Nintendo Switch Early Impressions
The Nintendo Switch is finally here and fans across the world are now literally jumping onto hype trains and continuing the games they started playing on their televisions earlier that day. The $469.95 cost is a sizeable investment to make, even for the most dedicated gamers, and it’s understandable that some might feel a bit of hesitation when looking at a Switch in store. Zach, Joseph and I have all had our Switch consoles since Friday and we’re here to tell you all about our early, and mostly positive, impressions of the Switch.
Unlike Zach and Andrew, my launch unit was the first time I have actually seen and held the Nintendo Switch in person.
I was initially surprised by the size of the console. It was smaller than I thought it would be, though it fits with the intended purpose of making it portable. Being a nail biter I do have some difficulty opening the back stand which is slightly annoying, though I am guessing with some time it will become looser and easy to open. I’m also not a fan of the Micro SD card slot – the slot is exposed whenever you have the stand extended, which could mean possible damage to the Micro SD card.
In portable mode, I find the Switch can be difficult to see when in groups. Even with just two people, if you’re sitting back a bit you may have some trouble seeing the screen while playing games. In particular, I was playing Super Bomberman R with my partner and the screen appeared really cluttered. My partner couldn’t even make out their character easily! Developers will need to keep this in mind and optimise their games for both portable and docked play.
I love the console’s ability to separate the Joy-Con controller to form two separate controllers for multiplayer. They’re not as comfortable as other controllers, but it’s a great way to find extra controllers if you’re on a budget. The joysticks on the Joy-Cons feel responsive and comfortable – I always found the Wii U control stick felt a little off when playing certain games, so this is reassuring. I haven’t had any connectivity issues.
The operating system, while seemingly bare bones, is clean and straight to the point. It’s refreshing as I know people who struggle to navigate the Xbox One and PS4 menus. All the fancy grids can be confusing, but Nintendo have the main essentials and games highlighted straight away which will benefit the casual player market.
Day One patches for Switch games and the system itself were quick to download, suggesting Nintendo have better servers this time. I would like more information about the files size of patches available, so that we can better gauge how long a download is going to take based on our own internet speed. At the moment you’re only prompted that there’s a patch and then taken to a progress screen.
The default option for the console is to enter sleep mode when connected to the dock. When in portable mode you’re given the option to shut down the system entirely – I would like to see this added to the docked mode. While I imagine the power used in sleep mode is minor, it’s still a nice option for those that want to go that extra mile in conserving energy.
I haven’t had any scratching problems with the dock as some people have reported. Perhaps the reports have made me extra careful when moving the system? Some people have suggested adding floor protectors to the dock to protect the console, though I worry this might cause the console to heat up – I have noticed it can get quite warm around the vents of the system. Best to use a screen protector.
While I have criticised a few of the system’s design features, I am having a lot of fun with the Nintendo Switch which is the most important factor for me. When it comes down to it, the Switch’s success is going to largely depend on its ability to stay relevant. While Zelda is proving to be one of the highest rated games of all time, Nintendo are going to have to keep the hype train rolling to avoid the fate of the Wii U.
For me, the Nintendo Switch is the culmination of years of hopes and dreams that Nintendo would one day release a hybrid console that I could easily take with me when I travel and plug into the big screen at home. My small time with the console during the January hands-on event gave me a taste of what was to come, but didn’t prepare for just how much I would love the Switch out of the gates.
The biggest surprise for me so far has been how much I have used the tabletop configuration of the Switch, which I had dismissed as the one gimmick I didn’t care for. One impromptu session of Snipper Clips on my friends dining room table later and I was sold on the magic of popping up the stand and gaming with a friend. Despite my early concerns of playing together on a small screen set further away than standard handheld gaming, there was no issue seeing all the action on the screen. Split-screen gaming may not be quite as easy, but I haven’t had a chance to experience that yet.
After a solid 15 hours with the console over the week, playing between handheld, tv and tabletop mode, I still stand by my earlier comments that the pro controller is the best controller for the system. The analogue sticks feel great, the buttons are responsive, the d-pad is fantastic and it has a nice weight that is perfect. It’s easily the best controller that Nintendo have released and should be considered a must-have for any Nintendo Switch owner.
I was also really impressed with the build quality of the console, seemingly avoiding the issues others have had with their units. I haven’t had any issues with my Joy-Con losing sync at all, the rails on my Switch and Joy-Con are perfect and I’ve got no dead pixels at all. The one issue I have fallen prey to is that my dock has scratched the side of the bezel on my Switch. Luckily, I was warned early enough that I’ve since been super careful when docking the console, but with the screen protector I ordered online seemingly disappearing in the wind, I’ll be worrying for a little while yet.
The operating system is the one thing I’m not exactly impressed with so far. I’m all for minimalism, but it really does feel undercooked compared to the operating system that comes with absolutely any device you can buy today. It responds quickly, which is great, but there’s not really anything there to do beyond booting your game up. While I love that my gaming system can play games, I would have loved to see at least Netflix or an internet browser as apps early on, which would have led to my Switch becoming my go-to handheld device for all occasions at home.
Overall, I’m super stoked with my Switch so far and I love the sturdy little device that it is. It grants me the much advertised level of freedom that I’ve long wanted from a gaming system, but I wouldn’t yet suggest buying it to the general public. While I have the excuse of reviewing games, there really aren’t enough features and games there yet to suggest that everyone on board. Hopefully, once Splatoon 2 releases, the operating system will have been updated and there will then be enough games to make this an absolute must-have system.
It’s here. The Switch. Finally, gamers are freed from the shackles binding them to their TV’s and we can play AAA console experiences wherever we want!
Now, I already got to try the Switch back in January, and I have to say much of my initial impression on the hardware hasn’t changed. The Joy-Con are versatile, HD Rumble is cool, if maybe a little bit novel, the screen is beautiful and the Pro Controller is still in hot-contention for my favourite video game controller of all time. However, there are a number of things that have become apparent only through extended use of the system over the weekend.
First off, the system’s UI. Right now, it is simple, but extremely snappy. For the most part, it is fairly easy to quickly figure out where all your key options and features are, though that may be a by-product of how little there is to currently do on the Switch. The UI also includes some simple, but clever options, such as when you select a game, you are prompted to select which user is playing, which I find has helped keep myself and my roommate’s Zelda files safe and sound within each of our profiles. With that said, I would be lying if I said everything was completely intuitive. When linking my Nintendo Account and jumping to the eShop, I was shocked to see $0.00 in my eShop wallet, despite knowing I had some credit left over (and re-confirming this on my 3DS), only to find out I had to click on the funds, and then given an option to “merge” my wallets.
The system boots up in mere seconds and load times for both the menu and games are incredibly fast. I can boot up my system and be exploring Hyrule in less than a minute, which given the size and scope of that world, is quite impressive.
I haven’t taken my Switch out too much, but so far, the experience has been as positive as I have expected. If I wasn’t able to keep playing Zelda on the train, I don’t know if anyone would have been able to convince me to move from my couch this past weekend.
For starters, the system is quite light, to the point that I almost thought it had been stolen multiple times when I picked up my backpack, which felt like there was nearly nothing inside. Secondly, the handheld mode is just genuinely quite comfortable. I was worried the smaller buttons and sticks might be bothersome, but this simply wasn’t the case. So far I haven’t experienced any scratching on the screen or the unit, however I do take ridiculously good care of my systems (especially ones that I just bought), so I can’t say for sure that putting a Switch loose in a bag with no protection won’t result in some damage (nor do I really want to test that).
Being able to pop out the Joy-Con and play some Bomberman in a food court with a friend, or some 1-2 Switch in my parents living room, was as fun and novel as expected. I can definitely see the Switch becoming a regular feature at board-game nights and maybe as something to do with friends after grabbing dinner in the city.
I did have a couple of minor gripes however. Firstly, the stand is surprisingly difficult to pull out, to the point where I thought I was going to break it when pulling it out (and I have looked online, and there doesn’t appear to be a trick to opening it easily). Similarly removing the Joy-Con straps, can also require a bit of force. In some respect, I prefer this than parts being loose, but I would prefer a happy medium of secure, but easy to use.
Regarding battery, I haven’t played it on the go for a long enough period of time to run out of juice while out and about, so I can’t say too much about it. Similarly, one issue that bugs me is the inability to use the Tabletop mode and charge the system at the same time without something to prop it up. At the end of this month I will be traveling, and taking it on planes and extended road trips, which will be a much better test of how annoying this may or may not get.
So overall, I am pleased with the Switch. I love console-like game experiences, especially those from Nintendo, however these days I find myself either taking months to finish them, or having to make time to binge through them. However now I will be able to bring these games on the go on my daily commutes, without making any major compromises. Hopefully more use of the system in the coming weeks, months and years only serves to solidify my current opinion, however that remains to be seen.