Just days after Nintendo's release of the Switch, staff impressions started bubbling up in an email thread. Ranging from cautiously optimistic to totally in love, we've taken a moment to gather our thoughts on how the Nintendo Switch is settling into daily life.
There's a lot to take in, so grab a coffee, have a cruller, and cozy up for tales of Nintendo games in the living room and beyond.
As a gamer, collector, journalist, and developer, there was little doubt I was going to get the Nintendo Switch. I've owned all the past Nintendo systems, but they often collect dust (rather than games) outside of the handhelds. This system was something I was actually excited about, though. The excitement was due to the prospect of having a current gen system that could easily be taken from the TV into your hands.
Right out of the box, I forgot how small everything would be. It's little more than a tablet with a docking station. Setup was super simple, and after a quick OS update, I had Zelda running on my 4K TV. The Joy Cons are tiny, and not the easiest to take off the system. There's a small release button on the back that is hard to get at with nails, and there is very little to hold onto for leverage. I plugged the Joy Cons into the controller dock, and again the whole thing felt small. I can only imagine for someone with big hands. I didn't get the Pro Controller, but I can see how that might be necessary in the near future.
While this is hardware impressions, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Zelda looks fantastic and plays just as well. While the Switch certainly isn't making a generational leap forward for home consoles, it sure is cool what it can do when considering the portable nature of it as well. With that in mind, I took the system out of the dock and continued playing in handheld form. To be honest, the game looked even better on the handheld screen than on the big screen. I had a feeling then that this would mainly be a handheld console for me, and that's how I've used it all weekend.
My daughter had a volleyball tournament Saturday, and I decided to bring the Switch for the car ride and in between matches. I can't decide whether that makes me the coolest mom or the worst mom, but I digress. Carrying around the system makes me nervous. There was something comforting about the clam shell design of the DS systems. I was super afraid I was going to drop the system or scratch the screen, but that was offset by how excited I was to play games like I Am Setsuna and Zelda on a handheld device.
One of the guys on staff asked a great question. Is the system really portable? The answer is yes, but it somewhat depends on your definition. Can you fit it in your pocket and go? No, but it is thin and light and easy to hold when you're playing. The screen is beautiful, and while the controls are a little cramped, it hasn't bothered me much at all. I couldn't find a case yet, so I wrapped the Switch in a t-shirt and put it in my purse when I took it on the road. Not an elegant solution, but once you're playing, yes it feels like a portable system.
My initial impressions of the Switch are very positive. The online store is definitely barren, not even offering the usual apps such as Netflix and YouTube. The system memory is too small, and the save games being locked and not in the cloud is crummy. But the versatility of the Switch while still putting out visuals of a modern console (and making a leap over other handhelds) is so very promising. Continue bringing me games that we saw on the 3DS like Pokemon, Fire Emblem, and Bravely Default, that never made it to the home consoles, and I'll be extremely satisfied with the Switch for the foreseeable future.
So while I’m entirely in love with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’m not exactly enamored with the Nintendo Switch so far. What I do like, and what works well, is the TV to portable functionality. Docking and undocking the Switch is remarkably easy, and works as advertised. It takes just a few seconds to switch between the TV and the Switch console screen, and that transition feels flawless every time.
I also like that the Switch feels like a solid piece of hardware, especially compared to the toy like feeling of the Wii U gamepad. The screen also looks really sharp on the Switch, so playing titles in a handheld state doesn’t lose much in the way of visual fidelity.
The biggest issue, which I imagine people are tired of hearing about at this point, is that the Joy-Con’s are a little busted. I’ve been having a lot of issues with the left Joy-Con as other Switch owners have already reported. When playing Zelda there have been numerous instances where Link will just keep running forward even if my thumb is off of the analog stick. I’ve even had the Joy-Con desync from the Switch altogether, albeit only once in 20+ hours of play. Still, you expect the things you buy to work right out of the box, and it’s clear there is something wrong with the Joy-Con at the moment. Nintendo’s not-so-helpful solution of making sure you don’t have wireless interference makes sense, but when all my other consoles and controllers work fine from the same spot, I have a hard time believing the issue is on my end.
Also, while it’s not a surprise, the online functionality is barely there. With a few scant offerings on the E-Shop, there’s little to do or see online with the Nintendo Switch. I knew that going in, of course, but outside of a pretty bare bones home menu, you won’t be doing much with the Switch other than mess around with the launch titles.
When I first opened up my Switch Console, I was actually amazed by how small it actually was. Upon booting up the console I was super happy with the clarity of the video and the sleek, clean menus i was presented with.
Setting up and updating the console went perfectly fine and I ran into no trouble getting ready to play. In fact, the Switch may be the easiest of the next gen consoles to set up right out of the box. Setting up the dock for TV play was a since too, and yes, it works just like you have seen in the countless videos on the internet. Instant changing from TV to handheld, with no pausing that I could see. It also works in reverse, and this totally depends on the TV you use, in my case there was a slight delay but some TV's may quicker. I also really like when you connect the Joy-Cons to the console in handheld mode, the console makes the actual Switch "Click" sound you have heard in trailers. This is really cool!
Now, for my small gripes. Putting the system in the dock can be a bit tricky, and sometimes seems to "fall" into the dock. You need to be very careful as you could damage your console if you slam it in to the connections. Detaching the Joy Cons takes a bit of getting used to as well, with the release button placed in an awkward place. Also, if you put the console in Sleep Mode and connect it to the dock, it will power on again. I found this a tad frustrating, but there are methods to avoid this. The Joy Cons do not function if connected to the console while in the dock, but this is the only way to charge them if you don't own the Charging Grip.
For the future, I think the Switch will be around for quite a while. There are some good games both physical and digital are really great and Future software and apps look fantastic. One strange thing is I noticed after linking my Social Media accounts is that it seems to use a Safari Web Browser. Could there be more partnerships with Apple in the future?
To me, the Nintendo Switch is and should be a home console. In theory, the concept of taking a console gaming experience on the go is a fantastic idea. The issue I've discovered is the portable side of the Switch isn't for everyone. Upon opening the box to the system, I first discovered how small the Joycons really are. I don't have large hands, but they get lost in the palm of my hand. When connected to the grip, it improves the comfort factor, but only a by a margin.
I took the Switch with me on my 2 hour work commute today and attempted to get some Zelda gameplay on the bus. My experience was mixed and a large portion is due to how the handheld felt while playing. It feels a bit too delicate and I was overly concerned with the bus hitting a bump and me dropping it. I would be one of those people that would add a Nerf case to it if made available.
The idea of playing a full fledged Legend of Zelda game on the bus is enough for me to play on the go and still enjoy myself. My preference however, will remain the Switch being docked at home playing with the Pro Control. It's too early to tell how effective the Joycons will be for later releases but so far I'm not too impressed with the "Gimmicky" motion controls for games like 1-2 Switch.
I am a Nintendo fan, ever since I played Super Mario Brothers, and the original Zelda back in the 80s I have followed Nintendo. Ever since the GameCube, I have owned every Nintendo system at launch, before the GameCube I owned every Nintendo system, apart from the Virtual Boy. When the 127-year-old company officially announced the Switch last year, my excitement level went through the roof. I had always wanted a system that I could play console level games on and bring it with me. Now that the switch is here, I believe it has delivered on that promise. As of this writing, I only own Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Snipperclips, I’ll admit not a lot of games to purchase right off the bat. However, with Blaster Master 0 coming in a short couple of days, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe next month, as well as Splatoon 2 this summer and Super Mario Odyssey this holiday season, switch owners have a lot to look forward to.
The Switch is a solid piece of hardware. From the way it feels in your hands when it isn’t docked to just holding the Joy-Cons in your hands while playing Snipperclips or Zelda. It slides in and out of the dock easily. The dock itself is surprisingly very light weight with a couple of USB ports and an HDMI port on the back. There is a door that covers the plugs for the HDMI, 2 of the USB ports and the power cable plug to help with cable management. As an IT professional by day, I appreciated this. Playing Legend of Zelda on the go is just as easy as playing on the big screen. I do prefer using the pro controller while playing but using the Joy-Cons on the side of the system work well too. Nothing beats playing big AAA titles on the big screen except being able to play them on the go when you don’t have access to the big screen. I haven’t had the chance to try and run the battery down to see how long it lasts, but putting the system to sleep seems to not drain the battery nearly as much as the 3DS system did. I’ll need to do more testing to confirm that. Even the UI is simple, but we shall see once I start play multiple games how cluttered the home screen can get. Overall, I’m impressed with the hardware itself, it is a solid piece of hardware with or without the Joy-Cons connected. I’m excited to see where Nintendo takes this.
I was lucky enough to get a pre-order in right away for the Nintendo Switch, and as such I picked my Neon system up right at midnight on March 3. After racing home and tearing apart the box, I realized just how tiny everything is. The Switch itself is fairly thin, especially for a Nintendo product. By comparison the Wii U Game Pad is at least three times thicker. The Joy-Con controllers feature tiny action buttons, not unlike the Nintendo 3DS. The analog sticks are small, but have enough spring-back and throw to get the job done.
If you haven’t seen the Neon Joy-Cons in person, they’re quite striking. They are very bright and sort of reminded me of the neon Play-Doh colors. While the Joy-Cons are small by design, they actually worked very well when hooked up to the Switch in handheld mode. My first hour of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was in TV mode with the Joy-Cons attached to the Joy-Con Grip that comes with the system. I wanted to see how that felt, and I must say it’s not bad! I don’t have large hands so the layout worked great. If you can’t afford a Pro Controller, I think you’ll be just fine with the included Grip, or simply holding a Joy-Con in each hand, which is very comfy.
Having said that, the Pro Controller is my preferred method of playing the Switch in TV mode. It has bigger action buttons and the sticks are normal sized so it just feels great in my hands. The built-in gyros work like a charm in Zelda and the 40 hours of battery life mean I don’t need to sit and charge it in a single play session (I’m looking at you PS4). The only downsides are no analog triggers and no built-in headset port. I suppose you could also complain about the $69.99 price tag. Keep in mind that it does come with the USB-C charging cable, has NFC and gyroscope built-in and works great. The suggested retail prices for PS4 and Xbox One controllers are $59.99. The former sells the charge cable separately, and the latter requires AA batteries or you need to buy a play & charge solution, which can range from $15 to $40 depending on what you go with. As time goes on I’m sure retailers will run deals on the Pro Controller, just like they regularly do with the PS4 and Xbox One.
The first time I booted the Switch up I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and snappy everything was. The setup process was easy and the user interface is very simplistic. The games are all displayed in squares in the middle of the screen in a single line, which reminds me a lot of the PS4. Along the bottom are easy access icons to things like the eShop, News, Settings, etc. The top left shows the users on your system and selecting it will take you to the specific page for that user, which shows friends and other options. The system is extremely fast with little to no loading at all between areas. This is a vast improvement over the Wii U and 3DS operating systems.
I currently have two users on my Nintendo Switch, although they are both mine. That’s because the system is region free, which means you can actually access the Japanese eShop and download games directly from it! I’ve downloaded demos of Dragon Quest Heroes I & II as well as Puyo Puyo Tetris. The process is very simple and all you really have to do is create a new Nintendo Account with Japan being your home country and a new username with a different e-mail than the one you’re currently registered with. On your Switch you add that username and link it to your newly made Nintendo Account and you can then access the Japanese eShop. Granted, everything is in Japanese, but it’s not too difficult to figure out how to navigate. This is a welcome change to the walled-off 3DS and Wii U systems.
I’ve played many of the launch games, including: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Snipperclips, 1-2 Switch, Fast RMX, and Super Bomberman R. I had three friends over on launch day and we played a bunch of multiplayer stuff, putting the system through its paces. We tried every configuration of Joy-Con and Pro Controller we could think of, and it all worked flawlessly. I was worried that games like Super Bomberman R would suffer without a D-Pad, but I was surprised at how well the analog stick worked for this game. The jury is still out on fighting games and traditional 2D action-platform titles, but for now the Joy-Cons seem to get the job done. One of my friends has really big hands so I kept pestering him, asking how comfortable a single Joy-Con is and if he cramped up or anything. After playing for almost two hours he didn’t have any complaints. He did like the Right Joy-Con better because the analog stick is more at the center of the controller, and that seemed to fit his thumb placement more naturally.
All three friends also had Nintendo Switches, so we even tried playing some Fast RMX with two consoles locally. One was hooked up to the TV and the other was in handheld mode, and of course this worked, as it should. We even both hooked up for an online match, but at launch the game just put us in random races with others. We already know that the developers are patching in friend support soon, so that will be nice. The game runs and looks great on the Switch. If you’re itching for a new F-Zero, this could be just the ticket! I love the constant need to change between orange and blue colors on your vehicle to match the boost strips on the tracks. This creates a strategic element that’s not usually seen in racing games, and reminds me a little bit of the GameCube classic, Ikaruga, where you had to constantly flip between two colors.
1-2 Switch was kind of what I expected, a bit of a tech demo. It’s not worth $50, unless you maybe convert it into a drinking game or something. It’s too shallow and out of the 28 games, maybe 5 were actually fun. Definitely buy this one with caution. I could see younger kids maybe getting a kick out of it, but I’m not sure it would have lasting appeal.
Snipperclips was one of our favorite games to play as a group. The 4-player mode is extremely fun and everyone’s screaming what to do and how to figure out the puzzles. On top of that, they have included three competitive games: air hockey, basketball, and fighting. All three were more fun than they had any right to be, and this is a great game to have on your Switch at launch. It’s one of those games that I could see someone taking their Switch to a friend’s place, popping off the Joy-Cons and having a blast in Tabletop mode.
Super Bomberman R is more Bomberman, which is exactly what I wanted. The graphics have been overhauled, for better or worse, and they look more modern. The levels are all fun to play, and each has a special gimmick present, such as magnets or disappearing tiles. If you leave the revenge modes on, it can be even more chaotic when people start dying. Someone can come back from the dead by lobbing bombs into the arena and getting their revenge. I liked what we played of this one, and although some think the $50 asking price is way too high, I think if you’ve loved these games in the past, it’s worth every penny.
Of course, the biggest game of launch is Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and it’s worth the wait. I’ve played this game for the past three days and have probably logged well over 24 hours into it and still haven’t uncovered half of the world map yet! The game is gigantic, and the world is brimming with secrets to discover and places to explore. It’s just an amazing ride so far with surprises around every corner. There are so many cool things that have happened to me in my adventures up to this point and they continue to pile up. Early Sunday morning my jaw hit the floor as I experienced my first thunderstorm in the game and witnessed a giant creature dancing across the night sky. It was breathtaking, exhilarating, and a moment I’ll never forget. Is it worth spending $300 on a Switch and another $60 on Zelda to experience this game? You bet it is.
I don’t have too many complaints or concerns about the Nintendo Switch yet. Yes, it does feel like they probably rushed the system out the door to meet their financial forecasts. There are features missing, like no Virtual Console, no ability to send messages to friends, no party chat, no headphone jack in the Pro Controller, no Miiverse, no StreetPass, no eShop music (gasp!), no streaming services, and no Bluetooth headphone support. Are any of these deal breakers? Not for me, but they might be for you. Most of the problems listed above can easily be fixed in the next few months. More services are definitely on their way to the system, but it definitely seems like Nintendo wasn’t quite ready to roll them out just yet.
Overall I’m very satisfied so far with my Switch purchase. I love the ability to take my console games on the go and continue right where I left off. The Sleep mode works brilliantly and the game is available to play in a matter of seconds. The handheld screen looks fantastic, and in some cases (like Zelda), the smaller screen almost looks better than the big screen! If you’re upgrading from a 3DS to a Switch this is a phenomenal jump in power and graphics. If you’re coming from a Wii U to a Switch, it’s more of a lateral jump in performance. There’s more horsepower here, but it’s not a night and day difference. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. With games like ARMS, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I’m going to be a very busy (and happy) gamer!