Nintendo Switch: A review from three different types of gamers
Russell Holly, Lory Gil, and Luke Filipowicz have all been drooling over Nintendo's latest console, the Switch, since the first murmurings of its existence. As soon it was possible to get one, they rushed to make sure they had a lock on it, even going to midnight sales events to stock up on everything they could.
One week later and we all have strong opinions about what we think of the Switch, but for different reasons. We are all gamers of a different ilk. Here's what we think of the Switch, and why.
First off, what experience do you have with video games, in general?
Russell: I'll play just about anything, and often do play just about everything. I love playing fun party games with my kids, wasting a sunday to a massive open world adventure, and while I'm usually not very good at them I do occasionally enjoy a good first-person shooter. Puzzle games are usually my happy place, but I really do try a little bit of everything. My living room is home to an Xbox One, PlayStation 4 Pro, Wii U, NVidia Shield TV, and now a Nintendo Switch. Back in the office I keep all of the Virtual Reality hardware, as well as my gaming PC and gaming laptop to power it all. I don't really have a favorite game, but I have been known to blow off plans with friends so I can play through Myst or Riven.
Lory: You might call me a casual gamer in the sense that, for the past few years, I'd been focusing so much on mobile gaming that I stopped playing on consoles altogether. I used to spend hours every day at my PC and hours every evening on my XBox, but working as an app and game reviewer kept me from being able to make extra time for gaming for fun. Thanks to a shift in my career, I finally invested in my first console in years, a PlayStation 4. I love big console gaming. I love how epic these monstrosities feel, and how they take me out of the real world and into an adventure. I'm back to playing games for hours at a time, but not with the fervor I had in the past. I've always loved Nintendo's flagship titles, Pokémon, the Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros and have kept up with those series on my DS or 3DS, even when gaming for fun was hard to come by. So, while I've been playing video games for most of my life (I got a ColecoVision the year it came out when I was eight), I fit best into the casual gamer category.
Luke: Being a millennial, I was fortunate enough to always have at least one (usually multiple) gaming consoles in my house. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of me sitting in front of the TV, playing Sesame Street 1-2-3 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Gaming has always been my biggest hobby, it's what I sink most of my spending money (and sometimes a little savings money, whoops) into and to say I enjoy it is probably a huge understatement — I absolutely love it. Over the years I have collected a wide variety of consoles. I have owned every Nintendo system except the Wii U, I have every generation of Playstation, and I even have all my old Sega consoles, including a Dreamcast. Where I have fallen off the gaming path is in handheld gaming. The last handheld gaming platform I held in my hands before I got my Switch, was a GameBoy Advance SP and that's because I felt a disconnect with mobile gaming since with invention of smartphones. My iPhone has been my go-to mobile gaming device for years, and systems like the Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita never appealed to me. My favorite games are typically story-driven adventures or RPGs. The Last of Us, Uncharted 4, Final Fantasy XV, and Resident Evil 7 have all taken up a significant amount of my free time, but I still have a love for Nintendo's franchises such as Mario, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda.
What goodies did you get with the Switch right away?
Russell: I grabbed an extra set of Joy-Cons for the kids, a Pro Controller for myself, the collector's edition of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and a copy of 1-2-Switch. A day or two later I downloaded SnipperClips and Fast RMX.
Lory: When the Switch first went on sale for preorder at 9AM on January 13, I rushed to stake my claim for the Switch. Unfortunately, the neon Joy-Con model was already sold out, so I opted for the gray model instead. I can always buy a set of neon Joy-Con controllers later. I also ordered The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (AKA: BotW), since I knew I'd need a game to play right away. So far, I haven't spent any more money on my Switch, but I'm already eying a couple of sweet accessories, like the RDS Travel Deluxe System Case and the HORI Compact Playstand. Oh, and I'm definitely getting Mario Kart 8 Deluxe when it launches on April 28.
Luke: I pre-ordered a Nintendo Switch the day they went on sale, but for some reason Best Buy Canada wasn't able to send it to me until a few days after launch. I decided that wasn't good enough for me, so I waited for five-or-so hours in line, outside in the cold, to hit up a midnight release at my local EB Games. For hardware, I have two Nintendo Switch consoles — one with grey Joy-Cons and one with neon — a Pro Controller, a cheap carrying case, and I recently ordered a tempered glass screen protector. As for software, I picked up a hard copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at launch and then I downloaded Super Bomberman R the next day.
What do you think of the tablet portion, AKA: The Switch?
Russell: It's fantastic, in fact I use the Switch more in tablet mode than I do in TV mode. Being able to pull the tablet out of its dock as I walk out the door to take my daughter to Gymnastics is exactly what I wanted. It's better visuals and greater comfort than a 3DS, and it just plain looks nice.
Lory: I find myself using my Switch in tablet mode more often than I use it in TV mode. The screen is clear and bright, and the graphics of BotW look amazing on that size of screen. I actually remove the Joy-Con controllers and play split-handed with the Switch on my lap, propped up on a pillow. I'm not sure why Nintendo chose to make the screen touch capacitive. It almost seems like an afterthought. The touch screen is very responsive, but it's a secondary element to the system. There are a lot of items on the screen that aren't touch capable at all. It doesn't hurt my gaming experience, but it makes me wonder if the Switch might have been a little less expensive if Nintendo opted for a non-touch capacitive screen, since it doesn't make a difference whether I touch the screen or use the buttons on the controller.
Luke: I love it and hate it at the same time. The screen is big and bright and games look great on the 6.2-inch screen. Plus, the ease of carrying it around with the Joy-Cons attached is fantastic; however, portable gaming has never been my favorite way to enjoy games and the Switch hasn't convinced me otherwise. My hands cramp up after an about an hour of playing, and the tiny Joy-Con buttons and thumbsticks don't offer the most enjoyable experience for my large digits. I have come to the decision that tablet mode is best used for short periods of play, like on my 25-minute bus ride to the gym or the 15-plus minute wait I experience at the doctor's office.
How do those Joy-Con controllers feel? Are they all they're cracked up to be?
Russell: I've got larger hands, and find they cramp up a little more frequently than I'd prefer when using the Joy-Cons on the tablet. The lower joystick on the right side isn't great for me. I much prefer grabbing a Pro Controller or even putting the Joy-Cons in the included Grip so my hands don't cramp up as easily.
I love the flexibility, though. Everything you can do with these controllers is crazy. Being able to split a Joy-Con so my kids can play together is amazing. The motion controls are really slick. We don't even have games to take proper advantage of all the sensors yet, so this experience is going to keep getting better and that's incredible.
Lory: I recently wrote about how I feel about the Joy-Con controllers. I absolutely love them. Specifically, I love that I can play games with the controls separated. I, personally, haven't had any issues with hand cramps or uncomfortableness, and I'll play BotW for hours at a time. The only awkwardness I've noticed is that, because the - button on the left Joy-Con is right above the thumb stick, I have to reach over the stick to press the button. It's a minor issue, but an issue just the same. Other than the awkwardly placed - button, the separated Joy-Cons are the best gaming experience I've ever had. I rarely place the controllers into the Grip, and when I do, it's only for purposes of comparing my experience.
Luke: Overall the Joy-Cons have been a pleasant experience when I play for short amounts of time. I love the versatility of using one Joy-Con for multiplayer games like Super Bomberman R, even though they are very small and simple, it's awesome to be able to play with a friend locally right out of the box. That being said, the layout of the Joy-Con controllers do make for some awkward reaching, specifically for the "-" button on the left one, and is a source of discomfort.
Do you use the Grip or the Pro Controller, or both, or neither.
Russell: I lean more towards the Pro Controller at home, but would rather take the slimmer Grip with me when I'm out and about. It's a reasonably similar experience between the two for me, and I like having the options available.
Lory: As I mentioned above, I use the Joy-Con controllers almost exclusively, so I don't have much to say about the Grip, other than I was surprised at how comfortable it feels. We've all seen the pictures of how it looks. I mean, really? It looks like it would be super uncomfortable to hold. It's not. It's very familiar feeling, not entirely unlike a traditional gaming controller. Again, I've only used the Grip for small periods of time, so I'm not an expert in its overall satisfaction.
Luke: If I'm in TV mode or tabletop mode I'll be using my Pro Controller. It's a much more comfortable and familiar feeling experience for a serial console gamer like myself and it has great battery life (approx 40 hours). Plus, it has all the goodies the Joy-Cons have like motion control, HD rumble, and Amiibo support built-in with no connectivity issues to date.
I have used the Joy-Con Grip on a few occasions and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was. The Joy-Con Grip is good enough that I wouldn't call the Pro Controller an absolute necessity, but it certainly is useful and well worth the extra cash for serious gamers.
How about that TV Dock? Is it easy to use?
Russell: It doesn't really get easier. The TV Dock is the absolute definition of "it just works" when it comes to quick on and off use. The switch between tablet mode and TV mode is just about as instant as you can get, and I've yet to have a single problem with it.
Lory: Just like Russell said, it just works. Even though the Dock is your conduit to full-screen gaming, it really just feels like a charging dock. All you have to do is rest it in the slot and you're good to go. The connection port is so perfectly designed that sometimes I can't even tell whether I've set it in right (that's probably a bad thing). I'm not sure how anyone can scratch the screen by taking it in and out of the Dock. There is about an eighth-of-an-inch of room on either side of the slot. You'd really have to be mashing it around to press the screen against the Dock forcefully enough to cause it to scratch.
Luke: I dislike the TV Dock a lot. The fact that it stands up, makes it extremely hard to fit into my entertainment cabinet, so much so that I have to unplug the Dock and take it out of my TV stand to be able remove my Nintendo Switch. Plus, I disagree with Lory about scratching your screen. While there is clearance on either side, even being careful, I find it easy to drag my Switch across the cheap plastic when placing or removing the console from the dock. Although I haven't gotten any scratches yet, I ordered a glass screen protector because you can never be too safe. At the end of the day, I would have preferred that Nintendo just shipped the Switch with a USB-C dongle that had all three ports you need on it, inside of a cheap plastic box that essentially houses a dongle awkwardly.
What games have you played and which one is the best?
Russell: While I know Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is actually the best game, there's a special place in my heart for SnipperClips. I absolutely love this simple little puzzle game. The multiplayer aspect is flawless, the puzzles are unique and require a lot of thought and communication, and it's just plain fun no matter who you are playing with.
Fast RMX is also a pretty great racing game, and handled multiplayer very well. It's got a great classic Nintendo vibe to it, and the races are plenty challenging.
Lory: The clear winner, so far, in the very limited launch release of titles is BotW. It is, hands down, the best Zelda title ever made. I don't care what you say about Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past (believe me, I LOVE those games), Breath of the Wild is everything a Legend of Zelda title should be, and more.
As far as other games go, I've demoed SnipperClips and, contrary to how Russell feels, I was not into it. It is a spacial puzzle game. Players use adorable little half-Twinky shaped characters to fill in designated shapes by snipping away at parts of their construction paper bodies. It's cute, but not my type of game. To put it harshly, it's a $20 game that feels more like a $2.99 game you can play on your iPhone.
Luke: Unless you've been living under a rock this past week, you've probably already heard and read the overwhelmingly positive reviews of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It's truly the best game out of the rather week launch titles, in fact, it's quickly becoming one of my favorite games of all time.
I'm glad I have Bomberman Super R lying around because it's a great multiplayer game that's easy to pick up-and-play with a group of friends. Plus, it lets you use the Joy-Cons as separate controllers in the best way possible because Bomberman only uses the thumbstick and one button and the games go by quickly. You can have a lot of fun with your group of friends in 20 minutes with Super Bomberman R.
What other games are awesome and worth buying right away?
Russell: It's hard to go wrong with 1-2-Switch as a party game. This is basically a collection of minigames, but the execution is a lot of fun and the desire to compete with friends is instant. This is the game you bust out when friends have come over and need to do something silly, and I love it.
Lory: I haven't had the opportunity to play any other Switch games yet, but I've been watching some gameplay videos of I am Setsuna. That one looks like a really fun JRPG that I might spend some time with in the future.
Luke: Although I don't personally have it, 1-2-Switch seems like the best way to introduce people to the Nintendo Switch and it looks like it recaptures some of the magic that Wii Sports brought to the table. Plus, there's no better way right now to experience the awesomeness of HD Rumble feature in the Joy-Con Controllers.
If someone were to ask you why they should buy a Switch, what would be the one thing you think is its most important feature?
Russell: The most important thing here is fun. This console is a lot of fun, the games you can play on it are a lot of fun. It takes the things that were great about the Wii and the Wii U and makes it highly portable. It's also fun, not sure if I mentioned that.
Lory: To me, the biggest selling point of the Switch is the fact that you can transfer from TV gaming to tablet gaming seamlessly. I might be playing a game on the big screen when my significant other comes home, to which I used to stop playing – at least for a while so I'm not totally bogarting the TV all night. Now, when he wants to watch a horror film, I just grab my Switch from the Dock. No disconnecting any cables. No game saving. I can just continue right where I left off the very second it comes off the Dock.
Luke: Nintendo is the most important feature of the Nintendo Switch. Consoles don't sell themselves, games sell consoles. As long as Nintendo keeps putting out new franchise games like The Legend of Zelda and Mario, the Switch is worth having around.
What is your overall opinion of the Switch?
Russell: I am thoroughly enjoying the console, and the rest of my family is as well. So much so, in fact, that it's likely we're going to grab a second console before Splatoon 2 comes out this summer.
Lory: As far as hard specs of console gaming goes, Switch is clearly a huge step behind the likes of PlayStation and Xbox, if for nothing more than the fact that there are only a handful of titles available right now. That being said, the unique hybrid aspect of the Switch makes it my new favorite way to play video games. Before, I had to choose to either play big games on my TV or smaller titles on my 3DS. Now, I can play the same exact game without missing a beat on my TV or handheld device. It's like I've got my cake and I'm eating it too. Om nom nom.
Luke: I have enjoyed my overall experience with the Switch, but a big part of that has been the sheer brilliance of the new Zelda game. The Joy-Con Controllers and the portability have been pretty fun to experience, but they still have shortcomings. The longevity of the hardware is in question and the direction they want to take the Switch is a bit of a blur. I still can't figure out if this is a replacement for the Wii U, the 3DS, or both; however, I'm very excited to see what Nintendo does with this system and am more than happy to go along for the ride.
Should I go out and buy one ASAP or should I wait until later this year?
Russell: If you're able to find one right now, and really like Zelda games, you should pick one up as soon as you can. If you love the idea, but aren't super excited by Zelda games, you'll be happier to wait for the Summer.
Lory: I'm glad I got my Switch on day-one, but I don't think it's a necessary purchase right out of the gate. There are too few titles available to make it worth investing in right now. I suggest waiting until Christmas time. By then, a lot more games will be available, the online game section will probably be full-swing, and some of the minor issues with connectivity will likely be fixed. If you're a huge Zelda fan, and have the Wii U, just get it for that console for now.
Luke: Waiting till there's more titles and a clearer direction of where Nintendo plans on taking this crazy hybrid machine is the smartest choice. I will echo Russell's sentiments though, if you're a huge Zelda fan, get the Switch now and play Breath of the Wild. You will not regret it.
What do you think of the Switch? Did you preorder one, or stand in line in the freezing cold at midnight? Are you hoping to get one when they come back in stock? Or are you planning on waiting until there are more games available?
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Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!
By Daryl Baxter