Even though the Wii U launched only a few years ago, it feels like we’ve been waiting forever for the Nintendo Switch to finally arrive. The system existed as rumor for so long, codenamed the Nintendo NX and causing every gamer and industry analyst to put forward crazy ideas about what this system might be. Once it was finally unveiled, it all made a lot of sense, with Nintendo combining their home console and handheld divisions together to form one big happy family. Now, after years of waiting, the system is here in my hands, and I’m gonna tell you all that I can about it.
First off, this is not a review at all, you’ll have to wait a while for that. This is a first impressions sort of thing, so expect some generalization here. This article is based off of just a couple of days with the console, and only being able to play one game, which you’ll have to wait another day to read my impressions of so far. So, with that said, here’s how the first couple of days have been with the Nintendo Switch.
I wanna say “they’ve been awesome!” and be all fanboyish about this. If you’ve followed this site then you know that I am a Nintendo fan through and through. However, I want to be objective about this whole thing, and so far I’ve been happy, but there are issues.
The system is well made, feels great, and is a definite game changer in a number of ways
Let’s get those out of the way. To start, there’s simply not much you can do with the Nintendo Switch. This is, of course, pre-launch, so the eShop is offline, and updates haven’t even been issued yet. However, with the lack of an internet browser and any form of video watching, you need to understand going in that the Nintendo Switch is a video game system only at the moment. Those things are all coming down the road, but for now you are buying this console to play games, and only play games.
As for the hardware itself, it has the usual high level of Nintendo quality. The system is surprisingly small as well. Even though I knew this was supposed to be a handheld of sorts, I still expected something on par with the Wii U Gamepad. Instead it is like an over-sized 3DS XL. It is light enough to not be a bother, and I’m actually thankful that Nintendo didn’t go crazy with the thinness. It is thicker than a normal tablet, making it easy to hold. I also appreciate that Nintendo has loaded this thing up with logos. There’s no doubt that you are playing on the Nintendo Switch, and people will certainly not be as confused as they were with the Wii U. Overall I’m very happy with the design and construction of the Nintendo Switch.
“But what about the actual system and its UI,” you ask. This is where Nintendo has really stepped up their game. The Switch is sleek from top to bottom, both in its build and the system interface. You can check out a video of the initial startup and some exploration of the OS. It currently has little to nothing to actually do, but after the sluggish performance of the Wii U, the Switch is a complete breath of fresh air. It works wonderfully and getting it setup is a breeze.
Controlling it is simple as well, either using the touchscreen in handheld mode, or the Joy-Con when it’s in the dock. Plugging into the dock is always fun, by the way, it just has this kinetic feel to it, and seeing the system pop over to the TV is a strange delight. When in the dock you’ll be using your Joy-Con, which nestle comfortably into the provided charging dock, becoming a fairly standard controller. I say “fairly standard” because the Joy-Con have definitely been made for portability.
The analog stick is the first giveaway, with it being shorter and smaller than most others of its kind. The buttons are also small, and somewhat close together in comparison to other controllers. It still works, but those with larger hands might feel a bit cramped. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a Switch Pro Controller yet, but I anticipate it will serve as my home controller, with the Joy-Con working as a much better portable control method.
As far as how the Switch works as a handheld, I haven’t spent enough time with it to say for sure, but so far it’s very promising. The screen looks great, and the Joy-Con are easily the best handheld control method ever produced by Nintendo, or Sony for that matter. It feels great in the hand, with just the right balance of size and weight.
It’s almost surprising the first time you walk away from the dock, anticipating the usual Wii U disconnection screen, and the game just keeps on running. It will be really crazy to be able to do that with Zelda, Mario Kart, and Splatoon. Battery life will be a concern, of course, but it’s looked good so far, and with standard USB C charging, I’ve already got the tools to keep it topped off on the go.
Nintendo Switch UI and Setup Walkthrough
So far my first two days with the Nintendo Switch have been very pleasant. The system is well made, feels great, and is a definite game changer in a number of ways. Nintendo has once again nailed the hardware aspect of the console, so it’s just a matter of beefing up the OS, allowing more functionality than just game playing, and getting the games out that people want to play. With the first year of releases looking great, it seems like they’ve got that second part sewn up already.