Honestly, there’s a lot to like about the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is marketing it as a home console, which it is definitely competent at being, but where it excels and goes far beyond what any other gaming device has been able to do is in its ability to successfully take that full home console experience on the road. It’s a literal game-changer.
In Handheld Mode, which consists of a Joy-Con sitting on either side of the slick and solid tablet, you’ll be able to enjoy an identical experience to what you’d be looking at in front of your TV. The Legend of Zelda, for instance, feels incredible on the go. At first, it almost doesn’t feel real that you’re able to leave the house and take the experience with you. This is in-part due to the fact that the Wii U took a half step towards taking gameplay off the TV, but the Nintendo Switch snatches this dream and smashes it out of the park.
Every single component of the Nintendo Switch from the tablet, to the Joy-Cons, to the controller grip, to the dock feels well-designed and well-thought out. Everything serves a clear purpose and promises to deliver on future experiences. The actual unit itself is sleek and comfortable to carry, which is important given that it’s most compelling aspect is that it’s a hybrid portable/home console. The screen on the Nintendo Switch is much more vibrant and sharper than the Wii U and 3DS screen and the capacitive multi-touch display is as responsive as you’d expect from a smartphone.
I suspect that people will be disappointed with the battery life when playing The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild. You’re going to get about 2 and a half hours, and it’s really noticeable just how fast the percentage drops. However, I think it’s really important to reiterate just how impressive this piece of technology actually is. Once you get a game like Zelda in your hands and realise that you’re playing one of the most extensive open-world game ever created on-the-go, you’ll realise that Nintendo has created a technical masterpiece.
The Joy-Cons feel comfortable in the hand both individually, in Handheld Mode or using the Joy-Con grip. It’s really important to note that you’re literally getting two controllers in the box. Using a Joy-Con on the side might not be the optimal way to play, but it’s enough for co-op games such as SnipperClips and Mario Kart, and I have no doubt that Nintendo will continue to at least make it an option in most games going forward. Yes, the Pro Controller is definitely a much better controller than what you get in the box. You can read more about that here.
The Joy-Cons are a serious piece of tech, they have an enhanced form of vibration which is Nintendo is calling HD Rumble. It’s definitely more noticeable and much more distinct than regular rumble. It’s also got built-in gyroscopes, NFC support and an IR sensor. It’s pretty impressive when you realise that they’re a quarter the size of a Wii Remote.
The latch mechanism that the Nintendo Switch integrates into a lot of its hardware has been successful for me so far. It’s simple to slide the Joy-Cons on and off the various parts of hardware and it just makes sense. The Nintendo Switch tablet will seamlessly charge the Joy-Cons when they’re attached, even if it’s not connected to power. This means that you should never run out of charge on the actual controllers, which is neat. There’s also a kickstand built into the Nintendo Switch. Yes, it is quite flimsy but it’s just another notch on the versatility scale.
The actual switching functionality between playing on the handheld screen and the TV screen is seamless, but can be improved. Placing the Nintendo Switch into the dock immediately puts your gameplay onto the TV screen, and takes a moment or two to show up back on the Nintendo Switch once you take it out of the dock. There’s also a green light on the front of the dock to let you know that the content is outputting to your TV, so you don’t accidentally leave it running.
There’s definitely some small oddities that need to be ironed out. It doesn’t appear that you can wake the Switch using either Joy-Cons or the Pro Controller, which sounds like a major first-world problem, but it doesn’t seem like it would have been that hard to implement. Secondly, it might just be my TV unit, but even when my Nintendo Switch is in Sleep mode, it still manages to change the channel to the connected input for absolutely no reason and yes, I’ve turned off any auto HDMI switching functionality, but even so, it shouldn’t happen when in sleep mode.
There’s another fundamental problem with the Nintendo Switch in TV Mode. There’s no way (that I can tell) to use headphones when playing this way. Currently, the Nintendo Switch has no option for bluetooth headphones and none of the controllers have audio-in, so you’re left with no other option (besides some silly workarounds) to listen to your TV or surround sound regardless of your living conditions.
The User Interface is an important part of any great gaming experience and I can comfortably say without a shadow of doubt that the UI on the Nintendo Switch, whilst still incredibly barebones, is the most clean and smooth UI that we’ve seen on a Nintendo console. The games are front and centre on the home-screen with easy-access to a helpful news section, your eShop, album, settings and more.
I’m really excited to see where Nintendo take the Nintendo Switch in the next 12 months. I believe that this console has a chance to do great things and genuinely change the way that we play games. There’s still some teething issues to sort out but it’s the innovative control schemes, the ability to seamlessly take your game on the go with no repercussions and that Nintendo charm that exists in whatever they create that makes me think that this console will be a massive success. It’s an improvement on the Nintendo Wii U in every way and I’m convinced that Nintendo are on the right path.