Game Reviews

Hardware Review: Nintendo Switch

New video game console hardware is exciting! We’ve written our thoughts about the Nintendo Switch before, but now we actually have our hands on one, and can give you a decent verdict about it.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Nintendo Switch is Nintendo’s new hybrid console that features both portable and docked modes for both away and home play. As you likely already know, the controllers on either side of the touch screen can pull away from the screen for instant multiplayer–or for more comfortable gaming.

I playtested the system with a number of games, including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but sadly not 1-2-Switch to allow me to feel the wonder that is HD rumble. As I mentioned in my review of the game, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the best way to experience multiplayer on the system, because of the way you can just take the system somewhere, hand a controller to a friend, and race.

The system comes boxed together with the dock, two Joy-Cons, two Joy-Con grips, HDMI cables, and a non-charging Joy-Con dock. Unlike the lamented Wii U, the Nintendo Switch is a single, standalone console, meaning you can take the thing wherever you want and still play. The dock itself hides the cables nicely within a door and the Switch slots easily into the dock for whenever you want to play on the TV instead of on the smaller screen. It was this ability of the Wii U—being able to free up the TV for others—that attracted me to the console, and the Nintendo Switch does exactly the same thing, only much more elegantly. There are no games that combine the two modes like on the Wii U, and I’m not certain that there ever will be, or that it’s even possible, but I did enjoy the ability to have maps and inventories on the Wii U’s gamepad while playing on the TV.

Switching between docked and undocked mode was far more seamless and faster than I’d ever expected–it’s almost instantaneous. I’m not sure what extra power or ability the dock gives the Switch, but the image on the TV is certainly far better than the image on the main Nintendo Switch console. I ran into some small issues with some games in undocked mode, such as control problems with Lego City Undercover that miraculously went away when the system was docked, but I’m knocking that down to shoddy porting than a problem with the system itself. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for example, is as near a perfect game as I’ve ever played.

The screen on the Nintendo Switch is a 720p affair, and while not full HD, still provides a crisp image. I never once had to strain to see what was going on, even in games where the text was a little on the small side. The colours are nice and bright, and the viewing angle is about what you’d expect from any modern screen. I recommend picking up a screen protector for it, though, because it will accept any fingerprint you throw at it, sadly.

I was initially quite concerned about the size of the Joy-Con controllers, because I have fairly large hands, but they weren’t as uncomfortable as I’d thought. They’re still a little on the small side for people with big hands, but they’re not so small that your hands will begin to cramp immediately. Because the placement of the joysticks on the controllers is not even, it took me a short while to get used to using one of them in single-use detached mode. It was far more usable in the Joy-Con dock or docked to the side on the Switch.

The Nintendo Switch system software is fairly bare bones. The Mii, which was such a big part of the Wii and Wii U, is all but gone now (although you are required to create one for use in certain games). The Miiverse is gone with it. The home screen is stark and visually minimalist in comparison. I’d like to see an eventual theme system setting somewhere, personally.I was disappointed by how user unfriendly the Switch eShop is, but I’m hoping that a future system update will fix that eventually.

Where the system falls down is where Nintendo always seems to fall down: online multiplayer. This will have to be sorted out for the launches of Splatoon 2 and ARMS. There’s no immediately discernible way of adding a headset or a mic. And then there’s the elephant in the room: the system’s current library of games. This is set to grow and grow quickly, but as it is, it’s not a lot. What there currently is, though, will give you many many hours of gaming, especially between the Legend of Zelda and Lego City Undercover, notwithstanding the plethora of Neo-Geo games in the eShop. Personally, I’m very excited for Super Mario Odyssey at the end of the year!

The Switch is an exciting machine, no doubt about that, and if you look at what made Nintendo’s earliest machines so successful, you’ll notice that “the second controller” has a lot to do with it.The ability to just hand the controller to a friend, wherever you are, is possibly the best thing about it. Is this console going places? Absolutely: in your bag or in your pocket, with you.

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