First Impressions: Nintendo Switch

I would like to preface this with a confession: I’ve never, not once in my life, bought a new console at launch. Buying a console at launch is always a large investment to make, because everything is in a very infantile state, no one really knows what works and what doesn’t, and it’s up to the early adopters to play the role of the guinea pig within the console’s first 6 months. And that’s always been a point of hesitance with me; being an early adopter is a gamble you have to be completely willing to take and committed towards, and I’ve decided to take that leap of faith with the Nintendo Switch. I’ve had this for a short while, there are things I like and things that I don’t like, and I’m going to lay everything out for you, right here.

Why me? Because I’m not a “game journalist,” I’m just an average customer who spent his tax return money on a brand new console and a Zelda game. My opinions are completely unbiased and completely authentic, and that’s the way they’ll always be.

Taking it out of the box, I was immediately impressed by the build quality of the device itself; the entire console lies within the tablet, the docking station is really just a hunk of plastic that serves as an I/O housing port. There are only five I/O ports on said docking station, a USB 3.0 input for connecting additional controllers (like the Pro controller) with two additional USB 2.0 inputs on the side of the dock, an HDMI-out to connect to a TV with no other proprietary video output cables needed, and an output for the AC power cable – and yes, it’s a brick, but it’s a smaller brick than anyone expected it to be. Given that the main console is the tablet itself, there’s no Ethernet I/O present, so you’ll have to solely rely on a Wi-Fi internet connection; not that that would be a problem for a tablet, mind you. Speaking of the tablet, I love the matte finish on display; piano gloss black has always been troublesome with consoles, as it scratches really easily, so I’m glad to see they did away with that in favor of a matte finish. I’d still be extra careful with the screen, though, as any portable device will have a screen that will scratch very easily; an extra $8 toward a screen protector goes a long way. And I figure I’ll mention the kickstand; don’t jerk the tablet around on a table like you’re an idiot, and you’ll be fine. The plastic is a bit flimsy, but it’s stable on a flat surface.

Included with the system are the Joy-Con controllers, but don’t let the size of them fool you. Yes, they’re very tiny and they’ll disappear if you close your hand with them in your grip, but these little things are surprisingly practical for what they’re set out to do. I tested these out with the game I bought with the system, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the results surprised me; it honestly feels really freeing to have two halves of a controller spread apart with your arms at opposite ends, and it makes for a very unique and interesting playing experience. With the included grip handle, the Joy-Cons perform as any other controller would, but it does feel a little cramped with the two being so close together. And as for the Joy-Cons being attached to the tablet, it operates very much like the Wii U gamepad in that regard. I tested out the Joy-Cons in “tabletop mode,” using them sideways like an NES controller, with the demo for Snipperclips, and it felt way too small with all the buttons bunched too closely together. And that’s arguably the biggest fault the controllers have, in regards to their size. At $80 a pair, though, you best not break them or else your wallet will be crying for a while.

But what if you want something a little more… “professional”? Well, much like the Wii U Pro controller, there’s a Switch Pro controller, and it is a very fine piece of hardware. There’s a good amount of weight to the controller, it’s a very sturdy product, and it sports a very sleek translucent finish to it that makes me pine for the olden days of translucent Game Boy Color consoles and accompanying accessories. It’ll run you about $70, though, so again, don’t break it.

But how does the console itself perform? For the most part, it performs really, really well. It’s quick to load, the UI is very sleek and easy on the eyes, everything has been completely simplified and streamlined in comparison to the Wii U startup. The only main game I’ve been able to test the system out with is, again, Zelda: BOTW, and apart from looking graphically beautiful, the game runs really smoothly. Only once did I encounter a bit of slowdown, and that was early on; it runs great on a TV, despite being maxed to only 900p and running at 30fps, but it seems to run better on the tablet’s 720p display and a locked 30fps. Some games may work better on the tablet than the TV, it’s all going to be situational. Dragon Quest Heroes I & II, a game I downloaded the demo for (more in a minute), felt a bit stuttery on the tablet, but ran very smoothly on the TV. As more games come out, we’ll all be able to form a stronger grasp of the console’s performance power, as it’s a bit too early to call anything right now.

The Switch eShop, right now, is rather barren, but that will certainly change as more games are released in the coming weeks and months. Something of note is that there isn’t any menu music in the eShop, which I personally don’t have that big a problem with, but I can see why others would be upset at that. Of larger note, though, seeing how the Switch is region-free, you can access a different region’s eShop, like the Japan Switch eShop, on your console by setting up a Japanese Nintendo account, which I found was way too easy for anyone to do. I’m a bit unsure if anyone can purchase Japanese eShop games with American credit/debit cards, but demos are fair game, which – at the time of this writing – there are demos for both Dragon Quest Heroes I & II and Puyo Puyo Tetris available for download.

And speaking of the eShop, if you’re going to buy digital games, you may want to invest in a microSD card, at least 64GB – the Switch has about 25GB of onboard storage available, and that won’t be enough if you’re going all-digital. Thankfully, microSD cards are pretty cheap, with a 64GB card costing about $22 on Amazon. From all the information I’ve pulled, support for external HDDs most likely won’t happen for the Switch (again, the tablet IS the console), but Nintendo has claimed that it will support microSD cards up to 2TB in size, so that’s a point for future-proofing in that regard. One such game that will require a large microSD card is the aforementioned Dragon Quest Heroes, at a whopping 32GB in size; although, really, you’re all just gonna play that and I Am Setsuna on PS4 anyway, but it’s nice to always have the option.

So, are all of these impressions equal to forking over $400-plus dollars for the console, a game, and an additional controller? Not immediately. Let it be clear, the reason why I bought the console, the special edition release of Zelda: BOTW, and the Pro controller is because I had the funds present to put in the investment. As for Tyler, he did it just because he’s a little loco, doing the whole midnight launch event thing. My advice to all of you reading this? Wait until Autumn, then go for it. Right now, there’s only one true “killer app” available, but that’s going to change by the time Autumn comes around, with Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey on the horizon. For my money, though, the saving grace of the Switch will be both its first-party exclusives and the wide array of indie games coming out onto the system, like Yooka-Laylee and the return of Toejam & Earl, along with many others coming out in the weeks and months to follow. So give it a bit of time, it’ll be a worthwhile investment by Autumn.

And lastly, yes, the Switch cartridges taste horrible on purpose, so that kids won’t swallow them. Don’t be like all the others, don’t lick it for yourselves.

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