It’s been out for almost a year, and Nintendo are still sitting pretty atop its big pile of money, because (much to my personal surprise) the Switch has been a big hit! I’ve poked fun at it on occasion - mainly for things regarding its use of the internet - but never hear anyone say a bad thing about it. So, I decided to try one out.
In the box you get the Switch console, the left and right Joy-Cons, a Joy-Con connector, two wrist straps for the controllers, the charger/TV dock, an HDMI cable and a power cable. It’s fairly barebones, but you don’t need a ton of stuff to get it up and running - in fact if you have a USB-C phone charger then you only need the console and controllers…
Since the Nintendo 64, I’ve owned every console that Ninty has made. Well, I’ve bought them would be more correct - I’m a father of four, and my wife is a gamer too. We even wound up with a Game Boy Micro at one point, if you can believe it. However, when the Wii U came out, I figured it was a fancy tablet and, since the Wii itself had been used less and less since I got a PlayStation 4, I opted out of getting one. Then, since my assumption proved correct for the Wii U, I also decided that I probably wouldn’t get the extra-fancy tablet that was the Switch.
However, as I said before, I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about the console, apart from the teething troubles that the Joy-Cons gave shortly after release. Therefore, for science, I had to see what all of the fuss was about. Also, yes, I’ve wanted to play Super Mario Odyssey ever since I wrote an article ranking the 3D Mario games.
The build quality of the Switch is very good, and the touch screen is crystal clear (though I hear the plastic is easily scratched). It looks like a tablet with some buttons and a couple of joysticks when the Joy-Cons are attached, and it’s about the quality I would expect from a high-end tablet. Without the Joy-Cons attached, the sides of the Switch are a little odd, because they’re designed to have the controllers connected. With them detached, you can see several screws, and it looks just like a tablet. The back of the Switch has two speakers and a kickstand, beneath which is a micro-SD slot. The underside has a USB-C port. The top has a fan exhaust, headphone jack, the power and volume buttons, and the slot for the game cards is hidden by a blanking plate.
The Joy-Cons each have two shoulder buttons, four face buttons, and an analogue stick. Where they differ (apart from being mirrored), is that the left one has a minus button and a screenshot button, and the right one has a plus button and a Home button. They’re kind of small when just attached to the wrist straps, but they work in any configuration. The underside has a button which you hold to remove them from the straps, the Switch or the connector. The analogue sticks are responsive and have a little give in their movements, but the buttons are nice and solid.
Setting up the console is painless, as the dock has a nice cable tidy holding the two leads in place. Unfortunately, both are quite short - so bare that in mind when finding a place for it. Simply slide the Switch into the dock and you can either let it charge or get started right away by turning on your TV and swapping the channel to whichever HDMI it’s on.
Once you’ve gone through the setup and either logged in or created a Nintendo account, then you’re ready to go. You can download demos or games from the store, or insert a Switch game card into the top of the console.
When you press the power button to wake up the Switch, you’re always greeted by the lock screen. It shows some recent Nintendo news, as well as the icon for whatever you left open. To unlock it, you really have to mean it, because it makes you press a button four times to do it, whether you’re checking the news or resuming your game.
From the home screen you can also fiddle with settings, check your album of in-game screenshots and videos, visit the Nintendo eShop or pair new controllers. Presumably that last one allows you to connect the Pro Controller without disconnecting your Joy-Cons. The home screen is minimalist, but given the size of the screen you’re working with, making the game icons the biggest things makes sense.
When you start a game, you’re asked who is playing it, so you can have multiple users on one Switch without having to log in and out constantly. Although if you’re a sole user, it’s possible to tell it not to ask. In the games that I’ve played, the Joy-Cons have been easy to use and responsive to button presses and movements. Whether they’re attached to the Switch, the connector or seperate, each has their benefit. It’s a bit of a hassle to detach them from anything, though, so for short play sessions it’s best to keep them on the Switch. Things get lost easily in a house with four children…
The Switch is designed to play games, and that’s all. That’s not a bad thing, as it’s designed really well, doesn’t get hot very easily, has a great battery life measuring easily eight hours of play time. The variety of control schemes available are used to good effect, and the selection of indie titles on the eShop is phenomenal, with many more coming up. The AAA titles may be on the expensive side at the moment, but there’s plenty of cheaper games that are worth a look.
Nintendo Switch Review
If you’re on the fence about getting a Switch, and have the funds, then you should probably get a Switch.