I’ve never gone to a midnight release of a gaming console, let alone bought one at launch, but Nintendo’s Switch had my hype levels through the roof.
The gimmick of the Japanese gaming company’s latest console is that it’s both a home and handheld console and Nintendo may have hit a homerun with this idea.
In the two weeks that I’ve had the Switch, I’ve put countless hours into it, primarily playing its biggest launch title: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In doing so, I’ve made a number of observations about the console.
The first thing I noticed was the weight of the Switch. It’s by far Nintendo’s lightest console and compares in weight to the 3DS XL. This makes playing the console in its mobile mode easier, even with the added weight of the joy-con controllers. I’ve split time equally playing in mobile mode and TV mode with the console hooked up to a TV screen. It’s a different kind of experience to play a game on the big screen in your living room and then take it with you to play in your bed just before you fall asleep.
The joy-cons are surprisingly very comfortable to hold. Upon first glance, they look child-sized compared to an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 controller. Besides their size, what separates the joy-cons from other controllers on the market is their flexibility. Standard controllers force you to keep your hands together, but the joy-cons split that controller in two and allow you to move your arms freely while playing a game that requires both of them. Playing Zelda with my body sprawled out, arms and all, was such a relaxing experience. What adds to the Switch’s flexibility is that there’s a joy-con controller dock included that combines the joy-cons to be a more traditional controller.
The console has a number of small quirks that make it great. On the left joy-con is a “capture” button that screenshots gameplay. The capture is nearly instant and the button makes sharing your gameplay convenient. The sleep mode function is also very quick. I went without playing Zelda for a day while it was in sleep mode and I was able to jump right back into it without having to boot up the system and load the game.
There’s still a few things I’m worried about going forward. The Switch’s games available at launch were abysmal. Zelda is a must-have for any Switch owner, but beyond that, there isn’t any groundbreaking content available as of now. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launches at the end of April and that could have easily been a launch title.
We know Nintendo is going to release quality, first-party content for the Switch in its lifetime, but will third-party developers also be a part of that? Third-party software on Nintendo’s recent consoles has been lackluster when compared to Microsoft’s and Sony’s. Developers should get behind the unique functionalities of the Switch to create imaginative and immersive content. Failure to do that could result in another flopped third-party host like the Wii U.
Overall, the Switch is a unique take on the traditional home gaming console. Its portability, size, flexibility and software are going to set it apart from its competitors for years to come. Its potential to be great is what’s so attractive about it.
Nintendo has always been about making home gaming consoles a true gaming console since the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The company hasn’t gotten too attached to the modern idea of creating an entertainment console with an abundance of apps and features.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to get the Switch right now, just wait. Come this fall, there will be a larger market of games and apps available for the system.