I have to say, the Nintendo Switch surprised me. Not only does it succeed in what it has set out to do, that being a multi-functional console, but it also shows potential in terms of gaming capability, that which I haven’t seen in a Nintendo console since the 3DS, and that ended up a soaring success. Nintendo got things right when they came up with the Wii. It was a family based console that didn’t go for the best graphics or the deepest games, they just wanted you to have fun, and it worked. The motion controls that the Wii introduced became its staple, enabling all kinds of ways to play, simulating activities such as boxing and baseball; sure, it was a gimmick, but it was a damn good one. Nintendo again tried something new with the dual-screen Wii U, but it never truly hit off, and with its life cycle coming to an end, Nintendo brings forth a new competitor that is the Switch.
Out of the box, the Switch is a premium feeling piece of kit. The console itself is a tablet that comes with a dock, 2 Joy-Con controllers and a Joy-Con grip along with your usual HDMI cable and a power adapter, but strangely enough, no USB charging lead. The unit itself has a 6.2-inch, 1280 × 720 LCD screen with capacitive touch capabilities. Along the top are the power button, volume buttons, a vent, an aux headphone port and the game cartridge slot with nothing but the USB Type-C port located on the bottom of the tablet and the micro-SD card slot for up to 2tb of external storage located on the back under a ridiculously flimsy kickstand. It’s a simple design overall and one that is by no means fail-safe. For starters, the location of the USB charging port brings a few problems as you cannot charge the console whilst playing in tabletop mode (tablet out of the dock with Joy-Cons both detached), and it’s uncomfortable charging whilst playing in handheld mode (tablet out of the dock with Joy-Cons attached). The Nintendo Switch has a solid quality that you can feel the moment you pick it up out of the box, especially since Nintendo have scrapped the resistive screen found in the Wii U gamepad in favour of a tougher screen made out of glass which reinforces the top quality feel.
The Joy-Con controllers are cleverly designed to allow detachment from the console in order for 2 players to play games locally. The reversible designs of the left and right controllers mean that both controllers feel just like conventional controllers that you find on any home console. Each equipped with face buttons, a thumb stick, plus and minus buttons that acts as “start” buttons and 2 shoulder buttons that collectively make each Joy-Con work just as you would expect. They are surprisingly comfortable to hold considering their size, and both can be attached to the sides of the Switch by sliding them down a rail or sliding them into the grip attachment to create a full-fledged controller. I had no connectivity issues, which was an initial concern, but not once did I have any sort of drop in connection. The controller grip also has no charging function, which is disappointing as a separate purchase of the licensed play and charge grip is required if you want to charge the Joy-Con controllers whilst you’re playing, otherwise, they need to be connected to the console itself to charge. A silly decision by Nintendo.
The dock is simply a molded piece of plastic with ports for HDMI, USB and the power adapter to allow the display to appear on a TV at a maximum increased resolution of 1080p. The marketable feature of the seamless transfer between the Switch screen and the TV works exactly as advertised, and slipping the console into the dock took mere moments for the screen to appear on my TV which really impressed, as does vice versa. There is no ethernet port with the console solely relying on a Wi-Fi connection unless you pay for the USB LAN port attachment which is sold separately, which comes as quite the shock as most players prefer a wired connection due to its flawless stability. What were they thinking?
So how does the Switch perform and how easy is it to use? Well, it adopts a more simplified UI with a row of tiles displaying whatever games you have installed and icons used for the photo album for whatever screenshots you may have captured using the capture button found on the left Joy-Con, settings, eShop, and Joy-Con settings. It’s strikingly simple in design in comparison to Sony’s more feature-rich PS4 UI and Microsoft’s more intricate Xbox One interface. There is no internet browser or party feature, and you can only add friends using the dreaded returning “Friend Codes”. Maybe the decision for such a barebones system menu is due to the Switch’s lack of substantial storage, with all consoles shipping with a measly 32gb which, considering the upcoming Dragon Quest Heroes takes up all of it in one fell swoop, is worrying. The Switch’s current killer app, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is a true test on the Switch’s benchmark, and it exceeds my expectations handling this huge title impressively well, and it looks gorgeous to boot.
Overall, the Nintendo Switch is a jack of all trades. Taking it with you when you’re travelling is ill-advised due to its limited battery life, racking up around 3-4 hours whilst playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is one of the more demanding games, with other less demanding titles allowing for more play time. It certainly has its flaws which may or may not put you off buying, but the Switch has a lot going for it. It’s once again Nintendo’s answer to multiplayer convenience, like the Wii before it, and its primary purpose is accomplished. Let’s just hope the third party support Nintendo boasted stays so we can see a lot more great ports on the Switch, which was the main reason the Wii U didn’t do so well.
Release Date: 3rd March 2017