In case you missed it, Nintendo released a new console/handheld hybrid called the Nintendo Switch. It’s currently selling like hot cakes (at a time which is traditionally slow for videogame sales), and it’s possible Nintendo have their MoJo back. But away from the hype, is the console worth it? Is it trying to be all things, to all people and making none of them happy?
The ‘console’ is really a souped up tablet, which only plays videogames. Indeed, at present there are no other apps, and when it does get Netflix it surely won’t multi-task, allowing for all the CPU power to be thrown at a game. Yet it comes with what is a cool gadget, which allows you to charge the tablet, and put the video output onto a TV at around HD resolutions. This is neat, and allows the handheld to suddenly become a home console.
Power wise, it can’t directly compete with the PS4 and XB1, but the gap is not as vast as say between the Wii and PS3. As the latest Legend of Zelda game has shown, it can do rich open world games. Not only that, but Ubisoft got the original Watch Dogs working on the Wii U, and the Switch is more powerful, so in theory if we use that as a benchmark, we could see some serious games released for this platform. Sure the Switch version might use lower quality textures, but it should be able to capture the essence of many games due for release in the coming months and years.
We also suspect that the Switch is a platform and not simply a one-off release. I.E. there will be updates/upgrades (as Sony and Microsoft are doing to their consoles), which are fully backwards compatible. So could we see a 4K Switch in future years? Sure. We would put money on it. Plus we expect a smaller version, perhaps with no Dock, in the future too, for younger gamers.
So what is it like to own? Well, it’s pretty good. Not all of it is good, I mean it is a Nintendo console. So some elements are half baked. Such as the OS. It is really bare, online functionality is a joke, and whilst the Estore is fast and good now that quite a few games have been released, it is showing it is not fit for purpose. Unless a game is doing well in the charts, anything originally released is now hard to come across unless you know it exists and do a search. You cannot search through genres, or publishers etc. Put simply, the UI and related functionality is bare bones. Ironically Nintendo said their online service would be free till November for early adopters. Clearly we now know why, as there isn’t much of one….
The machine itself is primarily a portable device, but it’s no 3DS. You can’t just slip it into your pocket, it needs to go into a bag of some kind, probably inside a protective case. However, unlike your Xbox One, it is a proper handheld. Think of it as what would be produced if the PSVita had a baby with the Wii. The Joy Con controllers work pretty well, and double up as motion controllers (how long till Nintendo re-release Wii Sports?).
So what have we been playing on it? Legend of Zelda of course. This is truly epic, and channels Skyrim and other great fantasy RPG games through it’s veins, whilst retaining what makes Zelda…. Zelda. I.E. Dungeons and puzzles. The game is vast, looks great with some lovely water effects (the weather system is excellent), and even if you get stuck, there is so much to see and do it feels like the game that keeps on giving.
Snipper Clips is a super puzzler. There is nothing stopping Snipper Clips being on another console, but it feels RIGHT on the Switch. Also the game plays best with two controllers, and you just cannot be sure that a player on Xb1 or PS4 has more than one controller as so much Multi-Player is now online. On the Switch you know, as a developer, that everyone has at least two controllers, as the Joy Cons can be split into two hybrid controllers. This is a great game to play with mates, but expect some swearing and frustration along the way!
Fast RMX (or Fast ‘remix’) is something in between Wipeout on the Playstation systems and FX Zero on Gamecube. Originally a Wii U title, this is a remastered version with a lot of extra content thrown in. It is super fast and super playable. I prefer it to Wipeout (which is a great game) as the controls are less floaty. It looks GREAT, and out of the box offers full four player split screen. Of course you can do two player straight away as we have two Joy Cons, and add another set, or a Pro-Controller (which is a great investment) and you can do 3-4 players from the get go.
Blaster Master Zero is a new game, but a follow on of an old one, and has old school graphics. You explore meteoroid style, 2D levels in your tank, but can jump out of it to go on foot and enter top down on foot only sections, to get hold of special weapons or fight end of level bosses. This game is not a huge challenge but it is fun to play.
Shifty, a new indie title, is a top down beat em up mixed with the game mechanic of Velocity Ultra a PSVita darling. You play a guy who can ‘leap’ through time and space a short distance but upto five times in a row (with your super power meter then having to recharge). It has elements of combat, timing and strategy involved and is a lot of fun. The Frame rate is poor, but a patch has now been promised.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of the Master System game. It has lovely modern music and graphics but at anytime you can switch back to retro graphics and sound if you so choose. A lovely game which is still a lot of fun to play.
All these indie games can of course play just as well, on a PS4, but some them just work better on a hand held system, held close to the gamer. This, incidentally, is why the PSVita has become a system with a rich eco system in recent years, as it is a great place to play such games.
However great tablets are, they really miss the lack of physical controls. The Switch takes this to a new level and is a welcome home to a bunch of games which intrigue, allow us to reminisce and present ideas mainstream publishers would be scared to commit to. Indeed when it comes back to retro, the Switch already has a strong start with a solid release of NeoGeo titles! Expect, of course, Nintendo NES/SNES and more games to come to the Switch in the coming months, and possibly GameCube games too. This could be a serious retro console if given the right attention by Nintendo and other publishers.
So has the Switch become my go to console? No. Im a hardcore gamer, and Im playing other games on XB1 and PS4. Yet, it is becoming a console I regularly turn to, take to work with me, play in bed. It will probably eat up more gaming hours over the long term, perhaps over shorter blocks of time, than my PS4. Has it killed my 3DS? No. That is a great system, is truly portable, and has an amazing game library. Games made for the 3DS, and which are not trying to be a a full console game, still play well on the 3DS, and that 3D effect is lovely too on many titles. I see a good life ahead for the 3DS, with it only really being challenged when a smaller Switch is release. the 2DS is now £80 WITH a game, and the Switch is a long way off from achieving this. However, the PSVita struggles with some gams, such as Borderlands 2. The Switch would not, and there is a place for it in every gamers heart in my opinion.
Overall, I think the Switch is clever, it is substance over gimmick, and it can run serious games. It won’t be full of crapware like the Wii was, and if the current sales numbers are sustained or increased it WILL gain third party support which the WiiU lacked. Whether it will be multi-platform game third party support, or like the 3DS, third party publishers making games specifically for the Switch as they see an opportunity with the fast growing install base is still unknown. If Fifa came out for the Switch and it was the SAME version as that on the XB1, I would prefer it on the Switch… but I would rather always play the latest Assassin’s Creed game on my PS4 Pro. However, give me a new, different open world Assassin’s Creed game, for the Switch, then I would buy that too.
Nintendo are very much back in the race. Now go save up, and get a Switch. You’ll love it.
By Steven Gurevitz