I have a confession I was a Sega kid when I first got my hands on a games console, it wasn’t my fault and it was rectified soon after. Looking back now on the consoles I owned the Sega Master System, Mega Drive, Playstation 1, 2 and Nintendo 64 all brought great gaming experiences but my greatest memories spanned from one console. The Nintendo 64 was a joy to play, the experiences this console gave me stand up above all else, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Conkers Bad fur Day, Banjo-Kazooie, Star Fox 64, Mario Kart 64 the list goes on. So with Nintendo launching the Nintendo Switch do we have a winning console that delivers the games as well as the experience we all want Nintendo to deliver on. Here is our Nintendo Switch Review to help us find out.
No better place to start with the Nintendo Switch than with the consoles design. Making use of a tablet form factor with a docking station for when you want to play on the TV, the Nintendo switch is everything the WiiU wasn’t, sleek, modern and a pleasant device to put by your TV. I say “by” because under may be a bit of a challenge depending on your TV unit or setup. The dock necessitates the need for space so fitting in most entertainment units will be tough.
In the tablet mode the console feels extremely nice to hold in your hands. The buttons are well placed and the analogue sticks are nice and easy to use. Nothing feels a fiddle to use and the build quality feels good. At the rear of the device is a kick stand that can be used to stand the Nintendo Switch on its own however I do have concerns that this wont stand the test of time through regular use.
The Nintendo switch has the ports you would expect all located on the tablet components with no functional buttons on the Nintendo Switch Dock. You get a standard headphone jack, memory card slot, volume controls and power buttons. So in tablet mode you are all set. It’s in the consoles other versatile modes that we see some shortcomings presented through the design.
If you put your Nintendo Switch into console mode with the screen docked and put the joy-con into the supplied grip theres a lack of functionality for home use. This is a minor grumble but if your looking for some silent game time at home late a night theres no option to stick a headphone into your controller grip and theres currently no support for bluetooth headsets. A real oversight on Nintendo’s part but I’ll remain optimistic this will be patched in at a later date. The other oversight in this mode is the lack of a power button on the controllers. I really wanted to switch of from my controller a feature we are all too common with on PS4 and Xbox One so again a real mistep on functionality from Nintendo.
The screen on the Nintendo Switch is great and offers some nice viewing angles which is handy considering the consoles heavy support for motion controls. My only criticism would be the bezel around the display that comes in at about 2cm all round the screen. It hasn’t taken away anything from my personal experience but for some they may be put of in a world of edge to edge screened devices.
One thing that has returned with the Nintendo Switch is the use of Cartridge media for games. This offers up super fast load times and is incredibly convenient however comes likely in the long run with the sacrifice of cost. Production costs for cartridges are much higher than publishing on disc or via digital online stores so price parity across what method you choose to play or buy your games is unlikely and could further dent the consoles ability to woo 3rd party developers.
This is Nintendo’s key selling feature and it delivers exceptionally well for the most part. The Nintendo switch is the most powerful potable console I’ve ever used and its delivering a true home console experience on the move. This is the stuff dreams were made of a few years ago and the Nintendo Switch is making gaming truly portable.
Nintendo Switch is a home console with the options to use in handheld or table top mode. However for me its the portability that make it worthy of my time. The ability to move from the dock to handheld mode is seemless and truly effortless. Supporting this is the consoles incredible ability to pick up exactly where you left of, it keeps your games in a paused state and even where the battery runs out the Nintendo Switch will take a paused snapshot so when you get back to a plug you can pick up exactly where you left it.
Where I have had some difficulties is when the console is in table top mode. Its in this mode I find the console is at its weakest, for the most part you would do this where you go multiplayer or the wife has taken over the TV and you want to play with a pro controller. The issues in this mode for me in the main are that the Nintendo Switch’s modular design shifts everything from being an almost perfect form factor to one that is far from ideal. The screen is simply too small for this mode and two player gaming this way on a split screen will test the best of eyesight amongst us. The joy con are far too small to get most peoples hands around so if your looking to pull of a slick combo don’t expect precision as the buttons are fairly small and getting your fingers on the triggers is a bit of a task. In short bursts it will deliver on the consoles promise but I’d advise against long periods of gameplay in this mode.
One area that has been widely covered is the console loosing connectivity with the left joy con occasionally. In the few weeks I’ve had the console I haven’t encountered this issue, thats not to say it doesn’t exist but theres strong indications its about how your wifi is setup at home. essentially the Nintendo Switch doesn’t like being too close to Wifi Routers so think ahead before you decide where to place the Nintendo Switch in your home.
With performance we come to Nintendos biggest win and its heaviest criticism. Nintendo haven’t been entirely forthcoming with the consoles power specification and we haven’t teared into ours to shed more light on this. What I can tell you though is that this console wont get close to Xbox One or Playstation 4 performance. This is disappointing and will likely have a large bearing on third party support the console will offer. Its not going to be easy for developers to port straight from Xbox One or PS4 to switch due to power constraints. These power constraints are all to clear in the consoles launch lineup. Zelda Breath of the wild is a stunning looking game and it renders at 720p in handheld mode with a steady 30fps frame rate. However dock the screen and play on your big TV and the rendering stretches to 900p but delivers less than ideal frame rate performance.
This doesn’t concern me overly but if your in the market to buy a new console and you can only have one main console in your home I don’t think the Nintendo Switch is the wise investment. At £350 including a game you can pick up either a PS4 or Xbox One for less or about the same and will likely offer more longevity and game choice through better third party support.
In terms of battery performance, we are looking at a solid 2-4 hours on handheld mode which for me is more than ample, however it my commute was longer than an hour I’m looking at needing a solution to keep it powered through a days use. When docked the joy con charge via the screens power however undocked or connected to the grip they run on their own battery power. I’ve been impressed with this so far and with visible battery indicators on the grip and % logo on the UI its easy to know how much juice is left. The batteries on the joy con are very impressive and should see you through even the most vigorous of Switch 123 party sessions with friends even with HD rumble.
Its with features like HD rumble that we are reminded that when it comes to innovation and creativity in gaming Nintendo are still market leaders. They changed the gaming landscape forever with motion controls on the Wii, and with the Nintendo Switch they are enhancing that motion experience with the ability for the Joy Con to produce HD rumble, this allows developers to create play experiences like no other. From feeling like your holding a glass full of ice to holding a box with balls inside it, its a new form of immersion and you can see how developers can really bring this to life in numerous ways.
However if you are looking for a second console and want something you can take on that daily commute then the Nintendo switch is the best mobile gaming experience money can buy currently. Theres simply nothing sweeter than finding a shrine and taking the switch on the train to complete it.
The UI on the Nintendo Switch is something of a disappointment, don’t get me wrong it works blazing fast and the basic options are there however its so simplistic that it does indicate the console has been rushed out and the UI could have been given a little more care and attention to make sure it truly delivers. Features like play log ave been removed and instead we get a non user friendly activity tracker which lacks the detail we seen on the Wii U. We also see similar failures in the friends sections with Nintendo being truly Nintendo and making users use friend codes to add online friends. Something we haven’t seen since the mass failure the last time they attempted this. Another sign in many ways Nintendo refuse to learn from their mistakes.
Another area of amusement is in the store section, you can search for a title if you know what you want outside of that you get the choice of new releases or recent releases. lets hope they fix that in the coming months and at least offer an A-Z or genre option otherwise navigation of the store will be incredibly difficult and cumbersome.
Another big miss for me that I expected Nintendo to get in on the act with is the inclusion of a gasification system, Xbox Achievements & Playstation trophies have been a huge success and Nintendo choosing not to implement such a system is areal shame. A missed opportunity to close a gap against its competition. However this could be implemented later in the same way we seen Sony implement it laterally with the PS3.
So we know we are getting an online eco system and until sometime later this year it will be free for players to use. Beyond this it will be subscription based. However this functionality at time of launch isn’t yet available and theres no games to really take advantage of it. What we do expect to see however is games like Splatoon and Mario Kart 8 deluxe really take advantage of this. Hopefully we see party chat and some quick matchmaking but online is new to Nintendo and don’t be surprised if we get some bumps in the road especially with players connecting via so many different methods from Wifi in Homes to 3G/ 4G mobile connectivity. Just pray for server hosted multiplayer and not peer to peer.
In summary the Nintendo Switch is certainly a great console and it in the most part delivers on what it set out to become a home console you can take on the go. However as it tries to carve its own niche in the market distancing it from mobile as a credible mass market gaming option whilst trying to lure in players they lost to the more powerful current generation consoles proof as always will be in the adoption from fans and developers if this console is really going to be a success. With features lacking and online functionality yet to be tested the jury is still out on this being the game changer for Nintendo. However this has proved a stunning concept into reality and I am excited about what the future brings for this console.