Written by Jordan Schaeffer // Edited by Andrew Busch // Banner Image courtesy of Nintendo
The Nintendo Switch was finally released on March 3rd. Supply hasn’t been a disaster like the NES Classic Mini Whatever, but it is a new console so it’s still going to take some time to get the system into the hands of everybody who wants one. Because I’m someone who managed/decided to get a Switch on launch day, I will lay out my experiences so far. Behold!
Let’s get the basics out of the way. The system is small. Pictures absolutely do not do justice to how compact this guy really is. When I opened the box for the first time I said to myself, “Wow, this is so small!” Whenever I show the system to someone who has not seen the thing yet (I work at a game store, so I’ve been bringing it with me to show coworkers and customers alike) the first thing they say is similar to my initial reaction. You get it. The Switch is small. Unexpectedly so.
The screen on this thing is gorgeous. Right after people comment on the size of it, I turn it on, usually to Zelda, and ONE. HUNDRED. PERCENT. of the time they will say, “Oh, Wow”. When they see it running so beautifully on that little handheld. Even the people I know that don’t care about video games, people who had no idea this thing even existed, will look at it and be immediately impressed by the size and output of the portable screen.
Of course, the big deal about the Switch is its hybrid nature. It doubles as both a console and a handheld. The first day I had it, I mostly just used it through the dock, hooked up to my TV. I would slap the joycons onto it when I had to get up and walk around with it just to see how it felt in its portable form. I admit, the first day it did take my eyes a minute to adjust to the different focus. Even years of looking at a TV, a laptop and a phone didn’t immediately prepare me for adjusting to playing the same game on such a different screen so quickly. Unless you have a bizarrely narrow TV, the Switch’s screen will have different dimensions, and that can throw you off at first.
However, as early as day-two that discomfort started to disappear. I started using the mode that made the most sense for me in the moment. The novelty was wearing off and I was starting to recognize the Switch’s utility. If I was settling down with a drink for a longer play session, I would slide it into the dock and use the TV. If I was just waking up and wanted to mess around with the game before my girlfriend woke up, I would grab the system and my headphones and play it as if I was quietly reading on my phone in the morning. I even played Zelda for twenty minutes on my lunch break and it was GLORIOUS.
The Switch is modular. But, what’s just as important is how easily it can change between its modes. After work one day, I busted out my Switch and gave two of my coworkers Snipperclips (a co-op puzzle game). I just flipped out the kickstand, handed each of them a joycon and let them go with it. Boom. From handheld to portable multiplayer console in like, what, four seconds?
The idea that you can just plop the system down on a table or a countertop and say, “Hey dude, wanna play multiplayer?” is LIBERATING in ways that could never have been imagined before the Switch. There are no wires, no obnoxious bluetoothy connections to mess around with. You just hand off one of the joycons and you are playing a game together in any setting instantly. I had no idea how cool this was until I had done it.
All that said, the Switch just feels good. It’s got a nice weight (.88 pounds, apparently) without feeling bulky in any way. The form on this thing is SLEEK. The joycons slot firmly into whatever bit you’ve got them connected to (ether the system or the included grip) and don’t feel loose or flimsy in the slightest. Whichever mode you’re playing it in, it will feel like the ‘correct’ one. I haven’t yet found myself in a place where I couldn’t get the Switch to do what I wanted it to. Sure, playing Zelda with the joycons loose like Wii remotes isn’t great, but the game even tells you not to do that. The fact that it’s even an option, however, is wonderful.
As far as problems are concerned, I have not had ANY of the issues I have been seeing reported online since the days before the system landed. My left joycon has not de-synched or died. I have not seen any signs whatsoever of ‘hairline scratches’ on my system from sliding it in and out of the dock. Battery life has been completely respectable as far as my usage has been concerned. When you get down to it, two-and-a-half or three hours is actually kind of a long time to be playing uninterrupted and with absolutely no access to a power source.
Speaking of battery life, one thing I have not seen mentioned at all in reports on the system is the length of time you can let this thing hang out in sleep mode without charging. I unhooked mine at 8:30 in the morning to go to work, had it unplugged all day, turned it on to show people Zelda a few times, and by 9:00 that night it was still in the high-90s. You don’t need to constantly babysit your system, as long as you’re responsible with it you can rely on it to be ready for you.
All in all, I have to say that my experience with the Switch has been overwhelmingly positive so far. The hardware itself is wonderful to interact with. The UI is clean, elegant, and fast. Any way you decide to play the Switch should leave you satisfied. I am VERY excited about what’s to come for Nintendo’s new system, and I find myself very eager to see what lands on the e-shop (and on shelves) each week.
At the same time, this brings me to my biggest anxiety with the system: it’s future. If Nintendo can secure that third party support like it has been hinting at, then the Switch has the chance to be a game changer that possibly even leads to a paradigm shift. And if we see releases of mainstream titles and great indies alongside them we should continue to see undoubtedly brilliant stuff from Nintendo’s new system. If things run this smoothly I have no doubts that the Switch will find a way to catch on with the mainstream and subtly change the way we play games in the process. It’s incredibly versatile nature completely unshackles you from what has traditionally been a limitation of gaming for its entire history. It does everything you could want it to with enough flair and novelty to be exciting. It also avoids confusing gimmicks that get in the way or grate on you by their insistent inclusion at every turn, like the Wii U gamepad at its worst or Wii remote waggle.
If that support dries up, however, we could once again see Nintendo in the position of having a piece of solid hardware that no one cares about. I sincerely hope this doesn’t end up being the case. I have early adopted the Switch, which is something I usually don’t do. But this time I pulled the trigger because I believe in what Nintendo is trying to achieve, and I know others in the industry do as well. I’ll continue to do my best to spread the word of the Switch to whomever I can. I can talk about it as much as I want, but if I’ve learned anything about Nintendo’s newest system, it’s this:
Once you get one in your hands, it speaks for itself.