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March 13th, 2017

The Nintendo Switch is out.  What do I think?

When Nintendo announced the Switch, it filled me with both excitement and frustration towards the company that once saved the gaming industry back in the eighties.  Excitement because I liked what I was seeing, but frustration because it meant it spelled the end for the WiiU.  While the WiiU has been Nintendo's second biggest failure behind the Virtual Boy, I was and am still a big fan of the WiiU.  The WiiU failed for a number of reasons, but in my opinion, the biggest mistakes were the lack of big titles right off the starting line, and the calling of the system WiiU, which made people believe it was just an add-on for the Wii.  The sad thing is, the WiiU was an incredible system with so much untapped potential.  It's both sad and infuriating to see a company that has been so brilliant make such huge bone headed mistakes.  I still have people that I talk to that are surprised when they learn that the WiiU wasn't just an add-on for the Wii. 

So Nintendo announced their new system, and with all the damage that they had done to their name were really in a tight spot when it came to their next move.  A system that directly competes with Xbox and Playstation would already be three years behind and a system that sets the standard for the next generation after this one would be insanely priced at this point.  So, Nintendo decided to go another route: a hybrid system, called the Switch, that was both a console and a handheld that wouldn't directly compete with the Xbox and Playstation.

Nintendo is entering a dangerous area here, because as a handheld, they are risking losing their 3DS market, and as a console, they risk not being able to compete with the others.  One thing is for sure though, Nintendo does like to take chances and innovate, even when people might not think it necessary.  I think that's a good thing, as gaming has really become stagnant lately and, while I have nothing against sequels, the sequels that are coming out seem to do nothing more that push it graphically .  Nintendo is offering, once again, a new system with new capabilities, and it's once again up to the makers of the games to innovate rather than churn out the same games over and over until eventually interest will wane and gaming will once again be at risk of slowly fading. 

So, the question is:  Is Nintendo's new system innovative enough to breathe some new life into not only Nintendo as a company, but the gaming industry as a whole?  I'll give you my rundown of the system and give you my opinion as to whether Nintendo is actually on to something, or if this will be another grasp at trying to save a slowly fading company.

Here's a comparison next to a 3DSXL

First, let's talk about the system.  When I opened up the box, I was surprised to feel how solid it is.  The Switch is approximately four inches high by nine and a half inches wide with the controllers attached.  The screen is vivid and sharp, and also doubles as a touch screen.  While the exact power hasn't been revealed, the system is more powerful than the WiiU, but not quite as powerful as the Xbox one or PS4.  That's as good as we can get right now.  But, after playing Zelda, you realize that the system definitely has some horsepower under the hood. 

The system, while not being used in hand-held mode, rests effortlessly in its cradle which is connected to your TV, and slides out with ease when you want to go back to handheld mode.  There have been complaints of scratched screens from pulling the unit out, but a simple remedy for this is getting a screen protector (which, if you're going to be using it in hand-held mode a lot, is a no-brainer).  While playing it on the TV, you slide the controls off the side of the unit and they form a controller that resembles a standard controller from other systems.  When the controllers are taken off the system, they can also be used as two separate controllers for multiplayer gaming.

When I booted the system up, I was prompted to make a profile and then given the option to merge my Nintendo account from my other systems. It was easy and painless.  Nintendo did a good job on the setup.  The menu right now is bare bones with profile names at the top, and a list of games you have in the middle to choose from and then a menu at the bottom to go to places like your settings or the store.  It's very plain, but I like it.  It's not cluttered with ads like Xbox and so busy you have to search for what you're after.  In time it will get busier, but for now, I'm enjoying it.  As they did with the 3DS they will have to change the menu system so you can make the game icons smaller so you can fit more on the screen.

The system charges while it is in its docking bay.  A full charge will last about 2-3 hours depending on what you are running.  If you're playing the new Zelda game, you'll only get about 2 hours of life from a full charge, but if you're playing a less demanding game, you'll get more (the usual, as we're used to with phones, laptops, etc...)  The controllers charge while on the system and the system is charging, so you'll either want to get an extra set of Joy-Cons (the name of the controller) and keep them rotated so they are always charged, or invest in a Joy-Con charger that comes out later this month.  The battery life on the controllers last a long time, and if you just make sure to keep them charged, you'll not have too many problems with it (though not having the standard USB cable charging options is kind of frustrating).

The unit itself has a stand which allows it to be placed on any flat surface while you either sit back and play on it, or you and your friend gather around the little screen and play on it.  The system acts like a 3DS when it comes to games as well and will basically do local LAN parties with wirelessly connected switches.  This will be great for games like Mario Kart!

So the system itself is actually quite impressive.  It is versatile and powerful enough to have some impressive games all while being ultra portable.  It's battery life is a little short, but if you plan on taking it on the go a lot, you have the option of taking the power plug with you, or buying another power plug for on the go gaming (I opted for a second power plug so I didn't have unhook my power supply from my base).  From a hardware standpoint, I'm very impressed.  The controllers mix a lot of technology into a little package.   They include an analog stick, motion and camera for use and detection of movement in games (basically think  the next evolution of the Wii mote controllers),  lots of buttons and (when they are being used as separate controllers) shoulder buttons.

 While the controllers are off the system and being used apart, they have a wrist-strap that slides onto it and also acts as a way to bulk up the controller a bit.  It's effective and works well.

So, with the hardware being out of the way, we get to the important part: The games!  Nintendo is the master of making fun games.  In a world dominated by call of duty and Halo (which are great games, don't get me wrong), it's nice to see a company constantly trying to move both the hardware and software industry forward and prevent a catastrophe happening again like we had in the 80s. 

The big launch title is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which  has received multiple perfect scores from various critics around the web.  This was a perfect showcase title for the system and really was a brilliant move by Nintendo.  Originally planned as a WiiU only game, Nintendo decided to make it a launch title and release it for both systems (the WiiU and Switch).  The new Zelda title plays wonderfully and reminds me of a near Elder Scrolls game (my all time favorite games).  So seeing this new Zelda brought to life on this new system, it has already earned some seriously high marks with me.

The Legend of Zelda is an amazing game and a definite system seller.

 

Along with the Zelda game, I also got Bomberman (if you've played Bomberman, you know what to expect.  If you haven't, I'll do a review later), and downloaded Fast RMX, which is a decent futuristic hover-racer in the vein of Wipeout (Playstation).  It's not perfect, but it's good and will fill the void until Mario Kart is released.  There is a game called Snipper Clips that is a fun multiplayer game that is perfect for people of all ages. 

Snipperclips is a blast playing with someone to solve puzzles and cutting each other up to fit the need of the set.

There are a few other games that are available, but I do not have them (either by choice, or lack of funds).  The online store gets updated every Thursday, so hopefully they will release more than one or two a week and will also try to keep the low budget shovelware off the system.  Time will tell.

Now comes the question that I always get asked:  Should I buy this for my kids?

First off, you should buy this for yourself, and let your kids get a paper route if they want it.  This is an expensive machine and isn't just a little toy to be handed to a five year old who tosses your phone on the floor when they get bored.  This is a $300 piece of tech that will entertain you for a long time, if you take care of it.  So, if it stays hooked to your TV then definitely I'd say this is good for kids.  But if you are going to let them run around with it and think it's not going to get broken, then I would just really hope you bought a good warranty.

With that said, there is a funny video of a guy testing the toughness of the Switch.  Knowing my luck, it would break on the first drop, but for this guy, it lasted quite a few drops. If you look up on youtube and type in "how many 5 ft drop tests can Nintendo switch survive?" you'll get the video.  It's impressive, but again, results will vary, although I've always been impressed with Nintendo's build quality of their devices.

So what's my take?  I love this system.  It has so much potential.  The ball is in Nintendo's court to make sure the system gets the support it needs to keep momentum going.  Games will be the answer.  Games, games, and more games.  Nintendo needs to get unique and fascinating titles on this thing, as well as getting as many well known franchises on it to draw people in.  Bethesda is making Skyrim for it (coming this fall) and I'm hoping they make Fallout 4 for it as well.  If Nintendo can pull developers in and get some great titles, this system can be the next big hit they've been after to get them back on track.  With Mario coming in the fall as well, Nintendo is positioned  well off the starting line, but now it's up to them to keep people's attention.  Here's hoping for the best!

Good:  Portable power!  Great start.  Controllers actually work well, as does the portable / console nature.

Bad:  To get all the stuff you need, it will run you a pretty penny.  The controllers are expensive, and you'll need a large micro SD card right away.

What pushed me over: Skyrim on the go!!!!!!  I can't wait!!!!!

 

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