The wait is over and the Nintendo Switch is here at last, featuring a hybrid looks which will give the best of both worlds with both console and handheld gaming on the go. So, was it worth waiting for months for Nintendo’s latest release, or is it nothing but gimmicks and flashy advertising? After testing the product for a week, here is what we think…
The Nintendo Switch is currently retailing at $299 in the USA, and can be ordered now from either the company’s official store or online retailers such as GameStop, Amazon and GAME. In the UK, the console carries a price tag of £279. Even though there has been a backlash from consumers about this apparently unjust price, we honestly don’t think it is too outrageous- especially considering that the device may replace 3DS. Let’s not forget that the aftermath of Brexit has been causing the prices of tech products to surge so this is also one of the reasons for the UK price.
Moving on, the box contains the main console, a pair of Joy-Con controllers, the dock, a Joy-Con grip, an HDMI cable, wrist straps and an AC adapter.
Everything is covered, but the individual prices of the accessories have been a letdown. For instance, if you plan on getting an extra pair of the Joy-Con controllers, it will cost an astounding $70. Individually they cost $40 and additionally, you will require purchasing of the wrist straps at $5 each in order to avoid smashing your television set accidentally. The Nintendo Switch Pro controller will cost $65 and an extra charging grip for the controllers will be for $25. (All prices are approximate)
DESIGN AND BUILD
The Nintendo Switch has a hard to describe design as it is developed to be used in multiple ways, more advanced than your average plug and play console.
The primary part of the product is basically the tablet, so naturally it needs docking so to turn it into a console playable on TV, therefore titled ‘TV mode.’ It is easy to move the tablet in and out of the dock, and can even be done mid-game without needing to pause the game. It will only take a second to switch the display from the TV and the tablet screen.
By removing the Switch from the dock without requiring attaching of the controllers will shift you to TableTop mode. The device is easily placed and set on any flat surface thanks to the accompanying kickstand. This is actually really cool considering you cannot do this with a Xbox One or the PS4. But of course, this is not like a full television and may be somewhat awkward to get used to because the screen size is only 6.2 inches so you will need to sit close to the device to play comfortably.
Another reason why gaming may feel awkward in TableTop mode is due to the very small size of the Joy-Con controllers. If you tilt them sideways to game it is going to be unusual and the buttons and joystick are placed really close to each other. With one placed on the left and the other on the right, the experience will feel individual with them rather than as an overall single controller.
As much as we like the TableTop mode overall, the kickstand too unfortunately feels flimsy and prone to toppling. Actually, it is quite stable for a flat top like a table but will more than likely wobble a bit on say, a turbulent flight or a bumpy ride. Luckily, the stand has a design which allows easy attachment and detachment so in the event that it accidentally pops off- you may be able to pop it back in with a little effort.
The handheld form of the Nintendo Switch is a defining signature of it and makes it unique in comparison to the PS4 and Xbox One. Even though PS4 Remote Play is offered by Sony for PC and MAC and a similar system is offered by Microsoft for the Xbox One, it just isn’t the same as the portable full-fledged gaming experience offered by Nintendo. The console is lightweight and quite comfortable to hold for a long duration, even though it has two Joy-Con controllers fitted into the sides of the screen. This is reminiscent of the Wii U GamePad with 720p HD screen, except this is thinner and more aesthetically attractive.
The edges are curved (with the Joy-Con controllers), which makes it smooth and easy to hold for hours of gaming without causing any irritation. There isn’t any significant drawback to the handheld mode; impressive gaming with full games playable on the go in their true form. As in there is no compromise on the gameplay or graphics etc.
The Joy-Con controllers don’t exactly have a catchy name but sure are amazing, especially the advanced HD built-in rumble motor, which has levels of precision similar to that of Apple’s haptic engine.
This motor not only enhances regular gameplay vibrations, but also paves the way for an altogether new kind of game. One of the Switch mini games that we tried, required using the Joy-Con controllers to figure out and guess how many balls are inside a box by feeling the balls move inside the box by moving the container using the controllers. This is not something that can be achieved using the typical vibration motor. And honestly, the setup is done so well that we were actually able to guess the exact number of the balls inside the box.
As enjoyable as they are, the downside to the Joy-Con controllers as we mentioned earlier is that the layout of the buttons and joystick is unusual, and this fact is more apparent when playing some of the two player games. Their functions are being the primary right and left controllers of the main console so the buttons and stick had to be placed on different sides. This works fine except when in two-player gameplay.
Joy-Con grip controller
As stated before, one of the ways to play with the Joy-Con controllers in console mode is via the Joy-Con grip included in the box.
Users have to somewhat build it by attaching each controller onto the provided grip, creating a traditional design controller that is held with both hands. Mind you, it feels comfortable but the grips are too small and the center component of the controller is too narrow, brining your hands close together in an uncomfortable manner. We realize that these drawbacks are just minor and probably not even that noticeable but we also know that hardcore gamers spend extended periods of time gaming and it is only then when these little nitty gritty details will make a difference.
We also can’t help but wish that the grip was able to charge the Joy-Con controllers when secured onto it, which it doesn’t. It only holds them in place. What essentially annoys us is that there is a charging version available of the grip, but is sold separately. We are still forgiving about this because the Joy-Cons have a more or less 20-hours battery life and do charge when connected to the primary console, so this won’t actually be too much of a problem.
The built-in screen of the Nintendo Switch’s measures at 6.2 inches, only 0.3 inches larger than the Mate 9 smartphone by Huawei and a lot smaller than standard tablets available on the market. There is no denying the fact that the screen is small and is possibly going to affect gameplay. It is however the ideal size for handheld mode with the controllers in place on both sides, although not for multiplayer games such as Mario Kart 9 on TableTop mode. I don’t even want to think about the disappointment in split screen mode in-game.
The display quality maxes at 720p HD. This doesn’t make a ton of difference to the gameplay experience overall, but you will definitely be able to notice a lot more of soft textures and the fact that the game looks more crisp and sharp when played on a TV. With everything shifting towards 4K content, having a 720p display seems primitive! The brightness and colors vibrancy do make up for it though, offering ample detail and depth to play complex games comfortably such as the much anticipated ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.’ For review purposes, we got to get into it and give our unbiased thoughts, but hey, we do think that this is as good as portable gets.
Something the Nintendo Switch isn’t even trying to pretend to be is a stronger machine with heavy horsepower in comparison the Xbox One or PS4. Still, the HD graphics look stunning, and Zelda has that magical appeal as ever on the big screen. The smaller screen can be improved but the graphics and portability offered aren’t something to be scoffed at. We still can’t believe that 3D Zelda has finally got rendered the best way on a portable device!
There is only one model available of the Switch, so there is no upgrade or option available for extra storage. The internal storage is 32GB, which is expandable via a MicroSD card. The games are played via cartridges so I don’t see why the memory may be an issue for anyone as there is no downloading of titles. Video is output via the console dock to the television via a HDMI cable and the tablet charges by USB-C.
The OS interface of the Switch is snappy, simple and easy to use. Navigation is done with the controller when gaming on the TV, and for handheld mode players may either use the touch screen or the Joy-Cons. In this aspect, the Switch is leading with its fastest and most intuitive OS presently on any console. It is an absolute treat to use the Switch and navigate through it.
The user interface adopts a minimalist and clean approach, with a choice between black or white, with more assorted themes on its way. The menus include basic options, settings, online features, and a Mii Creator revamped with more features and colors.
The limitation of the Switch’s OS is that it doesn’t offer apps which have now become staples of the consoles and modern tablets. This means no Facebook, no Netflix, no iPlayer and no Amazon Video. A simple web browser isn’t even available. These features are probably going to be added to the device in the near future.
The Switch will have its dedicated online network like the Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus, with online gameplay functioning, voice chat, free games, monthly packages and much more. Best part? The service will start off as free of cost for all Switch players and this free period will be till Autumn this year. After that, the service will require payment to work but there will still be fantastic free trials and surprise sales.
The roster of games for the Nintendo Switch is quite light as of now. The console launched on March 3 with a total of only 12 games:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- 1-2 Switch
- Just Dance 2017
- Snipperclips- Cut it out, together!
- Super Bomberman R
- Fast RMX
- I am Setsuna
- Shovel Knight
- Skylanders Imaginators
- World of Goo
- Little Inferno
- Human Resource Machine
The Nintendo Switch offers both impressive hardware and software- with of course a few quirks here and there, which is expected of any new device. In a nutshell, the console is powerful in portable mode and heavily versatile. It has been much awaited for a reason- the device is attractive and slick, and we can’t wait for more games to be added to the list. Unfortunately, the Joy-Con controllers worry us as they seem to be the weakest part of the ensemble and the fact that a lot of cool accessories are sold separately and expensively ticked us off. We enjoy Zelda and Nintendo as much as the next person, but we really think that Nintendo didn’t do its homework as efficiently as they could have.