|Release: March 3, 2017|
|Players: 1-4 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p|
by Jenni Lada
Nintendo’s Switch is upon us! The company that loves to try new things is doing exactly that. It’s providing us with a console that actually is also a handheld. It can be played in three different ways, as an actual docked system hooked up to your TV, a portable, and a tabletop stand-alone system. While this is an exciting piece of technology with a lot of potential, there are a few minor issues keeping it from being amazing out of the gate. This, in turn, means it won’t be a turn-on for everyone.
The basic functions of a Switch without a game in it are, at the moment, unimpressive. If you don’t have something loaded into it, you’re limited to browsing the eShop, looking through, editing, and sharing screenshots you’ve taken, going through the informational materials loaded onto the system, and searching through the system’s various menus. It’s hardly thrilling. I’d almost call it half-baked. It’d have been nice if there was some sort of web browser or media viewer. Especially since there are basic tablets with more functionality to them than a Switch without a game in it. At least it does play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the game I had available to me during my week and a half with the system, very well. It just didn’t do much else.
Aside from the last of things I could do with it without a game, the other thing that immediately struck me about the Switch was how substantial it is. The unit feels quite sturdy. I wouldn’t say it was as physically impressive as, say, an iPad tablet, but I’d say it feels as well made as a Samsung tablet. I know, it may sound odd to compare the core of this console to a tablet, but that’s essentially what it is. It has a touchscreen, slot for a MicroSD card, and is designed to be taken on the go with you. I would and did feel completely confident putting the core unit in a small pouch in my purse, with the Joy-Cons separately packed in, and heading out into the world with it.
Attaching the Joy-Cons didn’t cause my confidence in the unit to falter. Each one securely snaps into either side of the system. They fit perfectly into the unit and never feel like they’re lose or unsecured. The weight is nicely balanced and distributed, and I had no problem holding it in this handheld mode for an over two hour gaming session with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. During some particularly harrowing boss fights, I might have appreciated a little more wider grip at the base of the left and right Joy-Cons, as my thumbs began to hurt after one particularly trying boss fight in a dungeon, but the handheld mode is generally a comfortable option for people who want to play portably. It was actually my preferred mode of play, as it allowed me the freedom to play anywhere, hear and see everything perfectly, and really take advantage of all of the Switch’s unique features.
Though, the battery life isn’t all that great. If I turned the volume off and brightness down, I could manage almost three hours of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild play. Which, frankly, is no way to play that game. So, setting the brightness to a reasonable level and putting the sound halfway up led to about two to two-and-a-half hour gaming sessions. It’s rather disappointing for a handheld and really dissuaded me from playing it anywhere I knew I couldn’t plug in and play when I’d get desperate.
This isn’t to say the Switch doesn’t excel in its other modes. It works wonderfully when docked. I was a little concerned at first, as there’s no snap when it is placed in its dock. There’s no satisfaction and security, as there is when locking a Joy-Con into place. Still, it fits quite securely in its hub and displays beautifully on a huge HD screen. It’s compact and just works. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looked equally gorgeous on the system screen and my TV, meaning I didn’t feel like I was missing out if I chose to play it at home or on the go. The experience was totally equal.
Before we move on to the third Switch setup, I have to note my favorite part about the docked console experience. This is a space-saving system. The dock actually has a little cabinet built into it. This hides away the ports for the HDMI cable, USB cable, and power cord. This means you don’t have a tangle of cables coming out of the dock. Everything is initially stowed away, with only the cords peeking out of the back. It allows you to easily find some space for it next to or underneath your TV and quite tidy. As someone who currently has her larger and more unkempt PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, RetroN 5, Saturn, and Dreamcast all also hooked up to her living room TV at this moment, I appreciated having a system that didn’t join in the existing jumble.
The third Switch configuration was my least favorite. This is the one in which you prop up the Switch using its built-in stand, sit or stand in front of it, then play your games. Perhaps its because the game I had at the time, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, wasn’t exactly conducive to the experience. That’s a game that really requires you to either get in close in handheld mode or have it on a big screen, not tolerating a tabletop experience. You’d really need the right game to make this option worthwhile.
You’d also need the right environment. While the built-in stand isn’t bad, it isn’t all that great. You need an absolutely flat, level surface. If you don’t have that, the Switch can and will fall. (At least the stand snaps easily into place again, should it be pulled off.) You’ll have trouble getting it posed just right. And, even if you do have a hard, stable surface, the angle with the included stand isn’t always ideal. Maybe if the stand had been more in the middle of the unit or had varying degrees to it, I’d have felt differently, but propping it up on a tabletop is my least favorite way to play.