Well, the Nintendo Switch is finally here, and we here at The Game Fanatics have been digging into it. Testing it, playing it, taking it outside to test it, playing it, playing long-standing marathons to conduct more extensive tests, and of course playing more of it. It’s all for science, you can trust me.
Chances are you’ve read every single opinion under the sun about this unique console/handheld hybrid. That it’s a step in the right direction and the start of a new direction for the company. That it is the sign of the end for one of the longest running companies in the game industry. There are problems with the hardware. It works just fine. It’s overpriced and underwhelming. It’s reasonably priced and has enough good stuff. The list goes on.
But after a lot of that aforementioned testing, here is a comprehensive analysis and opinion on whether or not you should invest in Nintendo’s newest machine. It’s…an interesting package.
Contents and Set-Up
The first thing to note about the Nintendo Switch is what you are getting in the box. First is the Switch itself, which looks like a regular tablet with an LCD screen. It has some minor touchpad functionality. Not many games currently utilize it in any meaningful way but it does help when it comes to typing in your security details when you’re setting up. Next are a pair of Joy Con controllers that connect to the tablet on the left and right side, along with some wrist straps you can slot into the controllers so you don’t lose them. There is also a Grip controller, a specially contoured peripheral that connects with the Joy Cons. There is also an AC Adapter with a USB-C type outlet, a five-foot long HDMI cable, and a plastic dock for the system that sports a USB port, an HDMI port and a charge port.
Outside of special bundles at certain retailers, the Switch has no game cartridges bundled with it and only has roughly 24 GB of its internal storage of 32 GB open for downloading game software.
Set-up might just be the most painless thing about the Nintendo Switch. All the wires fit into the dock and are protected by a plastic cover that can be easily flipped open and closed with a hole in the bottom for easy access. Simply set the tablet in the dock and hit the power button up top. After syncing your Joy Cons, simple as pushing a button, you just have to create a Nintendo ID account and you’re good to go.
Quality and Ease of Use
The initial price of $300 is daunting but with some parts of the system it is obvious where all that money went.
First and foremost is the Joy Con controller. Just like every other hands-on preview has commented on, these things are small. In fact, down below is a direct size comparison to a standard Wii Remote. Yet, the controller’s design is decidedly slick with high quality molding. I was worried about the size making it difficult to play in long stretches, but the contours make gripping it so effortless. Whether it be kids or adults, these controllers hit a fine line of universally accepted size. The wrist strap attachments do add some extra size for those concerned about hand cramps and it’s a welcome option. There is also the the matter of HD Rumble, a high-end piece of haptic feedback technology built into the controllers. I haven’t played many games that utilized this feature, but when it is used it feels impressive.
It must also be added that the right Joy Con does come with an NFC reader built into it. So don’t think your Amiibo collection won’t have some use with a new change in hardware.
The Grip controller feels a bit cheaper compared to the Joy Cons. When in use, it does the job well, feeling about on par with a third-party knock off Xbox 360 Controller, complete with hollow-feeling handles. Thankfully the controllers feel secure when attached to the Grip. For something packed-in it could have been a lot worse.
As for the Switch tablet, there’s a weird mix of bad and good going on. There’s a vent on the top of the machine, which is small enough to not get in the way of anything and makes sense. The power button and volume buttons are easily found, same goes for the slot for your game cartridges. The tablet itself feels pristine and high-quality while also being remarkably light so carrying it on the go doesn’t feel like a chore. But, the kickstand used to prop the machine up feels unbelievably cheap compared to the rest of the package. It feels like one wrong move can snap the thing off like a dollar store action figure. This is particularly worrisome because not only is the stand not on the center of the tablet, it also doubles as a cover for the microSD card slot used to add to the system’s internal memory.
However, it is admittedly impressive to know that the hardware for the Nintendo Switch lies in the tablet itself and it manages to be smaller and of higher quality than the Wii U tablet.
By far the weakest component to the console is the dock. Other than it broadcasting gameplay on your television, which it does reliably, everything else about it looks and feels half-hearted. The tablet wobbles and feels a little insecure in the dock. There’s no protection for the screen while it is docked, which can lead to scratches if the dock packaged is even a little bit warped. Considering the fact that getting a replacement can cost you $90, it is insulting that it feels like it was made on one-tenth the budget of that.
As for the unique selling point of slotting controllers in and out and playing in a variety of ways, the Switch comes out on top. The Joy Cons easily slot into wherever they are placed reliably, and with a satisfying click no less. Removing the tablet from the dock and placing it back in takes a matter of seconds.
As for the all important question of battery life, things are mediocre. When the tablet is undocked, continuous play of a hardware intensive game like Breath of the Wild will have the battery last about two and a half hours. However, anything less stressful on the processor like Shovel Knight can have the tablet last up to five hours. Compared to what the Nintendo 3DS’ battery life was capable of with smaller games and more graphically demanding experiences, Monster Hunter comes to mind, its battery life is within about one hour with the Nintendo Switch. Not bad, not good, just alright.
As for the Joy Con controllers’ internal batteries, they are impressive. At first it seems like a major misstep that the Grip controller does not charge the Joy Cons, that feature has to be bought separately, but the Joy Cons can go north of twenty hours before needing to be charged. Even if you have no job or any other obligations and just binge, those controllers will last until you pass out.
Software and Services
Nintendo fans that enjoy the fun this company injects into their operating system will be left disappointed by this system.
First and foremost, the only online functionality the Nintendo Switch has is the ability to go to the eShop and digitally download new games. Other than an album used to store and upload gameplay screenshots taken with the console’s Capture button to certain social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, this is the extent of the console’s online capability at time of writing. No streaming services, no access to YouTube, and no web browser are available.
As for the games available at launch, the Nintendo Switch has a healthy amount of variety. In addition to their major system seller, the open world adventure The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, they have a a retro platformer with Shovel Knight, the fast-paced racing game of Fast RMX, the narrative heavy JRPG of I Am Setsuna, and party games in the form of 1-2 Switch and Just Dance.
Also, while the library originally started with a small amount of eight games at launch, at time of writing the library has increased considerably. Several indie games have come to the console such as World of Goo, Binding of Isaac Afterbirth+ and several retro games from the Neo Geo console like Metal Slug 3 and King of Fighters ’98.
As for other quality of life features, the Nintendo Switch has some questionable restrictions and problems. For instance, if you have a microSD card in the system, you can transfer screenshots captured to the card then upload them to a PC. While this is good for those who wish to use photos for video production, something that Nintendo is only now coming around to seeing the value of, this use of data transference is as far as it gets. If your Switch gets damaged and has to be replaced, you are out of luck if you want to save the dozens or hundreds of hours of time you’ve put into your favorite games. You cannot transfer save game data from a microSD card to the new Switch.
Also when it comes to finding friends online, things are still clunky. If you’ve played online with other people on any game that requires a Nintendo ID account, which includes mobile games like Miitomo and Fire Emblem Heroes, you can do Friend Requests through Players Met. There’s also a local option if for some reason you meet a friend on the go and you both have your Switches with you. As for being able to search for a friend via their name? Not implemented. Instead, you will have to manually punch in an old relic of Nintendo’s dating back to the Wii: Friend Codes.
The Nintendo Switch is a quintessential Nintendo console release. In terms of processing power and functionality, it is not the best thing on the market but is absolutely polished to a mirror shine on the most basic levels.
It’s the greatest realization of the promise of console gaming on the go while making several smart hardware decisions in terms of usability and quality. The launch line-up is small but diverse, guaranteeing there’s at least one reason why you want to pick it up. If you’re a huge Zelda fan, chances are you already have bought a Nintendo Switch. If you haven’t, take this review as a recommendation to take the plunge, albeit with some caveats and adjusted expectations.
For those of you who do have a Nintendo Switch, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.