Nintendo is an extremely compelling company. In my gaming tenure, I’ve owned 8 of their consoles since the Nintendo 64 and could soundly say that some of my finest experiences have been on their hardware.
More recently, though, it feels like they’ve been missing something. A need for reinvigoration lingers, but Nintendo’s reliance on the family market emboldened by their success with the Wii and 3DS systems has led them down an interesting path wrought with footfalls.
The Wii U was fun in places, and to some including myself, necessary. A new instalment of Smash Brothers and a few Zelda Remasters made it a console that I couldn’t skip, but the public en-masse easily could. In the end, I never felt like it gave me the value I was looking for. It always felt to me like it needed a few more minutes in the oven.
Stronger relationships with third-party developers and a wad of sandpaper to get rid of those chunky bezels could’ve made it a powerhouse, but the technology wasn’t quite there.
Enter stage left, The Nintendo Switch. Much like every Nintendo console of the past 2 generations, I was tentative on the approach. It’s a hybrid console, and certainly a chip off the old block where the Wii U is concerned. What I like most about the Switch is that it makes its chunky father feel like a prototype for the real vision.
When you open the box you’re greeted with a tablet much like anything Apple or Samsung have been offering for aeons now. Even with the Joy Cons clipped in, It’s a small console, but it packs a pretty decent punch. Outputting at a crisp 720 in tablet mode and 900p in the dock, it’s not going to make the graphics-obsessed stir in their sleep, but it’s a damn sight better than the Wii U. And no, you don’t have to strain your eyes in handheld mode to appreciate the detail. The screen is eye-popping, and you certainly don’t feel like you’re missing out.
What I like most about the Switch is that it makes its chunky father feel like a prototype for the real vision.
The graphical power being lacklustre feels like an understood compromise for its portability, and I think many customers buying will know this before they pay their £280. The games on the Switch will not be looking like Uncharted on the PS4, but that’s not the point. You can’t just pick up your PS4 and take it to the office to play during your lunch break.
Whilst I would have liked a more future-proof chip than the Tegra, I assume this was a choice made because of size and hardware limitations. Nintendo always appear to be a step behind the curve with their graphics under the hood, and this is no different, but this time It doesn’t feel like so much of a dealbreaker
This is because the Nintendo Switch excels in the delivery of its promise. You can efficiently take it with you just like a 3DS and set it up to play with your friends. The control scheme works in all 3 styles, and from anecdotal experience, I can tell that everybody has their own personal preference.
However, I find some of the design decisions puzzling, especially in handheld mode. When I’m playing Zelda, the button mapping means I can’t run and move the camera, or run and jump without forming an uncomfortable claw with my hands. I also have heard about the desyncing issue, but have never experienced it personally.
Another glaring issue is that you can’t charge the console in kickstand mode because the port is on the bottom… a foolish oversight that seems ridiculous, but will hopefully be fixed by some sort of stand. Leaving the SD card to open air when you pop the stand out is also troubling. It’s not that the entire console feels flimsy, but certain aspects may make you wince.
These are annoyances that really shouldn’t be there. Whilst I can see why the two Joy Cons misplace the control sticks and buttons for multiplayer gaming, I haven’t yet had an experience that has fully justified that aspect of the console, so, for now, it feels frustrating, especially when I’m playing solo.
My favourite way to use the Nintendo Switch is with the kickstand up or the console docked and the two Joy Cons in my hand. The freedom is revolutionary, and moving my right arm around to pinpoint an arrow into a Bokoblins head (as grim as it sounds) gives me a grandiose feeling of child-like joy.
Whilst I can see why the two Joy Cons misplace the control sticks and buttons for multiplayer gaming, I haven’t yet had an experience that has fully justified that aspect of the console, so, for now, it feels frustrating, especially when I’m playing solo.
I love being able to set down the console wherever I go and take a quick break to complete a Shrine or cook some elixirs in my downtime. I was never sold on mobile gaming and didn’t have the impetus to play games on my iPhone or my 3DS outside of travel, but I’m finding the Switch making its home in my backpack pretty much everywhere I go.
The Joy of it is the fact that you don’t have to compromise on the game that you’re playing either. Playing a AAA masterpiece like Breath of The Wild during a library break or at a friends house feels natural, and the battery life is good enough that you won’t have to worry too much about running to a charger. If you want to be on the safe side, I’d recommend a power bank if you plan on churning out some serious hours during the day.
The Audio on the handheld is also a pleasant surprise, and even though there is no support for Bluetooth headphones, jacking in my iPhone buds and listening to the rain in Hyrule is a wonderful feeling that adds serious value.
A distinct lack of games is also high on the list of gripes with the Nintendo Switch. Currently, we have Zelda… and not much else. The Eshop has a few standout titles like Shovel Knight and Fast RMX, but they feel overpriced, and even if I did seriously enjoy the Snipperclips demo, would I be open to paying £18 for it? I’m not so sure. 1-2 Switch also should have definitely been bundled in with the console, as it feels very much like a proof of concept tool more than a £40 video game.
Again, this circles back around to promise. Nintendo has a true 3D Mario game in Super Mario Odyssey that could hit or miss, the much-awaited sequel to Splatoon, and the possibility of a new Metroid coming at E3. What keeps me hopeful about this console is that, with the incredibly strong start they’ve had with Breath Of The Wild, we could easily see some of their best first party titles since the GameCube era. They’ve also proven with BOTW that they’re not willing to compromise the core experience of a game for a gimmick (looking at you, Skyward Sword…)
What keeps me hopeful about this console is that, with the incredibly strong start they’ve had with Breath Of The Wild, we could easily see some of their best first party titles since the GameCube era.
I’ve found that whenever I start to doubt the console, I think about how much fun Sonic Mania or Yooka-Laylee would be on this machine, and despite the loss of graphical fidelity, the system is swaying me into purchasing the games on Nintendo’s system purely for the portability. This is their strongest suit, and though the lacklustre starting number might make you hold off, once they hit their stride, I have a feeling that we’re going to see some quality consistency in the upcoming titles.
As we speak, though, you may be in two minds about the Nintendo Switch. Whilst I think it was worth the purchase and definitely does deliver on its promises, It’s a glorified Zelda machine at the moment, and I wouldn’t grumble at anyone willing to wait it out for Nintendo to hit their stride.
This Nintendo Switch console was purchased by Quillstreak Editor-In-Chief Jordan Oloman. He has spent over 25 hours playing Zelda, tinkering around in the menus and debating whether to buy Metal Slug 3.