My journey with the Switch has been an incredibly personal one, and the style in which I will write this review will reflect that. This might end up being one of my least objective reviews up until this point as I have an unending well of opinions relating to this console, and not everyone is going to agree with me. But my passion for the system has granted me the opportunity to write about it as I am now with Switchwatch, and that is something I am very grateful for. As such, I am going to use this chance to express that passion in a way that I might not normally. From here on, let’s get into my first-year Nintendo Switch review.
*Note: Over the last five days, I have been posting one part of this review every day to make it easier to take in since it turned out so long. Here I have compiled each one of the parts and put them together for one, massive, comprehensive review. I hope you enjoy it as a lot of work went into the creation of this review.
What is a console without its games? That is how I will open this review. It has only been one year, but the Switch already has an incredible 476 games released on it with more being released every week. It can be argued that many of these games are small indie and mobile titles, but of course that is the case on every platform. Through a staggering number of releases both big and small, the Switch has had an incredible library to choose from for new adopters of the platform and for early supporters.
*Note: This number was determined based in a list of every Switch game released so far created by Eurogamer. This number also does not include Japan-exclusive titles.
Game of the Year and Contender
It is impossible to discuss the Switch without bringing up its flagship titles: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey. Breath of the Wild is a phenomenal experience which absolutely earned its spot as Game of the Year from most media outlets. To quote my younger brother from his first time playing it, “A game hasn’t made me feel like this since I was 12 years old.” The absolute freedom it offers grants players the ability to approach their adventure in any way they see fit, and it brilliantly encourages experimentation. It turns the expectations of a Zelda game completely on its head while maintaining the spirit and form of the series which makes it so special in the hearts and minds of fans the world over.
Last year, I went to a Switch event in Nagoya, Japan on January 22nd. It was part of the World Hobby Fair and was Nintendo’s effort to give people a chance to check out the Switch prior to its release. I was fortunate enough to get about 20 minutes of hands-on time with Breath of the Wild. Before actually getting to try the Switch out myself, I was still skeptical of it, but those first few moments actually holding it and playing BOTW for myself made me 100% a believer. It really was something you had to see and hold yourself to believe. It was new and invigorating for both the gaming world and the Zelda franchise. The Switch’s screen just made everything pop beautifully, and the world of Zelda itself felt so open and free. In a way, that concept is what makes Breath of the Wild the perfect system to compliment the Switch. Breath of the Wild is a game in which you can play and explore in any way you want to, and the Switch is a console which you can play anytime and anywhere you want to.
Mario Odyssey is another truly special game which appeared exclusively on the Switch, and frankly it is astounding that we have gotten two of Nintendo’s most important classic franchises in the same year both of which being contenders for being the best in their respective series. Breath of the Wild was amazing for how it completely rewrote the conventions of the franchise while maintaining its heart and soul, and Mario Odyssey was amazing for how it took the conventions of the franchise and refined them so immaculately that the game just feels on a another level compared to almost every 3D Mario game that has come before it.
ARMS, Splatoon 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2
While bringing its two big titles to the Switch in the fledgling console’s first year was clearly a priority for Nintendo, they also had three other heavy hitters in the works, too: Arms, Splatoon 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I don’t think anyone doubted how Splatoon 2 would perform considering how well the first game did on the Wii U. In fact, it has become the first Switch game to pass the landmark of 2 million units sold in Japan. In fact, the last console game to exceed that milestone was Wii Party in 2010! Splatoon 2 translated very well to the Switch and works great for LAN parties. It took one particular hit by not having an ever-present, touch-compatible map on a separate device like the first game had thanks to the Wii U’s gamepad, but it still works beautifully despite lacking that feature.
ARMS was Nintendo’s big new IP that was born out of the last year, and most people did not know what to think of it at first. I was quite intrigued by it because I love motion controls, but I couldn’t get sold on it until I could actually try it. I was extremely disappointed when I went to the Switch event because I had taken an interest to the game after watching Pro Jared’s video preview of it, but they did not have an actual demo station for players to try it out at. However, once the Global Test Punch occurred, I was completely enthralled with the experience it offered.
It took me a little while to figure out the proper way to hold the Joy-Con in order for the gyro to properly register your movements, but after I did, I found the most well-utilized motion controls I have ever seen a game. They were completely responsive, and I felt like I had total control over my characters. Any time that the characters took an action that I didn’t want, it was generally my own fault and not just because of shoddy motion control implementation. I tried to use a pro controller for ARMS, but I found that the controller just held me back in a lot of ways.
Unfortunately, ARMS hasn’t taken the world by storm like Splatoon did. It has still managed to top an impressive 1.6 million worldwide sales, but I somehow doubt that those sales were quite what Nintendo had wished for the game. I desperately hope that Nintendo hasn’t yet given up on this budding franchise for it has so much potential for improvement. Hopefully Nintendo has looked at the reception the game has received and is already working on a sequel to provide much-requested features such as a fleshed out story mode which I know many players have been desiring.
Anyone who reads my material knows that I can go on gushing over Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for days on end, so rather than regaling you with an in depth explanation of the game, I will refer you to my full written review of the game here.
In short, I LOVE Xenoblade Chronicles 2. After completing it, the game settled in comfortably as my favorite title of 2017. The intense and emotional story, the massive world and the deep battle system which speeds up drastically after mastering it made for an excellent and cohesive experience. The game wasn’t perfect by any means as it appeared to have been rushed out the gate to meet the promised release window of winter 2017. There aren’t many bugs I am aware of and the game never crashed on me, but the resolution and frame rates struggle to say the least. Also, the menus can be rather convoluted for newcomers, and the voice acting can certainly be questionable at times in both English and Japanese. But, despite those things, I still found it to be an excellent experience, and it is slowly improving via updates. Additionally, there is an upcoming story DLC to be released later this year that will hopefully prove to be exciting.
The Resurgence of Excellent Wii U Titles
As much as I loved my Wii U, it cannot be denied that it was a commercial failure. It was one of Nintendo’s worst-performing platforms beaten only by the Virtual Boy. The fact is that in only 10 months, the Switch has already outsold the Wii U worldwide. Despite not selling well due likely to its terrible marketing, the console was graced by some of the best games of the last generation along with several other very strong titles. The surging popularity of the Switch has given many of those games a second wind and is providing a completely new market a chance to experience them.
So far, the Switch has already seen ports of Pokken Tournament, Mario Kart 8 and Bayonetta 1 & 2. Even Breath of the Wild was originally slated to be a Wii U exclusive and was ported for a simultaneous release on the Switch. There are even more Wii U ports in the works such as Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors which combines all of the exclusive material from both the Wii U and 3DS versions. If you missed out on any of the Wii U titles or loved them and don’t mind double dipping, I say absolutely go out and buy them. All of them are still great games completely worth buying, and the new portable feature of the Switch makes it a great place to play them. Although, it would certainly have been nice had Nintendo thrown us a bone by making them cheaper than full-priced new games.
Budding 3rd Party Support
Nintendo has developed a reputation over the last decade for being the red-headed stepchild of the gaming world mostly relying on itself while garnering little outside support from major 3rd party developers. This was one factor which damaged the reputation and sales of the Wii U. Sure, the Wii U got a staggering number of major 3rd party ports at launch such as Batman: Arkham City and Ninja Gaiden 3, but these were games that most people had already played on their Xboxes, Playstations or PCs and just didn’t see a need to reinvest in on the Wii U. After that, most 3rd party support for the system dried up almost entirely. Fortunately, we are seeing a massive turnaround in this department.
One of the biggest 3rd party developers that has jumped on board with Nintendo and the Switch is undoubtedly Bethesda. They have never really supported Nintendo’s platforms aside from the Home Alone game on the NES based after the movie of the same name. They had always claimed to have an interest in Nintendo but, and I’m paraphrasing here, only didn’t support them because Nintendo’s platforms couldn’t play their games in the way they envisioned them. They finally made good on this claim by being one of the first major developers to invest in the little console in a big way: by bringing two of their most important games to it within the first year and a third one in the second year.
Skyrim may not be universally loved, but it is the 12th best-selling game of all time and stands as a symbol of Bethesda’s achievements. And it was a game that most people, myself included, never thought would come to a Nintendo system. And yet, here we are in a world that saw Skyrim released on the Switch along with several features exclusive to the system such as fairly decent motion controls, perfectly utilized HD rumble for picking locks, Amiibo functionality and an awesome Link equipment set based on his appearance in Breath of the Wild. Also, it is not a port of the original PS360 version. It is a port of the PS4/Xbone remasters with only a few very slight graphical downgrades and lacks modding support.
DOOM and Wolfenstein 2 are the Bethesda ports which really stand out though. The reason? Because they are both very new games developed for current-gen consoles. DOOM was only released in 2016, and while the Switch version may not have as fluid of a frame rate or as sharp of a resolution as it does on the big boys, it is still a technical marvel that the game has appeared on a console which doubles as a handheld and still works great. When you actually get your hands on it, there is no denying that it is 2016 DOOM despite the lower resolution and frame rates. DOOM served as absolute proof that the Switch is capable of providing player nearly the same experience as they are getting on the stationary home consoles. Wolfenstein 2 hasn’t had any Switch footage shown yet, but it will be interesting to see what Panic Button has learned about pushing the Switch through its DOOM and Rocket League ports when Wolfenstein 2 for the Switch is officially unveiled.
I may have only been talking about Bethesda here, but other big developers have been supporting the Switch in a great way. Square Enix in particular has been standing up for the Switch by bringing such titles over as Dragon Quest Builders, I am Setsuna, Lost Sphear and their upcoming port of the PS4 version of Dragon Quest XI. They even have an excellent game exclusively in development for the Switch called Project Octopath Traveler (working title) which employs an advanced HD-2D graphical style and a branching 8-story path depending on which one of the 8 characters you choose as your protagonist. If you haven’t yet, you really should check out the demo. It is quite an amazing game. Make sure you play Primrose’s story in the demo for that one really sets this game apart.
Year of the Nindies
Speaking of Rocket League, 2017 and early 2018 has been an absolutely phenomenal year for the Switch in terms of indie releases. It has only been one year, and indies have been lining up in droves to bring their best games (along with some mediocre ones) to jump on the Switch hype train. In the first year alone, the Switch has seen some of the biggest and best indie games such as Binding of Isaac, Stardew Valley, Rocket League and Super Meat Boy. It is impossible to list all the great indie titles coming to the Switch, but just know that every week multiple new games are coming out. There hasn’t yet been a drought of games on the Switch thanks to this, and that can only be a good thing!
Sales Performance of the System and Games
The Switch only has a fraction of the user base as seen on Steam, the PS4 or the Xbox One due to it still being a new console, and yet there have been multiple success stories with the games on the Switch selling better than all of the competition combined. A few great examples of this are Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap, Super Meat Boy, Shovel Knight and Forma.8. In Japan, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2’s sales have even officially exceeded the game’s sales figure on the PS4.
The Switch is proving to be an absolute gold mine for these early investors on the platform. Are these games selling better on the Switch simply because there is less competition on the eShop than on stores offered by the other platforms? Or are gamers just more inclined to buy games on the Switch instead because of the flexibility the console offers? Or are gamers on the Switch simply buying more games in general? These are questions that only time will answer, and it will certainly be something that I will be keeping my eye on in the future.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all rainbows and gumdrops for gamers on the Switch. Making games and porting them takes a long time assuming developers aren’t rushing broken messes out the door, and there are many games being released on the other platforms now simply haven’t had an opportunity to be brought to the Switch. These developers were either not aware of the system well enough in advance to bring their games over, or they had not predicted the smashing success the console would become. What this had led to is gamers on the Switch having to sit on the sidelines while having to wait and port beg for such games as Dragon Ball FighterZ, Final Fantasy XV and Monster Hunter World.
Monster Hunter World is the one I hear the most about, and for good reason. Gamers had fully come to expect seeing a brand-new Monster Hunter on the Switch after the massive success Capcom saw for the franchise on the 3DS. As a result, most people assumed that Capcom was in it for the long haul with Nintendo. Once World was revealed, it was quickly realized that this would not be the case. Based on Capcom’s recent comments, it looks like hope may be wearing thin that this particular game could come to the Switch.
One game that there does feel like a great amount of hope lies in it coming to the Switch is Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco said that they would consider bringing the game to the Switch if fans requested it and if Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 performed well. It has performed extremely well considering its sales in Japan. It is just a shame that gamers on the Switch have to wait for so long before getting to play it if it ever does get ported.
Need To See More Games With Simultaneous Releases on Switch
It is hard to determine how exactly new games will perform on the Switch compared to other platforms until a major one (outside of sports games) gets released simultaneously on all three consoles. After all, many people interested in Dragon Ball FighterZ will have already gotten it on the PS4, Xbone or PC. Even if it performs very well on the Switch later, that still does not indicate how well it would have sold had it come out at the same time as the others. After all, most people won’t be double dipping for such a recent game.
This line of thought is extremely relevant to the situation that Switch owners find theirselves with regarding the Monster Hunter franchise. Capcom has already released Monster Hunter XX in Japan, but it received only middling sales despite having a warm critical reception. Once players saw the exciting quality and freshness of Monster Hunter World, many of them decided to pass over a port of a 3DS title to just wait for the phenomenal world. Unfortunately, what that tells Capcom is that there is less of a demand for Monster Hunter on the Switch than on the other two consoles even if it isn’t true.
Even if they bring XX to the West for the Switch, it likely won’t do any better than it did in Japan. After all, most players who want Monster Hunter are already playing World, and it is hard to go back after seeing the fluidity of World. Even if World comes to the Switch sometime this year or next, it will hardly be a metric for how it would have performed if it had a simultaneous release with the others, and I hope that Capcom will be able to see that.
If these game companies want to see real success with their games on the Switch, they are going to have to make an effort from here on out to ensure that their big games coming to the system are on par with the other versions, and they need to come out at the same time. Until that happens, we simply are not going to see how well the Switch competes with the other platforms in terms of sales. How many people will choose versatility over graphical fidelity will be an interesting thing indeed.
Nintendo’s Own Missed Opportunity
One of the greatest missed opportunities comes from Nintendo themselves, though. A factor which propelled the Wii to such high levels of success was its out-of-the-box inclusion of Wii Sports. Here was a small and unassuming game which perfectly conveyed the concept of the console. It was received incredibly well because of how well it implemented the motion controls in a way that spoke to almost everyone. It was a game which people who bought the Wii could invite friends over or take their Wiis to a friends house thanks partly to its compact design and show off to their friends. When other people got to try it for theirselves, the game by itself proved to people how much they wanted the system. It was one of the most surprising system sellers of all time. (My opinion.)
The Switch had a game very much like Wii Sports at launch. 1-2 Switch was heavily advertised by Nintendo, and it was an excellent proof of concept which players could bring to their friends to try out thanks to the portability of the Switch. The only problem was that it wasn’t included with the system in any form. Instead, it was only available as a separate purchase for $50 in the US and was in competition with Breath of the Wild. Most people buying the Switch did not find it to be worth the amount of money being asked and passed it over. As a result, this game which could have had the same effect for the Switch as did Wii Sports ended up being mostly ignored by the community. At the very least, Nintendo could have included a demo of 1-2 Switch with its five most advertised games in their full form with the system. I would personally say that the cow milking, quickdraw and sword catching games, for example, would have suited this quite well. After all, Wii Sports only had five games, so this demo would have served the same purpose and probably would have been received very well.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been visiting friends or colleagues wanting to show them the potential of the Switch. The problem is that most of my co-op games are either difficult or have a somewhat steep learning curve for newcomers such as Fast RMX, Shovel Knight and Phantom Trigger. Having a demo such as what I described above for 1-2 Switch would have been much more suited for a general audience than my gamer-centric titles. I guess I’ll just need to show them Senran Kagura in the future. I’m sure that would go over well, hehehe.
Below is a gallery with just some of the great games that came out in the Switch’s first year.
System Concept Part 1
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.
System Concept Part 2: Switchwatch Team's Feelings
*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!
Functionality and Updates
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Hardware and Power
Play On The TV Or On The Go
This isn’t the first time that Nintendo has experimented with bringing their handheld experiences to the TV nor is the the first time we have seen console level games on the go. Nintendo’s own Super Gameboy on the Super Nintendo and the Gameboy Player on the Gamecube brought Nintendo’s handheld experiences of the time to your television, and with Sony’s Playstation Vita and PSP combined with a PS3 or PS4 would allow players to stream their favorite console games on the go. Especially in Somy’s case, those options were not utilized by many people because you had to buy two systems and required a powerful internet connection. The Switch is the first mainline gaming platform to take this concept and integrate it this deeply into the core concept of the machine.
I find this function to work spectacularly well. You hear about how when people first get their Switches, they frequently dock and undock them in amazement that the function works so well. This is a concept that has been realized to near perfection, and it is the factor which separates the Switch from the pack. Nintendo attempted something like this with the Wii U, but it didn’t really feel like the idea or technology had really reached the stage where it could be done to Iwata-san’s vision. It saddens me greatly that he could not be here to witness the fruition of his plan, but I hope that he is watching down upon us enjoying our Switches with great pleasure and satisfaction.
Most Powerful Nintendo Platform To Date
Somehow, Nintendo along with Nvidia has managed to perform some technological magic to make a handheld system almost equally on par with the current-gen consoles being offered by Microsoft and Sony. It is still a little ways behind the standard Xbox One, but it is still quite a feat nonetheless. Ironically, this puts the Switch, a console/handheld hybrid, in a comfortable position as Nintendo’s most powerful console to date. Considering Nintendo’s handheld history, I’m not sure that many people anticipated that their next system following the 3DS would reach technological heights like this, but it has.
Having such a powerful system that doubles both as a console and handheld has opened up new doors for game’s on Nintendo’s newest platform that had been closed before. We are seeing a surge of interest in the platform on the side of indie and 3rd party developers thanks to its popularity and capabilities, and we are seeing games selling very well on the Switch primarily thanks to all the unique features it offers. For many, optional motion controls such as the newly added gyro aiming in DOOM or the ability to take your L.A. Noire game with you anywhere while using optional touch or motion controls makes them worth investing in again or simply just buying on the Switch over their PS4/Xbone/PC counterparts.
Has Trouble Even With Some Switch-Exclusive Games
While the Switch Is Nintendo’s most powerful console to date, it still falls behind the PS4 and Xbox One in terms of what it can do, and this has caused some problems for the young system. Already we are seeing some instances where even games extremely well-optimized for it are struggling such as with Panic Button’s fantastic ports of DOOM and Rocket League. These games work great on the Switch, but one would have to be blind to deny the frame rate and resolution issues suffered by DOOM and the resolution issues on Rocket League. There are reports that a Rocket League performance patch is on the way which will boost the resolution, but I can only write about what we have currently.
While it is understandable that some of the more technically advanced 3rd party games may struggle to be brought to the Switch, it is harder to justify the situation we found in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. As much as I personally loved it, it is impossible to deny that the game suffers especially while in handheld mode. The resolution issues stopped bothering me after a while, but I am keenly aware that it was a deal breaker for many others. The real question is whether or not the game was too much for the Switch to completely handle or if it was simply rushed out the door to meet the target release window. I hope that it was the latter and a performance patch is on the way to resolve those issues, but I fear that may not be the case.
Power Isn’t Everything
But, as it goes, power is far from being everything. There are many Switch fans, myself included, who are more than happy to sacrifice visual fidelity for the sake of having a more convenient playing experience. In my own case, Switch is a more enjoyable console to experience games on even when I had the option to play on my PS4. I don’t care for it when a game relies exclusively on a touch screen to maneuver, but I think it makes a game far more enjoyable when it perfectly marries touch controls with button controls such as with Darkest Dungeon. I love being able to play using split Joy-Cons, so that alone is a factor which makes me prefer the Switch over other platforms.
Joy-Con and HD Rumble
To create a system that could conveniently double as both a handheld and a console, it would need a controller which would be just as flexible. Nintendo could have just made the Joy-Con an irremovable part of the console with players needing a separate controller for docked mode, but they didn’t. They took their concept of the Wiimote+nunchuck, and expanded upon it tenfold.
Here now is a controller which can be used in multiple ways as the players desire. If you want to play in handheld mode, you can have the Joy-Con attached which gives it the feel of a Wii U gamepad (albeit much smaller) or a Playstation Vita. If you prefer playing with the split Joy-Con, there is the option along with an optional, comfortable strap. If you prefer the feel of a traditional controller, you have the Joy-Con grip. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it certainly does the job. Then, of course, there is the option to use a single Joy-Con with some games which emulates the feel of using an NES controller. Not only that, but, as I mentioned earlier, people can even use the split Joy-Con for two player experiences while in docked or handheld mode.
When I have handed someone a single Joy-Con for the first time to play a game, their initial reaction is generally one of puzzlement as they are shocked by how small it is. They usually think at first they won’t like it for that reason. Then, as they start playing they almost always says that they just forgot about the size of the controller. Even though it is small, it conforms well to the hands and is just a comfortable controller in general.
My only issue with the Joy-Con is that there is not an option for one with a proper D-pad. The primary reason for having a set of face buttons on the left Joy-Con instead of a D-pad is that the controller requires a set of face buttons on both to be fully functional as a separate controller. However, not everyone uses their Joy-Cons in such a manner. Some people always just play games on their own or love platformers which control significantly better with a D-pad than with face buttons or an analog stick. I cannot fathom why Nintendo has yet to release a “pro” left Joy-Con with a D-pad for gamers who want that experience. If we can have a traditional pro controller, then I don’t understand why we can’t have an option for a Joy-Con with a D-pad.
HD rumble is another new feature that Nintendo has brought to the table. Standard rumble simply causes the controller to vibrate at certain times but it always vibrates in the same way at the same intensity. What HD rumble offers is a way for the controllers to vibrate in a variety of ways to provide custom sensations based on what is happening in the game. While some may consider this to be a gimmick, and that is how it is frequently used in games, there are some games which have utilized this feature to convey specific information to players in a way that significantly enhances the experience.
I briefly brought this point up about Skyrim, but I will further elaborate on it now. When you are turning the lock pick and looking for the correct place to turn the other one in order to open it, you will feel the controller vibrate softly at certain intervals. When you feel it vibrate in a suddenly sharper way, you know it is time to turn the other pick. This was a brilliant application that made picking locks on the Switch version of the game intuitive and fun. I discuss this and much more in my full review of Skyrim.
At the beginning of the Switch’s life, it felt like it had a bit if a rough start. I think anyone who was interested in it saw that video Crowbcat on Youtube had compiled of faulty Switches at launch, although those were very rare cases that did not reflect the user experience at large. However, there was one problem which many people experienced, myself included: the left Joy-Con desyncing issue. What happened was when you were playing and anything got in front of you and your Switch, the signal would be interrupted causing your inputs to be delayed. It would even get interrupted by your leg or hand being in the way.
The Youtuber Spawn Wave disassembled his Joycon and discovered that to fix the problem; he just had to add a copper antenna to the lower part of the Joy-Con to strengthen its signal . For users under warranty, Nintendo offered to fix the Joy-Con experiencing this issue for free even paying for expedited shipping in most cases. After receiving their repaired Joy-Con, some people took them apart to find out what had been done and discovered that a small piece of conductive foam had simply been added to it. This surprisingly simple solution worked well, and the issue has been resolved at the factory level in the time since.
After I sent my Joy-Con back to Nintendo for repair, I ended up discovering I had another problem with mine which have resulted in me sending both of my Joy-Con back to Nintendo on two separate occasions. Occasionally, even when my Joy-Con are directly connected to my Switch, my analog inputs will remain even after I have let got of the sticks. This results in my characters walking off in one direction on their own or my camera just spins. It resets if I tap the analog stick again, but it is very annoying and has caused me to make some mistakes while playing games. Unfortunately, even after sending them back in a second time, I am still experiencing the issue, so I am just learning to live with it. A Nintendo representative I spoke with recommended that I send my whole console in for a replacement, but I just can’t force myself to do that.
There is one final feature I would like to discuss which seems to be an oft forgotten one, and that is the touchscreen. Of course, this is something which only people who play in handheld mode get to take advantage of, but it is a feature which has greatly enhanced my enjoyment of some games on the system. It is no secret that I love it when a game developer can perfectly combine both button controls and touchscreen controls. While I do not like games which force you to completely rely on the touchscreen, I am a firm believer that there are certain instances where it is more convenient to use buttons and other times where a touchscreen makes it far easier to navigate the screen. Whenever I have the option, I tend to swap seamlessly between using the buttons and the touch screen just because I enjoy the change of pace.
Aside from this, the touchscreen compatibility has made the Switch a system perfectly suitable for ports of mobile games. While there are many mobile games of low quality being brought to the Switch at prices significantly too high for what the games offer, there are also many other quality mobile titles being brought to the Switch while still being able to use their native controls. On top of that, these mobile titles on the Switch have an advantage over their other console-port brethren because players in fact often have the ability to use both buttons and touch controls. It really is the mixture of the best of both worlds.
*This review was written by Brian Myers for switchwatch.co.uk.
The Nintendo Switch will currently cost you $300. This is only $50 more than you would spend on Nintendo’s other handheld system: the New 3DS XL. At $300, it offers you a vast library of games, the ability to play console-level games both at home and on the go, up to six hours of battery life and innovative controls. If you purely want a home console experience, it can serve that purpose for you as well. There are many people who never remove their Switches from the dock, and that is fine. The same goes for people who want a purely handheld machine. I didn’t even have a TV until my OJO projector arrived yesterday, so until then I had to play it almost exclusively in handheld mode. While the battery may concern you, to my experience 6 hours is generally enough unless you are out on a long road trip. And even then, there are some excellent battery packs you could buy.
While I am talking about it, I must mention in this value section that there are a plethora of accessories to buy for the Switch. A lot of people consider this to be a hidden cost of the system. After all, most people who buy it also end up buying a pro controller if they want a traditional controller, buy a screen protector, a carrying case and perhaps a charging Joy-Con grip or an extra dock. These things build up the price quickly and are most certainly something to consider. As for myself when I bought my Switch exactly one year ago, I bought a screen protector, a nice stand for tabletop mode, a carrying case and two games: Dragon Quest Heroes 1&2 and Zelda. I was still living in Japan at the time, and it ran my total to a staggering ¥53,480 which is roughly $503/£410!
Where do We Go in 2018 and Beyond?
Nintendo has already stated that their paid online service will be starting in September, but not much is known about it except that it will cost $20 a month, and it will be coming with a Netflix-like service of NES games with online play capabilities. We recently did a Team Talk feature here at Switchwatch discussing what we expect of it, so if you are interested in that, please come here to check it out.
The virtual console is a highly requested feature that seems to be MIA on the Switch. It is currently unknown if the Switch’s paid online Netflix-like service will be their answer for the virtual console going forward or not, but many fans would prefer to have the ability to buy the specific games they please.
More System Features
It is no secret that the Switch currently lacks many highly requested features such as proper save data back up, an unlocked internet browser, a more organized eShop and an alternative way of adding friends other than with friend codes or from your play history. A unified achievement system is a feature that I have seen requested a lot. It wouldn’t affect me much personally, but I know there would be many people happy to see it.
The Revitalization of Miiverse?
Miiverse was a hot mess, but it was our hot mess. When Miiverse was shut down late last year, it was like a knife through the heart for many fans of the Wii U. It was our platform to share art and talk with other Wii U enthusiasts. It had its faults to be sure, but it was really quite a beautiful and whimsical thing. This one is my personal biggest wish for the Switch’s features in 2018, and nothing would make me happier than to boot up my Switch one day and find Miiverse there waiting for me.
More 3rd Party Support
We got our Nindie support in 2017. 2018 has had a good start as well. We got some big games from 3rd parties as well, but almost all of them were ports of older titles. I expect that to be true for the time being, and I think that we will be seeing a flood of old ports this year.
However, if 3rd parties want to really see true success on the Switch going into the future, they will need to bring more of an effort to develop their brand-new titles with the intent of a concurrent release on the Switch along with the other major platforms.
Console+Handheld Concept Changes The Playing Experience
Powerful Enough to Run Games Likes 2016 DOOM
HD Rumble is More Than a Gimmick When Used Right
Motion Controls and Touchscreen Support
Amazing First-Year Game Line Up
Battery Life Only 6 Hours
Lacks Key Features
Only 32GB Storage Space
Has Trouble Running Some Games