So, I gone done Switched in the end, Dear Reader. Despite having done a substantial pros and cons list, thought aloud about purchasing a Gaming Device with not insignificant limitations, and having tried to rationally assess its value to my Gaming life, it was a complete lack of self-control what done for me in the end. Even worse, after making a few in-shop enquiries – and upon finding the vanilla Switch was still quite hard to get a hold of – I panicked a bit, and allowed myself to be talked into buying a big old Switch Bundle, meaning much of the cost/benefit analysis I had done was considerably out of whack as I gleefully handed over considerably more cash-money for my shiny new toy.
And, so far…….I’m not yet entirely convinced. After all the initial stroking and saying “my precious” a lot, I’ve not really become besotted with my Switch in the way I was expecting to, and certainly not in the way I was when I first got my PS4, Wii U, or PS Vita even. That’s weird, and slightly worrying, not least because it is a shiny new toy and, generally speaking, I’m a sucker for any new toy – particularly the shiny kind. Admittedly, some of my ambivalence likely stems from paying over the odds for my Switch (as a Yorkshireman, I like to get value for money), and some of it is a product of the Switch’s lack of games (a console’s only as strong as its line-up afterall), but even so, I’m still a long way from wholeheartedly loving the Switch in the way I did the Wii U.
Worried that I might be dead inside, or even that I’ve somehow become a proper adult by accident, I’ve been trying to understand why there hasn’t been the usual level of new-toy infatuation. I mean, on paper this should be a no-brainer – Nintendo + Console/Handheld hybrid + a new Zelda Game – but, in reality, that combo’s not hitting me in the tingly bits as much as I’d expected it to. After thinking about it for a bit, I realised that the Switch is, in many ways, giving with one hand whilst taking with the other; or, put another way, a lot of the stuff that makes the Switch unique and appealing is also often a reason it can all be a bit “meh” at other times, thus making the Switch a weird, confusing beast to evaluate. Sometimes the exact feature I think is as cool as fuck one minute, for example, becomes the very reason I’m finding myself distinctly underwhelmed the next and, as such, it’s genuinely quite hard for me to objectively – and consistently – assess my initial feelings about the damn thing. As you can imagine, not having a clue what the fuck I’m on about doesn’t bode particularly well for this piece either but a) them’s the breaks and b) I’ma do my best if you’ll be kind enough to bear with me.
The Good Stuff
Given the confusing dichotomy of the Switchey shenanigans, let’s start with the relatively straight forward area of the shit what I be actually liking about the Switch. The first thing that struck me as a Switch owner was how pretty and well-made the Switch was (see again; the stroking and whatnot). Unboxing my Switch, I was immediately taken with its design, and particularly with how solid and sleek everything seemed. The Switch is about a million miles away from the bloated, plastic-ey feel of the Wii U controller (thank fuck), and it’s of a decidedly more elegant design than were previous Nintendo handhelds, I think. In terms of aesthetics and build quality, the Wii U (and the DS family) looked and felt like they could’ve come into your possession via the medium of a Happy Meal, but the Switch is an altogether more refined and mature piece of kit with smooth finishes, clean lines, and a pleasingly robust and high-quality feel to it. It doesn’t quite reach the level of a high-end tablet, but it’s not that far off, and without the joy cons attached it’s certainly possible to mistake it for a half-decent, albeit slightly chunky tablet. Even the joy cons themselves are reasonably fancy, and whilst they are plastic, they certainly don’t feel cheap and they’re well designed and good looking in their own right (I opted for the grey ones), with a decent finish and sturdy, robust buttons and thumbsticks.
More importantly, when the joycons are attached to the screen, the whole package works well together aesthetically, it’s comfortable to hold and – even more importantly – it’s comfortable to play, and even after extended sessions I’ve found no ill effects. I’ve got hilariously fat, stumpy fingers (apparently), but I’ve yet to suffer from cramps, strains or show even a hint of developing crab claw so, all things considered, I’ma call that a win.
Once you turn the Switch on, this sense of maturity and finish extends to the console’s UI too, and operating the Switch is a calmer, more sophisticated affair. Gone is the cartoon-ey, jibbering scrum of Miis and in-your-face boingey-boingey sounds of the Wii U, and in their place you’ll find instead an altogether more restrained and relaxed system of menus and operation, with yet more clean lines and an aesthetically appealing interface. It’s a seemingly small thing, for sure, but I, for one, think it’s quite nice to be able to turn a console on and not be bombarded with Nickelodeon-on-smack levels of audio and visual stimuli, particularly if you are starting it up on, say, public transport or, like, in the toilets at work. It also just feels a whole lot more intuitive too, and more focused on quick, no fuss operation rather than lobbing every available diversion at you in the hope that something sticks. That might change once I’ve signed into my Nintendo doodah, but even if it does, I’m still expecting it all to be considerably more relaxed and restrained.
Anyway, so far so good, right!?
The Not So Good Stuff
Things got slightly more complicated when I started playing actual games though. Again, even though the hybrid thing really appealed to me in theory – and even though all the switching did have me giggling like a kid on Christmas morning for a short while initially – what I considered the best of both worlds one minute could easily be seen as kind of regressive the next. Popping Breath of the Wild between the TV and handheld modes was undeniably cool, as was having the option to continue Link’s adventures in bed or, erm….whilst I was using the facilities. Indeed, this maximisation of Gaming time was something I’d been very keen on from the get-go, and the Switch certainly opens up plenty of opportunities for that. Grabbing the odd half an hour of BotW when I found myself at a loose end was great – time I’d probably have spent just dicking around on Candy Crush pre-Switch – as was the flexibility of not being tied to a TV screen. This was of particular import given I was 6000 miles away from my own Gaming set-up, and having to grab Gaming time inbetween other commitments, so the versatility of the Switch was, for the most part, a definite bonus.
And yet…..at the same time, I found that versatility came at a price. Or prices, I guess. Even though the Switch’s games look pretty good in handheld mode, they’re not what I’d call mind-blowing, and it was always obvious that a) I was playing a handheld and, b) that Nintendo hadn’t completely managed to overcome all the limitations of handheld devices. Don’t get me wrong, Breath of the Wild was certainly up there with the very best of my handheld experiences in terms of size, graphics and ambition, but at no point did I ever really get the feeling handheld Gaming had made a huge, generational leap in the way I’d felt first playing the Vita, for example, where everything felt hugely more advanced than my PSP or original DS. For sure, some of the feeling-like-a-handheld stuff was physical: the tiny screen, and the weird tendency I have to try and get a better camera angle in-game by, like, physically moving the whole console and not just the thumbstick etc. Given the Handheld/Console hybrid thing though, that should’ve all easily been solved by playing the Switch on a TV, right!?
Well, sort of. Obviously I didn’t move the telly around in an attempt to change the viewing angle, so it solved that particular issue, but even on a proper TV, the Switch still seemed to offer a weirdly cramped experience. Moreover, it didn’t look particularly good – and even though the Switch claims to output at 1080p in glorious HD, everything just seemed a little…..I dunno….flat and patchy, I guess. It could be the TV I began playing it on, admittedly (my Mum’s not a big believer in the benefits/value of huge, high-spec TVs because of, like, kids in Africa or something) but honestly, it really felt like the Switch had stepped backwards. A full five years after the Wii U launched, the Switch seems to be no better in terms of graphics and display, and it’s downright fucking atrocious compared to my PS4 Pro, for example. With in-game lettering I could see pixels. Fucking pixels. Like how I could with the writing on my Master System. Because this is Nintendo, most of the Games looked bright and colourful, continuing Nintendo’s heritage of squeezing the best out of a system that seems weak on paper – but on the Switch it just seemed more obvious that this was a kind of sleight of hand, really. Breath of the Wild’s more open-world, less cartoon-ey approach, for example, seemed merely to emphasise that the bright, cartoon-ey elements of the other games (Splatoon and ARMS in particular) were likely covering a multitude of Graphical/Power/Upscaling sins. Again, nothing’s super terrible (apart from writing where you can see fucking pixels, obviously), but with the Switch arriving into (and competing with) my current Gaming Ecosystem, I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed by a device that’s in many ways inferior to ones I already own, and have done for some time.
Which brings me back to the Hybrid thing – because certainly that mitigates the above somewhat. The Switch is, for the most part, a much better handheld than my PS Vita, so as a whole package averaged out that, plus the inherent novelty of the hybrid-ing that the Switch brings to the table, means I’m still getting something for the cash-money I just threw at the Dude (and Nintendo) in the store. Afterall, I bought the Wii U long after my PS4 and Xbox One, and whilst it was vastly inferior to those (in terms of power, graphics etc), the quirky charm of the console and Nintendo’s unique approach to Gaming created a definite niche for themselves – so there’s every reason to think the Switch will too, right!?
Possibly. Probably. But a big part of the reason I can’t say for sure right now brings me to the current roster of Games which is, if we’re being honest, pretty piss-poor. Breath of the Wild is, in many ways, a great launch title for the Switch (demonstrating, amongst other things, Nintendo’s ambition and attempts to redefine Handheld Gaming) but, on the other hand, it’s also a slow-burner so it’s not grabbing me and, consequently, I’m not totally buying into the “play anytime, anywhere” thing as much as I’d hoped. Splatoon 2 and ARMS are great Nintendo titles, for sure, but they’re Short-burst type Games too, so whilst they are hitting the “play anywhere, anytime” sweetspot to a point, they’re not really hitting the “lose yourself for an entire plane journey” one. In short, it’s all adding to the general feeling of “meh”; or, to put it slightly more eloquently, even though the games are decent enough in their own right, they’re not yet enough to convince me that the Switch was a must-buy. Had I fallen in love with Breath of the Wild in the same way everyone else seemed to I’m sure that would have fundamentally changed that perception (more on that in another post, probably), and future Game releases may retrospectively alter it too but, for now, I’m decidedly underwhelmed with the whole Switch package at this early stage. On the more positive side, the battery life isn’t as much of a problem as I feared it would be – it tends to be on the upper side of the (hilariously vague) 2-6 hours estimates, and I’ve bought a power bank for longer journeys – so when Nintendo do release a Game that truly grabs me, I’m all set for those extended sessions on a plane/hiding in toilets.
The Possibly Good Stuff/Conclusion
Despite my general ambivalence, I can still just about convince myself that the Switch will establish itself in my Gaming life, given time. Obviously a few great Nintendo releases will make all the difference but, moreover, I can see the potential of what Nintendo were aiming for with the Switch and how I might come to appreciate that more and more. The hybrid thing might not be a true game changer, but it gives me options that are slightly better than exist with my current Vita and Remote play ones, and even the relative size and weight of the Switch’s passthrough box means I can take that with me when I travel, and having a genuinely portable console is an undeniably cool thing. This in turn highlights the general utility of all the “clicking in and out” engineering of the Switch’s controller set-up, and what could be seen as gimmicky is elevated to genuinely useful and smart when it means I can get a decent approximation of console Gaming on my longer trips to the UK. I mean, anything that actively mitigates Console Gaming withdrawal is objectively a good thing, right!? Whilst I would’ve loved to have been blown away by the Switch, and for this piece to have been an excited paean to Nintendo’s newest, paradigm shifting device, this is a relationship that’s going to take time to develop, I think. For sure, the Switch hasn’t wowed me, and many of my first impressions are decidedly meh, but there have been little glimpses of brilliance too; wee snapshots of how and why I’ll eventually come to really love the little bugger.
Maybe I have accidentally become an adult, but the flip-side of losing the new toy infatuation thing may well be that the Switch and I develop a more solid, long-lasting relationship built on something a bit more substantial than gimmicks and a short-lived wow factor. And that, in and of itself, is an important step for Nintendo given they’ve often wowed people with gimmicks and doodahs that’ve fizzled out (or been entirely abandoned) over time so, actually, in a weird way, my lack of early days excitement might just be the most exciting and innovative thing about the Switch.
Or something. Look, I did say it was all a bit confusing, innit!?
TL; DR – The Switch is all a bit confusing, innit!?
September 7, 2017 at 3:26 pm
I’ll probably end up getting a Switch when Super Mario Odyssey comes out. For now, I can wait knowing I already have what is probably the best game for it (as of this writing) on a different console.
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September 7, 2017 at 3:44 pm
Honestly, I think that’s probably a good course of action. I’m not regretting buying it per se, but I probably could’ve waited to get it given I’m not suddenly playing it all the time (and at the expense of my other consoles) and given there are really only a handful of Games for it right now.
I didn’t manage to pick up Mario + Rabbids before I left the UK, and I suspect I’ll have to wait until I’m back there at Christmas to get a hold of Odyssey, so for now it’ll just be plugging away at BotW, Splatoon 2 and ARMS when I’m in the mood.
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September 7, 2017 at 5:10 pm
My road to a Switch was similar to yours as I heard that a store had some and they were/are still hard to get so I rushed over there and snagged one (not a bundle though). I’m on the side of the fence that really likes it though. I haven’t utilized it in handheld mode that much but when I have, it seems perfectly acceptable and I think most of the games I’ve played look quite good in both display modes.
I haven’t played ARMS, Splatoon is fine, and I’m not in love with Zelda the same way some people are (it’s good but maybe a bit too sprawling for me right now) but MK8 Deluxe and Mario + Rabbids have me fully on board with the system. I’ve also put a good amount of time in to Puyo Puyo Tetris and Sonic Mania. I have 9 games now for the system (five retail, four downloads) and don’t feel the library is all that bad and for me at least, I’ll probably have more Switch games on my best of list for the year than any other system. Hopefully you’ll come around on it over time. 🙂
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September 7, 2017 at 6:14 pm
Yeah, I’ll get there, I think. For me, I guess it’s just not bringing much more to the table than my Wii U was (even that had a few “remote play” options with some games) right now, so I’ve not had quite the same “wow, how did I live without this for so long” type of reactions.
There’s definitely the potential for it to carve its own niche in my Gaming life, though, particularly as more and more Games begin to land. I’ve just been reading some stuff about the newly announced “Nindies” (ugh, I hate that name already) so even a few decent efforts there might be enough to gradually suck me in, longer term.
And yeah, I’m finding Breath of the Wild a bit too sprawling at the moment too. Although I like the idea of having a huge handheld game to dive into in theory, I think it’ll take me a while to get to the point where I’m so into it that I’ll be truly grabbing every opportunity to play it, if you see what I mean!?
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September 7, 2017 at 8:47 pm
I enjoyed reading this, as it definitely mirrors and also validates how I feel about the Switch thus far. Diehard Nintendo fan for three decades and I feel like it takes far more to convince me of a console these days. The 3DS more than did that, but it took a good 2 years before I recognized it as my favorite console of all time – the Switch has a long way to go.
While reading your piece, you mention the Vita a lot, and here is where I realized something interesting: folks who are gushing over the portability of this console seem to, in large part, not be owners of a Vita. The Vita was a huge leap forward in terms of features and console-quality games on the go. Hell, the form factor is even exactly the same on the Switch. When the Switch was first announced, some of the most excited were among the crowd that hangs out on /r/vita, because the form factor they thought was doomed due to Sony’s mishandling of the Vita over in the west would hopefully have new life breathed into it.
My point is, Vita owners need far more convincing of the Switch, because like you said, there isn’t that feeling of a huge leap forward in portable consoles, to them. The Vita was and is an incredible system with loads of amazing games. For half the price of the Switch, I got a brand new Vita a year ago to the day, and have over 25 physical games gracing my shelf for it and thousands of hours of good memories from it. Not to mention all the games are sub $20 today.
Coming from a DS, the Vita’s graphical prowess was simply incredible, but going from a Vita to a Switch? Well, the graphics are nice, but given the length of time before each console release, they’re certainly not mind-blowing.
I’ll spare ranting about Zelda and the absurd levels the press went through to capitalize on reviewing it, but aside from Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (a remake), I haven’t done much gaming on my Switch. Hell, I just bought a PSP recently to fill the gap until Mario Odyssey comes out, which I think I will like far more than Zelda. Leave it to an 11 year old console to fill in the gaps.
I’m still super optimistic, but we need those big titles first. I bought it launch day but I still maintain it’s a “wait to buy” console. Mario Odyssey and Xenoblade 2 I’m convinced will be some of the finest gaming I do in years. When the big boys like Rockstar (recently announced for LA Noire and hopefully GTA games soonafter), and Atlus, Bioware, etc, start rolling out those games and covering Gamestop shelves with quality, then we’ll see our friends in Japan prosper. Personally, if given the choice, I’d tell my friends to skip the Switch until next year and get a Vita in the meantime before the prices go up.
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September 7, 2017 at 9:24 pm
Yeah, I definitely think a big part of my “meh” reaction was precisely because I love my Vita, and the Switch wasn’t such a huge leap from that really (especially because you can kind of do the hybrid thing with Vita with the little PlayStation TV doodah too). Plus, given I’ve gotten so many great Vita games free with PS+ over the years, the Switch library really needs to step up to compete with that, I think.
So, in that respect, I agree with the stuff about big titles, for sure – and even just a couple of brilliant, quintessentially Nintendo Games could almost instantly make the Switch my go-to console for at least a while.
I’m also a huge fan of handheld Gaming in general, for various reasons, so I’m really hoping the Switch does come to represent a great iteration of it, and even if it takes a bit of time to get there, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt in the meantime.
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September 8, 2017 at 12:05 am
Yeah! Team Vita!
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September 7, 2017 at 11:20 pm
I can relate! My shiny new toy feeling faded quickly when I got mine. I blame HZD for crushing my interest in Zelda and the Switch. I haven’t been able to get back into BoTW and I literally turned my Switch on for the first time in two months the other day, just so I could add a friend. Being an adult sucks. What’s wrong with me? I use to be cool… 😦
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September 8, 2017 at 12:13 am
I know, right!? Adulting’s definitely not what it’s cracked up to be.
I mean, I don’t think I was ever “cool” per se, but still….. 😉
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September 8, 2017 at 1:29 am
This is probably the most honest review I’ve read about the Switch. Thanks for writing!
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September 8, 2017 at 1:32 am
Cheers, that’s very kind. And, like, thanks for reading it too! 😉
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September 8, 2017 at 8:08 am
I think we’ve landed in different spots here. I was given the Switch as a gift, and whilst I was worried about finding games to play on it, in the 3 months I’ve had it I’ve put over 80 hours into Zelda, a further 40 into Splatoon and probably 20 or so into the recently released Mario + Rabbids and a few hours here and there into smaller, eShop titles.
I love the thing. It fits into a slot in my life that I didn’t know I had, and has almost made my Playstation redundant (Granted, that’s likely more to do with my gaming PC being where I choose to play high-end games likes Destiny, The Witcher etc etc).
I’m sold on the Switch. Emphatically. If I could get all my games on that platform, I likely would. What a shill.
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September 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm
Yeah, I think pre-Switch expectations (or lack thereof) possibly explain (or at least partially explain) our somewhat different reactions. In your case, as somebody who got it as a gift (i.e. free – 😉) and who wasn’t necessarily expecting anything in particular, there was less room for disappointment, I think, and more room to be pleasantly surprised. Whereas I think I’d already been affected by the hype, paid a considerable wad for the thing, and therefore had slightly different expectations/more room for disappointment.
Also, a key difference I think (as mentioned in the comments above) is the fact that I already owned both a Vita and a Wii U. That negated the novelty of the Switch to some extent, both because the Vita is a similar hardware/playing experience, and because the Wii U is a similar Nintendo-y experience (I had a similar reaction to you when I first got my Wii U, for example, but the Switch is just more of the same, really). This feeling was emphasised by the fact that two (of the few) physical releases for the Switch were already Wii U releases, Splatoon 2 was more of the same (I loved Splatoon, but I just played it fairly recently) and with Breath of the Wild, I was having trouble getting into it (possibly because I’ve also just played two excellent Zelda games that are *very* different from it). That basically left me with ARMS for a genuinely new Nintendo fix/Switch-ey experience, and given that I’m not dead keen on flinging my arms around to play it with the wee joycon doodahs, that’s basically a fun, but not entirely engrossing way to pass a bit of time.
So, yeah, in essence, I think that all meant I was coming at the Switch from a different place, and with less potential to be wowed/more room to be disappointed with what it is (at least) initially bringing to my Gaming life.
September 9, 2017 at 2:06 pm
Nice review of a system that I think is still really finding its legs. The hybrid aspect still remains to be seen if they can avoid being a master of none, but I have definitely appreciated the portability on trips I’ve taken it on. I do wonder what will befall the 3DS line given this crossover.
Also I very much agree with “Gone is the cartoon-ey, jibbering scrum of Miis and in-your-face boingey-boingey sounds of the Wii U, and in their place you’ll find instead an altogether more restrained and relaxed system of menus and operation.” I was quickly sick of the clunky and strange interface of the Wii past. Glad Switch has cleaned that up.
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September 9, 2017 at 2:19 pm
Cheers. And yeah, I think there’s going to be a bit of a “finding its legs” period, particularly given it’s competing in a wider, more competitive Gaming Ecosystem that’s very different from launches past.
And the new interface is definitely a lot easier and nicer to navigate, for sure. I mean, I get that Nintendo aim for the “fun”, but it could all be a bit too much at times.
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September 9, 2017 at 4:45 pm
A thorough and honest write up–which I appreciate. When I bought the Switch, I was super pumped for Breath of the Wild. The game was a lot of fun but when I completed the game, I pretty much set the Switch aside for a month. Since then, I have returned to it sporadically, buying a game every now and then, but nothing has captivated me as much as BotW.
My biggest issue with the Switch is the game selection. I check Reddit quite often and am familiar with the whole “but the Switch is still new, give it time” argument. But here’s what worries me about the game selection: the eShop is being pumped full of indie and mobile titles (some, if not many of them, arguably of low quality). I have nothing against indie or mobile games, but I didn’t necessarily buy the Switch to be an indie machine. I know, should have done more research as a consumer and bleh.
I’m excited for Mario Odyssey and the other big Nintendo titles coming out next year. And as I said the other day, I’m hopeful for more third party content. Let’s hope the Switch delivers on both fronts. It’s a clean little machine with a lot of promise.
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September 9, 2017 at 5:34 pm
Absolutely agree about games – both in terms of numbers and quality. The decision to release the Switch with only a handful of physical titles (some of which were also Wii U games) was just bizarre, so I think Nintendo really need to keep them coming steadily, and for them to be genuinely brilliant.
Third party support was essentially one of the Wii U’s biggest problems, so that also needs to be addressed this generation, but early indications are good (or at least better), I think.
On indies, I get what you’re saying, and plugging the Triple-A gap with sub-par games that are basically mobile games isn’t the answer, and it’ll only go so far to mitigate the lack of titles anyway. There’s a balance, though, because one of the things I love about the Vita is the choice of “little” games on the PlayStation store (or that I get free with PS Plus), so it’s mostly a good option to have (assuming Nintendo do their due diligence in terms of not just letting any old shite on there). In my case, though, a big part of the problem is that I have *already* played some of these games (or variations of them) precisely because they’re available on the Vita, so even that particular stop-gap’s not as much of an option for me as it is for non-vita people.
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