Some Thoughts on the Switch

I love this thing, there I said it. The house that Mario built has enriched the gaming landscape again, and while it's not the perfect console, it does what it's designed to, extremely well. Its hybrid nature just making sense without being forced, far surpassing its predecessor in every way.

The Wii U was a system with problems. A lack of third party support, confusing messaging on what it actually was and a game pad that felt like a toy. All these added up to a system that, while having some fans, was generally seen as a flop. Naturally, concerns were high when rumors started about Nintendo’s next system.

After nearly a month with the Switch, I can say that those concerns were, for the most part, unfounded. The Switch feels like the system the Wii U should have been, a natural consolidation of the company’s portable and console devices that actually works.

All the guts are contained in a device that's essentially a modern tablet. The dock is literally just that, hardly any electronics and extremely easy to setup, but it does feel a bit light and flimsy, I feel like knocking it off the tv stand would easily cause a crack. The actual tablet section, though, feels great in your hands, like a modern, high tech piece of kit.

By today's standards of course that isn’t the case, the latest iPad’s far outpacing the internal technology of the Switch. They also do a lot more, capable of running games, web browsing, email, even replacing a laptop. By comparison, the switch is a meager offering, only capable of playing and downloading games.

The best thing about the Switch is that it's a hybrid, allowing you to pull it out of the dock and take it with you. This is one of those things you didn’t know you needed. It is brilliant, especially if you have limited time, because you can grab five or ten minutes here and there, playing the full main console game at your desk on your lunch hour or sat in the car waiting for someone.

The system does exactly what it says on the tin - its a gaming system through and through. The default controllers, the Joy-Con’s, are much nicer than I first thought. Worry set in after the initial reveal that they would be too small in my hands and it would annoy me, but actually they’re perfect.

You can use the Joy-Con’s in a few ways, and all feel pretty sweet. You can attach them to the tablet with a satisfying ‘click’ and use it more like the Wii U’s tablet controller, though it feels much more solid than that thing ever did. You can undock them and hold one in each hand, which works surprisingly well and is the method I use when playing on my lunch hour, and finally you can click them into the bundled Joy-Con grip, turning them into something akin to a standard controller.

The flipside of the grip is that they don’t charge when using it, it is literally just a fancy holding device. To charge them you have to keep them attached to the Switch and dock it. It’s not exactly a deal breaker but it is a bit annoying. The upside is the battery life on them is great, so you don’t have to do this that often.

The major downers, and there are some, is that out of the box, some online features are missing until an update later in the year. This includes chat in online multiplayer, but at least the multiplayer launched with the system.

That update will be a paid subscription service, which I will happily sign up to, especially since it will reportedly be cheaper than similar services on the other consoles. The biggest problem with the online portion of the switch is that they still haven’t figured out a better system than the bloody friend codes. It was archaic when they first introduced it, and it downright prehistoric now.

The other major problem is that the left Joy-Con loses synchronisation with the console, causing it to not respond or send false signals. It is maddening when it happens, and requires some rather stupid workarounds to solve, though Nintendo have now come out and said it is down to a manufacturing error and they will fix it if required.

Overall, the Switch is a quality bit of kit. It has some problems, sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that Nintendo have learnt from their mistakes with the Wii U and improved on the initial design. I hope that they slowly kill off the 3/2DS and move over to just Switch development, as it’s hybrid nature is the perfect excuse, and it is the best portable gaming device on the market.