The internet was abuzz Friday morning as the Nintendo Switch hit store shelves worldwide. Players everywhere clamoured at their local retailers for the chance to buy The Legend of Zelda and 1-2-Switch. Two such players were our very own Henry Melville and Dylan Bishop, who have a few thoughts on the hybrid console.
As you may know, the Nintendo Switch is unique in its variety of playstyles. You can play it just like a normal console when docked. If you’re feeling mobile, you could snap on the removable Joy-Cons and take it with you. This creates a handheld machine akin to the Vita. The Switch goes a step further, allowing you to open the kickstand and remove the controllers while un-docked. Using this, consumers can play games on their own mini screen. It’s utterly satisfying to quickly start a game in the living room, only to take the same game upstairs and continue playing instantaneously. It’s all thanks to the Joy-Cons.
Aside from a few connectivity issues, which we’ll discuss later, the Joy-Cons are brilliant. They’re not as easy to detach as the trailers lead you to believe. However, the transition from handheld to console and back is astoundingly seamless. The gray controllers look very mature, while the neon ones breath life into the device while never looking garish. The detachable controllers allow for a level of modulation never seen in a console. There’s freedom in knowing I can lay in bed and play with a controller, then break that controller apart when I want to stretch my arms.
Though some may complain that the Joy-Cons are too small, I can attest to their comfort and usability. I say that as a tall man with giant hands. Even when used sideways in a multiplayer title like Snipperclips, I never felt uncomfortable or awkward. In fact, I felt more comfortable than I have in ages, since I could change my playstyle instantly. It felt similar to adjusting yourself as you toss and turn in a bed: if you’ve been in one position too long, just switch to another.
The Nintendo Switch provides you with an ample way to play almost any way you’d like, and does so in a very solid build. The main console itself is very high quality, and holds most of the weight during handheld mode. The controllers are well-built, and the buttons have a delectable “click” to them. This is a far cry from the Wii U Gamepad, which felt more at home in a toy aisle than an electronics section. The high-gloss finish showed fingerprints all too well, while the buttons all felt mushy to press.
The UI of the Nintendo Switch also does a 180 in comparison to the Wii U, though at a cost. The menus and settings have a very minimal aesthetic, and are straightforward and fast. Long load times and childish design are things of the past. However, some of the “Nintendo charm” seems to have been lost. Miiverse, StreetPass, and an Activity Log (beloved features from the Wii U and 3DS) are absent. The result is a very professional and sleek experience, but not one that seems to be touched by Nintendo’s quirk. For some, this may be ideal. For me, it feels a tad lifeless.
The complaints don’t end there though. The kickstand for the Switch is laughably shaky, and I’d be afraid to set it on even the sturdiest of tables. Friends can be added using an archaic friend code system, or via previous connections through Miitomo and Super Mario Run. However, once you add a friend, you can’t actually do anything with them. No chat, party, or communication features exist whatsoever. Similarly, the eShop is barren of many sorting or category options. However, this could be due to the lack of titles at the moment.
It’s baffling that half of the overall experience has been completed so masterfully, yet the other half feels slapped together. Thankfully, most of the software issues could be later fixed through software updates, just as the Wii U’s launch problems were patched. After all, Nintendo has already confirmed that more options for friend requests will be coming soon.
Frame rate can also be an issue in titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, showing either a) that the game wasn’t fully optimized, or b) the Switch isn’t ready to be a fully-fledged home console. The battery life as a portable device is also painfully short, sitting at around 2-4 hours for most play sessions. By and far the biggest problem, however, is a “desyncing” issue with the controllers. If a player is sitting over 10 feet from the docked console and covers specific parts of the controllers, their Joy-Cons (most notably the left one) may sporadically drop inputs. This can lead to an odd situation, ranging from “minor annoyance” to “Link just jumped off a bridge that took me five minutes to climb.”
However, I can’t deny that the Nintendo Switch is leaps and bounds better than their last console iteration. While it comes with some flaws that may drive certain players to other consoles like PlayStation or Xbox, the unique machine is already carving a niche market of its own. The Switch seems poised to actually circumvent major competition from its previous rivals, and instead become a perfect “Have It Your Way” device. Though overall graphical power and battery life could stand to be a little beefier, I certainly can’t deny how gorgeous and fun Breath of the Wild is–both in bed and on-the-go. The Nintendo Switch is certainly a successful proof of concept, and with some minor tweaking and patches, could very easily be a massively successful foray into the hybrid console market.