I was lucky enough to get a pre-order in right away for the Nintendo Switch, and as such I picked my Neon system up right at midnight on March 3. After racing home and tearing apart the box, I realized just how tiny everything is. The Switch itself is fairly thin, especially for a Nintendo product. By comparison the Wii U Game Pad is at least three times thicker. The Joy-Con controllers feature tiny action buttons, not unlike the Nintendo 3DS. The analog sticks are small, but have enough spring-back and throw to get the job done.
If you haven’t seen the Neon Joy-Cons in person, they’re quite striking. They are very bright and sort of reminded me of the neon Play-Doh colors. While the Joy-Cons are small by design, they actually worked very well when hooked up to the Switch in handheld mode. My first hour of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was in TV mode with the Joy-Cons attached to the Joy-Con Grip that comes with the system. I wanted to see how that felt, and I must say it’s not bad! I don’t have large hands so the layout worked great. If you can’t afford a Pro Controller, I think you’ll be just fine with the included Grip, or simply holding a Joy-Con in each hand, which is very comfy.
Having said that, the Pro Controller is my preferred method of playing the Switch in TV mode. It has bigger action buttons and the sticks are normal sized so it just feels great in my hands. The built-in gyros work like a charm in Zelda and the 40 hours of battery life mean I don’t need to sit and charge it in a single play session (I’m looking at you PS4). The only downsides are no analog triggers and no built-in headset port. I suppose you could also complain about the $69.99 price tag. Keep in mind that it does come with the USB-C charging cable, has NFC and gyroscope built-in, features HD Rumble, and works great. The suggested retail prices for PS4 and Xbox One controllers are $59.99. The former sells the charge cable separately, and the latter requires AA batteries or you need to buy a play & charge solution, which can range from $15 to $40 depending on what you go with. Nintendo supplies everything you need in the box. As time goes on I’m sure retailers will run deals on the Pro Controller, just like they regularly do with the PS4 and Xbox One.
The first time I booted the Switch up I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and snappy everything was. The setup process was easy and the user interface is very simplistic. The games are all displayed in squares in the middle of the screen in a single line, which reminds me a lot of the PS4. Along the bottom are easy access icons to things like the eShop, News, Settings, etc. The top left shows the users on your system and selecting it will take you to the specific page for that user, which shows friends and other options. The system is extremely fast with little to no loading at all between areas. This is a vast improvement over the Wii U and 3DS operating systems.
I currently have two users on my Nintendo Switch, although they are both mine. That’s because the system is region free, which means you can actually access the Japanese eShop and download games directly from it! I’ve downloaded demos of Dragon Quest Heroes I & II as well as Puyo Puyo Tetris. The process is very simple and all you really have to do is create a new Nintendo Account with Japan being your home country and a new username with a different e-mail than the one you’re currently registered with. On your Switch you add that username and link it to your newly made Nintendo Account and you can then access the Japanese eShop. Granted, everything is in Japanese, but it’s not too difficult to figure out how to navigate. This is a welcome change to the walled-off 3DS and Wii U systems.
I’ve played many of the launch games, including: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Snipperclips, 1-2 Switch, Fast RMX, and Super Bomberman R. I had three friends over on launch day and we played a bunch of multiplayer stuff, putting the system through its paces. We tried every configuration of Joy-Con and Pro Controller we could think of, and it all worked flawlessly. I was worried that games like Super Bomberman R would suffer without a D-Pad, but I was surprised at how well the analog stick worked for this game. The jury is still out on fighting games and traditional 2D action-platform titles, but for now the Joy-Cons seem to get the job done. One of my friends has really big hands so I kept pestering him, asking how comfortable a single Joy-Con is and if he cramped up or anything. After playing for almost two hours he didn’t have any complaints. He did like the Right Joy-Con better because the analog stick is more at the center of the controller, and that seemed to fit his thumb placement more naturally. You can hear more about what the four of us thought by listening to our latest episode of Nintendo Times Radio.
All three friends also had Nintendo Switches, so we even tried playing some Fast RMX with two consoles locally. One was hooked up to the TV and the other was in handheld mode, and of course this worked, as it should. We even both hooked up for an online match, but at launch the game just put us in random races with others. We already know that the developers are patching in friend support soon, so that will be nice. The game runs and looks great on the Switch. If you’re itching for a new F-Zero, this could be just the ticket! I love the constant need to change between orange and blue colors on your vehicle to match the boost strips on the tracks. This creates a strategic element that’s not usually seen in racing games, and reminds me a little bit of the GameCube classic, Ikaruga, where you had to constantly flip between two colors.
1-2 Switch was kind of what I expected, a bit of a tech demo. It’s not worth $50, unless you maybe convert it into a drinking game or something. It’s too shallow and out of the 28 games, maybe 5 were actually fun. Definitely buy this one with caution. I could see younger kids maybe getting a kick out of it, but I’m not sure it would have lasting appeal.
Snipperclips was one of our favorite games to play as a group. The 4-player mode is extremely fun and everyone’s screaming what to do and how to figure out the puzzles. On top of that, they have included three competitive games: air hockey, basketball, and fighting. All three were more fun than they had any right to be, and this is a great game to have on your Switch at launch. It’s one of those games that I could see someone taking their Switch to a friend’s place, popping off the Joy-Cons and having a blast in Tabletop mode.
Super Bomberman R is more Bomberman, which is exactly what I wanted. The graphics have been overhauled, for better or worse, and they look more modern. The levels are all fun to play, and each has a special gimmick present, such as magnets or disappearing tiles. If you leave the revenge modes on, it can be even more chaotic when people start dying. Someone can come back from the dead by lobbing bombs into the arena and getting their revenge. I liked what we played of this one, and although some think the $50 asking price is way too high, I think if you’ve loved these games in the past, it’s worth every penny.
Of course, the biggest game of launch is Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and it’s worth the wait. I’ve played this game for the past three days and have probably logged well over 24 hours into it and still haven’t uncovered half of the world map yet! The game is gigantic, and the world is brimming with secrets to discover and places to explore. It’s just an amazing ride so far with surprises around every corner. There are so many cool things that have happened to me in my adventures up to this point and they continue to pile up. Early Sunday morning my jaw hit the floor as I experienced my first thunderstorm in the game and witnessed a giant creature dancing across the night sky. It was breathtaking, exhilarating, and a moment I’ll never forget. Is it worth spending $300 on a Switch and another $60 on Zelda to experience this game? You bet it is.
I don’t have too many complaints or concerns about the Nintendo Switch yet. Yes, it does feel like they probably rushed the system out the door to meet their financial forecasts. There are features missing, like no Virtual Console, no ability to send messages to friends, no party chat, no headphone jack in the Pro Controller, no Miiverse, no StreetPass, no eShop music (gasp!), no streaming services, and no Bluetooth headphone support. Are any of these deal breakers? Not for me, but they might be for you. Most of the problems listed above can easily be fixed in the next few months. More services are definitely on their way to the system, but it definitely seems like Nintendo wasn’t quite ready to roll them out just yet.
Overall I’m very satisfied so far with my Switch purchase. I love the ability to take my console games on the go and continue right where I left off. The Sleep mode works brilliantly and the game is available to play in a matter of seconds. The handheld screen looks fantastic, and in some cases (like Zelda), the smaller screen almost looks better than the big screen! If you’re upgrading from a 3DS to a Switch this is a phenomenal jump in power and graphics. If you’re coming from a Wii U to a Switch, it’s more of a lateral jump in performance. There’s more horsepower here, but it’s not a night and day difference. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. With games like ARMS, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, I’m going to be a very busy (and happy) gamer!