Nintendo Switch Review – First Year Part 2: System Concept
*Note: 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.
DNA of All Previous Nintendo Platforms
When you first see the Switch, it is clear that it is something special. This system brings back both the best and some of the worst from everything Nintendo has done up until this point. Except Miiverse. Poor, poor Miiverse. RIP.
What stands out in particular is how the Switch has combined the concept of a home console and a handheld gaming system into one in a way that has never been seen before. Sure, you could use remote play with your PSP to get console games on the go, but that is limited only to people who invested in both systems and who had extremely stable internet connections. Ever since the release of the Gameboy in 1989, Nintendo has had at least two platforms to rely upon at any given time. This has provided them two types of gamers to keep their material relevant on both the console and handheld markets. I know some people such as my older brother who haven’t even considered owning a Nintendo console ever since the SNES but has owned every single one of Nintendo’s handhelds to date. The Switch is a console which bridges that gap by bringing together both markets and all of Nintendo’s development resources onto one platform. The result of this is we are now seeing games such as a mainline Pokemon coming to a home console for the first time which will only help drive this console to levels of success not seen since the Wii.
What made the Wii so incredibly successful was without a doubt its implementation of motion controls thanks to the Wiimote. It was the first time motion controls had ever been so intricately designed into the basic concept of a gaming system. Those motion controls made the system interesting and accessible to people who had never gotten into gaming. It opened up the Wii to a certain “casual crowd”, and that had some positive effects as well as some negative repercussions. The positive side was that it put Nintendo back into the spotlight and drew a lot of interest from 3rd parties. The negative side was that the games were in most cases required to take advantage of the waggle mechanic of the controls, and the majority of what was released outside of Nintendo’s first party titles was mediocre, gimmicky shovel ware.
The Wii’s unique factor which brought it success has returned in the form of the Joy-Con, and they feel like drastic improvements over the Wiimote and Nunchuck. The motion detection has been generally improved and the implementation of HD rumble has greatly enhanced the experience with some games such as in Skyrim with picking locks or in for the guilty pleasure of Senran Kagura. Everyone who partook in that game, raise your hands. (Raises hand.)
What made me love the Wiimote and Nunchuck was that for the first time, I could play games without being restricted in posture. Up until that point, you had to sit with both of your hands paired closely together on a traditional control. Once the Wii came out, I found myself reclining a lot more with one arm resting on the couch above my head and the other arm at my side. Needless to say, that was very comfortable, but the issue was my arms being tethered by the cable between the Wiimote and Nunchuck. I could never quite fully extend my arms. The Joy-Con have removed that shackle, and that alone makes me love the Joy-Con far more than the Wiimote. Thanks to the functionality and design of the Joy-Con, it is possible for me to play a game like ARMS in a way that simply wouldn’t work on the Wii. I tend to make fairly exaggerated gestures while playing ARMs especially after an exhilarating victory.
The Joy-Con have even more of Nintendo’s DNA than the motion and next generation of rumble technology. One of the most important functions they offer is being able to transform into a complete set of two controllers for certain games. One of the only consoles ever to include two controllers right out of the box at launch was the Super Nintendo. Since most Super Nintendos in the West were packaged with Super Mario World, this meant players could simply take the system out of the package and start playing two-player Mario without needing to worry about buying a second controller. It was absolutely brilliant and just speaks to how pro-gamer the Super Nintendo really was.
Fast forward to March of 2017, and here is a brand-new system that has returned to that concept. The left Joy-Con lacks a D-pad to make it fully functional as a controller, but the results are magnificent. 17 years after the release of the Super Nintendo, players were able to simply unbox their console, buy a two-player game supporting split Joy-Con (many of which do), and just start playing with a friend. If only every Switch came packaged with a copy of Super Mario World, it would have been perfect. Missed opportunity, Nintendo!
Even the focus on indie games I believe is them hearkening back to the NES and SNES era. Many indie games have opted to go with a retro style, and these are the kind of games old Nintendo fans such as myself are familiar and comfortable with. When I see games of this nature on my Switch, I get a similar feeling to what I had with my Super Nintendo, and I can easily relate my experiences that way. It was really quite a brilliant strategy to focus on their so-called Nindies for the first year. It allowed players like myself who loved their older systems to have a brand-new console with a great focus on those sort of experiences without just being complete rehashes.
The older games seem to be saved for later in the second year when the virtual console hopefully comes out alongside the paid online service. In my eyes, that is likely the very reason that Nintendo hasn’t released the virtual console yet. I think they didn’t want their own old games to compete with the retro-style Nindies. Give them a year to get their foot in the door then bring in Nintendo’s own classics after the Nindies have gained strong traction.
The one concept I regret that the Switch missed out on is that of a dual screen. The dual screen concept of the DS family of systems is what propelled those platforms to success. One of my favorite uses of the dual screen was in RPGs where menus and other such information were regulated to the bottom screen, and we mostly got a HUD-free screen on the top
Another great way the dual screens were used were in platformers such as Yoshi’s Island 2 where the top and bottom screens were interconnected for intricate vertically designed stages. It would have been nice to see this come back for the Switch in some way because it would have also made Wii U-type titles with a separate gamepad possible. Okay Nintendo, here is a potential idea for a Switch 2. Simply put a rail similar to the ones for the Joy-Con on the top of the Switch and have it so players just slide a second Switch screen onto it. Make it happen! (It probably won’t happen.)
So far, the most interesting place I have played my Switch was from the summit of the second-tallest mountain in the United States: Mt. Elbert in Colorado at 14,440 feet. The absolute brilliance of the system is that you literally have the ability to play any game on the system you want anywhere you want. There are all kinds of stories about interesting places people have taken their Switches from playing on an airplane to riding in a canoe.
I would love to hear your stories down in the comments. Please share your story of the most interesting place you have played your Switch so far in the comments below.
*This section is a Team Talk feature dedicated to how the Switch has affected the lives of all of us here at Switchwatch.
It’s a Console Suited to Any Lifestyle
This system has had a wonderful effect on the lives of many gamers. For me personally, I was living in Japan and moved back to the United States last year. Naturally, bringing a TV back was not feasible, and I will be moving back to Japan next year. I simply am not in a position to buy a TV in the meantime. As a result, my PS4 has become little more than a decoration whereas my Switch is alive and well. For my lifestyle which prevents me from investing in something like a TV, the Switch has been a godsend. It has allowed me to maintain my gamer’s lifestyle without having to make many sacrifices regarding the kinds of games I play.
One problem I found myself having on both my Wii U and PS4 was that I was beginning games without completing them. I just found myself losing interest in almost every game I was playing with the sole exception of Mario Maker. Once the Switch came out, that completely changed. It is hard to explain, but I just felt compelled to complete every single game I owned on the Switch. The system just felt so complete and enjoyable to use that I wanted to make sure that I got the most out of every single game I invested in on the console. The system invigorated me as a gamer and made me remember why I started gaming in the first place: to have pure and unadulterated fun.
Well, it’s been a year, and here are my thoughts on the console itself! If you had asked me a year ago about having a Youtube channel and a website with six great people working together to bring you unbiased reviews and the latest features, I would have laughed at you. It’s ironic that the Switch brings people together in gaming but also allowed me to follow a passion I always had: not only playing games but also creating differing types of content. What came out of that was it brought six people together with the same passion, and the Switchwatch team was born.
In my childhood one of my very favourite consoles or handheld consoles was the Game Gear. I remember loving it so much because it was in colour, and it had Sonic on it. I was able to take this thing with me everywhere and play my favourite games. Back then if you wanted to play games with better graphics, then you would have needed a SNes or a Sega Megadrive, but I wasn’t bothered. I liked being able to play this in the car while my mum was driving somewhere or when we had to visit the long lost aunt and I needed entertaining.
Since that time, I never really bonded with a handheld console in the same way. I had the Sony PSP, and although I enjoyed it, it didn’t ignite my passion. Something was missing. I went through the Xbox and Playstation consoles and found myself just not having the time to sit down tethered to a TV.
When the Switch was announced I will admit, initially I wasn’t that excited. The Wii U was a little bit of a let down, and I expected that maybe this would not be all it was cracked up to be. James and I decided we would buy one each with a copy of Zelda. As soon as I had one in my hands and fired up Zelda, I knew this was going to be a special little console if developers supported it. James and I ended up talking for hours and that was it; we decided that we had to follow a long lost dream which we had many for many years, and that was to finally start our review channel. Nothing was going to stand in our way this time, and we made no excuses. We just got on with it.
Is this console perfect? No of course not. It has some negatives, but I find them to be few and far between. My niggles are with the kickstand which I honestly can’t stand and the bezels in my view are too large. Battery life could be better, and the dock itself for me is too large. I don’t particularly like the look of the dock, but for me these are just niggles.
What I love still today is the flexibility of the console. If I want to get an early night but would like to play an hour of Mario, I can do that in bed. If I need to go to a meeting in London on a train, I can play a game for an hour. If I have the living room to myself, the Switch gets docked and boom I am playing in docked mode. If the Mrs. comes in, I can take the switch out and can still play on the sofa. If friends come round, I can detach the joy cons for some multiplayer action.
It’s my indie game machine as well as my triple AAA title machine. It’s not as powerful as the other consoles, but it doesn’t need to be for what I need it. As long as the game runs smoothly, I am happy. Right now I am playing Outlast, and what a brilliant port it is! The hardware would of course be nothing without the games, and a year down the line the Switch has over 450 of them with many of them in physical format. What more could we ask for? Maybe an HD version with slightly less bezels one day, but for me the Switch has been a revelation. It’s a console that has brought 6 of us together who I can say I love working with and now consider friends. The Switch brought back my passion, and with it I met you!
As an adult with full time work, an active social life and family commitments, gaming had become a sad, forgotten friend that I still wanted to meet up with regularly but just couldn’t make the time for. When the Nintendo Switch was announced, Juan and I found ourselves following the build up. A spark slowly rekindled my passion in a way like it hasn’t been for a long time. Something about the console’s approach in stark contrast with Playstation and Xbox felt right. Gone was the talk about FPS and graphics; instead it was about playing on a timeline that suited your lifestyle and not feeling bad for remembering that gaming at its core is about fun.
Fast forward and Juan and I picked up the console on release day. Our excitement of loading up Zelda for the first time lead us to long conversations about the promise that was the Switch. Out of these conversations, SwitchWatch was born. I found the Switch to be a place to enjoy my passion once again combined with creativity in the form of videos and a project to share our views with like-minded people. As we approach the passing of the first year, it’s been a fantastic journey. We are lucky to have found many people to share that passion with including the awesome team that have helped us grow SwitchWatch into a small but passionate community. Bring on the next twelve months. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
For me, the Switch hasn’t been entirely the most life changing of devices. It hasn’t been the huge revelation that it has been for others. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been an excellent addition to my life style.
Pre-Switch life was pretty much the same as it is now. I was reviewing games for Nintendo consoles and, had the Switch not existed right now, I would still be doing that for the poor Wii U. Of course, these days my output is far more successful having joined the SwitchWatch team and reaching a wider, far more attentive audience which seems to have been cultivated by the Switch’s enticing proposition. So in that regard it’s certainly improved my standing as an aspiring critic.
As far as my gaming habits go, I take my Switch just about everywhere with me, something I never used to do before despite owning just about every iteration of the 3DS family. I would never have the urge to take them out with me, and I’m not entirely sure why. The Switch changed all of that. I bought a carry case for the first time ever, and not only that, but I bought a man-bag specifically to carry it around with me at all times. Yes, it’s not exactly the easiest thing to whip out and play seamlessly, but it was such a good feeling just to be able to play the proper console experience on the go. It was perfect especially for those emergency gaming sessions when I was dragged along clothes shopping with the wife. I’d just find a quiet corner and tackle the next shrine in Zelda, continue my battle with the dastardly Rabbids in Kingdom Battle or have a race or two in Mario Kart 8.
I know this may by hyperbolic and a bit too soon to say, but the Nintendo Switch could well be my favourite console of all time thanks to both the quality titles as well as how adaptable the system is. It’s just seemingly perfect for any situation; alone or with friends, at home or on the go. It’s always there for you.
I suppose the frequency of games has helped in this regard too. In the first year of the Switch there has been an absolute tonne of games both at retail and on the eShop and, not only that, but the quality has been truly outstanding. I’m finding it hard to believe they can keep this up in the second year, but I’m very excited to find out.
The Switch has affected my life fairly significantly in its first year of release. The hybrid nature of the console has allowed me to take full console experiences with me on the go bringing gaming back into my life. I detailed all of this in an article a while back, which you can check out if you haven’t already. But that’s not all.
A lot of people have been inspired to create because of the Switch. Just look at SwitchWatch. This did not exist until the Switch inspired some great creators to write and record reviews for the system. Back in November, I was also given an opportunity to write reviews for another site. It was something I didn’t even know I wanted to do. Taking that opportunity had led me to discover a new hobby: writing. Eventually, this path led me to SwitchWatch where they have allowed me to stretch my creative wings so to speak. I’m not just allowed to write features based on anything Switch related my mind concocts, I’m encouraged to. All of this wouldn’t have been discovered, nor possible, without the Nintendo Switch inspiring something within us.
The Nintendo Switch has affected me in the same way that our daily life itself has changed over the years: it’s way more flexible, always accessible and comfortable. I always loved my Nintendo 3DS and its older siblings a lot because I could bring them with me when traveling. With a great game library and more yet to come, this little console has so much to offer. I am enjoying it so much, and I cannot believe it is already celebrating its one-year anniversary!