After the disaster that was the mismanagement and poor marketing for the Wii U, the Switch already had a leg up in terms of hype when compared to its predecessor by just not being the Wii U. But is the system actually deserving of positive praise? Even with the Switch having launched last week, there’s still a lot of questions surrounding Nintendo’s new and extremely portable piece of hardware. So, the entire EGM crew has taken cracks at the system over the past few days to better figure out whether the Switch is worthy of being gaming’s next big thing, and here are our early conclusions.
Although I had some experience with the Switch in controlled preview environments, it wasn’t until after a 5-hour wait in a Best Buy line last Thursday night that I really got to truly examine one. And almost immediately the problems started. First, the system couldn’t find a network because my Netgear router’s security settings weren’t recognized by the system. After troubleshooting that for an hour and then finally downloading the day one patch, came the issue of the tablet not being able to send an image to my TV screen. After switching out several HDMI cables and plugging it into different spots on my HDMI splitter, I plugged it directly into my TV and finally an image appeared. All told, it was three hours of difficulties setting up what looked on the surface like Nintendo’s simplest system to date.
Once these issues were laid to rest, I found the Switch to be more enjoyable than I had originally anticipated. Playing Super Bomberman R in the office, Fast RMX in my bedroom, and even Breath of the Wild at the gym, the portability was everything it was promised to be and more, with my battery lasting close to six hours in most cases. My biggest complaint with the system, though, comes with the size of the JoyCons. When in the “puppy dog” controller configuration, I found the controller to be comparable to others on the market, but when separated or on the sides of the system itself, I found my hands starting to cramp somewhere between the one and two hour mark. Not to mention accidentally hitting the capture button with my palm and saving pointless screenshots to the harddrive. These controllers were simply not made for adult American males.
With so many features of the system—ranging from external harddrive compatibility to the Virtual Console—not being available at launch, it’s hard to judge the Switch in a completely favorable light. At best, it’s an incomplete. At worst, it’s Nintendo again dragging woefully behind the curve, relying on gimmicks to get them through the first 6-12 months of a system life, and hopefully not alienating most of their audience in the process. The potential for the Switch is there, and there have been few launch titles historically that can compare to the amazing Breath of the Wild, but Nintendo needs to get this system up to speed fast, before they get completely left behind again.
While some fans (and even some of my coworkers) have reported technical issues with the Switch, my time with it so far has gone flawlessly. Reports of disconnecting Joy-Cons—nope. Charging issues—never. Scratched screen—nothing so far. Obviously, since they’re being reported, these are problems that exist, but my sixty-plus hours and week with the Switch reviewing Breath of the Wild prove that they’re far from inevitable. Sometimes, everything works exactly the way it’s supposed to, and that’s worth pointing out.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was finding out just how easy it is to get multiple Switches or Joy-Cons together to play with friends. The console itself is smaller and lighter than I expected, and though the Joy-Cons are also small they’re not uncomfortable. It was easy to pack up the system to take to a friend’s house. Once there, I dropped it into the dock she’d set up for her Switch, and was instantly able to play my games on her TV. When she brought an additional pair of Joy-Cons downstairs for some multiplayer Snipperclips, connecting them was literally effortless. The Switch picked up on the new controllers and connected them automatically, without any need to mess around with syncing, and playing on one Switch didn’t interfere with the other.
While the Switch only has a few games available at launch, they’re pretty solid ones, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as the deserving star. If none of the current offerings catch your eye right now, though, there’s not much reason to buy a Switch. The functions of the console itself are surprisingly bare. If you don’t have games installed, there’s no web browser, no video app, not even a Miiverse-equivalent to mess around in. On one hand, it’s refreshing to get a console that’s really trying to be a gaming console and not an all-in-one entertainment system. On the other hand, the tablet, in portable form, is the perfect size for pulling up YouTube or Netflix, and it does feel like it’s lacking not to have that ability.
Additionally, there are a lot of features missing from the Switch right now. Nintendo’s promised that online services will be coming soon, as will the Virtual Console. Other missing bits, though—like the lack of ability to plug in an external hard drive via USB, and the way your game saves are bound to the console with no way to transfer them—haven’t been addressed, though they’re theoretically fixable.
I’ve enjoyed my time with the Switch so far, but the experience is a bit bare-bones. There’s a good skeleton—possibly a great one—in there, but Nintendo will have to deliver on its upgrades, Virtual Console, online services, and, of course, games library, before the Switch can be considered fully fleshed out.
Mollie L Patterson
It’s no secret that I’ve tended to have a love-hate relationship with Nintendo hardware: I love their handhelds, I hate their consoles. Everything from the original GameBoy to most recently the 3DS has drawn me in with a wealth of great third-party releases and the kind of stuff I like from Nintendo—smaller, more niche project like Style Savvy or Rhythm Heaven. Meanwhile, I’ve had to fight to justify owning a Nintendo console since the SNES, as having to have a third gaming platform hooked up to my TV for the occasional game that I care about just hasn’t made financial or logical sense most of the time.
Even before the Switch was revealed, I knew what I wanted: a handheld that could also be a console. I wanted Nintendo to focus on one and only one platform, where I could still have that portable experience but wouldn’t miss out on the Metroid Primes or Splatoons that came along. That’s exactly what Nintendo gave us (and me), and I now think it could potentially be a fantastic platform—come next year, and/or with some caveats.
On a base level, the Switch is a system that’s totally unfinished, and I’m fed up with all three of the big companies pulling this act over and over. Get the online in place, show me what’s going on with the Virtual Console, give me reason to believe there will be an account system I can count on, fill in all of those gaps in the UI and app load-on, and I’ll be more ready to jump in. When I’ve got four other platforms I actively use filled to the brim with games waiting for my attention, I’m not going to rush to be a first-year hardware beta tester.
Even when I am ready, though, I’ve got a few hesitations—the biggest being that, well, I think the Switch is too big as a handheld. I don’t really find it comfortable to hold period, let alone in a position that gives me proper access to all of the required buttons and analog sticks. The difference between the Switch and the Vita—not a tiny system in itself—is staggering, and I’m in no way convinced yet that I’ll get used to its size. I really want Nintendo to announce a “Switch Slim” or something similar as soon as possible, but with how adverse their American branch has been to the non-XL sized New 3DS, I worry if we’d even get it without importing. Yes, I know it’d throw a wrench in the idea of using the JoyCons as separate controllers, but let’s be honest here: as big as the Switch itself is in handheld mode, the JoyCons are equally tiny and hard to manage in their own right. And then, that’s not even mentioning the current concerns over the left JoyCon’s wireless signal, which is looking more and more like a hardware design flaw.
I know I may come off sounding very negative here, but here’s the thing: I’m negative because I actually care. I owned a Wii for a novelty of it all, but barely touched it otherwise; meanwhile, I didn’t even want a Wii U anywhere near my home. I’m genuinely excited for the Switch, I like the direction that Nintendo has taken with it (for the most part), and I honestly want the platform to become a success. I legitimately want a Switch, and that’s why I have so many things I’d like to see fixed or changed about it.
Of course, this all may change in an instant the moment Nintendo reveals Coral Pink as a color choice for the JoyCons. So could you hold off on that for a bit please guys?
Listen, I think the concerns laid out by my fellow EGMers (and countless other writers) about the Switch are completely, 100-percent valid. The absence of launch games seems to portend yet another Nintendo console without strong third-party support. The design of the hardware itself has cut a few too many corners when it comes to form factor, battery life, and build quality. Some of the features, like the IR sensor and HD rumble, are probably unnecessary gimmicks that will go ignored by the vast majority of developers.
All that being said, Ray all but had to pry the Joy-Cons out of my hands to get me to stop playing Breath of the Wild and write this. It might sound silly to say that a single game can save a console, but I can’t help but feel that’s the case here. I think the idea of a “killer app” or “system seller” fell out of fashion not because it’s inherently outdated, but because gaming and computing platforms all kind of melted into a single, samey mass. The Switch is different, and Breath of the Wild bolsters the argument for its existence in a big way by supporting every quirky difference well enough to make you understand why you want it.
What I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter that Breath of the Wild is probably one of the greatest games so much as it matters that this weird tablet with far-from-top-end specs is capable of running one of the greatest games of all time. And I’m not particularly bothered by the seemingly important fact that the game is also available on the Wii U, given that the Switch version offers a lot more versatility in terms of control and portability. Plus, let’s remember that one of Nintendo’s biggest problems with the Wii U was that the general public didn’t even realize it existed. Given the Switch-heavy ad push for Breath of the Wild, I’d be surprised if Joe Gamer even realizes it’s on another console.
Would Nintendo be in a better position if the Switch had a bigger launch lineup full of equally great games, including some big third-party ports? Sure. Could the hardware be better? Very much so. But I wouldn’t count Nintendo out just yet. A single great launch game won’t be enough to keep the Switch alive forever, but it could generate the early momentum necessary to convince more developers to support it. And that, should it come to pass, will be enough to keep Nintendo in the game.
The Nintendo Switch is a system that evolves the Wii U’s tablet controller into a format for the entire console, but is this new platform an answer searching for a problem?
A major tenant of tablet/mobile-based gaming is its mobility (obviously). The system must be light enough to be comfortable using on the go, and while the Switch is reasonably light, it did not hit the same mark with its comfortability. The Switch uses a unique, modular design with the JoyCon controllers that can be used on their own, attached to a controller base, or snapped onto the console tablet itself. While innovative, the aggressively small size of the JoyCons—and consequently everything they’re attached to—make gaming on the platform distinctly uncomfortable for anyone with hands larger than a 13-year-old. The peripherals also feel cheap and breakable, and with so many moving parts, one small mistake could lead to big problems.
For those that have made peace with the console’s design, the games line-up seems to be prioritizing quality over quantity. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the only major launch title worth discussing, and while it very well may be 2017’s Game of the Year, it is important to recognize that Nintendo has yet again launched a console that is technologically one step behind its competitors.
This could perpetuate the pattern of limited third-party support for the console, but for those simply looking for a dedicated Nintendo box, it is certainly a novel invention. For those of us not on the Nintendo train, this console likely won’t cause you to purchase a ticket.
One part mobile device, one part home gaming console, the Nintendo Switch will fill a different role for every user. For me, the Switch was a portable gaming station, allowing me to game in bed while my wife was asleep, as well as when I had some down time at a coffee shop. I was happy to find the weight of the Switch very comfortable. Easy to carry and operate, the console still had enough heft to it so as not to feel cheap. The Switch’s JoyCon controllers, however, were very uncomfortable when used individually due to their small size. Even with the added height from the wrist-straps, playing in this mode felt like I was using a child’s toy.
When taking the Switch out and about, one of the device’s initial perks got in the way of my gaming. The uber-reflective screen of the Switch made it very challenging to use outside. Attempting to play Breath of the Wild while on the patio of a local Los Angeles coffee shop proved near impossible—I could only see the reflection of my shirt on the screen. The only solution I found was to tilt the screen at an uncomfortable angle. Additionally, the Switch’s battery tuckered out in under two hours. If you plan on taking it on the go, I’d suggest packing a USB-C compatible battery pack.
Currently, I’m on the fence about the Switch. Nintendo’s device has a lot of potential, but I worry that the size of it would limit me from really digging in on the games. While the pro-controller fixes many of the hard-to-handle issues, the fact that an added peripheral is needed to make gaming comfortable is off-putting. Here’s to hoping a “Switch XL” will be announced for the holiday season.