The Nintendo Switch has been looming over most of the Wii U’s short life-span, which means it has a mighty big set of shoes to fulfill as the newest console on the block that will eventually replace both the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS. It’s certainly a tall order to fulfill and Nintendo has done an admirable job with their first effort, despite some early issues with the console that have cropped up.
I’ve had my Nintendo Switch since launch day and nearly every day since then I’ve been playing with it in some form or fashion. The same couldn’t be said of the Wii U for me, which quickly lost its luster after the initial excitement of Zombi U wore off. I’m cautiously optimistic about the Nintendo Switch in a way that I wasn’t about the Wii U and I think that’s a good first step for Nintendo at this point in the console’s life.
While modern consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One go for a sleek profile and a nice look while sitting underneath your entertainment console, Nintendo has always gone for the more friendly approach. The Wii U GamePad felt like one of those old V-Tech toys that were common before the internet made tablets practical and while it was a bit larger than the Wii, it did away with the angled lines of the GameCube and the Wii for a more round approach.
Thankfully, Nintendo has abandoned the “Baby’s First Smart Device” feel of the Wii U with the Nintendo Switch. This is a device that I could see carrying around with me every day and not being ashamed to see playing it. It feels nice in your hands and while the Joy-Cons can feel a bit flat when they’re connected to the Switch unit itself, they’re far more enjoyable to use than the Wii-motes we’ve been accustomed to for the past several years.
Every hardware aspect of the Wii U that I disliked has been addressed with the Nintendo Switch and I’m happy to see that Nintendo has realized you can create a product that feels good in the hand without sacrificing the quality that’s expected from a portable device. The docking mechanism works flawlessly and is perhaps the most appealing thing about the Nintendo Switch.
When compared to the Nintendo Switch, the Wii U feels like a mere prototype console that wasn’t ready for prime-time. You can see the vision Nintendo was trying to arrive at with the Nintendo Switch and having owned both, I can say that those of you who avoided the Wii U should consider the Nintendo Switch. This is the product Nintendo intended to create with the Wii U but they ran out of time thanks to how quickly Wii sales started tanking.
My biggest complaint about the Wii U was how lousy the software experience was compared to some of the other consoles on the market. The lag involved in simple tasks like launching the Nintendo eShop or switching between games made the system feel ancient even in 2013, when the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were unveiled with thoroughly improved interfaces.
It seems Nintendo has learned a valuable lesson about the importance of a snappy UI, as there have been zero instances where I felt like I was waiting too long to accomplish a task on the Nintendo Switch. Loading the eShop is super speedy, checking your profile and looking at screenshots seem to happen instantly, and while the multiplayer companion app isn’t available for testing yet, offloading that aspect of the system to the user’s smartphone seems like a smart bet.
It’s unfortunate that Miiverse seems to have died with the Wii U, since it was a unique social network that provided Nintendo fans with a great environment for discussing their favorite games. I can imagine the man power required to moderate the communities was tremendous, but still it hurts to lose something that was so unique and better executed than any of the activity feeds on modern consoles.
When I watched the reveal of the Nintendo Switch, the cringe-worthy Joy-Con presentation was one of the things that made me very unenthusiastic about the console. It looked like another Wii-mote that could be attached to the console and in a very rudimentary way it is, but it’s also so much more than that.
Where as the Wii-motes were bulky and felt like waving around large sticks, the Joy-Cons are sleek and fit nicely into my smallish hands. My only complaint isn’t really a complaint but a preference, I wish there were a bit of a roundness to the back of the controller to give it more grip, but I understand why Nintendo didn’t go with this option due to the versatility of the Joy-Con. Besides, that’s easily remedied with an accessory that does the job nicely.
As for connection and performance issues, it seems the left Joy-Con does have some disconnection issues in early units. That’s not to say it’s widespread, but it’s enough that Nintendo has officially made a change to the way it produces future Nintendo Switch units so the issue won’t crop up again and they’re fixing any Joy-Cons with this problem free of charge.
This is the area where the Nintendo Switch has the weakest performance and it’s also the most critical for Nintendo to get right. Making Breath of the Wild a launch title for the Nintendo Switch was an absolute must that helped Nintendo hit the launch out of the park, but only 9 games were available at launch and Breath of the Wild is still the only AAA title on the console nearly a month after release.
Sure, we’ll be getting Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 soon enough and those should be great enticements to those people who didn’t pick up a Wii U, but hardcore Nintendo fans don’t have a lot to look forward to that’s new until later this holiday season. Super Mario Odyssey will no doubt be the holiday system seller for Nintendo, but it’s hard to overlook the glaring lack of games available at launch.
Breath of the Wild is vast and deep and can occupy plenty of time and I have high hopes of my Nintendo Switch replacing my PS Vita as my go-to indie gaming machine, but I still have nightmares about the post-launch months of the Wii U. The delays for Pikmin 3 and Rayman Legends really helped hammer the Wii U software drought home and I hope the Nintendo Switch can avoid this in the future.
For what it’s worth, it looks like they’ve addressed the issue well for those who didn’t pick up a Wii U. LEGO City Undercover, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey are all slated to be released this year, while new games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 have a 2017 release date but we all know what happened with Xenoblade Chronicles X.
Battery Life & Storage
One of the growing pains of the Wii U was its absolutely abysmal lack of internal storage. The console never came with more than 32GB of storage and that’s the base storage available for the Nintendo Switch. However, the important difference here is that the Switch includes a microSD card, whereas I had to buy an external hard drive to play all of my Wii U games.
The microSD card is a universal standard (THANKS NINTENDO!) and the price of these cards is consistently lowering over time. In fact, as of this one month review you can get a Samsung 128GB microSD card for around $39.99 on Amazon and we’re willing to bet that the price will go even lower as larger-sized microSD cards become more common.
The battery life of the Wii U GamePad wasn’t too great for long play sessions and the Nintendo Switch still isn’t perfect. Nintendo says you should expect about three and a half hours playing a graphically intensive game like Breath of the Wild. In our experience this past month, that’s about right.
When playing less intensive games like The Binding of Isaac or Shovel Knight, we saw closer to 5 hours of battery life for the console. Again, Nintendo went with a standardized charging port for the Switch with USB-C (THANKS NINTENDO!) so the cable you already have to charge your Macbook or your newish Android phone will also charge your Nintendo Switch on the go.
With no extra cables to haul around, I’m not too concerned with the battery life on the Switch. Mobile power banks work to charge the Nintendo Switch while you’re playing, so if you really need more than the internal battery life will give you, there are options that finally aren’t a hassle to use.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the launch of the Nintendo Switch. This is coming from someone who was less than enthusiastic about the Switch because the Wii U left a bad taste in my mouth. The lack of games was the biggest downfall for the Wii U and it was clear the transition to HD cost Nintendo some valuable development time.
The Switch feels like the machine the Wii U was meant to be, if the Wii had continued to sell well enough to last as long as the Xbox 360 and the PS3 did. Because it didn’t we ended up with the Wii U as a stop gap measure. Now it feels like Nintendo is trying to fill that mistake by releasing a console that gamers like me have dreamed about since they were a kid trying to sneak some extra screen time on the SNES before mom finds out.
Nintendo Switch – $299.99