Nintendo’s bold vision for a modern console has arrived in the Switch. The console forces you to reset all expectations of what a console offers you and your household. A gaming console no longer refers to a VCR-style box that sits in your entertainment unit, instead it services your portable demands for gaming as well as delivering on the communal fun with friends and family when connected to your TV.
Nintendo is a company that loves to have fun with their design and for that, they need to be applauded. With the switch, the trademark, standout design feature is the colored red and blue controllers.
The Switch offers 3 types of gameplay, TV mode, Tabletop mode and handheld mode. During my review the majority of my time was definitely spent in handheld and TV Mode, largely because those times I may use it in tabletop mode, I had the dock nearby, so could leverage the larger TV display.
Naturally the Switch will be used in a vast array of environments and during my recent trip to the Melbourne GP, I took the Switch for a plane ride. I can confirm the kickstand does not work well on the tray table, thanks to the lack of soft feet, the two hard surfaces, combined with some vibration from the plane, meant the Switch continued to move around. It was definitely best used in handheld mode.
Nintendo imagines a world where you and all your friends own a Switch, allowing you to link up to eight consoles together for multiplayer. From the moment you hand a Joycon to a friend or family member and start to play a game like Snipperclips, you recognise the fun possible in sharing your gaming experience with others.
While I’m sure there’ll be plenty of competitive titles come to the platform, its a game like this that makes collaborating together to achieve a goal, loads of fun. When you detach the Joycons from the side of the Switch, each player turns them sideways and can use buttons in the top as triggers. These are definitely not comfortable to hold as they’re shaped 1st to fit on the side of the Switch and second to be functional. There’s definitely room for improvement with this compromise in future revisions.
An online subscription service for Nintendo Switch allows you to play with friends remotely. Subscribers can also sync up a dedicated smart device app to set play appointments, meet up in online lobbies to play and voice chat while playing.
Here’s the kicker, this paid online subscription service will be available free of charge for now, but will cost you after its official launch in spring 2017.
Being able to play anywhere means you don’t always want to hold the Switch. There’s times, like on a plane ride, where you’d rather sit it down and just hold the controllers. Cue the kickstand.
Built into the back of the Switch is a kickstand that flicks out. Its a single strip of plastic, fairly thin and has a hard edge on the bottom. This works great on a coffee table, but if you try using it on a tray table in a vehicle, forget it, the Switch regularly fell over. Nintendo should have learned from devices like the Surface where a more substantial kickstand provides a stable platform for portability.
The dock allows the Switch to drop in, receive power to charge as well as output via HDMI to the TV. This drop and play experience works incredibly well, and you’ll likely not hide the Switch away in a lowline unit, like other consoles, as you need access to it to grab the Switch and play portably. This is smart from Nintendo, wether a specific design descision or happy accident, more people will see the Swtich because of this.
There’s be dedicated reviews on each of the games on the Switch coming soon, but for now the quick summary is that playing games like Zelda are a brilliant way to distract you during the many times in life where not much is going on. Sitting in an airport lounge, or during a flight, even the back of a bus or car during a road trip, or even chilling on the couch, the Switch is a great tool for distraction.
Right now, I think games are too expensive, with games ranging for $10 the price of an expensive mobile game, right up to $70 or $80 which is definitely console pricing. This feels a little confused right now and it’ll likely take some time for game developers to understand what consumers are prepared to pay for a multi-mode experience game.
As an owner of the original NES, then the N64, I’m incredibly familiar with Nintendo’s love for game cartridges. The modern equivalent to that is the Switch’s SD cards that contain games, but thankfully there is an all digital version available through the store if you’re done with physical media.
Those that have bought the Switch already, understand they’re in the early adopters camp and there are always consequences for participating in that space.
The simple biggest issue is the game catalogue right now, it is extremely limited, but is being worked on. The fact the store has a ‘coming soon’ section is a signal from Nintendo that they’re aware its a problem and ask owners to hold tight. This month we’ll see the release of a new Mario Kart and next month we’ll get Splatoon 2.
The other big missed opportunity is any sense of streaming apps. When you have a device with a pretty large screen in your possession, you’d love to be able to watch Netflix while out and about, even if they left you to tether or connect to in-flight WiFi, but right now, there’s no mobile applications from 3rd parties outside the game genre.
The size and weight of the Switch means you won’t be tucking it inside your pocket, it’ll mean taking a bag. If you were anyway, then it’ll drop in and you’ll barely know its there. You’ll also need to cart around the game cards (and not loose them) as well as any additional controllers. The upside of having a second mobile display with you is that you’re not burning your phone battery.
Price and Availability
The Nintendo Switch is available now from all leading gaming retailers and costs $469.95 and comes with either the colourful red and blue controllers, or for the boring people, standard grey controls. The multiple uses probably leads Nintendo into thinking that’s a perfectly rational price for the Switch, but personally I think its overpriced.
If Nintendo could find a way to deliver the console for $350, they’d be in almost every Australian household, but at closer to $500, the Switch is likely to be limited in appeal to those already into gaming and not break through to the non-gaming market.
Of course you can buy additional controllers so friends can join in the action. Additional Joycon’s cost $119.95 for a pair.
Nintendo have taken bold technical decisions about functionality in creating the Switch and that should be applauded. Like the Wii, the co-operative gaming with friends and family is the best part of the switch, while also servicing your portable needs during travel. The multi-mode gameplay afforded by the Switch is something the competitors of Xbox and PS4 don’t come close to. Your mobile gaming experience is also a competitor to Nintendo, but another battle the Switch wins thanks to its seamless dock and play experience on the big screen.
The Switch is not without its flaws, namely its limited graphics capability, especially in the impending light of Xbox’s Project Scorpio that will offer 4K gaming, as well as fairly limited battery life when playing away from home.
Despite these limitations, the Switch is a unique beast and one definitely worth considering, particularly if you like to have fun. If you have kids, this is absolutely the console of choice.