Nintendo Switch Review – First Year Part 3: Functionality and Updates

*Note 1: The version 4.0 update was the latest major one, and the video I included above was a walkthrough of the update created by a Youtube channel I highly respect called GameXplain.  Please support them by watching the video, giving it a like and subscribe!

*Note 2: This review ended up being over 25 pages in Microsoft Word, so I have broken it up into five more easily digestible articles.  I am going to post one part of this review per day for the next five days.  You will be able to find links to the other parts of the review at the bottom of each page.

Functionality and Updates
Nintendo Switch Review - First Year Part 3
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The system menu is simple and easy enough to navigate.

Simple and Streamlined System Menus
One common complaint about the system menus of the PS4 and Xbox One is that they can be somewhat convoluted.  The Switch’s menu is a very pleasant departure from that trend.  What it lacks in the charm that the Wii U’s menu offered, it more than makes up for with its easy-to-understand structure that is almost impossible to get lost on.  It is logical and works very well.  I would like to see it updated in the future with some of the quirky designs and music that Nintendo is known for, but as it is now, it works very well.

Online Functionality
For the entire first year of the Switch’s life, it has enjoyed completely free online services.  Considering that some of the Switch’s games are entirely reliant upon their online communities such as Arms and Splatoon 2, this has been a godsend.  In a world where every other platform under the sun aside from PC has required extra payments for online services in games, Nintendo had been the last bastion of free internet services on the console market.  That is all set to change later this year when their paid online service is released, and it will be interesting to see exactly how Nintendo will compensate players for their money.  Will we just have to pay for more of the same that we have now, or will we be getting more stable servers?  What other perks and benefits will come?  If you are interested, here is Switchwatch’s Team Talk feature where we discuss what we would like to see from their paid online service.

Still Reliant Upon Antiquated Friend Codes
Gamers who have been playing on Nintendo have had to get used to Nintendo’s system of utilizing lengthy, unintuitive and cumbersome codes to add friends to their system.  Unfortunately, those are still being used on the Switch with no apparent end in sight to the practice.  While friend codes function well enough, they are something only begrudgingly accepted by the Nintendo community as they have been forced on us for so long.  However, the process of adding friends has been given a few new options to make it a lot smoother than it has been before on a Nintendo platform.

 

Nintendo Switch Users you played with
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Finding and adding people who you have played with online is a simple and organized process.  Guess what I’ve been playing a lot of recently.

First off, we are now given the opportunity to add friends from our 3DS, Wii U and phone app lists provided that you have both linked your accounts to your Switch.  This is done by going to your friend suggest under your profile in the system menu.  Another way of adding friends that just feels a lot better on the Switch than their other platforms is adding people you have played with.  For the Switch, it is set up a little more obviously than it was on the Wii U or 3DS.  I found that almost every time I tried adding someone, it would just go unnoticed.  I probably had three random people I played with on those systems actually accept a friend request whereas I have already had 88 people accept friend requests on the Switch.  Perhaps there is a different culture on the Switch where people are generally more interested in creating a robust friends list, but I feel like the main reason is it is simply more noticeable on the Switch when someone tries to add you.

 

Nintendo Switch Phone App
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The phone app works well enough, but it isn’t as elegant as native voice chat.

The Voice Chatting App
What is there to say about this absolute train wreck of an experiment?  Every other console now offers built-in voice chatting options.  The Wii U, 3DS and even the DS offered built-in microphones for native voice chat.  In my first year with the Switch, this has been the most unacceptable aspect of the system.  Honestly, it was 2017 when the system launched.  There is no excuse for a lack of native voice chat on the system.  No excuse whatsoever.  They try to say that it is for security reasons, but the only thing they have accomplished is inconveniencing their loyal fanbase who just wants to be able to communicate online.  It has even been proven that the Switch is capable of native voice chat through microphone-equipped headsets when players discovered the feature for local Splatoon 2 matches.  It is ridiculous that this native voice chat feature isn’t approved system wide.

Nintendo does not get a pass on this one.  The app is fine as a secondary option for voice chatting, and it offers some cool functionality such as managing items and getting exclusive content on Splatoon 2.  But it’s primary function is as a voice chatting system, and it is far from ideal.  After all, very few people want to have to keep their phones on hand at all times while gaming.  It is a hassle and and goes against the concept of convenience which the Switch so generally adheres to.

System Updates
Since release, the Switch has seen multiple updates making the system more stable and adding in certain functions.  There has been some good support here adding in some much needed features such as video capture and save data transfers. As it stands, the Switch still lacks several key features which were illustrated perfectly by the video  of a fake system update that was created by a fan.  If you click on this link, just remember that it is not real, but it does a great job of criticizing where the Switch currently is versus where the fans would like to see it.

As much as I enjoy the Switch, I can’t really give Nintendo a pass regarding the state the console is currently in.  It still lacks too many features that have simply become standard by this point, and they need to push it a lot further this year to remain competitive.  The concept of the Switch is brilliant and the presence Pokemon alone will sell a bazillion units, but the console itself still has a long way to go.

However, with that said, there have been some important additions made to the system even though some of them aren’t perfect solutions.  First and foremost, there is still no way to back up your save data.  For anyone who has invested hundreds of hours into games on their Switch, this is a terrifying prospect.  It is astonishing that Nintendo still hasn’t implemented this basic feature because it has been possible on their platforms for years.  They claim that it is to prevent hacking, but it is time to resolve that issue fully.  However, it isn’t all completely doom and gloom.  While we can’t back up our save data yet, we gained the ability to transfer our profiles to other Switches along with our save data in the system version 4.0.0 update.  At the very least, this provides people who need to get their Switch replaced or buy a new one a way to keep their save data.

 

Nintendo Switch Gamecube controller adapter
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This was originally only compatible with Smash 4 on the Wii U, but it now works with any Switch game.  Picture courtesy of theverge.com.

Unexpected Gamecube Controller Support
This was perhaps my favorite update from the entire year.  This completely caught the vast majority of Switch users by surprise and apparently Nintendo themselves.  I am a huge fan of the Super Smash Brothers series.  I spent about 10 years of my life playing Melee almost every day and have developed a very special connection with the Gamecube controller.  I have always loved the Gamecube controller, and it is probably my second-favorite controller of all time only recently nudged out by its little siblings, the Joycons.  I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that the version 4.0.0 update added full Gamecube controller support.  Not only did the Switch begin to support the GC controller, unlike its predecessor, the Wii U, the controller now works with every single game that supports the pro controller unlike the Wii U on which it only supported Smash 4.

 

Minecraft Gamecube controller buttons
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Here is my GC controller button layout for Minecraft if you are interested in trying it out.

The GC controller was a bit of a unique one with a button layout that conformed to the hands in a comfortable way, but it lacks several buttons that most controllers these days feature.  As a result, not every game works very well with the controllers.  On top of that, the button layout is very dissimilar to the Pro Controller and Joycons.  For games like those, playing with the GC controller just doesn’t make sense.  However, when you are playing a game which you can reasonably sacrifice some controller functionality and can remap the buttons to optimize them for the GC controller, it can be a match made in heaven.  I was even able to optimize Minecraft’s controls well enough for the controller that it works almost as well as the Pro Controller.  Other games, like Shovel Knight, don’t need all of the buttons from the native Switch controllers anyway and can be button remapped, so games such as those also work beautifully with the GC controller.

To use the GC controller, you need one of the USB adapters designed for Smash 4 on the Wii U.  Thus, it is only possible to use a GC controller while in docked mode.  Then, you simply need to sync the controller like you would any other.  Sometimes, I have found that the controllers need to be initially unplugged then plugged back in for it to register.  After you have done it once, you usually just need to press the start button to sync the controller.  It is a smooth process and only makes me love the Switch even more.  Now I just need to get a TV so I can actually use them…

 

Nintendo Switch Review Part 2: System Concept                               Nintendo Switch Review Part 4: Features and Power