The New Nintendo Switch

March 4, 2017
Phillip Martinez
Displayed with permission from Newsweek

This article originally appeared on iDigitalTimes.

Nintendo fans have been waiting for something to get excited about for some time, and the Nintendo Switch seems to be the answer for everyone who was disappointed by the WIi U.

The Switch is pegged as a combination of a traditional home and portable console while also showing that Nintendo is beginning to change with the times. Region locks are a thing of the past, purchases on the eShop are linked to Nintendo Accounts instead of consoles and significant third-party support are major signs Nintendo has learned from past missteps.

But does the hybrid console live up to the hype? After spending about a week and a half with the new console, I can say that I’m loving the Nintendo Switch. It’s an impressive piece of hardware that does everything it was set out to do masterfully, especially on the portable side.
SPECS

Power is not the name of the game for Nintendo, so those expecting it will be disappointed. That said, the Nintendo Switch does improve on its predecessor a great deal in terms of specs.

When the Nintendo Switch is docked, gamers will get up to a 1080p picture, which has become industry standard. However, when you transition from docked to undocked mode the quality does noticeably drop to 720p. This dip in resolution isn’t too surprising as portable consoles don’t have the capacity or capability to output that resolution on a smaller screen. For a handheld device, the Switch is very clear and a very noticeable upgrade from the current 3DS consoles.

The Nintendo Switch only comes with 32GB of memory out of the box, which is not a lot by any stretch for a gaming system. The Wii U had 32GB of internal storage, and we were hoping Nintendo would up that for the Switch, especially considering the PS4 and Xbox One come with much larger internal storage. The Switch does have expandable storage using microSD cards, which is a godsend considering the low amount of storage available in the box. Apparently Nintendo is banking on players purchasing the physical copies of games (and not downloading them to the system), because it’s hard to think of another reason for such a small amount of storage.

The UI is simple and clean, anyone can navigate to play a game or access the eShop. Adding multiple user accounts to the Switch is very simple, and I can’t wait to be able to change the theme of my Switch to my liking.
PORTABILITY

First and foremost, I’m a huge fan of Nintendo’s portable platforms. The Switch’s portability is the biggest selling point and for good reason.

The console is surprisingly light and compact. There are plenty of photos and videos of the console when it’s docked and undocked, but it’s really amazing to see how small the hardware is right out of the box (even after having had hands-on time with the Switch in the past).

The console itself is about the size the boxes your game discs come in, with the dock possibly doubling the size. The dock itself is light, and it’s simple enough to hook it up to the television. An AC adaptor and HDMI cable is all that is needed, which makes the Nintendo Switch the best console to travel with. That said, you’d definitely want a traveling case, especially for the console, where the screen is unprotected. Unlike the Nintendo 3DS, the Switch doesn’t fold in on itself to protect the screen.

I use New York City subways to get to work, and often I’m playing my Nintendo 3DS. The way the 3DS is designed makes it easy to carry around on my commute. The screen and buttons are protected by the casing, and even in a crowded train, I never worry it could possibly break. I can’t say the same for the Nintendo Switch. While it’s still compact enough to fit in my bag, with the Joy Con buttons and screen unprotected by anything (unless I have a traveling case, not included with the system) I’m not so sure that it can withstand the chaos of New York City subway commuting.

Of course, this is an extreme example, and the Nintendo Switch is fine if you have room on a train to play (or on a flight, or in the backseat of a car during a long road trip). Still, if I’m not comfortable taking my portable system on my commute then there is something to be said about the design.

The Nintendo Switch has six hours of battery life when undocked; however, for games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild you’ll consistently get three and a half hours of playtime before you’ll need to charge up again (more if you play with an eye toward conserving energy, like without sound). While it doesn’t seem like much, current 3DS systems get about the same amount of charge and without the power needed to run something as large as Zelda.

Nintendo does combat battery drain by having the Nintendo Swtich be compatible with USB Type-C connectors, which works with the AC adapter that comes with the system or to a battery pack, if you have the right connection/adapter.
CONTROLLERS

The Joy Cons are another innovative aspect of the Switch. Their rumble shock capabilities work wonders with games like 1, 2 Switch that simulate the different actions you take. The Joy Cons are intuitive enough to trace your movements while playing, similar to how the Wii remotes worked.

Another great function of the Joy Cons is that they work as two separate controllers for multiplayer games. One player can use the left Joy Con while the other uses the right. While this way of handling the controllers seems uncomfortable at first glance, it actually works pretty well. Your hands are not too close together and you won’t have a problem gripping it.

Snapping the Joy Cons onto the system and the Joy Con grip is easy enough, but they definitely made it look simpler to snap them off the console in the trailers.

The Joy Con grip is essentially a smaller Gamecube controller. It does look small (because it is) but not too small where those with large hands will have a problem gripping it. When I’m playing on my television or when a fighting game comes out for the Switch, I’ll definitely be using the grip because it was the most comfortable, especially for a gamer like me who tends to hold controllers way too tight. Even so, I played on the grip for hours with no problems.

Also, it should be noted that at the time of this writing I and other people who received the Nintendo Switch had some troubles with the Joy Cons de-syncing with the Switch when disconnected, especially the left Joy Con. Nintendo is aware of the issue, and whether they push out a firmware update to fix it is unknown. It is a shame though, considering how well they work when there is no issue. I had no problem once I removed anything that blocked the signals between the Switch and the Joy Cons.
BIG QUESTION MARKS REMAIN

A big question mark surrounding the Nintendo Switch was its lack of games that warranted a purchase. That was a huge reason why the Wii U failed. The list of confirmed games for the Nintendo Switch in its first year is pretty impressive. At launch, Zelda is a must-buy for the system, but is there anything else to warrant a purchase? There won’t be a Virtual Console at launch so fans can’t play their favorite games that they’ve purchased in the past just yet.

In the long run, I fully expect Nintendo to have learned from the Wii U’s failings and consistently release quality software for the system. The promise of third-party support is something fans have been waiting for, but how long can the Switch support these Triple-A games, in terms of specs, that continue to raise the bar?

The online component of the Nintendo Switch was not available at the time of this writing. Considering how subpar the internet service of Nintendo’s consoles tend to be, the company will have to deliver on this feature, especially considering they will begin charging for it in the fall.

A lack of non-game functionality at launch is a little troubling, as well. The Switch really could have made good on its portability if owners could stream movies or television.
VERDICT

Overall, the Nintendo Switch has merits as both a home and portable console. As a big fan of Nintendo’s portable platforms, I gravitate toward how the Switch works as an on-the-go system, but the way it can easily transition from portable to home system is so unique and flawless that it brings together the best of both worlds.

While the specs of the Nintendo Switch are nothing game-changing, it’s a sharp improvement over Nintendo’s other offerings.

The lack of launch titles may sway potential buyers to hold off on purchasing the system, and is ultimately one of many question marks surrounding the Nintendo Switch. Without access to online functions, it’s difficult to tell how well the new console will work in this market, but it’s a great sign to see Nintendo adopt industry standards on how they treat user accounts and their own consoles.

There’s still a lot of questions regarding the Nintendo Switch, but at face value it’s a great console that has a lot of potential. Now it’s up to Nintendo to realize that potential.

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