Two months ago on Friday, 3rd March, Nintendo released its latest games console in the form of the Nintendo Switch. The hybrid console serves as both a traditional home video game machine and an equally-powerful portable system too. This seamless change in design has allowed us to experience games in a completely different way what we’re used to seeing – Sorry, PlayStation – and it’s proving to be incredibly popular, beating expectations and managing to be almost completely sold out wherever you look.
With two months now under Nintendo’s belt, we’re taking a look at some of the key things that make the Nintendo Switch so exceptional.
The Games – Yes, the Switch actually has some great ones
A well documented shortcoming is the Nintendo Switch’s limited library, and while it boasts perhaps two of the best games ever made, there was that achingly long first month with little to play aside from Breath of the Wild. As good as that game is, it’s great to see gems like Wonder Boy, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Snake Pass and now Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the system. However, with only two AAA Nintendo exclusives in the form Zelda and Mario Kart, consumers may not feel the need for Nintendo’s new system until there are more games strictly designed for the Switch.
Jim sums up his thoughts on how the games library has affected his stance on buying a Switch below:
Originally I was part of the Switch first wave brigade but changed my mind at the very last second, buying a copy of Breath of the Wild for the Wii U instead. For the asking price, I simply couldn’t justify buying another platform – especially not with the onslaught of releases for PlayStation 4.
That doesn’t mean I’m any less interested in the Switch and I’ve been following how it’s been received among the press and people I know personally, but I’m glad I didn’t commit to buying one. Having played an inhuman amount of Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, I’ve had my fill of that already, and I can’t say I’m that fussed about Splatoon 2 either.
It’s still early days for the Switch and if I’m going to make a purchase I need to see at least 4 or 5 exclusive games I really want to try. Hopefully Nintendo will reveal such games at this year’s E3.
Jim is something of an outlier here, though. The Wii U has barely snuck past the 13 million mark in its four years on the market, so for an awful lot of potential buyers, Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will be new and unique. Also, those multiplatform games might be spread across other formats, but you can’t take them with you when you leave the house.
The portability of the Switch makes gaming – even for larger games like Zelda – feel more practical and can allow players to tune in to the game for short bursts. I’ve really enjoyed taking The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with me on my commute to work and not been torn away from the game in the slightest – even if I only allocated 15 minutes of my day to completing the game’s shrine puzzles, I’d feel like I’d be progressing. This seamless way of playing at home or on the go is a great selling point for casual gamers that have limited free time.
The Joy-Con – A new way to play games
Joy-Cons are two-part controllers which slot into either side of the main Switch unit or combine to create a joypad that sits in a grip. This makes for a more comfortable experience the player is gaming for hours at a time. Players can also split these Joy-Cons to play two-player games with little to no handicaps in controls – this is best featured in Snipperclips, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Pocket Rumble which we saw at EGX Rezzed last month. It is because of this that I’ve not necessarily had to isolate myself away from society to play the Nintendo Switch for long hours at a time, as I can take it anywhere but also include others in my experience.
In fact, Tef shared an example of how practical the Joy-Con can be:
Literally as soon as I got my hands on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at the little review refresher from Nintendo, I was off to visit Ubisoft to play something completely different. What else could I do on the journey but quickly pop the cartridge into my Switch, prop it up and pass a second Joy-Con to a fellow games journalist for some impromptu split-screen multiplayer on the train. It’s perfect for killing 30-odd minutes of idle time and you don’t even need to think about it or plan ahead.
The Technical Issues
The only technical issues I’ve experienced with the Nintendo Switch is the well-known left Joy-con desyncing issue which just randomly occurs when least expected. This is particularly frustrating when playing online competitive games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and losing races as a result. I’ve also experienced some system level freezes while being able to play Breath of the Wild with no issue to the game itself. This just made the Nintendo Switch run extremely hot, leaving me unable to access the home menu, screenshot or put it to sleep. The only solution was to hard reset the console by holding down the power button for 30 seconds, but Nintendo can clearly still make the system software more… pleasant.
Considering how common my problems were, Dave actually had completely different technical issues to me:
My only main problem is something a patch can easily resolve – migrating downloaded titles from system storage to the SD card and backing up save files. It’s fantastically dumb that you can’t do these simple tasks currently. Other than that, I like the portability, and I like the fact that playing with friends is as simple as handing them one Joy-Con.
What’s next for the Nintendo Switch?
As Jim alluded to, there’s more games on the way, with a steady trickle of major first party games over the next few months, including ARMS – replete with the first new colours of Joy-Con – and Splatoon 2, which was test fired recently. Both of those, however, release after the E3 trade show in Los Angeles, and Nintendo are planning their now traditional E3 Direct and accompanying Nintendo Treehouse event to show of new and already announced games.
You can expect to see more of Super Mario Odyssey, and so far Nintendo have only paid lip service to the likes of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Fire Emblem Warriors, and another as yet unnamed Fire Emblem game. There’s bound to be further announcements, but there’s also burning questions about how and when Nintendo will roll out their mobile app-based online service, how and when Virtual Console games will appear on Switch and plenty more besides that.
What’s clear from the first two months of the Switch’s availability is that there’s a real appetite for its innovative design and the kinds of games that can bring, both conventional and innovative. It’s now up to Nintendo to carry that forward and we’re eager to see what more they have in store.