Nintendo Switch Review

The hybrid between handheld and console.

Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s next-gen system, has an impressive mission- to blur the line between console and handheld gaming.  The system allows you to play games at the comfort of your home, or take it on the go to continue gameplay outside.  Meanwhile, Switch can also be its own standalone tablet with wireless controllers.  So many functionalities in such small package, Nintendo really dreams big with this one.  While Switch can easily be the next step for gaming experience, Nintendo’s desire for the system to be both console and handheld only resulting in neither.  Switch is not powerful enough to be a convincing home console, nor enough battery life to have a comfortable handheld experience.

The Switch is a beautiful system.  Rather you got the neon blue and red version, or the subtle gray pair, the stylish sleek design and matte finish makes the system a very handsome one.  The console itself is the small tablet that bears the 6.2-inch, multi-touch, 720p LCD screen, and it’s alarmingly thin and small compares to the other current-gen systems such as Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or even the Wii U.  Don’t let the size fool you, however, as the system holds enough horsepower to run *console games (more on it later), and still weight under a pound with both Joy-Con attached, making it the ideal candidate for long-term handheld gaming.

While the Switch’s dock is nothing more than simple plastic pieces that house HDMI and USB charging station, it allows the system to transform into a traditional home console.  The transition is seamless, as within couple seconds of dropping the tablet onto the dock, the picture will transfer over to the TV.  Same as the transition back to handheld- just simply pick up the Switch.  This is a truly impressive innovation, and a great gimmick that separates the Switch from other consoles.

The Joy-Con controllers allow you to play Switch in multiple way.  While sitting in the dock, you can detach the controllers and house them in the Grip that allows them to function like a tradition controller.  You can also hold the Joy-Con on their own, or turn them sideways to use them as simple controllers.  While this might be a cheaper option to multi-play among friends, the tiny size and awkward layout can be a huge problem when even playing the simplest game such as Mario Kart 8.  Also, the left and right Joy-Con aren’t symmetrical.  One has the buttons awkwardly placed at the center, and the other one does the same with the analog stick instead.  It’s not the ideal way to play games, and I don’t recommend it at all.

Also, the controllers lack the traditional D-pad, and it can be quite problematic when playing certain type of games.  Not to mention the awkwardly placed Minus button that’s placed too close to the left analog stick that I hit it anytime I want to use the button.  On top of all these, here’s no way to charge the controllers when they’re detached from the system, resulting another problematic gaming experience.

Despite all the complains, the Joy-Con controllers are packed with some nifty features such as the HD Rumble.  The game 1-2-Switch takes advantage of the controllers’ new features, and the Ball Count mini-game really has me believe I’m holding a small box of balls in my hand.  Meanwhile, there’s a NFC reader in the right Joy-Con to read amiibo.  I personally ran into some problems while scanning my amiibo, but we all know how important this feature is.

Perhaps the biggest problem Nintendo Switch faces is the lack of power compares to other current-gen systems.  The system runs on a custom Nvidia Tegra X1 chipset, with 4GV RAM that’s half of PlayStation 4’s 8GB.  The lack of horsepower even shows up during The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as the frame rate drops to 30 per second during TV mode, and it drops further south when too many objects are on the screen at the same time.  It doesn’t perform as well as other consoles, and it kills the opportunity for ports of big budget AAA games.  The reason can easily be both the limited RAM on the system, or a small game card with limited information stored.  Even if the problem is not obvious now, it’s going to be one going forward especially when facing potential multi-platform ports.

The Switch’s biggest strength is when playing in handheld mode.  The system displays a beautiful 720p during handheld, and a consistent frame rate despite the GPU speed run down to save power when not docked.  It’s a monster by handheld gaming standards, far superior than the 3DS or even Vita.  Nintendo does a great job packaging a lot of power into a small package, and small package indeed!  It’s easy to take the system on the go, and I’ve really enjoyed my experience playing Breath of the Wild during my morning commutes already.  I’ve always wanted to play my console games when I’m on the go, and with the Nintendo Switch my dream finally came true!  And it’s a simple procedure too, just pick up the system from the dock.

However, even in handheld the Switch is not perfect.  The system drains battery life way too quick, and I can only squeeze in about three hours of gameplay before plugging the system to a power source.  This really rakes away the whole “portable” part of the handheld system.  Well, at least the system uses USB-C port, and it charges pretty quickly.  Mentioning the USB-C, there’s another dilemma: the USB-C port is on the bottom, meaning you cannot charge and play the Switch when using the kickstand during multiplayer games.

On top of all the problems, my biggest concern with the Switch is minimal internal storage.  The system comes with only 32GB, and it’s not transformable at all, so there’s there no way to go full digital with your library unless you purchase a huge SD card.  The upcoming Dragon Quest Heroes is pretty much Switch’s entire internal storage, so it’s strange in this day and age Nintendo didn’t offer a bigger storage option than 32 GB.

Overall, Nintendo Switch is a beautiful hardware that can easily change between a home console and a handheld device.  On the go, it’s a powerful device with a gorgeous screen, but it drains battery too quickly to be truly portable.  Meanwhile, it’s an underpowered console that lacks basic features offered by other current-gen consoles.  It’s nicely built with great design and wonderful concepts, but it tries too hard to be both things at the same time, it is neither at the end.