9.5The Nintendo Switch is the most promising release from Nintendo we've seen since the 3DS
Nintendo’s newest gaming console hit the market this week, and like the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo Wii U, the Nintendo Switch has a lot of new innovations for players to discover and enjoy. It may take players a few hours to adjust to the new features and functions of the Joy-Con controllers, but Nintendo made good on its promise to create a console that can be taken anywhere.
The Nintendo Switch doesn’t feel like a new console though, it feels like the newest form of a Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo’s popular handheld options, like the Nintendo 3DS and the Nintendo 2DS, have been the bedrock that allowed the company to survive through diminishing Wii U sales. The Nintendo Switch is a far more accomplished mobile device than it is a standard gaming console. That being said, the Nintendo Switch still offers a terrific way to play games on your television in regular couch-mode, so Nintendo may have found the perfect fit to showcase its talents.
The Joy-Con controller, and it’s detachable parts, is the center of the Nintendo Switch console. The pair of controllers each feature an analog stick and four-buttons, so you can use them together to play a single-game, or split them up for two-player action. Nintendo’s demographic is on the younger side, and I feel like the Joy-Con controllers were made for tiny hands. It’s nothing I can’t get over, but I did feel like a giant smashing down on tiny buttons from time to time. You can grab the Nintendo’s Switch Pro controller, but after buying the console you might not have the $69 to throw down on another controller when you they give you one (two). The left Joy-Con has a Capture Button that players can press to take instant screen shots of gameplay to share with friends on their social media pages, and the right Joy-Con includes an NFC touchpoint for interaction with amiibo figures. The right controller also has an IR Motion Camera that can approximate the distance, shape and motion of nearby objects in specially designed games. Both Joy-Con include motion controls and an advanced HD Rumble feature.
For on-the-go action the Joy-Con controllers can attach to the side of the Nintendo Switch, which is basically a screen, and you have the portable gaming console of your dreams ready to go. You can also use the kickstand, separate the controllers from the screen, and play portably without having to hold the screen in your hands.
While gaming at home you can easily dock the Nintendo Switch and charge it up. While docked you can play your favorite games on your larger HDTV. In this mode you can have the Joy-Con controllers connected to the Joy-Con Grip for standard gaming. This Joy-Con Grip simply turns the Joy-Con controller into a standard controller, like you would find on the Xbox One or a PS4. The grip helps space the Joy-Con controllers apart so they are easier to use while you have your Nintendo Switch docked or on the kickstand. While your Nintendo Switch is charging away in the dock, you will find the dock has an HDMI and a USB connection. It’s a clever design, the dock hides the wires and can be hooked up in under a minute. You can also pick up the Joy-Con charging dock, for even more charging options.
“Nintendo Switch makes it easy for anyone to enjoy their games in the living room and then quickly take them on the go,” said Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime. “This versatile system allows people to play in unexpected places. It’s the kind of twist in gaming that Nintendo is known for.”
If you have ever used a NVIDIA Shield Tablet, all of this gaming should feel familiar. The Nintendo Switch is lightweight, and easily portable, and the device is a lot like a thicker tablet. The screen offers a bright, fantastic view of the game you are playing, and even in portable mode the games I played were vibrant and immersive. If you’re like the millions of other Nintendo Switch users out there, you are playing “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” and the game both runs well and looks amazing on the device. The Nintendo Switch is portable, but just like regular tablets, the screen has a bit of a glare problem in direct sunlight. In the car, on the couch, or on the subway you should have a bright, bold view, but on the beach you might be staring at a reflection of yourself.
The portable play on the Nintendo Switch is wonderful, and is obviously one of the console’s largest selling points. With hours of testing under my belt, the device never stuttered or dragged. It helps that the new Zelda game is a bright and colorful exploration, the game really showcases the screen and is probably a little easier to run than something like Bethesda’s “Skyrim,” which is also set to hit the console.
While the device is portable, you won’t get much more than 2 to 3 hours of gameplay between charges. Your battery life will depend on the game of course, with the quick 1-2 games offering you the most mileage per charge. Graphics-heavy games will drain the battery quickly, so Zelda players should take note. Luckily for all of us, even the chargers and adapters are easily stowed away in a bag. You won’t be burdened with power bricks and heavy adapters because the Nintendo Switch is using USB-C tech. That also means that third-party charger packs could help you with your battery woes. Just be careful when using untested chargers with your new tech, you don’t want to fry your new console.
The kickstand that I mentioned before is great if you’re sitting at a desk away from your TV, but I wish the Nintendo Switch had two kickstands, or a larger one. The single Kickstand didn’t fail me, but it was flimsy and I would prefer a more stable base. Every time my cat walked by the Switch to see the colors and the light, I thought it would topple at any moment.
Despite the portable nature of the Nintendo Switch, I still prefer the old docked version of playing. Having the option to take Link out into the world is great, but I like sitting down and playing on my couch. This is also where games look their best. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an amazing accomplishment, and one of the best games that Nintendo has released in years. Even if you love portable gaming, hook up the Nintendo Switch to your HDTV at least once, just to enjoy the game in uncompromised splendor.
The Nintendo Switch only launched this week, so improvements and new features are sure to be on their way throughout the year. At $299 it’s not exactly cheap, but it’s one of the best product launches I’ve seen from Nintendo since the Nintendo 3DS. You can grab a Nintendo Switch with gray Joy-Con controllers, or grab a version with one neon blue and one neon red Joy-Con controller.
The 6.2-inch high-definition screen offers terrific gameplay, and the capacitive multi-touch capabilities are really a bonus for developers to create new and exciting ways to play. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild also launched with compatible amiibo, including Link (Rider), Link (Archer), Zelda and a Bokoblin amiibo. A new Guardian amiibo is also available starting today.