Nintendo Switch review: The finest Nintendo console yet
In my initial Nintendo Switch review I said the Switch was boiled down and concentrated fun in a console and, nine months on, I still feel exactly the same way. It’s easy to say that Nintendo lacked launch titles for the Switch back in March, but now it’s easy to see that it’s had one of the best first years of any modern console.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was not only one of the most ambitious Zelda games yet, but it’s also one of the best open-world adventures ever made. That was quickly followed up by the stellar Mario Kart 8 Deluxe which, while essentially an upgrade of the Wii U original, felt incredibly fresh thanks to the Switch’s unique from. The same could be said of the excellent Splatoon 2 that followed shortly after and Pokkén Tournament DX after that. We then hit the absolute top spot with the launch of Super Mario Odyssey in October, representing Mario at his absolute finest in a 3D adventure. So far, the Switch has been an absolute tour de force of gaming.
The start of 2018 has been no different either, with big titles coming thick and fast and, with Nintendo’s E3 2018 showcasing a strong lineup from both first and third-party developers, the Nintendo Switch is easily the best console to have invested your time and money into. So, more than a year on, Switch is still a must-have, five-star console.
READ NEXT: Best Nintendo Switch games
You can read my original review from the console’s launch, below.
Nintendo Switch Review:
To understand the Nintendo Switch, you first have to understand Nintendo. The console is the culmination of over 30 years of Nintendo’s gaming hardware know-how. Ever since the Nintendo Entertainment System entered Japanese homes in 1983, the aim has been to entertain families, bring people together and show that video games can bring the world happiness.
That idea has been Nintendo’s mantra in everything it’s ever produced. It’s all about creating a sense of joy and wonder; it’s about transporting you back to your youth – or, if you’re still youthful, showing you that life isn’t always about being serious. All those feelings have been distilled down into the Nintendo Switch. The moment you hold it in your hands, turn it on and hear that chime for the first time – and every time – you can’t help but smile.
This is Nintendo at its absolute best.
This review has been updated since its initial posting in March. The score remains unchanged, but we’re looking at the Nintendo Switch now it’s over six months old.
Nintendo Switch review: Built for fun
Nintendo insists on referring to the Switch as a home console, but its latest device is actually incredibly portable. For Nintendo, the Switch is a natural marriage of its home-console knowledge and handheld prowess. It’s also a device designed to be instantly accessible and friendly, much like the Wii, a console so successful it propelled Nintendo back into mainstream consciousness after the GameCube’s rather limp early-2000s run.
To achieve this phenomenal feat, Nintendo has looked to how we interact with others and how games are played, both on and off screen. It’s no coincidence that the Switch is, in basic terms, a tablet flanked by two incredibly simple – in our case also neon-coloured – Wiimote-like controllers. It’s designed so you can look at it and want to play, want to pick it up and soak yourself in its brilliance. At the minute it is still hard to find one Amazon UK should have it back in stock soon (or find a used one on Amazon US).
Switch’s big sell is its versatility. As I’ve already stated, it’s both a handheld and a home console. Its innards are powerful enough to deliver better-than-Wii U visuals, no matter where you happen to be. If you want to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the bus, you can. If you’d rather sit in front of your TV and sink your teeth into some competitive online Splatoon 2, you can do that too. Heck, if you fancy a two-player game of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe while sat in the park, I would be 100% behind that decision.
This is the beauty of Switch. In TV mode, it sits snugly in its dock charging both itself and the two Joy-Con controllers, if you have them attached that is. In this mode you can either play by sliding your Joy-Con controllers into the Joy-Con Grip housing, hold the controllers individually in each hand, or make use of Nintendo’s more traditional – and brilliant – Pro Controller.
Taking your Switch out with you on the road is as simple as sliding in both Joy-Cons into the grooves either side of the Switch’s main body and lifting it out of the dock. Your game resumes near-instantly and you can now take it anywhere with almost exactly the same experience. The console part even has a kickstand built in if you want to sit down and play at the kitchen table. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Nintendo Switch review: Intuitive to the core
As a simple piece of hardware, Switch is an impressive feat of engineering. Its four main parts – the Screen, TV dock and left and right Joy-Cons – work perfectly as either a single unit or when separated constituent parts. The slide mechanism that holds the Joy-Cons onto the main console body is a smoothly confident piece of industrial design, with the grips engaging in a remarkably stiff and solid manner. You can pick this thing up one-handed and it doesn’t wobble around that much.
The tablet-like body of the Switch is also as equally as sleek in appearance. It has a USB Type-C port on its bottom edge for both charging and as an output to the TV via the included dock. It also has three, reasonably discreet, air vents to keep the Swsitch cool while it’s running. The game card slot is covered with a clippy rubberised flap – which looks flimsy but feels sturdy enough – so, unlike the 3DS, you can’t accidentally eject your game while on the move. Even the microSD slot is tucked behind the kickstand, so that won’t be going anywhere accidentally either.
Switch’s real ingenuity, however, is contained within each Joy-Con. These rather unassuming controllers are packed with incredible technology. As a pair they function as a motion-enabled controller that is both light and sturdy in the hand. Each thumbstick still has the same pleasing clicky feel that every Nintendo thumbstick has had since the N64. The A, B, Y, and X buttons and directional buttons feel firm and responsive, clearly moulded from the same, slightly grippy plastic as used for the 3DS.
Both Joy-Cons also feature Nintendo’s new “HD Rumble” haptic feedback technology. Aside from the rather stupid name, it’s fitting that the company that invented the rumble pack is responsible for rejuvenating it for the modern age. So far, 1-2-Switch is the only title to put it to good use, but it’s truly excellent. In 1-2-Switch’s hidden ball-counting game you can feel balls rolling across your hand when you tilt it; it’s bizarre but wonderful and I’m looking forward to seeing how else developers can put it to use.
Each Joy-Con is also a complete controller that can be used for multiplayer gaming. Along the slide rail, SL and SR buttons are nestled, helping to turn each Joy-Con into something resembling a modern-day SNES pad. Each on its own isn’t as fully featured as a full set of Joy-Con, but they’re good enough to enable Wii-style multiplayer gaming. The right Joy-Con also has an infrared and object-detection sensor built in, but this is currently only used for one game on 1-2-Switch, so could easily become as obsolete as the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4’s touchpad.
You may have heard news around the left Joy-Con having syncing issues with Switch but, beyond one issue when playing Breath of the Wild during our review period, it’s not an issue I ended up encountering – especially since Switch’s day one update.
Nintendo Switch review: Games and performance
On launch, the Nintendo Switch was a hard prospect for all but avid Nintendo fans. The official line up of first-party launch games only included the, absolutely excellent, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild alongside the why-wasn’t-this-bundled-in-on-launch 1-2 Switch. A selection of third-party titles helped bolster its launch, but it wasn’t going to set the world alight.
Thankfully, for Nintendo, Breath of the Wild was easily the best game of 2017 – smashing all expectations and creating one of the most beautiful open-world adventures ever made. Since then, the Nintendo Switch has been going strength to strength and it still has a strong library of upcoming triple-A titles to come – such as Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Pokken Tournament DX.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe arrived on the Switch shortly after launch and, in typical Nintendo fashion, is the best version of Mario Kart to date. New experimental fighting game Arms dropped a month or so later and, while it wasn’t perfect on launch, has received a lot of care and attention to turn it into a hidden gem in the fighting game space. The next big game to land came in the form of Splatoon 2 a more-than-worthy sequel to the Wii U original that proved that the Nintendo Switch could take competitive multiplayer gaming online and on the go.Even third-party titles have grown since the Switch’s release. Highlights include Sonic Mania, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Cave Story+ and surprise X-Com-like Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle from Ubisoft. More titles, such as Bethesda’s ambitious Skyrim revamp and a new Dragon Quest XI are also on the way.
Aside from the odd hiccup here and there, namely from indie ports rather than big-budget releases, games on Switch run like a dream. Having spent hours inside the world of Breath of the Wild, racing buddies in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and collecting rings in Sonic Mania, it’s clear that Switch’s Nvidia Tegra X1 processor is more than capable of pushing out visuals to Switch’s 6.2in 720p touchscreen or up to 1080p on a TV at 60fps (although Zelda runs locked at 30fps at 900p on TV). Zelda looks absolutely stunning in motion and it’s amazing that a piece of mobile hardware can pump out something as brilliant as this. It may be a worry for some that this Tegra X1 is slightly old for a brand-new console, but Nvidia’s chip has proved that it’s more than powerful and straightforward enough for developers in this particular setup.
As this is a portable home console, battery life is also an important consideration. Nintendo states you’ll get around six hours of play out of it with most games, and about three with Breath of the Wild. Having used the Switch plenty, those numbers are pretty much spot on – although I’d argue you could play the likes of 1-2-Switch or some other games in Tabletop Mode without draining the battery as much.
In terms of charging, you’ll be looking at a full battery within a couple of hours, provided you use Nintendo’s bundled charger. You can connect a standard USB Type-C 5V charger, instead of the 15V unit supplied by Nintendo, but it takes absolutely ages to charge and it isn’t even fast enough to increase the charge if you play at the same time – it’s definitely worth investing in a quick-charge capable battery pack for extended play on the move.
One area of concern, although it’ll only affect a few users right now, is Nintendo’s decision to not provide a means to transfer save data across to another Switch unit. This means that, despite being able to install games onto a microSD card, you won’t be able to take your saved data anywhere with you. Currently, that’s not too big a deal but if you happen to break your Switch all those hours of gameplay will be lost. Nintendo says it may look into a solution in the future, but for now, you’re tied to the same console.