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A Handful of Potential - Our Nintendo Switch Review

At long last the Nintendo Switch is finally out in the wild and in the hands of gamers lucky enough to snag one.  We’ve been playing around with ours since launch day and feel comfortable with it enough to bring in our verdict on it.  Come inside to find out if we think it lived up to certain promises and is worth the purchase.  

nintendo switch8A Console That Embodies Nintendo

When the Nintendo Switch (previously titled NX) was hinted at Nintendo’s annual shareholders meeting a few years ago, people had no idea what to expect.  The only hints they gave were that it would be revolutionary and different.  

Then, in January of 2017, Nintendo took the stage to unveil what would be known as the Nintendo Switch. The video previewed a console unlike anything we had ever seen before.  A tablet that could seamlessly connect to your television, just by docking, with detachable parts for multiplayer and remote play.  Nintendo definitely checked the box for revolutionary while showcasing some intriguing new gaming ideas.  

So how does their trailers/promises compare to the real life product we have now?

Truth is, it’s everything they promised it would be.  The Nintendo Switch is completely portable, can easily switch to multiplayer, and connects to your television seamlessly.  In terms of features, that’s a pretty basic look at it.  When you really look deeper into the console, you find that what really makes the Switch special is that it embodies what Nintendo has been working toward for years, with their previous consoles.  

The recipe to create the Switch called for the tablet from the Wii U, the wireless motion-based controllers from the Wii, and the idea to use cartridges from every other gaming system that wasn’t the Gamecube, Wii or Wii U.  Then, Nintendo sprinkled in the expertise from one thing they’ve excelled at more than anyone else, portable gaming.  This brilliant concoction produced a sleek, ergonomic gaming system that is easy to use and fun to play.

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Analyzing the Tech

Technically speaking, the Switch doesn’t really wow, in terms today’s screen resolution standards.  Microsoft and Sony are on to 4K, while Nintendo is more concerned with keeping the resolution perfect from tablet to TV, which it manages to do surprisingly well.  This may be a mark against the system to some, but it’s really not a big deal for me, personally.  4K is a luxury, at this point, and far from being a standard.  Nintendo only needed to worry about how their system worked for a general audience, not the select few with 4K televisions.  

As for processing power, the Switch uses the NVIDIA Custom Tigra Processor.  It displays quality processing power, enough to play in a massive world like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  However, I and many others have noticed slight latency issues while playing on the TV side.  The delay doesn’t last terribly long, but it does highlight the limitations of the Switch.  Limitations that could arise when games like Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim come out.

Speaking of limitations, one that may also arise later on has to do with memory.  Current Switch models only employ a 32GB memory card, 26GB of which are available.  Now, it does have a port to add a MicroSD/MicroSDHC/MicroSDXC for more memory.  However, that won’t help you save your game or transfer it to a backup storage card.  In fact, game memory ONLY saves on the internal memory card.  Meaning, if you run out of 26GB of memory, it’s time to delete some saves.  Luckily, a game like Breath of the Wild only takes up 64MB of space.  So, it’s probably a non-issue for some time, but as more games come out, the need for a cloud could be imperative.

Since this is a Portable System, Battery life is huge while on-the-go.  Currently, the Switch can last anywhere from 2.5 to 6.5 hours, depending on what you’re doing.  According to the Switch website, playing Breath of the Wild non-stop will result in only 3 hours of battery life, but that’s not all you need to take into account.  The Joycons themselves also have a battery life.  After playing LoZ for roughly 4 hours, the right Joycon started running out of power.  The only way to charge it is by inserting it in the tablet, which could result in draining the Switch.  The battery life is actually pretty reasonable, considering how powerful a game like Breath of the Wild is.  Lord knows, if Sony created a mobile console, like this, Horizon: Zero Dawn or Uncharted could drain the battery just as quickly, if not quicker.

Now what does wow are the many different ways you can play your Nintendo Switch.  Since the Joycons are wireless, that unlocks new and unheard of ways to play your favorite Nintendo games.  For instance, you can simply dock your Switch and play by sliding the Joycons in the controller template.  Another way is to take your Switch on the go and play it like a DS.  One of the more interesting ways to play it to undock your Switch, remove the Joycons from the tablet and play like you’re dual-wielding Joycons.  Or, play multiplayer by handing one of the Joycons to a friend.  No matter what your fancy is, the Switch is adaptable.  Just watch for disconnecting Joycons, there are a few who have reported their left Joycons disconnecting for no reason, I haven’t had that problem yet.

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The Missing Links

As you’re reading this review, you’ll notice that I mention Breath of the Wild, a lot.  That’s because it’s the only quality launch title to come out with the Switch.  In fact, the biggest gripe from consumers is that you’re spending $300+ to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  However, that’s an unfair opinion to give for a new console.  History has shown that there aren’t many new games or features available when new consoles come out.  When you buy one, it’s an investment for everything that will come out eventually.  Now, if the virtual console never comes out and we aren’t able to play our old school IPs, then this will be a major knock.  For now, be patient with the newborn.

What the Switch does lack is something that every major console has added pretty quickly, streaming apps.  Currently, Nintendo hasn’t released standard apps like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon.  In fact, the Switch doesn’t even have a web browser.  Nintendo’s excuse for not including anything mentioned is that they’re trying to create a fun gaming experience, not an entertainment console.  Gamers want to be able to break from gaming and watch their favorite shows.  Nowadays, consoles have to be able to do more than just play your favorite games.  They have to entertain.  Knowing this, President of Nintendo America, Reggie Fils-Aime said in an interview with the Washington Post,

“We’re talking to a range of companies about other services, companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon — things that will come in time. In our view, these are not differentiators. What differentiates us is the way you play with the Nintendo Switch and what you can play. And that will continue to be our focus into the future as we continue driving this platform.”

Fortunately for us, Nintendo won’t be able to maintain this purest stand for long.  Eventually, they’ll have to cave and we’ll get our shows.  Maybe not all of them, but surely the big three.  Once they do, they’ll have made a complete system, worthy of your investment.

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Would You Like Accessories With That?

One thing Nintendo fans shouldn’t be surprised about are the assortment of accessories Nintendo tries to cross-sell.  In addition to the Switch, the Joycons, and the wristbands, that come included with the system, Nintendo released a line of other items for fans to purchase, on the side.  Items like a case, screen protector, pro controller, Zelda themed earbuds, different color controller template, and so on.  The fact of the matter is, the only things necessary are the screen protector, and the case.  Other than that, the rest isn’t worth the extra money.

Outside of obvious reasons, the screen protector is important because gamers have reported the Switch dock scratching their Switch screen.  Granted, it’s mostly when they rip it out of the dock, but it’s still an issue.  The screen protector is necessary to avoid this.  Plus, when games that integrate the touch capability come out, it’s going to be a must-have.

As for the case, if you can find one, get one.  If not, do what I did and wrap it in a soft scarf and put it in a draw-string bag.  It’s not fashionable, but it’ll get it from point A to point B safely.

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Final Thoughts

With every new system, there are always ups and downs.  No system has ever come out with enough games to sate the appetite of the everyday gamer.  When you buy a new system, you’re buying an investment, a promise for the future.  The Nintendo Switch has a ton of potential, but Nintendo has to capitalize on it, correctly.  By correctly, I mean consistently releasing quality titles and not selling games like 1-2 Switch for $49.99.  Working out a deal with streaming services will also go a long way, but the biggest thing they do is add in the virtual console.  Nintendo’s release of the Switch and having The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a launch title, moved them back up into relevancy, but it’ll take a good amount of time, effort, and faith to get them back up to the level of Microsoft and Sony.  I believe once they get through the growing pains of having a new system, they’ll be able to move forward and eventually join those ranks.  

As for whether or not it’s worth the buy, I believe it will be.  In the form it is now, it’s obvious it is in its infancy.  While young, it’s still easy to see the level of potential this device has.  It’s the future of gaming, and it will be a must-buy when everything becomes accessible.

Rating: 4.2 out of 5

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