Console gaming has never been more complicated. Multiple consoles with the same branding, how does somebody not versed in the arcane arts of the gaming world know which one to choose? Have no worry, as we’re here to help. In our third entry, we’re taking a look at the newest console to join the fray; the Nintendo Switch.
• Portable AND playable on a TV
• Cartridge media which means potentially faster load times
• Can play 2 player multiplayer without buying any extra controllers
• Cheapest of all consoles
• Underpowered when compared to Xbox One and Playstation 4
• Battery life will undoubtedly get weaker over time
• No backward compatibility
• 32GB internal memory
What it can do:
Compared to the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch is mighty short on features. It’s a cartridge based system (like the Playstation Vita or the Nintendo 3DS), which means that you’ll not be able to use it as a media player. In fact, other than the Hulu app, the Switch has zero media playing capability. It doesn’t even come with its own web browser, Youtube player or Spotify app; stuff that’s taken for granted on the other platforms.
Nintendo wants it clear; the Switch is a gaming machine through and through. It’s also the cheapest gaming console at only US$299 (read my other article if you’re interested in my impressions on importing a Switch).
On the other hand, the Switch is more than that. It’s a gaming machine, true, but it’s also a portable gaming machine. Unlike traditional consoles, you can dock the Switch to play it on the TV, or remove it from the dock and play it on the go. When docked, the Switch can offer better performance in most games. Increased frame rates, higher visual fidelity, that sort of thing. That’s due to the Switch making use of the power it draws from the wall socket.
Depending on the game, undocking may seem a drop in both visual quality and framerate. Visual drops aren’t as noticeable unless you’re hardcore but the performance drops can mean that some games feel sluggish when on the go than they did when the machine’s docked. When in portable mode, the Switch can last about three hours with a fully charged battery, though that number might be shorter or longer depending on which games you play.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been reported to last about two and a half hours or so of continuous play, which isn’t surprising considering it’s an open world game. Less hardware intensive titles like Puyo Puyo Tetris can probably last longer than that. Interestingly, the Switch doesn’t come with traditional controllers. Instead, it comes with what Nintendo calls Joy-Cons, two plastic wedges that connect to the Switch on either side.
These Joy-Cons come in two varieties; the left and right versions, with different buttons and functions. If a Joy-Con malfunctions, you can just swap out the spoilt one with a new one with no issue…other than the cost. If bought in pairs, Joy-Cons are US$79.99 or $49.99 for either side. If you’re interested in using a more traditional controller, you’ll want to get the Switch Pro Controller, which is US$69.99.
In a neat twist, the Joy-Cons can be used as two separate controllers for certain multiplayer games. Instead of needing to buy another controller, you can give your partner a Joy-Con and enjoy split-screen multiplayer gaming, on TV or when the Switch’s in portable mode. Switch games, while cartridge based, also cost the same as an Xbox One or Playstation 4 game, which is US$59.99. Locally, they can run from $60+ - $80+ depending on the title. Also, you’ll want to factor in the cost of a micro SD card to expand on the system’s pathetic 32GB internal storage.
I recommend snagging one off Amazon. There, Samsung 128GB ones are just US$45, which should last you for quite a while, even if you’re regularly buying digital games.
Unlike the other two consoles, online multiplayer is currently free on the Switch, though not many titles are online capable. Notable ones are of course Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, though the online experience has a ways to go before it can measure up to Sony’s PSN or the Xbox’s Xbox Live.
No matter how you cut it, Nintendo’s the king of first party games. Right now, the Switch is enjoying a plethora of big name exclusives already out for the console.
Super Mario Odyssey, Fire Emblem Warriors, Splatoon 2, Arms, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario + Rabbids…all these are first party games or exclusive to the Switch and have been released to critical reviews.
If you’re worried the Switch is going to flounder and sink like the Wii U, don’t.
It looks like third party support is incredibly solid this time around too, with Dark Souls Remastered and other notable series coming in the near future. Even multiplatform titles like Puyo Puyo Tetris are different on the Switch by the virtue of it being a portable console too. Who’s never wanted to play a Metroid game on the way to work? With Metroid Prime 4 incoming, that dream’s coming true soon.
There’s even more good news if you’ve missed out on getting a Wii U. We’re already seeing some of the more popular titles from that console being remastered or ported over. Mario Kart 8 is an obvious example, but SEGA’s Bayonetta 2 and Nintendo’s own Hyrule Warriors will be coming in the next few months. Chances are even more of the Wii U’s games will be coming over too, especially if the Switch continues to sell like hotcakes.
The only question remaining is whether Nintendo will over a virtual console of any sort for the platform. Other Nintendo machines like the 3DS and Wii U have Virtual Console games (SNES, Game Boy Advance and NES) available for sale and play on their respective machines. Will the Switch follow suit? The smart money is on yes, but Nintendo’s still mum on when, or if, they’ll be doing it.
The bottom line:
The Switch is a great gaming machine BUT if you’re hardcore, it shouldn’t be your ONLY gaming console. Due to its lacklustre specs, Switch games will always be the red headed stepchild when it comes to multiplatform releases. Just take a look at the Doom, Skyrim or the upcoming Dark Souls Remastered. All these titles look and play much better on the other consoles.
To truly get the best console experience, you’ll definitely want to invest in a PS4 Pro or an Xbox One X to complement the Switch. Not that the Switch is a bad machine of course. The incredibly first party and exclusive line up’s already proven that the Switch can hang with the big boys. To date, Breath of the Wild is still an incredible game, with a quality and scale not yet touched by most other games.
However, to depend on the Switch for every game, isn’t recommended. The best way to go is get all the great first party and exclusives for the Switch, while nabbing multiplatforms on your alternate system, getting it only on the Switch if you want to play the titles on the go.
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