It’s been a rough few years for Nintendo. The Wii U, their sequel to the phenomenally successful Wii console, was a huge underachiever when it came to sales. Nintendo sold little over 13.4 million consoles, a paltry number compared to the Wii’s 101 million units. A console with all the potential but no focus saw Nintendo suffer financial losses and fall well behind its competition.
The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo’s attempt to remedy their failures with the Wii U and, essentially, be the console the Wii U wasn’t. It’s been out for little over two weeks and, having played Zelda extensively, I’m ready to give an informed review.
The first thing to address is that the only true AAA title to play is The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild (2017). Unless you’re into 1-2 Switch, that is, but that’s not truly a game, to be fair, more a series of mini-games to show of the HD rumble feature of the Joy Con controllers and should have been a free bundle title, much like Wii Sports (2006). As it is, the Switch doesn’t come with any games. If you want Zelda or 1-2 Switch, you have to put down an extra £59.99 per title.
That said, there isn’t much else on the Switch at this moment. The e-shop has a few indie titles, most notably Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (2017) and Spector of Torment (2017), as well as I Am Setsuna (2015) and Fast RMX (2017), so unless you’re really into any of those titles, it may be worth waiting a while, as the Switch is expensive if you can find one at retail, coming in at £279.99. Whilst there is no game bundled, what you do get is the console, the left and right Joy Con, two Joy Con straps, the Joy Con grip, which turns the individual Joy Con into a traditional controller, the dock, which displays the image to your TV once the Switch is inside, and all the cables you will need to get it set up. It’s hard to recommend at that price point unless you’re a Nintendo die-hard fan and/or you really want to get your hands-on Zelda and don’t already own a Wii U.
The Switch is probably Nintendo’s slickest looking hardware yet. The tablet is about the same size as an I-Pad mini and has a 720p 6.2-inch LCD screen with capacitive touch. The video output whilst in portable mode is outstanding, with the image looking clean and sharp. The console is easy to assemble too. The dock has three cable outputs, power supply, HDMI out and USBC. Initial set up is quick and easy, being ready for TV play in about five minutes. To take it portable, you just slip the left and right Joy Con in with a satisfying click, and you’re ready to go. Build quality is good and the console has a slight heft but feels good in your hand after long periods of use, with the Joy Con feeling sturdily in place whilst attached. Essentially, the Switch does what it says on the tin. It is a high-quality portable device and a pretty decent home game console.
It’s not without its faults, however, as the left Joy Con has been notable for desynching issues and, although I’ve not seen this mentioned elsewhere, I find that the right Joy Con has motion tracking issues, where it will veer off to the right of the screen wherever I point it. These little quibbles can be frustrating but I found they only occur when they are used independently of the Joy Con grip. Speaking of the Joy Con, the tactile HD rumble feature feels as real as Nintendo say. The 1-2 Switch minigames were designed specifially to demo this feature. When playing, it felt as though there really were three or four balls rolling about inside the controller, or you were shaving that beard, or miking that cow. Whilst not as revolutionary as Nintendo make out, it simply works. It will be interesting to see how Nintendo, or even future third party developers, implement this feature into gameplay.
Battery life can be contentious dependent on how long your play sessions are. From a full charge, Zelda does meet the 2-3-hour battery life expectancy Nintendo touted, and less demanding games, such as Shovel Knight, will take the system around five hours to deplete a full charge. Unless you carry a power brick, you will find yourself running out of battery on any long plane and train journeys you plan to play it on. Again, it’s not a deal breaker, but something to be mindful about, given the focus placed on the portability of the system.
The Switch’s internal specifications are interesting, rocking a Nvidia Tegra X1 custom chip, which is similar to that of the Nvidia Shield, and 4GB of LPDDR. The console has a 3.5mm headphone jack but does not support Bluetooth headsets, which can prove to be a wiry mess when taking the console out and about and wanting to be conscientious to those around you. Nintendo don’t seem to have moved on from the Wii U regarding system memory, including 32GB, with a portion taken up for the system OS. The Switch does have a micro-SD slot and will allow cards up to two terabytes, so if you’re looking to buy a lot of digital games, you should look to put down a bit of extra cash and expand your memory.
With respect to the system chip and ram, this puts the Switch well behind even the base PS4 and Xbox One models. As such, the Switch is only capable of outputting Zelda at 900p when docked to your TV, and even then, there are still frame drops in scenes with multiple enemies or lots of particle effects. Whilst Nintendo are experts at designing games that have outstanding art design, as opposed to graphical prowess, it is concerning that a game like Zelda, with no anti-aliasing, experiences such drops at 900p. It seems that the first big title on the Switch may have pushed the console to its limits. I have no doubt that Nintendo will create beautiful looking games for the switch that will run to an acceptable level, but it will be interesting to see how third-party support will fare for a system with such lacking internal specs.
For all the little quibbles, such as the low internal memory, desynching issues with the Joy Con, CPU/GPU and RAM lacking compared to the other two consoles on the market and its high entry price, the Switch is still an amazing piece of technology and, given these flaws, I still feel the experience and fun-factor amounts to more than these combined faults. As the game library increases and, hopefully, third party developers get comfortable developing for the platform, the Switch will become a must own console