Nearly a year after the Switch's release, I finally decided to get one! This past Tuesday after work I went to a GameStop on my way home and picked up a Switch, a small carrying case, and two games: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. So today, in early celebration of the one year anniversary of the Switch's release, I'll be writing about my first impressions on Nintendo's most recent console.
Out of the Box
The very first thing I noticed about the Switch when I opened up the box was its impressive form factor. This thing looks like something that Apple (pre-iPhone 5) would have come up with. The console is sleek, lightweight, and simple. Just like I like my hardware, especially hardware that I'm going to be carrying around. My one complaint here is that I think the Joy-cons sacrifice a little comfort for this form factor. When docked on the Switch or the Joy-con grip, the controllers are fine. But when playing with a single Joy-con in the landscape orientation, my hands get a little cramped. I don't have huge hands, but I guess the Joy-cons were designed with children's hands in mind. At least it's possible to buy the pro controller, which does look quite a bit more comfortable.
The Switch's user interface is a nice step in the right direction for Nintendo. After setting up your initial settings, you are able to add users to your Switch. Each time you select a game to play, the console asks who's account is playing the game. No need to go to a different menu and sign-out/sign-in to do this, like you had to do on the Wii U. On top of that, everything you do on the Switch is really snappy. Going back to the home screen only takes the time it takes you to press the home button. No need to load the home screen. You can even hold the home button to adjust some commonly used settings in-game. Resuming a game from the home screen is just as fast, and popping in and out of sleep mode is a breeze. I am overall very impressed with this aspect of the Switch.
Here is a part of the Switch that has some good and bad things. First off, I'd like to say that it is awesome that Nintendo is now unifying its online services for its devices. I was able to easily find all my 3DS and Wii U friends that owned Switches and send them friend requests. Unfortunately, you still cannot look someone up by anything other than their friend code if you haven't played with them or aren't sitting in the same room as them. I wish Nintendo would add some sort of way to look up a person by their email or through social media, as friend codes are really just annoying to deal with.
Another improvement is the ability to see which of your friends are online and what game they are playing. However, there is no way to communicate with your friends! It would be nice to send a message to your online friend, as the touch screen would make it very easy to compose a message. It would also be nice to have native voice chat available, which leads into the most frustrating part of the Switch's online capabilities, the fact that you need to have a smartphone and download a separate app just to be able to coordinate an online game with friends. Sure this app lets you create a voice chat lobby, but is it really necessary to do this Nintendo? I understand the need to keep kids (the primary target audience of this console) safe online, but there should at least be options that an adult player can use to enable this sort of functionality. Also, it seems like the only game this app currently supports is Splatoon 2, meaning you can't use voice chat outside of that game. Overall, the Switch's online capabilities are pretty disappointing, but somehow not as bad as previous Nintendo consoles.
The Main Attraction
If you're going to push a new console, you have to show people the games they'll miss out on if they don't buy your console. That was the main problem with the Wii U. That is also what caused the Xbox 360 and PS2 to absolutely destroy the competition in their respective console generations. To be honest, the games I see coming out for the PS4 and Xbox One don't really excite me as much as what I see planned or already released for the Switch. Sure you can talk about how Nintendo always "re-hashes" their Mario, Yoshi, and Kirby games every few years, but each of these iterations always brings something new to the table. This innovation is usually manifested by the different ways of playing games each of Nintendo's new consoles bring to the table. I'm very excited for what Nintendo is going to use the Switch's impressive hardware for this time around. Just looking at the recently announced Labo really shows that Nintendo is thinking way outside of the box this time around.
I wasn't really sure where to put these comments since these are just little things that you don't notice mostly because they're done so well. So here they are in list form:
The console charges the controllers just by them being attached. This makes charging them an afterthought.
You can pair new controllers to your console simply by attaching them to the side of the Switch.
The asymmetrical design of the controllers allows them to both have the same configuration when playing in the landscape orientation. Also, the stick placement reminds me of the Xbox 360 controller, which I love the layout of.
The screenshot function is easy to access and very quick.
You can put the console into sleep mode and then pick up right where you left off with no delay.
The click the controllers make when snapping them into the console or their attachments is very satisfying.
This seems like Nintendo's most impressive console/portable to date. I really like how technically impressive the Switch is, while still remaining very simple and intuitive to use. I wish Nintendo would step up their social functions though. All in all, the Nintendo Switch is really better than I thought it would be. I'm really excited for what the Switch will bring to the table in its second year, especially now that I own one.