Dear Nintendo, Thank You For the Switch
MY NINTENDO HISTORY
So, Nintendo's new toy is out. Like most, Nintendo was my childhood entry into the world of gaming, and they've stayed with me for many years to follow. Starting with RBI Baseball on my uncle's Nintendo Entertainment System all the way to Super Mario 3D World on my own Wii U, I've experienced every system Nintendo released from 1985 forward.
To this day, I'm enamoured by the retro games I played that not only offered unforgettable chiptune soundtracks, but challenging gameplay without any modern handholding whatsoever. You could not buy me away from Nintendo stuff as a kid. Sadly, as Nintendo moved on, I found the GameCube to be the last Nintendo system I truly enjoyed owning. The Wii and Wii U were definitely fun, but aside from the occasional gaming shebang with friends, I rarely found myself reaching for the quirky remote and tablet. To be honest, these were the eras I explored other offerings like the PlayStation 4, but even that ultimately didn't offer the joy I experienced from my childhood days.
THE INITIAL SWITCH
The Switch had a lot to live up to. I was afraid that Nintendo's next offering would follow suit to its previous two launches, and I would ultimately pick up a console that would be used as a tabletop dust magnet. Honestly, when the Switch reveal commercial came out, I wasn't 100% convinced. Gaming outside looked fun, but as very few people played multiplayer on my Nintendo handhelds with me, I couldn't immediately see piles of people bringing an even bulkier tablet system around everywhere. It didn't really help that the commercial heavily focused on the game Skyrim, a game I have probably spent so much of my life playing since 2011 that I've forgotten what the word "replayability" means. If a 5 year old game was among the best they could show, I needed further convincing. With this sense of unease around the reveal, I sat on my hands and eventually let the preorder period bypass me.
I noticed a few people around me at work getting their preorders in, and I noticed that their $399 CAD was not even netting them a game. I thought this was a sign that I should ultimately wait for a price drop or a bundle set release before diving in. While I did indeed grow up with Zelda games, they certainly aren't my favourite games, so I was in no big rush for Breath of the Wild.
Lo and behold, March 3 arrived and I ended up hanging out with a friend that got his Switch preorder, along with Breath of the Wild and 1-2 Switch. My first gaze upon the Switch's tablet form was that it was smaller than I thought it would be. It was honestly not that much larger than my iPhone 7 Plus, which is a device I don't consider to be huge (credits to CNET for the image above). The neon Joy-Cons had a very appealing hue, which Nintendo's product shots just don't do them justice. If you're deciding between the Grey or Neon set, see if you can glance upon the neon controllers first. They are really pretty.
Quickly, we docked the Switch and the TV lit up with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I will definitely do a much more in-depth impression of the game on a separate post, but just by watching the game being played for about half an hour, I wanted to try it out for myself. I was also really impressed by the Switch Pro Controller we were using, which is the first controller I genuinely like more than the fantastic XBOX 360 controller.
Just to get to a multiplayer game, we popped in 1-2 Switch. Sadly, this one wasn't nearly as exciting and ultimately even had some disappointing reveals for me. However, it was fun just to try out and we still had a legitimately good time overall. Once again, I'll do a separate post for 1-2 Switch, but the game taught me three things. One, the Joy-Con wrist straps don't feel nearly as nice to slide on and off as the Joy-Cons on the Switch console itself. Two, the Switch has undoubtedly crushed every UI issue prior Nintendo systems had- terribly long load times. The Switch can jump in and out of games in a snap, and it can even hop into minor apps like the eShop and Settings without having to close the game you're playing.Finally, the HD Rumble feature is truly something that can add to upcoming games. If you are unaware of the feature, the Joy-Cons can radiate very specific types of haptic feedback to resemble things like numerous cubes of ice clinking against each other. It's well built, and it's an addition I love experiencing in different ways for each new game I try out.
50 SHADES OF GREY
After a good firsthand experience with the Switch, I took on the impossible challenge of trying to find one. I was honestly just going to drop by an EB Games on my way to work the day of the launch, as I still wasn't sure if I wanted to fork over almost $500 for the console and a game alongside it. EB Games actually had a midnight launch, but as public transit loves to stop running early, it wasn't an option for me. While I was sad they had no consoles left when I visited later in the day, I learned of their great promotion with Wii U trade-ins. The console itself would net $150 credit towards the Switch, and each game I owned would get double value towards the same.
It wasn't too long after that my friend I originally played the Switch with had his second preorder come in. As he only preordered the extra in case the first one came late, he was just going to return it without opening it. However, he was considerate enough to sell it to me at cost, not like the loads of terrible scalpers that have overthrown sites like Craigslist and eBay. While I was very grateful for his generosity, it was the Grey Joy-Con console, and I really wanted to end up with the Neon version.
LET THE TRADING AND SPENDING BEGIN
But at the very least, I had a Switch console in my hands. I stuffed my backpack with my Wii U console and all of its accessories/games, plus some extras from my PS3 and 3DS collections, then headed out to the local EB Games. With their crazy promotions, I not only was able to pick up Zelda at no cost, but I also preordered Puyo Puyo Tetris, ordered a Pro Controller and stand, and eventually even preordered Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and picked up Just Dance 2017. Just Dance will get its own post soon, but do keep an eye out for the Puyo Puyo Tetris and Mario Kart posts down the road as well. I even traded in the Grey Joy-Cons and picked up a neon set.
As you can see, I was really getting into the Switch's offerings. The reason for that was Zelda captivating me so much, and the Switch subsequently impressed me with the ability to play the full-fledged game on the bus and at work as well. I was hooked on the concept, and because it was so much easier to take around than I originally expected, my coworkers were consistently bringing their Switch to work as well. My misjudged concerns of local multiplayer were dissolving right before my eyes.
SO LET'S ACTUALLY TALK ABOUT THE HARDWARE AND ACCESSORIES
The Switch is a prime example of Nintendo's credo of "gameplay over specs". While PlayStation and XBOX focus on pumping out consoles that can utilize the newest 4K resolutions with power inching closer and closer towards computers, the Nintendo Switch incorporates a 720p handheld resolution with a 1080p docked resolution. However, as the Switch's screen is tiny compared to a television set, the 720p looks nice and crisp. At the end of the day, I don't even really care about that stuff as long as the games themselves are fun.
As previously mentioned, the Joy-Con controllers slip on and off the console beautifully. As they slide back in, a locking animation displays on the screen (in the same colour as your connected Joy-Con, nice touch) and plays the iconic Switch click sound. It's a seamless experience jumping from attached controllers to disconnected Bluetooth play. They have beautifully micro-switched clicky buttons and analog sticks with just enough resistance to kick back against your inputs. I really like them, and I finally appreciate the claim that playing games with your hands untethered is very enjoyable.
Not as smooth are the wrist strap attachments, which honestly feel like I'm fighting with the safety mechanisms to detach, even with said safeties disabled. But while they're on, the thinner straps felt less bulky to keep on than the Wii's offerings, and it gives the Joy-Cons more pronounced trigger buttons when sharing them to play multiplayer games. Oh yeah, isn't that just fantastic? This is certainly the first console I ever bought that has two controllers bundled inside!
There have been reports of the dock itself scratching the Switch's plastic screen. Yes, the screen is certainly plastic, and was chosen over glass for its infinitely better lifespan against drops. However, after almost 2 weeks of using it, mine doesn't have a single scratch. Being a plastic screen, I definitely did purchase a tempered glass screen protector, but I'm still waiting for it. Just dock your Switch with care and treat it like it's actually a $400 piece of tech! For reference to the Switch's durability, be sure to check out JerryRigEverything's video above (not for the faint of heart, RIP sacrificial Switch unit.)!
Really quickly, I rather like the included grip controller and how it feels, but surprisingly, I enjoy using the Joy-Cons separated! Personal preference, I suppose. I just like how both options do feel quite nice, but as I picked up a Pro Controller, the grip is probably going to either sit in the box or act as a P2 accessory for me.
Now, onto the Pro Controller itself. Up until the Switch, my favourite controller was that of the XBOX 360, working instantly well with my computer games and utilizing some great feeling buttons and triggers. However, the Switch Pro Controller has surpassed that and is now my favourite by far. Every portion of this controller feels insanely solid, with a great grip and a unified button press all around. It even has support to Bluetooth to so many other devices, making it an invaluable gaming tool, no matter your preferred platform.
Most importantly, the Switch console itself is a mostly plastic creation with a nice weight and feel to it. The battery life on the Switch console has actually been on par with its 3+ hour claims. I absolutely adore how it can use the same USB-C cable as my new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. It has a small kickstand that works well on stable surfaces, but immediately falls over on places like your couch, lap or bed. If the design could allow it, I would have loved to see a kickstand similar to Microsoft's Surface tablets, but I still find CNET's gripes with the kickstand unwarranted and downright ludicrous. It's such an overblown claim, and you can see the madness for yourself above. It works fine for normal people, and for those lumpier surfaces...
...Hori is a company that is well-known for producing excellent joysticks for arcade games, but they have dipped their feet into the pool of the Switch's success by releasing some early accessories for the system. The Hori play stand is an unfoldable stand with adjustable viewing angles, and the Switch sits very snug inside the holster. It acts as a great solid replacement to the built-in kickstand. The Hori Tough Pouch had a nice textured feel to its outer shell, but I ultimately sold the case to a workmate as it was missing both elastic straps to secure the Switch itself, and it also didn't have any mesh pouches to hold any accessories either.
A HUNGRY BEAST
Now I'm faced with my biggest current issue with the Switch, waiting for more stuff to play. After about 60 hours, I had completed most of Zelda's side quests alongside of its main storyline. I picked up Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (which is the version everyone should get) from the eShop and am playing that as my main Zelda replacement, and just for my calorie-roasting needs, I picked up Just Dance 2017. Articles on those games are coming as well, but once again, my next big physical release will be at the end of April. I find myself constantly going back to the currently quite barren eShop, hoping to find something new I want to try.
I'VE SWITCHED MY OUTLOOK
With all of that said, I have been absolutely loving the Switch. Even with only two games I dare play outside (I'm not dancing on the bus like in the commercial, sorry), it still has me booting it up whenever I'm not sleeping or working. It doesn't have the advertised online mode as of yet, and with games like Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey in the distance, I'm challenging myself to nab all of the intensely difficult feats within Shovel Knight. I can't wait for what's to come into the new eShop, and I will definitely continue to enjoy Nintendo's new money-printing baby. If you haven't already, hunt one down and give it a shot. Worst comes to worst, we're in a time where you could get all of your money back selling it used to someone else. Just please, don't scalp it and resell it for much more than what it's actually worth.
The Switch is getting direct video recording down the line, which will also be a big feature. My only complaint is...why can't I use my AirPods with them? The Joy-Cons utilize Bluetooth, allow us to connect Bluetooth headphones to the system! I have since tucked my extra EarPods into my bag and have to carry it whenever I want to use the console.
Here's to hoping the success of the Switch continues, and Nintendo utilizes the momentum to add these missing features. Until then, it's time for me to "switch" off. Check back for the individual detailed posts about the games and more Switch-related content soon!