Nintendo Switch Review
The Nintendo Switch is finally here. After what felt like ages speculating as to what Nintendo’s codename NX was, it feels almost surreal to finally hold what is undoubtedly Nintendo’s coolest piece of hardware yet. Nintendo Switch feels like a true step forward for consoles, maybe not when it comes to raw power, but certainly when it comes to re-thinking how, when and where we play our games. It’s true console gaming on the go in a way that’s never been done and I’m excited to say that core experience has mostly lived up to expectations. Nintendo Switch is a fantastic piece of new hardware with much potential but it’s not without its faults overall.
My biggest worry was that Nintendo Switch simply would not be that comfortable to hold while in portable mode. The analogs are close to the Joy-Con edges, the buttons are tiny, almost stacked on top of each other and it didn’t look all that ergonomic but once in my hands and after extensive play-time those worries disappeared. It’s surprising how comfortable Nintendo Switch is to hold in portable mode. It certainly took some adjusting to the placement of the sticks and face buttons, especially the right analog and start/select buttons but after an hour I was fine and managed to adjust quite nicely allowing for an enjoyable experience. The weight of the unit is just about right. Not so light that it feels cheap and flimsy but neither is it too heavy to hold for prolonged periods. In fact, the entire construction of Nintendo Switch is quite simply wonderful. Its sleek and modern appearance and modular design constantly impressed as I flipped from TV mode, to portable mode, followed by sliding off the Joy-Cons for a little table top mode. The Joy-Cons slide on and off the Switch smoothly with an accompanying and very satisfying snap sound effect when the unit is turned on as well. The first time I picked up the Switch I was smiling before I even put in a game cartridge.
“Nintendo Switch is a fantastic piece of new hardware with much potential but it’s not without its faults overall.”
The Joy-Cons are such a neat little piece of hardware on their own as well. Packed with what is now dubbed HD Rumble, an IR Sensor, NFC reader, Gyro and more, the little controllers-that-could have a lot of potential in the hands of the right creators. 1-2 Switch showcases perfectly the types of feedback the Joy-Cons are capable of and its pretty impressive. You’ve all probably heard of the ball demo by now, in where you guess how many balls are rolling around inside a box. I was skeptical of the HD rumble but playing that ball game for myself blew my mind when it comes to the haptic feedback on display. It really did feel like balls rolling in a box. I’m looking forward to seeing how developers experiment with this unique feature.
I have run into one worrying issue with the Joy-Cons though. The left Joy-Con seems to have connection issues any time something is blocking the line of sight between it and the docked Switch. As an example; if my hands were holding the Joy-Cons low and my knee was blocking signal path, the left Joy-Con would suddenly have a mind of its own and act similar to a controller with a dying battery. I started experimenting more and sure enough I could replicate the issue by covering the left Joy-Con with a pillow or holding it behind my back. While this issue can be avoided by holding the controller in such a way that it has a clear line to the console, it’s still inexcusable and none-the-less something Nintendo must come out and address quickly with a patch. A couple times during my play of Breath of the Wild I met an untimely demise at the fault of a disconnecting Joy-Con and you can imagine the frustration that brought. The good news, is that the Joy-Con issue does not arise in portable mode when the controllers are attached to the Switch proper. So you should never have an issue on the go.
The screen size and resolution are more than adequate, in fact I don’t think I would want anything larger. There’s been a bit of a scoff at the 720p resolution while in portable mode but trust me, seeing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild running on Switch in portable mode is nothing less than stunning. You’ve never had an experience quite like Breath of the Wild while on the go and I doubt many will complain about resolution once they go hands-on.
“There’s been a bit of a scoff at the 720p resolution while in portable mode but trust me, seeing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild running on Switch in portable mode is nothing less than stunning.”
While the hardware overall is quite impressive, it wouldn’t mean much if the user interface was tedious to navigate or sore on the eyes. Nintendo has taken a less-is-more approach here and it works well. The UI is bright and clean and very easy to navigate. Along the top of the home screen is a tile based menu for your current game library that can easily be selected with the Nintendo Switch’s responsive touch screen or with a flick of the Joy-Cons. Below the game tiles is a simple menu featuring icons for the eShop, settings, controller configuration, photo album and a handy news section that highlights upcoming Nintendo games coming out, sales or just general information about the Nintendo Switch. Everything has the “Nintendo touch” when it comes to feel and sound effects of the UI.
Though the UI is clean and easy to navigate, it does show off the Nintendo Switch’s other lacking area, especially when compared to other consoles on the market and that is in the apps department. The Nintendo Switch, at least during its launch window, is a straight gaming platform with little frills outside of that. You’re not going to be watching movies or TV on Nintendo Switch via apps such as Netflix or Crave nor will you be tuning into Twitch during a break from Zelda. Nintendo Switch reminds me a lot of console launches of days-gone-by where they literally played games and nothing more. While the Nintendo Switch will be fine for the first year with games only it would greatly benefit from being able to flip over to Netflix or something without having to turn on a second device, as we’ve been used to for a decade now.
“All that said, I haven’t been this excited for Nintendo hardware since the release of the Nintendo 64.”
One area I was unable to test out properly was its online functionality, since a Day 1 patch is required at launch before those services go online. So the verdict is still out on that aspect but I’ll update the review after launch with impressions of the eShop itself as well as online multiplayer the moment I have a game to test it.
I’m confident that Nintendo Switch will evolve over time and continue to add new features. We’ve already been promised that a video capture will soon accompany the already handy screenshot function and other much needed features will hopefully be added soon. Like the ability to use blue-tooth headsets. At the moment you can currently only used wired which works fine for me given my long cables but could pose a problem for some.
It’s the beginning of a hopefully long and healthy life-cycle for the Nintendo Switch. The hardware is undoubtedly very appealing, constantly impressing myself and those I show it to. The short comings in regards to features and apps out of the box as well as the current Joy-Con disconnection issue keeps me from unanimously praising it. All that said, I haven’t been this excited for Nintendo hardware since the release of the Nintendo 64. I’ve never been big into hand-held gaming but the Nintendo Switch actually convinced me to take transit to work the other day instead of driving, simply so I could keep playing Zelda. There’s something special here, I can feel it and I think Nintendo knows it too. Lets all just hope they can iron out the initial kinks and keep software support stronger than what it had with Wii U.
***A Nintendo Switch console was provided to COGconnected by Nintendo Canada***
- True console gaming on the go
- Innovative modular design
- Joy-Cons feel great
- Clean and simple UI
- Connectivity issues with left Joy-Con
- Lack of features out of the box