on March 8, 2017
So, despite my complaints I bit the bullet and got the Nintendo Switch, which I'll likely be selling my WiiU to make up the difference for that mess. ANYWAY I wanted to get my thoughts out after actually getting my hands on the device.
It's a surprisingly well built machine, it's the first tablet I've seen with screws that would allow you to open it up to change the battery if it were to fail. The joycons feel really well built, and it's nice that you can sit back with your hands not together with normal controllers, especially if you're like me and have wide shoulders and a barreled chest. My hands are medium sized with sausages for fingers and over all I have little issue with the joycons. The biggest issue I have is the minus button on the left joycon, I cannot for the life of me reach to hit it with my thumb, I gotta use my other hand. The "dpad", is as a I thought not great. For all the Nintendo fanatics insisting "you need to try it to know" no, I didn't, it's 4 face buttons and not a pivoting dpad. It works fine for menus but it's functionality is minimal at best for platformers.
The buttons are click-y and nice overall and the sticks function well. Obviously something like the XB1/PS4/WiiUPro sticks are better for precision but, for a portable/non portable device? Totally serviceable, though if you have bigger hands you may not like the right analog stick location unless you're using the included joycon holder thing.
The screen is lovely, it's 720p but obviously when the game is scaled to match the device's screen it works nicely. Seeing the game at 900p on my 1080p TV isn't as bad as everyone makes it to be, maybe it's just Breath of the Wild's cell shaded art style (no other games to really try this with either) but it certainly isn't ugly as I've heard. Maybe on a 4k TV it's harder to swallow, I don't know. Speaking of which, the transition is pretty swift, put it into the dock, it's instantly on the TV, something I've wanted for YEARS.
Okay, I've sounded pretty positive, but now I'm going to talk about the flaws to this device, and they can be pretty severe depending on what you want to do with the unit.
The dock is a cheap pile of garbage, it's mostly hollow, really light, okay-feeling plastic. It looks nice, even hides your cables but there's one other major flaw with this. There's sliders to help guide the tablet into the dock, they are hard plastic and WILL SCRATCH YOUR SCREEN. How you ask? The screen isn't glass, it's a soft plastic that you can easily, easily scratch. Got a 3DS? It's like that. You absolutely need a screen protector, so get your credit card ready because there's more than that 10 bucks you'll be spending.
The internal storage is less than 32GB after formatting, system/game updates. Do not bother with saving games here, find a microSD card, make sure it's a fast one and get no less than 64GB. Games range from 4GB to around 30GB. You'll probably want one off amazon since I've seen 128GB cards go on sale for 50 or less.
The battery life is awful. I'm sure there's someone reading this who'll leap to defend it. If people mock the Game Gear for crap battery life, this thing lasts less than even that device playing something like Breath of the Wild. 2.5-3 hours, if you have a full, new, battery. So, more money spending if you're a mobile person! Because you can purchase a USB-C battery bank and play on the go, which is obviously less than ideal. Game Gear offered the same option and it's still dumb 20 years later.
The kickstand is useless, it's, so, useless. I have a Surface Pro 4 and had a SP2 which yes is a more expensive device but the kickstand being my point goes across the entire back flush and shouldn't be too hard. Also, if you want to play and charge in tablet mode? You can't because the USB-C port is on the bottom of the unit, meaning it can't sit while you play unless you, you guessed it, buy a stand. Or if you have a 3D printer I'm sure you can swing that.
The device is huge, if you're going to travel, you want some kind of case. There's a few of them online I've seen, all gigantic rivaling the size of the Atari Lynx model 1. This isn't really avoidable since it does have a big (and lovely) screen and the controllers fit on the sides, even if you take them off you still need to store them.
The clips that snap onto the sides of the joycons are a huge problem, it's really easy to mix them up and put them on wrong and...well just youtube how to fix it because, with a tool it's easy to get off. Otherwise, you may be stuck till you get one.
It's not a perfect system but it's getting a lot of flack I don't think it deserves. Don't get me wrong it's bloody flawed, down to the accessories being way too expensive. But if you want one, and you MUST have one, it's not a purchase I think you'd have to be ashamed of.
Rumors to talk about:
-No, the Switch doesn't get too hot. Your phone during a game could get more hot than this. 2+hours docked playing Breath of The Wild and it was very warm, and it won't get that warm when in handheld mode as trying that it was even less warm.
-The analog sticks are fine, I don't have any issues with them. They're not strange like the PSP or 3DS, they tilt and everything. The Dpad is not great though.
-The build quality on the joycons and actual tablet is damn nice. It's more so than the new 3DS XL. Nothing feels flimsy and the joycons do not pivot or bend on the sides of the unit. I've seen a youtube vid of a guy doing so, he dun' messed up because held even at the VERY edges of the joycons, no problem. Held by one joycon, it works fine.
-The dock does not add any special CPU or up-scaling. The dock simply provides extra power/electricity and a video out, the switch recognizes it and increases it's own CPU/GPU clockspeed. Different games will react differently. Breath of the Wild runs at 900p in docked mode vs 720p and has slightly better texture filtering at a distance.
Something to keep in mind that there's no standard for how this works with games, Dragon Quest Heroes demo (japan only) runs at 1080p 30fps (with a lot of slowdown) in docked mode and 720p and the framerate is terrible (worse than the vita version) to the point it's unplayable. (at time of writing, digital foundry did a frame analysis, demo / full release may be different. Please consider the date of this review)
-I said the kickstand is very useless and I stand by that, but it is not like a certain hardware review site depicts. Your Switch doesn't become possessed and slam itself over like one of those really goofy commercials featuring comically clumsy people. If you have a stable, flat surface it's passable. You should be very careful with it still as it's not stable on it's own. The kickstand will spring off of it (this is a GOOD thing) if pressed on so it does not break inside the unit, you can literally clip it back on.
-Yes, the dock will scratch unprotected screens. So, like any other device you buy with an exposed screen it is worth purchasing something for this because even without the dock potentially scratching your screen, it's plastic build will surely get scratched with general use, by your bag, etc.
-No, the Switch doesn't easily slide into the dock as they depict in commercials where it's super swift, you lower the Switch in carefully to not damage the USB-C at the bottom, awkwardly work to get the 2 buttons on the back of the joycons to eject them and pull them off. It's a very simple & pretty easy solution, but the way they advertised it? Not THAT easy.
-No, generic USB-C hubs with video out will not allow you to bypass the dock, there's some form of confirmation chip put in the dock to prevent this. If you want TV-out (at time of writing) this is the only way to do it.
-Cartridges have load times, they are not special magical storage devices. There's many misinformed weirdos who assume this still since...I don't know the PS/N64 days. Games have to load into memory and even Zelda sports some decent load times upon death. However they are not nearly as bad as many PS4 titles (Bloodborne and it's 30-40 second load times). I would say if you have played a 3DS game that's had to load, it's like that. (Resident Evil Revelations, Monster Hunter Generations, 7th Dragon 3: Code VFD<=please play this game if you like RPGS)
Nintendo did a pretty good job, there's some major flaws about the unit, but that said I think I could list some issues with the PS4 in a proper review. (Low HDD space, huge installs, crap load times, crap battery life on the controllers).
There's NO reason to get the Switch with this all said at the moment. It's the launch of the device, with a whopping ...what, 9 games? Only Breath of the Wild is a must have as well as Shovel Knight and the rest are either not interesting or too expensive (Bomberman). There's no virtual console list of SNES titles or whatever.
In maybe a few months when Sonic Mania & “Other Sonic Game” come out, along with Mario Kart 8 & Splatoon 2 (hopefully Freedom Planet 2) come out, yeah it'd be worth getting. But, the other thing to then consider is if you're gonna play these games online...You're gonna be forking out online fees.
Again, I will stress that the hardware, though flawed is still solidly built. If you absolutely, must have this to play Zelda portable. You will have a nice, versitile machine that will get you by. However many games are months away and though you can probably get over 100 hours of fun+ out of it, I don't like buying consoles on 1 game. (I bought mine for Disgaea 5, Zelda, Sonic, Freedom Planet 2 (possibly) and other interesting indie titles. Wish there was METROID but you know whatever.) Zelda runs fine in the WiiU if you have that.
Disclosure: I bought my own Switch and copy of Breath of the Wild. I'm not the kind of person who buys games or devices based on a company. I have PS1-4, PSP, Sega Genesis+CD, Sega Saturn, Sega Game Gear, SNES, Gamecube, Wii, WiiU, Switch, GBA SP+New3DSXL, a Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
Please review the date this review was written or edited before commenting about a feature or game running differently, games and hardware are frequently updated and I am not constantly waiting for updates & diligently testing every single one.
Okay it's been awhile, I've gotten a few games for the unit including: Sonic Mania, Bayonetta 1 & 2, Disgaea 5, DOOM, Fire Emblem Warriors, Wonder Boy, Kamiko, Blaster Master Zero also two games I sold: Resident Evil Revelations & Mario Kart 8.
The device itself:
Has held up really well. I'd say I use it 80% in handheld mode and have done a good amount of multiplayer with it on the TV. It's a chunky unit to be sure so getting a case is more needed than I might have stated- even if you have a backpack. The kicks makes sit down play still annoying so you're better off with the assembled unit there. Seriously another kickstand or one across the back would have been great. But overall it's fine! The dock as hollow lame as it is isn't giving me any trouble, the joycons I'll get to in a bit but everything works fine.
My prediction was right and the 25GB of the available 32GB is simply not enough even when buying physical games. Many games either have updates, patches or worse entire games to download onto the unit. DOOM has huge updates adding to around 10GB and Bayonetta & Resident Evil Revelations are not collections on carts as they demand you download the non-included game which are both over 9GB each. So that added expense of a memory card can be firmly pushed to a 64GB MINIMUM if you want to get any longevity out of it. I got a 128GB with only about 94 being left and I primary buy games physical.
Biggest issue here is, as of this update you still cannot back up your save games in anyway. You can't save them to the microSD card or a cloud save. So if something happens to your Switch you're forced to let nintendo repair it and you have to hope they can recover your data. This is a BIG problem and I hope they sort it soon.
I've seen some people complain of overheating, I can't say I've seen anything like this. It'll get toasty at best but in TV mode it's sat fairly in the open and runs quite happily. In portable I can't say it got super hot either since I hear the fan kick in and it just keeps playing as usual. Also, no, the Switch hasn't bent or warped. It's doing quite well and honestly just open the back of your dock and you'll probably make it way cooler when playing.
The battery isn't great. It's around Game Gear levels of performance depending on the game you play. Some light 2D games? Sure it'll give you probably 5+ hours if you turn off wifi and the brightness down. But DOOM much like Breath of The Wild will eat your battery in 3-4 hours annnnnd this isn't helped by the Switch's power supply not being able to charge the unit fully while playing these games. It just can't power the game and charge fast at the same time.
So, it's okay. Just ...could be better and you'll probably either want your power cord if you're out long or possibly a battery.
I wanted this to be separate since this seems to be a sore spot for some people. The joycons are pretty darn good! They might be the best portable controls I've had the pleasure of using given we have everything we need with only a bit of compromises here and there ..and one big one. They'll do the job in most circumstances and for me didn't usually get in the way. I found aiming to be harder in DOOM vs other controllers, just not enough sensitivity for longer range, precision aiming? I can't say. They just don't work as well- but they're still fine and will get you through. Bayonetta had me worried since some quick time events really have you having to roll the stick pretty fast. But no issues yet!
Split joycons is ...serviceable. I don't have massive hands but you don't want to play with them split for very long. In Fire Emblem Warriors you're lacking all the buttons you need for the game and have to turn to the menu for some options that aren't there for this gameplay mode. If your friend pops over and you wanna play something for a bit ? Yeah it'll do you for a bit. But I'm sure one of you will bow out before you'd like to because of hand cramp city. Thankfully it's SUPER easy for you to pair joycons from friends. They just gotta attach them to your Switch for a second, paired, done. This, is, great!
The 'd-pad' or lack there of is a sore spot. It works, it's not great, it's not really good but because Nintendo decided to go with a split 4 button d-pad it makes some games (fighters) very hard to play or platformers feeling a bit awkward since you can't rock the dpad smoothly and instead are jumping to buttons. A regular dpad would be preferred, I really hate that this isn't an option (besides mods and a 3rd party half working accessory).
Yes, I KNOW why they went with a split dpad, it doesn't make the portable experience any better and unfortunately makes playing games less entertaining. No, the pro or any other controller does not solve this in portable mode. It's a compromise that has left portable gaming worse off and local-split joycon play awkward at best.
I'm really happy with the unit, I'm critical on it here and there but overall it's a great gaming experience when portable and even with requiring some extras to get going (screen protector, micro SD card, case. If you can snag it or these things for a discount it's a solid little system. The devs seem to really be concerned about performance and getting games running at 60fps or at least a stable as possible 30.
Games look really good, even if the res gets dropped hard in titles like DOOM they got some fancy tricks to make it still look really nice. I mean, a tablet, playing DOOM- that's awesome.
Should you get one? Easy answer: Look up a list of games for it and if you find a good number of titles that you want/must have then sure, go for it. Just remember to get the accessories I recommend and you'll be golden.