I made the decision a while back to pick up the upcoming Nintendo NX (As the Switch was called back then) when I heard that the next Zelda game would be on both the Wii U and the NX. I was considering a Wii U, but I thought I’d wait for the next generation.
So, Friday I got my Switch, and then had to wait until Friday night to even open the box. Apparently they expect me to work while I’m at work!
The Switch itself is a neat little mini-tablet sized device that – well – looks much like a tablet. There’s a stand that folds out at the back, and the two controllers (left hand and right hand) can slot in either side of the tablet for ‘on the go’ use.
It comes with a dock that gives you 3 USB ports, HDMI out and (of course) power in.
Initial setup was pretty easy. Out of the box it had enough charge to get me to the point where I could say ‘ok, now set up the TV part of things’. Then I plugged it into the dock, and I unclipped the controllers to put them into a ‘charging grip’. I’ll talk more on that later.
The only game I’ve bought so far was the Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, which I’ll hopefully get to reviewing later. Instead of me playing it, I let my wife go first. You know it’s love when you let them play with your shiny new toy first!
Now, realise that this is my first Nintendo ‘console’ in a while. I have a Gamecube, I have a 3DS (not the newer one), but missed the Wii and Wii U. So anything I say about graphics, or performance won’t relate to the Wii consoles.
While it doesn’t compare to the PS4 in terms of processing power (from what I can tell), Zelda nicely shows off decent draw distances, lovely effects and mostly good framerates. I say ‘mostly’ because there is some stuttering at times. Whether that’s the Switch being underpowered or the Zelda code being inefficient, I can’t tell (obviously -) but it didn’t bother me a lot. The main point I think I’m getting at is that it’s got enough power to give ‘pretty’ even if it’s not overly powerful.
As a console plugged into the TV it works well; including being able to turn the TV (at least my TV) on when you power up the Switch (if you have that option enabled). The display is nice and clear and on my 1080p display you don’t get any feeling of things being ‘upscaled’.
As is common with consoles you can press a button on the controller to turn the console on.
Now, the controller is really two controllers – a left and a right controller. They’re a bit under an inch wide each. You can hold them separately (with included clip on wrist straps for safety!), put them on either side of the console, or put them into what they call a ‘Joy-Con‘, which turns the controllers into a pretty standard console controller.
Since they were designed to clip into either side of the Switch itself, their inner form factor tends towards the ‘square-ish’. When you plug them into a Joy-Con, then you end up with a fairly square looking controller with hand grips either side. Initially it worried me that this would be uncomfortable. However, with the rounded edges that meet your hands, it’s more comfortable than it looks. I played for a few hours straight and my hands felt just the same as if I’d played the PS4 for a similar amount of time.
The Joy-Con that comes with the Switch is purely a holder for your controllers. You can buy another type that looks exactly the same, except it has a C-Type USB port on the front, allowing you to charge your controllers while you play.
Firstly, I find the fact that they made this a separate thing to buy rather silly. Is the USB charging circuitry that much more expensive that you couldn’t include it in the Joy-Con that comes with the Switch?
Secondly, whether you find the charging Joy-Con useful or not will depend on your access to USB ports. The controllers seem to have a really good battery life so far (2 days of pretty solid playing), so you won’t need to charge them that often. On the other hand, having to plug them into the Switch itself to charge them just seems silly when you’re only using the Switch in console mode.
If your only access to the USB ports on the Switch for charging, then I’d suggest the charging Joy-Con isn’t that useful to you. You’re going to be tethered to the Switch while charging. If, on the other hand, you’re like me, where I have USB ports on my nearby laptop, and multiple USB charging ports around the place, then the Joy-Con makes it easy to play and charge without even having to engage much grey-matter.
The Switch As A Hand-held Console
So, how does the Switch ‘handle’ as a hand-held? Well, the screen is crisp and clear with good contrast, though I haven’t tried it outside yet. The sound is pretty good from the built in speakers, still allowing me to hear all of the in game sound effects and music clearly.
The controlling … was not so good. Look, I’m a large person with wide shoulders, and even I found the thing too wide to play comfortably for too long. For me, normal controllers put my hands in roughly the right position to be comfortable. The 3DS also puts my hands in a reasonable position to be comfortable. The switch, with its wider body and the controllers at each side, is just far too wide to hold comfortably for long periods.
I suppose one solution for me would be to take a Joy-Con with me, and use the controller separately. That means even more to carry.
Really, on that topic, I’m not sure how much the Switch will work as a hand-held. With the 3DS and its clamshell design, I can close it, and drop it in my bag to take with me. It’s not the lightest thing (I have the XL model), but it works for me. Even having my ‘Handbag of Holding‘ the Switch is going to be bulky. Even with a protective sleeve, I think it would be far too much trouble to take it with me anywhere.
Of course, your mileage may vary.
What I think would be more useful to me is a more portable ‘dock’ that you could take with you to a friend’s place so you could more easily play on their TV.
Overall, I’m happy I bought the Switch, but only more use will really tell me if the extra stuff like the ability to turn it into a hand-held will be useful, or just a gimmick. I also need to play more with the motion sensing stuff, which I’ve so far turned off as it was making aiming in Zelda a pain in the rear end. That’s not likely a strike against either Zelda or the Switch; it’s just me being me.