Kyle Orland and the crew at Ars Technica got their hands on a review unit of the #NintendoSwitch, and they have spent the last week putting it through the paces to get a sense of this enigmatic piece of hardware. Where does the Switch fit in? What is great about it? What isn't so great? Under the terms of Nintendo's NDA guidelines, there isn't a whole lot reviewers can say about the operating system or the games themselves. However, there are plenty of details regarding the hardware itself that have been discussed. Some of those details play right into certain fears we have had since the announcement, and others are pleasant surprises. Kyle's article is excellent, and you can read it HERE.
Since the system drops in mere days, we figured we would take a look at some of the things that have been found that excite us, and the things that worry us.
Switching It Up
Nintendo is taking a new tack with the Nintendo switch. As usual, Nintendo is innovating & trying to do something new. Innovation has been Nintendo's M.O. since the Super Nintendo. Changing things up from the last generation, innovating with the control interface, creating new types of experiences. Innovation is always applauded simply because it drives competition and forces the rest of the market to look at new ways to do things. So in a market filled with big consoles and wireless controllers, the Switch is a welcome contender. Gone are the days of having to save your game and wait until you get home to continue playing again. You can now simply take your game with you wherever you go, and play whenever you have down time. Obviously, portable gaming systems are nothing new. They've been around since Nintendo's original Game and Watch units from the eighties. But the problem with portable gaming systems up till now has always been that the portable experience is a compromised one. Now I'm not talking about mobile specific games tailored to their platform, for example, the exceptional Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds. While it is an amazing game, it was designed specifically for the new 3DS (and it's 3D capabilities), a handheld system with low resolution graphics and mediocre sound. However, titles for home consoles tend to be richer experiences than most handheld titles. And with the Switch, there is a promise here of no longer having to make that compromise both as a developer and as a consumer. That's a very attractive feature.
The Switch finally changes up the blocky textures on Nintendo's past handhelds. With a 720p display, it's absolutely the best-looking display Nintendo has ever put in a handheld. Visuals are crisp, clean and colors just pop.
When you look at the switch alongside systems like the PS Vita and the 3DS, switch simply crushes them. In power, in full range of capabilities, the Nintendo switch is the mobile device we've all always wanted. Play great looking games on the go, both single and multiplayer, on a 6.2" display powered by the most powerful mobile platform Nintendo has ever built.
Nintendo is also pushing the multiplayer capabilities of the console pretty hard. Explaining how easy it is to take the console anywhere you go and have multiplayer matches of Splatoon and other games.
Nintendo is also finally admitted that Gamers want a robust online platform. Nintendo's attempt at creating a unified Network for purchasing games online and managing friends and connections has been dismal at best. And the Nintendo friend code thing? Absolutely the worst experience ever. For years Nintendo has heavily pushed the idea that the only type of gaming that is any fun is just one person by themselves unless it was a party style game where you packed a bunch of people into one room for Mario Party or Mario Kart. So it is refreshing to see Nintendo adding a true Network infrastructure to allow for true multiplayer support. The Switch will apparently make use of mobile companion apps to communicate with friends on for online matchmaking.
All of the things discussed above excite us, but here is the rub: Only when you think of the Switch as a portable. When you start looking at the Switch as a home console first the way Nintendo markets it, the picture is nowhere near as compelling.
Not So Console
I do have to preface this next section by saying we are incredibly excited about the impending release of the Nintendo switch. I'm still going to buy a Nintendo Switch. That said, when looking at the Nintendo switch as a home console, a number of questions and concerns are raised. Here are some of our concerns:
We aren't going to compare the Switch to the PS4 or the Xbox One. The switch may be a current generation gaming console but it's not even remotely fair to compare it to the PlayStation for the Xbox one. It's an entirely different product. The Switch isn't comparable to the power of either of its competitors, but that's ok because unlike it's primary competition, IT FITS IN YOUR PALM. However, since Nintendo is still very clear about pushing the fact that the switch is very much a home console it's only fair to compare its performance in the environment it's competitors compete in which is on your home TV. In Ars Technica's testing, the Switch tended to lag in performance when hooked to the TV in the dock. Meaning that, as a home console, it can't even compete with, ITSELF.
So the Switch is this other-worldly amazing handheld with online functionality that can be hooked up to your TV. With online multiplayer available, but only over..WiFi. A feature common on: Portable Game Systems. And 32GB of Memory, with 26 available to the user. There is already a title for the system too big to fit on the Switch, Dragon Quest. It clocks in at 32GB, exceeding the Switch storage by 6GB. Zelda comes in at 13GB, which would be half the storage of the system, a problem similar to: Portable Game Systems. The JoyCon controllers come in at a minuscule 4" wide, and 1.4" tall, making them hand-crampingly tiny.
Nintendo has highlighted the JoyCon has an amazing 20 hours of battery life. However, the Switch only has about 2.5 hours of battery life while actively gaming. So those 20 hours of battery life on the controller really serve no purpose if the system is dead.
Very Few Launch Games
This is not really a deal breaker over the long term, but important enough to mention if you are considering a Launch purchase. If you buy this at launch, you are buying a Zelda machine. that's all there is too it. And for me, that's enough. I live and breath Hyrule. but for some... that's not going to cut it. Because let's face it, NO ONE is paying $400+ dollar (We'll get to that in a minute) for Snipperclips and 1-2 Switch. And that makes it worth mentioning that many of the planned big titles for the Nintendo Switch are actually 3-8 months away. Here is the list so far from Eurogamer:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo, March 3rd)
- 1-2-Switch (Nintendo, March 3rd)
- Snipperclips - Cut it out, together! (Nintendo, March 3rd)
- Just Dance 2017 (Ubisoft, March 3rd)
- Skylanders Imaginators (Activision, March 3rd)
- Super Bomberman R (Konami, March 3rd)
- I Am Setsuna (Square Enix, March 3rd)
- Fast RMX (Shin'en, March 3rd 2017)
- Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (March 3rd, 2017)
- World of Goo (Tomorrow Corporation, March 3rd - possibly US only)
- Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation, March 3rd - possibly US only)
- Human Resource Machine (Tomorrow Corporation, March 3rd - possibly US only)
This one is a BIG one, especially since Nintendo is marketing the Switch as just a $299 system. The real scoop is, if you just want to play Zelda, $299 + $60 for the core system and Zelda and you have everything you need for about $390 after tax. But if the JoyCons are too small for you and you want a "Pro" controller? Another $70. Another set of the little JoyCon controllers? $80. Yes, $80. Which means a Switch, Pro Controller, and say 2 Games, Legend of Zelda, & Super Bomber Man R will set you back a cool $530.
No Virtual Console...Yet
Excited about your new Switch? Want to play a few other old school Nintendo titles? Better break out that old Wii U and do it there. Because Nintendo hasn't even announced when there will be Virtual Console support to buy other titles. You better LOVE Zelda.
Nintendo has said over and over again that they want the Switch to be an "amazing dedicated video game platform" and nothing more. No Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or any other streaming support at launch.
So we already know that the Switch will not be a fantastic home console, but it will be an amazing portable console.. kinda portable. This thing doesn't exactly fit in the pocket. It's size with the JoyCons attached is just too big for a pocket.
So, as it stands, there are so many things to be seen. Many questions will be answered after launch and everyone gets their Switch. Is it perfect, Nope. Do we expect it to be? Nope. Still buying one? Yep. Because I Zelda Like that. However, it seems pretty clear that what Nintendo has done is make a smashingly awesome new portable-ish device that they threw in a dock for to allow you to play on the TV, instead of the other way around. Home use on a real screen was an afterthought in our mind after Nintendo meticulously designed and engineered this beautiful piece of hardware for mobile gaming.