Nintendo has created a genuinely beautiful product that has such a unique degree of versatility that it just screams “Nintendo!” to the player. The ability to play a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the go is absolutely insane. Is it going to render everything in 4K resolution? No, but it will still give players a chance to bring some of their favorite Nintendo franchises on the go.
Let’s look at the hardware. The Switch comes with two JoyCons, the console, the controller that the JoyCons can slip into to work as a standard controller, the Switch itself, and a docking setup. The Switch (I ordered the gray console) has a metallic finish, much more premium than the Wii U GamePad, which feels like a cheap toy by comparison. The dock, unfortunately, is made of plastic, and has been reported to scratch the screen of the Switch. Caution should be exercised there when placing the Switch inside of it.
The Switch itself is a little more than half an inch thick at 0.55 inches, and has a length of 9.41 inches with the JoyCons attached, with a width of 4.02 inches. At 297 grams, or 0.65 pounds, it’s a very lightweight device. There is a thermal vent on the top that rarely makes a sound alongside the power and volume buttons, and a standard 3.5mm audio jack. The bottom of the Switch contains the USB-C port. Nintendo decided to thankfully get rid of the proprietary connector, and moved towards a more universal port. The JoyCons slide directly into the sides of the console, and make a click when successfully connected.
The Switch can be played in various ways. In the portable mode, players can opt to remove the JoyCons and play in a freer context, holding both JoyCons and attaching them to the impossibly difficult to remove wrist straps. The Switch can be propped up on a weak, cheap, and plastic kickstand that looks like it could fall over in a small wind burst. In the console mode, the JoyCons can be slid into the JoyCon grip, and played very similarly to a home console. Although the controller has a bit of extra height, it still plays surprisingly comfortably. The transition from portable mode to console mode is incredibly seamless, and takes no time at all. A quick drop in the dock will transition to the console mode within a second.
On the software front, however, Nintendo needs to do a bit of work. The Switch’s menu is extremely fast. It’s responsive, and it’s very simplified. It’s almost too simplified for Nintendo, given the previous complexities of and the utter mess that was the eShop. It’s back, but it’s a lot better and so much faster than before. There’s no music on the menus, and the only noises are from moving between items and the satisfying trademark “snap” that the Switch makes. The operating system is great, but is missing some of the key features that many have desired such as Virtual Console, media playback, MiiVerse, or even a simple internet browser. While Nintendo has stated that some of these features would be arriving post-launch, at present it definitely feels half-baked and does not reach its potential.
On a final note, let’s talk about the price. At $300, the console is a pretty solid purchase. It’s expensive but actually feels like it’s worth it this time around. Compared to the Wii U, which felt like an under-marketed Fisher-Price toy, the Switch is a premium device that looks like it was made for a more mature gaming audience. However, there are additional expenditures to consider. A Switch game can cost around $59.99. The Switch dock is$90 if your current one breaks, and a Pro Controller (most similar to a ~$20 current generation console controller) sets you back a ridiculous $70. Individual JoyCons cost $49.99, and a full set is $79.99. These costs add up quite a bit, and for me, having purchased a Pro Controller and a case to hold the Switch (an absolute must!) the total is about $400. This is definitely going to be a hard sell if you want to play with more friends, to say the least, and the lack of backwards compatibility on previous controllers makes this a bit of an annoyance.
Regardless, the hardware for the Nintendo Switch is brilliant. When I was demoing this to my friends and family, everyone was amazed at the sheer versatility of the system and various configurations in which games can be played. It’s revolutionary, and changes the playing field for console makers. The software still needs to be developed a bit further, but with time, this console has the inventiveness to compete with Sony and Microsoft’s systems despite a lack of power. I’m in love with the Switch, and I’m grateful to Nintendo for providing us with this copy for reviewing purposes.