Monday, March 13, 2017

First Impressions: Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is now available for purchase if you can find one (more on this later). I just got my hands on the new offering from Nintendo this past Thursday. With a few days of experience I have a few first impressions that I want to share. To be honest I haven't been this excited over a console in a long time. The Wii came close to capturing my imagination, but I wasn't an early adopter. I usually wait until the console drops in price a few times before picking it up. I'm currently waiting for the PS4 to do this while I try to catch up on PS3 games.

The Switch is different. This is what I think Nintendo envisioned for the WiiU, but for some reason had to take a baby step to get here. This is a marriage of console, mobile, and tablet gaming. I see this console as being everything gaming in one package. It's capable of appealing to all gamers like the Wii did for a short time, but the Switch is more. Let me get into it. Just as a disclaimer, I have only played Breath of the Wild so far. Any references to gameplay elements will be referring to that game.

The Joy-Cons

The Joy-Cons are what they call the controllers for the Switch. The first thing I noticed was how light these things are. Compared to the Wii controllers these are tiny and they have a lot more buttons. Each controller has 9 buttons and a control stick giving you a total of 18 buttons to play with. You have 2 trigger buttons on the top, 4 standard buttons above or below the control stick, 1 home button or screenshot button, pushing down the control stick is another button, and a + or - button which are functionally like start/select. There are 3 ways you can use them, attached to the console while using it as a tablet, attached to the grip that comes included, or connected to included attachments with lanyard-like toggles similar to the Wii controllers. The grip I will likely never use, but if you are planning to I just read an article saying there is a bug with it that makes it almost unplayable in that mode. My preferred method is to use the free hand approach similar to the Wii. If you have kids, I can see these small attachments being the first pieces destroyed or lost even though when using them properly they are attached to the controllers and your wrist.

Now let's talk about actually using the Joy-Cons. There is no curved backing to make these things fit in your hand. It is like holding a light smartphone in each hand that is half the width while trying to manipulate them both at the same time. I've fumbled them more than once. I am used to my Galaxy Note Edge phablet which feels huge in comparison. If they weren't attached to my wrist I would have dropped them at least a dozen times while playing. I have not had any issues with lag or responsiveness thus far. The motion controls on these are super responsive. While playing I have had to make sure I'm not tilting them because it causes my aim to drift. I don't plan to use the grip because of multiple instances where I needed to flip the controller upside-down for tilt controls which would be awkward using the grip. The controller's battery life thus far has been impressive. I charged them once, and the battery has not gone below half way. I have yet to switch them out for my 2nd set of controllers that I have attached to the console to charge.

The Console Itself

I haven't tried out the mobile capabilities of it yet, but so far no complaints about the console itself as a device. Connecting the Joy-Cons to it gives a solid and satisfying click sound. The Joy-Cons charge while docked into the console without any further connection. The console is just as thick as the Joy-Cons, probably by design. The screen is smaller than I was expecting with it being slightly larger than my smartphone. It has all of the standard connections you would expect for a device like this. The kickstand on the back looks a bit flimsy, but I haven't tried it out yet. The slot for expandable memory is right behind the kickstand which is a bit of a weird spot for it, but as long as it works I don't see it as being a problem.

Some of the slots have a rubber-like cover to them that has to be peeled back to reveal the slot. The slot for inserting games is one of them. These could easily end up being ripped off or loosen over time with repeated use. I usually take good care of my electronics, so I'm hoping it won't be an issue. The screen on the Switch looks clear with bright colors, but it isn't scratch resistant. This is the main reason why I haven't tried many of the mobile functions yet (more on that below).

The Other Stuff

The most frustrating part of this console so far is how everything feels like it was rushed to market. The quality of the actual console and the Joy-Cons is undeniable, but everything else feels like it was thrown together last minute. The docking station for example has no heft to it at all. It feels like cheap light plastic that could fall over at the slightest nudging. When setting it up the HDMI cable was nudging the docking station. This caused the docking station to float in the air at an angle when attached. The console would have weighed it down, but removing the console from the docking station can be problematic. I also didn't notice a wired network slot, only USB slots.

The general lack of launch games and accessories is concerning as well. Every store has 50 copies of Just Dance and Breath of the Wild, but none have any consoles (Seriously, who would buy a Switch right now and NOT get Breath of the Wild??) or accessories other than extra Joy-Cons. I can't say anything about the touchscreen or any of the console's mobile capabilities because I have to wait for an online retailer to ship a screen protector. Many accessories are things you figure out you need later. If it isn't at the local retailer then that means a longer wait.

The most concerning part of it all is the lack of games. Breath of the Wild will keep most of us busy for the time being, but other than that it is pretty slim pickings. I plan to get I am Setsuna once I finish Breath of the Wild and I also have Bomberman which should keep me busy until Mario Kart comes out, but then there is a long gap until the holiday rush comes. I might actually have to get back to writing!


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The Ghost Season 1
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