Nintendo Switch: 4 Months In, Here Are My Thoughts
Hard to believe that the Switch has been out for 4 months already. Seems like just a week ago that I got my Switch, but in actuality it arrived at my doorstep on launch day March 3rd 2017, along with 3 games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 1-2 Switch, and Super Bomberman R. Since then, I have picked up Snipperclips, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Snake Pass, Waku Waku 7, Blaster Master Zero, Tumbleseed, and Shantae Half Genie Hero. I’ve put a lot of gaming hours on Nintendo’s latest console and I have had ample opportunities to put the system through its paces and test out its functionality and performance.
Brief aside before we start:
I have been commenting on Switch related news, and Nintendo in general for the last year or so. If you’d like to read my other write ups on the big N first, check these articles out:
Those articles should give you a good understanding of my initial thoughts on the roller coaster journey that included the announcement of the device, the unveiling of the Switch, and the subsequent massive amounts of information we got earlier this year before launch. There’s been some ups and downs, and I was there for all of ’em! What’s important today is that I have played the Switch and a large variety of games on it an awful lot and I want to share my experience with you. Here are my findings.
Playing Nintendo games in HD on the TV is very nice…
The Switch is marketed as a hybrid console, one that can be played either on an HD TV or as a portable gaming device. While docked, the Switch plays quite well on the TV and the controllers (named Joy-Cons) easily slide off the side of the unit to allow for playing games. You can connect the Joy-Cons to a controller shell that allows them to feel similar to a standard gaming controller (like on Xbox or Playstation) or you can use the Joy-Cons similar to how the Wiimotes function on the Wii and Wii U. Both methods work, and depending on the game you may prefer one over the other. I actually found that when I played on the TV, I dug just casually holding the Joy-Cons in each hand, not connected to the controller shell, but still using them as a I would a regular gaming controller… just separated. It’s a kooky way to play, but it is super comfortable and relaxed. All in all, the TV play is a good experience on the Switch and the image quality on many of the games I played look really nice on my 60 inch HD TV. Mario Kart and Breath of the Wild especially looked phenomenal.
…but it’s all about the portability!
Having the option to play the Switch on the TV is great, but I have almost exclusively found that I play the Switch as a portable gaming device. I would estimate that I probably spend 90% or more of my Switch time playing the unit off the dock and in my hot little hands. As a portable, the Switch is amazing. It plays as well (if not better) as the TV experience, and it doesn’t scrimp on any necessary features. You will notice frame rate differences between the TV and portable play, but it’s honestly negligible and doesn’t hamper the way you play the games at all. As a portable, you can play the Switch as one connected unit with the Joy-Cons attached to the side of the unit, or in table top mode with the Switch set on a flat surface (it has a kickstand built in) and the Joy-Cons separate for play styles similar to TV play. All of these methods are great and frankly are what make the Switch such an amazing gaming device. It is super easy to set up a multiplayer round of Bomberman, Puyo Puyo Tetris, or Mario Kart by just handing a Joy-Con over to the friend that’s with you wherever you may be.
Seriously, having Mario Kart 8 with all of its DLC and bonuses playable (and built into the core game with no additional DLC purchases necessary) as a full portable game makes the Switch a must own for me.
I have been surprised by how often I pick the Switch up and play a bit here and there while watching TV, or while I am cooking dinner, or on an extended trip to the bathroom. It’s kind of funny how easy it is to pick up the Switch and play for a bit. I used to think that elements of this official Nintendo UK ad were a touch to outlandish to be viable, but I’ve actually played in just about every single way shown here (except for at school… ‘cuz I’m way too old for a classroom):
Pro Tip: Put a Screen Protector on your Switch!
As a Switch owner who plays the system a ton off the dock, I can tell you that the Switch will need to go back into the dock to charge after a few hours of gaming. The Switch fits snugly into the dock, so snugly that the screen can pick up a few blemishes after repeated trips to the dock. Fortunately, I bought a screen protector to go with the Switch at launch, and already in just 4 months I can see that it was a wise decision. There are light scratch marks, mainly on the far left and right of the Switch’s screen, that are on the screen protector which likely means they would have been with on the Switch had I not protected it. It is very important that you put a screen protector on your Switch, they are inexpensive and will save you from having a massively scuffed up screen for all of those important portable play sessions.
Also, the Switch has a built in meme maker!
Not only can you easily grab screen shots on the Switch with the touch of 1 handy button, you can also put all manner of text and visual enhancements on the photo and share it on social media. If this matters to you, you can make meaningless little jokes like this…
But what about the games:
A common argument I hear about the Switch is: where are the games? I think the answer to that question is easy, but it requires you to set your expectations precisely where they realistically should be and not necessarily where you think they ought to be. Confused? Don’t be, it’s quite simple. Many gamers have questioned the amount of games available for the Switch because they are trying to compare the Switch to the Xbox One or the Playstation 4. This is a bad analogy and it leads to expectations of the Switch that Nintendo was neither aiming for nor were they ever going to try to deliver on. Nintendo has almost always done their own thing in the video game industry. Sometimes that has aligned with where their competition in the industry were at, and often times it has not. The Switch is another case of them not chasing after their competitors directly. Nintendo isn’t trying to replace the PS4 or Xbox One as a powerhouse device, they are looking to offer gamers HD gaming that is affordable and portable, which means that there is going to be a noticeable hit in performance versus the competition. You can’t output graphics like the PS4 in a dedicated portable without seriously expensive tech in it, not to mention how terrifyingly bad the battery life on that kind of a device would be. The Switch manages to offer graphical output somewhere between the high end of a PS3 and the absolute low end of the Xbox One. This lowered level of current console generation performance still allows for a great HD gaming experience in a portable that can last on average 4 to 6 hours. And if you want to argue this, just play Breath of the Wild on the Switch, it is breath taking (pun intended). I routinely got about 4 hours of battery life playing Breath of the Wild, and closer to 5 hours when playing Mario Kart 8. If you play the lesser demanding downloadable games like Blaster Master Zero or any of the Neo Geo classics, you might be able to squeak out better than 6 hours but I haven’t been able to test that just yet. Essentially, the Switch offers a slightly different experience from their main competitors, and as such it is not feasible for all game titles to be made for the PS4/Xbox One and the Switch. If you can accept that the Switch is not going to have all of the games that a PS4 or Xbox One has, purely because the tech won’t support it, then you can better understand the difference in why some games are not available on the unit. The simple answer that I’ve been getting to is that there are a lot of games on the Switch, some truly terrific ones, they just aren’t necessarily the same as what is on the PS4 and Xbox One. Think of the Switch as a companion device to your primary gaming console, and it should make keeping track of their respective game libraries easier to manage in your mind. Currently, there are over 50 games available for purchase on the Switch with over a hundred more in development for future release. See the chart below for some of the titles available and coming soon:
So… I said there was some great games, and here are the ones that I’ve been playing:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – A true classic. A masterpiece. The team responsible for this game took everything about Zelda that was good and made it great, while adding an amazing open world worth exploring and putting in all new sorts of gameplay that has never existed in a major Zelda game before. There is a huge variety of choice in the game, including armor, weapons, where you go, what you collect, who you talk to, what you cook, and so much more. I never found myself lacking for things to do in Breath of the Wild, and I never found the game to be tedious. The 120 shrines that you can explore offer some great puzzle challenges and are the best way to upgrade your health and stamina. The game is set up to have a free flowing narrative that gives you as much detail or as little detail as you want. If you are heavily invested in the game, there is so much to discover and learn about. If you just want to fight enemies, get better gear and weapons, well you can do that too. The game lets you play however you want to play. On top of that, the traversal system is second to none. You can glide through the air on a para-glider, surf the sloping plains on your shield, ride a horse, climb the mountains by hand, and teleport to just about anywhere. You can get to places as quickly or as slowly as you want. Ultimately, that’s what is so amazing about Breath of the Wild, it is a game that allows you to play it however you want without shackling you to any necessary story beats, linear paths, or particular play style. Breath of the Wild is a true 10/10 game experience.
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – I could talk about Mario Kart 8 for hours… but I won’t. All you need to know is that it is Mario Kart perfection and it is portable. It has all of the content from the original Wii U version, including all of the DLC, and it even has new racers and a ton of new battle mode options. This is an amazing game, both single and multiplayer, and I heartily recommend it to everyone. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is easily a 10/10 game.
- Snipperclips – This may be the most fun you can have playing a co-op game. Snipperclips has playing as an emotive piece of paper that can be snipped into all sorts of shapes by another player to help solve the creative puzzles. It can be played solo, but truthfully shines as a 2 player co-op game. Also, there is a 4 player mode as well. The puzzles have a lot of variety to them (even if I think there should have been more of them), and solving them with a friend is a blast. The paper avatars make the experience that much more enjoyable as they make all sorts of funny faces based on how you are playing and what you are doing in the game. I can’t express to you in words just how much fun this game is. Trust me on this, if you have a Switch and someone else to play with – you have to buy this game. I give Snipperclips a hearty 9/10, only docking it a single point because I think there should have been twice as many puzzles.
- 1-2 Switch – This is an odd collection of mini games that utilize the many special features of the Joy- Con controllers. This is an odd bird of a game. It is difficult to explain, and almost always better to show to someone instead. This is because the core game is not played on the TV (or portable screen), but with the Joy-Con using audio cues from the game and visual cues from the person that you are playing with. It sounds weird, and it kinda is, but it actually is a lot of fun to play. You can shoot each other Wild West style, swing swords at each other, have dance off, cast magic spells, crack safes open, and a ton more just by using the gyroscope and rumble on the Joy-Con. There are nearly 30 total mini-games and multiple modes of play available. It’s great for when you have a crowd over, and fun to play with the family. I don’t play 1-2 Switch too much, but when I have I always enjoyed it. It’s definitely a novelty, and might not be for everyone. I give 1-2 Switch a solid 7/10, if only just because Nintendo successfully managed to make a game that doesn’t require constantly watching a screen to play.
- Super Bomberman R – If you would have told me a year ago that not only would the Switch be huge hit, but that it would be orchestral in reviving one of my favorite franchises of all time (by Konami, no less), I would have told you that you were crazy. Yet, here we are in 2017 with a blockbuster start to the Switch and a terrific new Bomberman game. This game has been a kind of sleeper hit for the Switch, as it has sold well even if it hasn’t been charting in the top 10. The success has rewarded the players, as Konami has put out a handful of new updates to the game for free that have added new maps and characters. Super Bomberman R hearkens back to the old days when Bomberman used to have a story mode, and the one that we get here is classic zany over the top silly stuff. The voice acting in particular is a hoot, and all of the different bombers have a unique and fun personality. There are 6 chapters, with 7 stages each and a boss encounter, so there is plenty of meat in the single player. On top of that, the entire single player can be co-op played with a friend, which is a huge bonus. The multiplayer is the main draw of the Bomberman franchise, and it plays excellent in this version with all of the variety, upgrades, maps, and abilities you’ve come to expect, with some new stuff thrown in for safe measure. On line battles play well, and offer casual and ranked modes. Super Bomberman R is a pleasant surprise and hopefully means that Konami will revive more beloved franchises for the Switch (please be a side scrolling Castelvania, please oh please oh please!). All in all, I give Super Bomberman R a solid 8/10.
- Snake Pass – This is a fun adventure game where you take control of a snake that is on a quest to reactivate the mythical power of their home world, Haven Tor. Snake Pass plays like a platformer, but controls without the fast paced jumping action. Here you have to slowly slither and coil yourself around the many obstacles to climb and explore the different maps. Snake Pass is a fun game that is good to play in small doses, but I might not recommend extended play sessions. It has a sort of novel charm to it that you will either love… or you’ll hate. The slither and coil mechanics are sound, but there is a lot of trial and error involved in getting to all of the various collectibles that are hidden in all sorts of hard to reach places. It can be frustrating to reach all of these crazy spots, and this is from a player that likes the way it plays. On the plus side, the music is great, the game looks amazing, and there are plentiful amount of bright colorful different maps to explore. I give Snake Pass a 6/10, and advise watching some videos of the game first before making the plunge.
- Puyo Puyo Tetris – If you love puzzle games, than this title is right up your alley. Tetris is a classic and it plays as good as ever here. Puyo Puyo is huge in Japan, but never really took off in America, which is a shame. Puyo Puyo is a lot of fun, and involves staking similar colored jellies together, setting them up for combos to attain a high score. The game comes with a story mode, which is just as absurd and fun as Super Bomberman R’s. There is also a lot of multiplayer options, including local and online matches. Multiplayer is where this game shines, as you can play either Tetris or Puyo Puyo and use your combos to send extra blocks or jellies to your opponent. The 4 player battles can get pretty hectic, so the battles stay intense. Puyo Puyo Tetris is a must have for puzzler fans. I give it a 8/10.
- Tumbleseed – Admittedly, I haven’t spent much time with this game. It is an odd rogue-like game where you balance a rolling seed up a forward scrolling terrain collecting power ups, solving puzzles, and of course trying to save the plants. It is an extraordinary concept, and the time I have spent with it has been good. Tumbleseed has a fairly steep learning curve, so it is quite difficult to get the hang of. I hope to spend some more time with the game soon, especially now that I have completed many of the other games that I own on the Switch. When I get around to finishing Tumbleseed, I’ll update this post with more impressions and a review score.
- Blaster Master Zero, Waku Waku 7, and Shantae Half Genie Hero – I lump all three of these together because they are similar style games. Blaster Master Zero and Shantae Half Genie Hero are side scrolling retro style games. Waku Waku 7 is a 1996 2D side scrolling fighter, similar to older Street Fighter games, that is seeing its first release in America ever. All of these games play well and are a lot of fun. Waku Waku 7 has a crazy set of characters similar to Capcom’s Power Stone roster, and the combat system is robust and deep. Blaster Master Zero is a newly made prequel to the original NES Blaster Master. There is a lot of variety in Blaster Master Zero, as you switch between the combat vehicle and the main character on foot. Part shooter, part metroidvania, and part platformer, Blaster Master Zero has a lot going for it and is well worth a purchase. Shantae Half Genie Hero is a continuation of the Shantae series. Shantae games have you going on a quest to rid your village of evil using your genie magic, transformations, and hair (which you whip around violently). It’s a tongue-in-cheek kind of game with a lot of humor strewn throughout the game. There is a lot of platforming, action, and discovery involved. Also, this iteration of Shantae sees the series jumping to full HD visuals, which makes the game look almost as good as a hand drawn animated cartoon. It’s a great romp with a lot of replay value. I highly recommend checking Shantae Half Genie Hero out.
There are many more great looking games on the way, including Splatoon 2, Skyrim, Sonic Mania, Sonic Forces, Fire Emblem Warriors, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Super Mario Odyssey… and they are all coming out before the end of this year! Nintendo and partners also have a ton of great games to look forward to, and I imagine an equally impressive list will be coming in 2018. We already know that Metroid Prime 4 is coming in 2018, which is flipping awesome!
My Concern – Mainstream Third Party Support:
If I had a concern on the Switch, it would be third party support. There are a lot of indie games coming to the Switch, and that is totally rad. Yet, I hope Nintendo is working with their more mainstream big budget third party partners to help get more games on the system. As I mentioned before, the Switch can’t compete with the power of the PS4 and Xbox One, so getting some of their AAA games geared to take full advantage of the advanced hardware is not going to happen, but that doesn’t mean that Nintendo can’t romance these developers into making some different games for the system. There are plenty of Star Wars games that EA could make for the Switch that aren’t Battlefront 2. Blizzard could bring Diablo 3 and Overwatch to the Switch. Valve porting over the Portal series (and making a new one) would be great. Capcom could make a special Resident Evil and/or new Mega Man game for the Switch. Square Enix could bring the Life is Strange series to the Switch. In the scheme of things, there is a lot of potential out there for these third parties to take advantage of. Take a look at what Ubisoft is doing with their fusion strategy game Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle to get a good idea of creative ways that third parties can make major releases on the Switch. To their credit, some of these third party developers have some great games coming, they just haven’t been released yet. Even still, there is a huge opportunity to grow with third party support and for the Switch to have legs past this holiday shopping season they are going to need to add some Overwatch, Madden, and/or Grand Theft Auto like experiences. I feel confident that Nintendo can garner this kind of support, even if it ends up being mainly ports of older games. Frankly, I’d love to have a portable version of L.A. Noire (RockStar), Catherine (Atlus), Bayonetta (Platinum/Sega) or the Mass Effect trilogy (BioWare/EA).
Here’s a brief video highlighting some of the games heading to (and already available) on the Switch. Many more have been announced since this video, but this is a good starting point if you’d like to see what kind of gaming experiences are playable on the Switch.
Bottom Line – The Nintendo Switch is an excellent gaming system that is well worth your time and money:
The Nintendo Switch is exactly what the Wii U should have been, a balanced hybrid system with an equal focus on core and casual gaming experiences. More than that, because it is an all in one system that plays in full HD on the TV and transitions seamlessly into the palm of your hands as a portable, it is quite possible that the Switch is the future of console gaming. Portability is a huge benefit for the system, and having the ability to play games with AAA quality like Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 anywhere and at any time is a massive plus for me and I imagine for many other gamers as well. There is a solid library of games available for the system now, including RPGs, racing, platformers, sports, action, retro, and a ton of indies, so there is a little something for everyone. There’s also a great lineup of games coming soon including Skyrim, Super Mario Odyssey, Fire Emblem Warriors, NBA 2K18, Sonic Mania, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Stardew Valley and a ton more before the end of 2017. If you were on the fence on the Switch, then I recommend going ahead and grabbing one (just make sure you slap a screen protector on it!). It’s a well made system that is versatile and convenient. From the looks of it, Nintendo is supporting it with some amazing software in the first nine months, and it looks like the next full year is stacked to be just as good, if not better! If you take the plunge, you will likely have a lot of fun with the Switch and you might just be surprised to see how often you pick it up and play it as a portable while you wait for dinner to cook, or for your doctor’s appointment to start, or when you want to throw down some multiplayer with your friends, or on your lunch hour, or when you can’t fall asleep at night, or…