My relationship with Nintendo is a strange one. On one hand, no other company (even Sega) has managed to bring me so many countless hours of joy. And now, as we sit the week before their next home console lands in our living rooms, bedrooms, bus stops – anywhere, really – many are left wondering if this is Nintendo’s shot to reposition themselves as the hardware giant it once was before the Wii. While I can’t answer that question just yet, I can tell you what my first night home with the Nintendo Switch was like.
I’ve actually had a little bit of intimate time with the Switch from press events, but those are very controlled environments – focus-tested to ensure there are only positive vibes when playing the console. In a home environment, there’s no one to suggest how to play, where to go, or how to experience hardware. So in a way, this is the freshest take I’ve had with the console.
The Nintendo Switch is either a powerful portable console or a weak home console, depending on how you look at it. The main unit is really just a touch screen that looks like any run of the mill tablet, but it’s much beefier. It’s packing a customized Nvidia Tegra chip, but what’s interesting is that along the top lies ventilation for the unit. You’ll also find the power button, volume control and headphone jack along the top along with the cartridge slot. At first, the slot protector has a bit of resistance, which made me a little worried that I was going to break it, but after enough time, it wore down a bit. The sides house the rails that help slide the Joy-Con in to take it on the go. In this mode, there is a certain flatness to the device, but that doesn’t hinder the experience. It’s larger than the average tablet with the Joy-Con connected, so I’d recommend bringing some kind of case with you if you want to venture out into the wild with the Nintendo Switch.
That’s just one way to play, though. The Nintendo Switch is meant to be played in one of three ways. The first is with to the docking station that connects to the TV is very minimalistic as well. With a matt black plastic finish, it only houses the HDMI, Power and USB ports along with the connection to the Switch tablet. The entire presentation is very light and unintrusive. The second is on the go with the Joy-Con on either side, and the final is with the kickstand located on the back out, using the Switch console as a monitor while the Joy-Con are held separately from the unit.
The Joy-Con themselves are interesting beasts as well. They feel like the natural progression of the Wii in the sense that they’re shaped almost like condensed Wii-motes. “Condensed” is a bit of an understatement, as they are really small, to the point it may be better to opt for the GamePad Pro in some cases. It’s a larger interface with bigger buttons and more intelligent joystick placement. Still, for what they are, they’re impressive pieces of tech. They feature HD Rumble, which is a more weighted vibration. This could be the future of immersion, and I hope it’s something both Nintendo and third parties support. While the right controller boasts the home button, which can turn on the console, the left Joy-Con is home to a screenshot button, making quick snaps easy. When you play at home, users can place the Joy-Con in the Joy Grip controller, which is pretty much just a way to allow those little guys to sit in a more traditional manner.
Physical features aside, the Nintendo Switch’s interface is very clean. Imagine the 3DS or PlayStation 4’s home screens and you have an idea. There are visible slots for each game file, and beneath that are options for the eShop, Nintendo news and updates, along with configuration and power options. The top corner of the screen is where the battery life indicator sits, and with a tap of the screen, the Nintendo Switch will actually tell the user the exact percentage of battery left. The games themselves take no time to start up, which is refreshing, to say the least. Though I did encounter some longish load screens, the chance to literally pop in and play without an install period is such a strange console experience at this point. There was a time when that was the norm, and I’m glad Nintendo is letting me harken back to my inner impulsive child who actually wants to play a game when I buy it.
Overall, the Nintendo Switch comes packed with a lot of different playing options. While we will have a full review in the coming weeks, it’s important to take a sober look at the console outside of its demonstration booth in the living room to see how it actually performs. The Big N is banking hard on this home-mobile hybrid, and, for now, the pieces are there to run with it.