments
Of course, if you pick up the Switch and exclusively play it docked, you may have a different opinion on the machine, but nothing is more satisfying than the moments that make the Switch what it is. I was playing Zelda in tabletop mode the other day while writing. I was in the middle of an important battle but wanted to grab something to eat, so I took the joycon controllers out of the grip, slid them on the sides of the machine, walked downstairs and finished the battle while making food. It’s multitasking on a entirely new level. Some might argue that they would prefer not to play the Switch in handheld mode or tabletop mode because of the 720p resolution on the portable screen and would prefer the better resolution on the TV, but since the Switch has a small 6.2 inch screen, you don’t even realize the resolution is below normal unless you post a screenshot to the web from the in-game capture gallery and look at it on your computer (you won’t notice on your phone, I promise). The portability of the Switch is frankly revolutionary, although you won’t notice until you experience it yourself. Here’s to more of these moments, some of which will be even more awesome in the future - but until I wind up playing Mario Kart at the airport with some random woman like in the trailer, I fully accept the joy in these small moments.
Keep in mind, you have to know what you’re looking for in a console before buying a Switch. If you’re looking for a massive AAA console that plays games like Grand Theft Auto or Mass Effect, you won’t find it here, at least not until the third party developers start to realize the console is a success. Even then, you won’t get your glorious 4K games, so look for that in other markets. If you want something fresh, new, and innovative that markets amazing games that may not be massively advertised, or games that you are accustomed to, then the Switch is for you, provided you can handle the price point and enjoy the Switch for what it is. If you are constantly on the go and need a gaming device for your lifestyle, buy a Switch. You’re going to enjoy the hell out of this machine.
- Dakota G.