After the main part of this post (and what it says in the title), which is my review of the Nintendo Switch console one year later, I have a few announcements to make. If you are one of my friends or know me personally, you may want to scroll to the bottom of the page if you want to read these announcements, since it may pertain directly to you. However, if you just came here for my Switch review, then you're in luck, since its the very first part of this post and is directly below this. Anyways, enjoy reading this, which is my first post in a long time!
What if I told you that I played motion-controlled robot boxing with my friend on an airplane? Or that I milked virtual cows while sitting at a restaurant? I also played Mario Kart together with the person sitting next to me on the field trip bus ride to the Franklin Institute. And all I needed to do was plop a Nintendo Switch on a table and pass a controller to a friend. This, alas, is portable gaming, nothing new. But what if I told you that in addition to being able to take a video game console on the go, you can keep it on your TV? Or on your lap? Or in your hands? Enter the Nintendo Switch, the new console from Nintendo that tries to do it all.
Video games have existed for over 40 years, and one of the first companies to enter the game-making business was of course Nintendo. They have revolutionized how we play games time and time again, and showed that they aren’t quite like their competitors. Rather than focusing on pure graphical power (like the 4K-obsessed Sony and Microsoft), they come up with unique and fun ways to change the gaming experience. Examples of this are inventing the D-Pad with the NES, making the first ever portables (the Game Boy), inventing motion controls (the Wii), or creating a new kind of console altogether.
That is what would describe their latest console, the Switch. It isn’t a home console, and it isn’t technically all portable either: it’s a hybrid of both types of systems. You can play the traditional way on the TV, and when you have to go somewhere, you can slide it out of its dock to play on the go. Nintendo’s last console, the Wii U, however, is well-known for being a colossal failure. It sold very poorly over a course of five years, no one knew it existed, and it was misunderstood at first as being an add-on for the original Wii console. The stakes are high, and if the Switch ends up being another Wii U instead of a Wii in terms of sales, that could mean the end of Nintendo as a company. The system has been out since March of 2017, and plenty of games have released for it. I picked one up for myself in April, and I have been using it ever since. Is it an amazing console and a must-buy, or a useless and underpowered piece of garbage? Find out in this review of the console itself!
The basic premise of the console is that it is a hybrid console, a new type of gaming altogether. The system itself is a tablet which can be put into a dock to connect to the TV. It has two detachable controllers, which Nintendo is calling “Joy-Cons,” which can slide on and off the console itself, held separately, or put together to form a more traditional controller layout. There are three distinct ways to use the system (which Nintendo is calling “modes”): TV mode, handheld mode, and tabletop mode. TV mode is pretty self explanatory- it is when the tablet is connected to a television for an output of up to 1080p HD resolution, and it is no different than how other consoles work on a TV. Handheld mode is when you slide the tablet out of the dock, attach the Joy-Cons to both sides, and hold it in your hands to play as a portable system. The screen is very vibrant with a 720p resolution, and it is a lot better looking than I expected it to be.
Then, of course, comes the most unique playstyle (and my personal favorite): tabletop mode. In tabletop mode, the tablet acts as a portable TV screen: you just pop out the Switch’s built in kickstand, put it on a flat surface, detach the controllers, and lay back while relaxingly playing your games wherever you want. This is a lot better and comfier than having to hold the entire console in your hands wherever you go. Now you have the option to use only the controller. And the fact that it basically serves as its own, fully portable TV further adds to the “play anywhere” concept that Nintendo was going for.
The only downside to tabletop mode? The kickstand. You see, the Switch has a built-in kickstand (which is optionally opened) on the back of the tablet that serves two purposes: One, it covers up the microSD card slot, and two, it can be used to plop the Switch up on a flat surface while using tabletop mode. This kickstand is absolutely terrible, for a variety of reasons. It is very flimsy, and after a certain amount of pressure it will just snap off. It doesn't break, so that’s a good thing, at least. Nintendo purposefully made a metal attachment on the back that will unlock whenever too much pressure is off. This way, once it does fall off, you can put it back together super easily, like how a Lego brick snaps into place. Not only is this kickstand super flimsy, it won’t work on most surfaces. If the surface you place it on isn’t perfectly flat, it will just completely fall over. In order words: Tables are good. Beds aren’t. The Switch’s charging port is on the bottom, meaning that whenever you do place it in tabletop mode using the kickstand, you won’t be able to charge and play at the same time. This can be fixed by purchasing a $10 stand that not only lets it work on any surface or angle, but lets you be able to charge while playing. It’s upsetting that this couldn’t have worked out of the box, but it was entirely necessary since in order for the TV docking aspect of it to work, the USB-C port needed to be on the bottom (there was no room on the top since that is already home to heat ports, a headphone jack, and game card slot).
Tabletop mode is also my favorite mode because of the multiplayer opportunities it provides. Before the Switch, there were only three ways to play multiplayer gaming: One, online through an internet connection. Two, if you are both in the same room with a TV and sharing controllers. And three, if you each purchased a separate handheld system in order to play together anywhere. The Switch breaks this trend by letting you play together with anyone, anywhere, without the need for an extra system. The thing itself is the TV, so you don’t even need to purchase an extra system, or be with a TV in order to do it! Just plop it on a table and pass a Joy-Con to a friend, and you’re on it for hours of fun playing Mario Kart or Rocket League together. You don’t even need to purchase an extra controller in order to do so. The Switch comes with two controllers right out of the box, meaning that you are already ready to do 2-player mode in most games.
So, how does this all work? In other words, how can it “switch” (pun intended) so seamlessly into a variety of different modes? The key to all this is the controllers, which are officially called “Joy Cons.” Due to their modular nature, they slide on and off the main tablet with a metal railing system. It is very satisfying to slide the controllers into their place on the console, and the interface even makes an actual “click” noise through the speakers, just like how you hear it in the commercials. When attached, you can use them in handheld mode, charge them, or pair them to make the console recognize them after your first use. I expected holding the system in handheld mode to be a shaky mess due to the Joy-Cons, but surprisingly, they are really sturdy when they lock into place. There is still the occasional rattling of the Joy-Cons, but it is never really that noticable.It is just as easy and satisfying to slide them in as it is to slide them off. There is a small, yet easy to reach, release button on the back, and pressing them loosens the metal lock keeping them in place so you can slide them off to use them wirelessly. The modular nature of the Joy-Cons shows unlimited potential for accessories. Nintendo can literally use the railing system to attach anything they please to the Switch, but as of now, they have not yet tapped into this potential.
One of the biggest things that separates the Switch from other consoles are its unique and quirky controllers. The Joy-Con controllers are, in my opinion, the best part of the Nintendo Switch hardware. They are incredibly well-built, durable, and can survive quite a few accidental drops and beatings. They are slim, light, incredibly stylish, and portable. They are well-built, and by no means feel cheap. The material that they are built with feels premium, smooth, and the perfect balance of comfortable to hold and not too slippery. The Joy-Cons are basically like ultra-souped up Wii-remotes. They are small and compact, fit a lot of tech inside on package, and can fit a variety of different playstyles. I have already mentioned that right out of the box, the Switch comes with two Joy-Con controllers, meaning that you can enjoy local multiplayer right away. I really enjoy using tabletop mode and bringing the Switch along with me to a friend’s house, since I don’t even have to connect it to a TV in order to enjoy up to 4 player Mariokart with friends (if I bring in an extra pair of Joy-Cons). The main issue with multiplayer on just one tiny screen is that 4 player mode is really crazy, since the split screen is really small and sometimes hard to keep track of. The Joy-Cons, when used in multiplayer, can be held sideways to access more buttons that are on the side railings of the controller. The Joy-Cons have a lot in one small package, since it fits NFC reading, HD rumble, and motion controls into a palm-sized device. Motion controls are used in games like Arms, a fun multiplayer boxing game, so you can enable optional controls where you can tilt to aim and move your arms to punch. The NFC chip inside is used to scan in amiibo figures to select games.
The most unique feature is undoubtedly HD rumble, which uses advanced vibrations to mimic feelings and textures. For example, you can feel like you're pouring a glass of water or can feel invisible balls rolling around in a box. It is really hard to describe until you experience it for yourself, and it is really cool at first but the novelty kind of wears off eventually. The ball-rolling minigame in 1-2 Switch (a tech demo game for the Switch, similar to Wii Sports) certainly feels realistic, but it won’t fool anybody. It is obvious that it is only vibrations, but it is cool nonetheless. Oh, and by the way, did I mention that there is literally a minigame where you milk cows? No joke, and you literally get some vibrations that feel like liquid is being squeezed.
Besides HD rumble, one of the weirdest features of the Joy-Con is the IR camera on the right Joy-Con. It can detect different shapes and hand gestures, and currently the only use of it so far is a sandwich eating game in 1-2 Switch, where you move your mouth up and down to eat virtual sandwitches, if you find that entertaining for some reason. The Joy-Con have a variety of different colors to choose from, or you can just go with the boring old grey ones. Most of the colors are neon, which can be red, blue, yellow, green, or pink. When I say neon, I really mean neon, almost as if someone took a highlighter and colored the controller.
In fact, I have little to no issues with the Joy-Cons. They get the job done well, fit a variety of play styles, and have a phenomenal battery life of 20 hours each. (That is five times the battery life of an Xbox One controller, and more than six times the battery life of a PS4 controller!) The buttons are satisfyingly clicky to press, and the button placement is decently comfortable for your hands. Keep in mind, though that they are quite small. This was no problem for me personally, since they perfectly fit my hand size, and this makes them easier to carry around with me. However, those with adult-sized hands will probably start to get hand-strains from using them for a while, and using them sideways for multiplayer in a pinch isn’t the most comfortable either, with shoulder buttons that might be too far in for some people to easily press.
What I think is genuinely terrible, though, is the included Joy-Con Grip accessory that comes with the Switch right out of the box. It’s purpose is to put the Joy-Cons halves together in a similar form factor to an Xbox or Playstation controller. While it technically does do that, it isn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world. I already expected the grip to feel uncomfortable, but for a different reason: All the photos made it look rather square-like, which didn’t seem like a comfortable way to use a controller. However, that wasn’t the real issue, nor a viable one either; you are only ever using the buttons on the top half on the controllers, the bottom half is almost never used. The real issue is its angle of placement; it is way too vertical to comfortably use the two joy-sticks. Nintendo could have easily fixed this by making the grip more wide and putting the Joy-Con slots at an angle, so that your thumb naturally curves into the buttons. Instead, it makes them stiff and forced to lock at a certain awkward position. It doesn’t help, either, that the grip itself is made of a very cheap plastiky material, that is very tough plastic that isn’t that comfortable. Of course, the grip issue can be solved two ways; You can grit your teeth and never use it. Besides, it is much better using the Joy-Con separately anyways, since you have full freedom of movement with your arms. Or, you can shell out extra money and purchase the (slightly pricey) “Pro Controller”, which is its own separate controller that looks and feels like that of an Xbox one or Playstation controller, but isn’t included right out of the box.
Another accessory for the Joy-Cons that comes out of the box is the wrist strap attachments. They slide onto the Joy-Cons through the slide rails, and can be used during games that require motion controls (so that you don’t hurl a controller straight out of the window). I like how they also have buttons on them that make the shoulder-buttons on the Joy-Con itself easier to press. They are not cheap feeling, but actually made out of a hard metal. While they serve their purpose, they have one major flaw: They can get stuck rather easily. They each have a + and - sign faintly carved into the, that shows which direction that they are supposed to match up with on the Joy-Con. This would prevent someone from putting the left-strap onto the right Joy-Con, and vice-versa. When you accidentally do this (some friends have accidentally done this to mine once or twice), it is impossible to get them unstuck with bare force. Instead, you have to look up a tutorial online on where exactly to stick a kitchen knife in which special hole on the wrist strap. It’s not exactly a fun thing to have to go through, since I had to ask an adult to help me and there was a constant false fear of breaking my controllers in the unstucking process. They should have either found a way so that it is impossible for the straps to get stuck backwards in the first place, or have made the “plus” and “minus” signs on the straps a lot more visible.
The interface is very minimalistic, but still the best user interface on any console. It is very self-explanatory, and everything you want to find on the home screen is accessible quickly and easily. You have your users, friends, list of games, the settings, a news tab that shows all sorts of useful updates and tips, and of course, the Nintendo e-Shop for downloading games. It is snappy fast, and it takes only a few seconds to boot up the console, open the game, and play. It is so much faster than that of an Xbox One, where it will sometimes take a few minutes to load games. All this makes sense considering that the Switch is meant to be a portable system that you can take out anywhere, and just start playing as soon as possible.
Now that I’ve discussed the hardware and specs, it’s time to dive into the real point of this review: Is it worth your $299? For the most part, I would say definitely yes! But that all depends on what type of gamer you are. I will start discussing some pros and JOY-cons (I’ll stop it with the puns) so you can decide for yourself.
The best parts of the Switch can be described as two main aspects: First of all, the flexibility of being able to play however you want. Second of all, of course, the extensive collection of phenomenal games exclusive to the console. One of the reasons that I, myself, decided to get a Switch was because of how flexible it seemed to fit into my life. I am the type of person who, in the past, has played mostly only on handheld systems. Why? I travel frequently, and this way just because I have to leave my house doesn’t mean I have to leave my games. The same applies with the Switch, with the exception of that you can also use it on a TV if you feel like doing so as well. It awesome to have my own portable TV screen in tabletop mode, and I can play multiplayer wherever you want.
I have used my Switch in a variety of places, some stranger than others. I played multiplayer ARMS on an airplane with my friend (the people sitting next to us weren’t so happy at our swinging arms). I did “1-2 Switch” in a restaurant (people were looking at us weirdly when we were milking cows in the game). The main selling point of the Switch is it being a hybrid, and it is simply awesome to be able to put out the kickstand and put it down on any surface. Even in single player, it is still amazing to be able to take a massive game like Zelda: Breath of the Wild with you wherever you want. On the go, it is the same experience as playing at home. Nothing is significantly worse, and the graphics aren’t terrible either. Normally, it is up to 1080p 60fps in TV mode when docked, and whenever played portably, the screen quality may be worse (720p), but the frame rate stays mostly the same. It is, without a doubt, the best screen ever on a handheld system. It is very vibrant and you never notice the pixels (unlike how they are staring you straight in the face on the 3DS). However, the bad thing about the screen is that for some reason, Nintendo decided to make it out of plastic. While this was clearly done with small children in mind, so that it doesn’t shatter, it makes it very scratch-prone. Even sliding it in and out of the dock can scratch the screen! I would say that for this thing, buying a tempered glass screen protector is almost mandatory if you care about keeping your console in pristine condition for years to come.
The hardware, while incredibly well-made, still has its flaws. The tablet has only a decent battery life. Lasting anywhere from 3 to 6 hours on a single charge (it all depends on the intensity of the game you are playing), it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring this thing anywhere for long periods of time without a charger handy.Nintendo was smart enough this time to let it be charged using a USB Type-C port, meaning most Android phone chargers will also work to charge the Switch (though not always fast enough). Most of the bad things about the Switch can be fixed by simply purchasing accessories. The bad kickstand can be fixed by purchasing a cheap stand or hybrid cover. The plastic screen can be made better with a glass screen protector. THe lack on much internal storage can be made better with a microSD card. And if you find the Joy-Cons too small or uncomfortable, the Pro Controller is the ultimate solution. So therefore, the Switch is obviously a very innovative concept, but that might not be the reason to get it for everyone. What is the best reason to buy the Switch? The games.
The Nintendo Switch is home to some phenomenal games that you simply can’t play on any other system. Nintendo has long been known for their first-party franchises, such as Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon, which are all somehow present on the Switch (with the latter coming out sometime next year). In fact, two of the best games of this generation are on this console: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (which was 2017’s Game of the Year Winner at the Golden Joysticks Awards), and Super Mario Odyssey. Both of these games reinvented long-running franchises in great ways. Those aren’t the only good games on the system either: plenty of other good exclusives such as Splatoon 2 and ARMS are abundant. What if you are a “hardcore gamer”, and are looking for some great third-party cross-platform games such as shooters? Don’t worry, since the Switch has good third-party support (much better than what caused the infamous demise of the Wii U), and everything from Doom to Skyrim to NBA 2K18 is playable on the system. With COD: Black Ops II being announced for the system, this will be the first time that you will be able to play a shooter like that anywhere you want, on the go. And with Fortnite being a game that is heavily rumoured to come to the system soon, what better way would it be too play anywhere you want? (Yes, the mobile version exists, but it has inferior touch-screen controls. Being able to access the luxury of a proper, full controller with physical buttons will be a big upgrade.)
“BUT WHAT ABOUT THE POWER????”
I am sure that many Xbox and PS4 fanboys are reading this, and one thing is on their mind that makes other console supposedly “better”: Power. It was obvious from the start that the Switch was not as graphically powerful as the other two major consoles on the market. After all, it is a fully portable system, that can be connected to a TV only if you wish so. Nintendo purposefully didn’t make it as powerful, and for a variety of reasons. First of all, it would be impossible to have a graphical powerhouse that is completely portable. Even if they did, it would have a terrible battery life and would heat up to nasty amounts. They sacrificed power for portability. Besides, it isn’t so underpowered that it could be considered “bad”: It is quite more powerful than last generation’s Xbox 360 and almost as much as the standard Xbox One (not X). In fact, it is quite impressive, from a technical perspective. Just think about it: that they managed to fit so much power in such a small space. It is embarrassingly smaller than a PS3, even though it is almost twice as powerful (while still being portable)!
Why couldn’t they have made a normal, TV-based, very powerful console? The answer is simple: Nintendo isn’t “normal”, and they never will be. That isn’t a bad thing either. Nintendo has a history of being unique and standing out from the crowd. While Xbox and Playstation are obsessed with 4K and only graphics, Nintendo’s goal has always been innovation. In 1985, the NES introduced the idea of a D-Pad, which is a button layout still used in all controllers today. With the DS, they invented touch-screen gaming, years ahead of the first iPhone. With the Wii, they invented motion controls (to the dislike of many “hardcore gamers”). With the Wii U, they invented two-screen gaming. You could even argue that Nintendo invented virtual reality with the unsuccessful Virtual Boy back in 1995!
Given this history of focusing on innovation and originality, it is no surprise that they decided to make the Switch a unique concept rather than your boring, ordinary console. The following is my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt: The graphics race, in 2018, has become entirely useless.
Graphics are a lost cause at this point. 30 years ago, when video games were in their early days, graphics truly mattered. That’s since, with each successive console, you could truly see the difference. Think about how much of a difference there is from an old arcade machine to something like a Xbox One! The difference between consoles used to be great, and very noticable. Mario evolved from a couple of red pixels to a 3D, movable object! Nowadays, you can’t really tell the difference (unless you are told to focus on a specific detail). Graphics have gotten so close to being the same as reality that “being realistic” isn’t a concern anymore. No matter how better you make graphics, they will still look just as realistic to the naked eye. There is no need for real evolution at this point. If Xbox and Playstation don’t learn this, new consoles will be like new smartphones: Slightly more powerful, much more expensive, and not worth upgrading to.
Graphics have evolved to their fullest point already. Nintendo did the smart thing with the Switch and stopped the graphics race, and rather settled on innovation. I am actually happy that it is less powerful. Nintendo broke from the norm, and didn’t make a boring, average console: They created a new type of console altogether. Besides, if you truly care about graphics that much, a PC should be the option you chose, not a console. Otherwise, the Switch remains the king of all consoles. I would rate it a 4.6 out of 5 stars (or a 92%). It is a must-buy for all Nintendo fans, or any gamer with a busy life who doesn't have time to sit at home and play all their games.
Personal Update: Yes, I'm still alive.
In case you haven't noticed, I haven't been blogging very frequently lately. There were once times which I could post once or twice per week, but now for some time now I have only been able to post once per month. This is of course due to the fact that I have been very busy recently since at the end of the school year there is dreadful PARCC testing and teachers try to cram in all the assignments they give us in the weeks leading up to the tests. However, state testing is now finally over, and the end of the school year is approaching. This means that I will soon be able to post much more frequently, possibly even once or twice a week! With summer vacation, of course, I will post once a day.
While I was on blog hiatus, a lot of people seemed to be confused. It's almost as if, if it weren't for my blog, people wouldn't know I was still alive! I got quite a few messages sent to me that were like this:
All of these messages have one overall main idea: (Except for that last text that Xiang did. Just ignore that one.) If don't post for three weeks, people start to question whether I'm living. Huh, that's interesting, I guess. Lucky for all of these people (except for Xiang), my blog is back from the dead! From now on, I plan to post 1-2 times a week, to start getting my view counts back up. This month, even though I have only made one post so far, was ironically the month I made a comeback. My overall monthly view count took a spike up, back from the bottomless pit it was in before. I have a theory for why this is the case: People hadn't heard from my blog for quite some time, and they kept on checking it to see whether or not I had finally made a new post. All of these random page isits out of curiosity sure added up, and in the end they ironically let my blog make a small comeback. So that is why I say thank you, to all of you guys, for caring about my blog enough to want to keep checking whether or not I made a new post. However, that is quite unnecessary. Why? Since you can simply subscribe to my blog and receive email updates, which is a new feature that I have added to my blog in the latest version, titled:
Blog Upgrade 8.1
The latest version of my blog's interface is not that different from the previous version, 8.0, except for one small detail that at first, you may not have noticed. The only thing that is different is that right above my blog's logo, at the top of the page, next to the "Search" button, there is a new button that says "subscribe".
In the picture above, you can see it circled in red. I highly recommend you click that if you want to be the first to know whenever I make a new post. This way, you don't have to constantly check my blog over and over again, and I won't get a bunch of emails asking me if my blog is dead.
This tool is great since it supports all available types of email, from Gmail, Yahoo, RSS, corporate domains, and even more. You can now stay up to date whenever I write something new. I have been using this subscription service myself since I have subscribed to my friend Burak, who has his own blog. As far as I know, the service is not instantaneous so it may take an hour or few for it to send you an email update. However, it is not too late, and always by the same day that it was published. Enjoy using this, and I guarantee that you will get at least one of these emails a week if you do so (depending on how busy I am).
Anyways, thank you for reading this post! This post is sponsored by The Lion's Pride, my official school newspaper. If you are someone from my school who has read the latest issue of The Lion's Pride, you may have noticed that I wrote a Nintendo Switch review in the Pop Culture section of the digital magazine. This was something that I published there first, before I put it into my blog. I often do this with some of my posts, such as my game reviews, poem, and even that infamous Gummy Bear Story. The latest issue of the Lion's Pride has been released, and I highly recommend you check it out. It is full of great stories, articles, and artwork from kids like me who go to my school. The Pop Culture section last time had my articles about The Last Jedi, and a Breath of the Wild review, and some other kids did stuff like a Mario Odyssey review. This time, every single section is amazing. I wrote two articles, which you can find here (the Switch review, and the "Star Wars paradox): http://mmmslionspride.blogspot.com/p/pop-culture.html
The Lion's Pride website uses Google Blogger, and I happen to be the person who helped organize it (some may say that I'm the on-campus Blogspot expert). Here it is: http://mmmslionspride.blogspot.com/
See you for my next post, which I will publish later this week (either Friday or Saturday). It is a collab post with Burak, and we will be doing a movie review of Solo: A Star Wars Story together, which we just watched this weekend for Onur's late birthday party and we really enjoyed it. Who know, maybe the other two member of the AABO Show might make a cameo appearance in the writing of that review. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading! BBBYYYYYEEEEEEE!!!!!!!