Nintendo Switch Review: The hybrid that changed my mind about consoles

Generally speaking, I don’t play on consoles. I’ve got a PC built with gaming in mind so when I want to have fun for a few hours, it’s spent on the PC. However, the one brand that has always had a spot plugged into a TV in my family’s home is Nintendo. We’ve bought the Wii and Wii U, and never regretted either one bit.

Then, came the Switch. When it first debuted, I was giddy with excitement just from the tech demoed alone. Then, I saw the gameplay. Still, I was somewhat skeptical. The Wii U didn’t quite meet my expectations, and it seemed like Nintendo was promising more than it could deliver with the Switch. Then, I got my hands on one… Long story short, I haven’t done much else since…

Just looking at the tech alone, the Nintendo Switch is a marvel. It’s capable of playing, not only as a handheld, but as a full console, and even a desktop gaming tablet. The Switch itself is built well, despite being 90% plastic. Never once while using it did I feel worried that I could possibly break it in any way at all.

However, not every part of the Switch is so strong. One of those is the screen, which is also plastic. Trust me when I say this — however you feel about screen protectors, get a screen protector for the Switch. The plastic scratches easily and it’s just not worth the risk to save a couple bucks or a few minutes of frustration. One of my colleagues at 9to5Google, Abner Li, told me just a day or two after getting his Switch that he had already noticed scratches thanks to the dock, and he’s definitely not alone in that. Personally, I’m using a set of matte screen protectors on my Switch, available on Amazon for just a few dollars.

The display on the Switch itself is just a 720p panel, but you’d never know that by looking at it. The 6.2-inch size keeps everything sharp, and the colors are also excellent. Brightness could be better, but it’s fine for the most part, just suffering outdoors.

Going around the hardware, you’ll find the kickstand, which is flimsy and kinda pointless, to be honest, but it can come in handy. Under that is the microSD card slot, which is a necessity on this device since there’s only 32GB of storage. If you plan on buying games digitally, pick up a microSD card. I’ve been using one from Sandisk which I picked up on Amazon for less than $15.

Up top, you’ll find the power/sleep button, volume rocker, headphone jack, fan, and the game card slot. On the bottom, there’s the USB-C port and the two front-facing stereo speakers directly under the display.

On either side, there’s also a track that holds the Joy-Con controllers. The interchangeable, wireless controllers are hugely important for the Switch. They connect with the most satisfying of clicks and come in two variants: gray and neon. I bought the gray, and later picked up a set of neon Joy-Cons which I prefer personally.

When connected to the Switch, the Joy-Cons are pretty comfortable to use, but they become slightly less so when detached. If you’re playing docked and using the Joy-Cons, you’re probably best off using the included Grip accessory.

As for the dock itself, it’s solid. The build is decent at best, and the tendency to scratch the “naked” screen is annoying. However, the dock works well and makes using the Switch on your TV easy. Better yet, it makes keeping the cables clean an afterthought, which is excellent.

Then, there’s the truly important part — the software and performance. Right now, the Switch is literally just a gaming console. There are no apps, there is no web browser. You have the basic UI, which is good, but a little confusing, and your games. In a way, I kind of like this, because it helps give me a break from being connected to everything else.

Right now, the only games worth noting on the Switch are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Shovel Knight, and Fast RMX. I’ve played all three, but the majority of my time was spent with Zelda, and I can’t express enough how much I love this game.

I’ve never really been into Zelda properties, but Breath of the Wild has me on board big time. I’ve only owned the console for about a week, but in that time I’ve put in too many hours to count (partially because the Switch doesn’t tell you how long you’ve played something). The sheer size of the world is astounding and the nature of the game just makes it fun to play. Better yet, the Switch’s epic ability to go from sleep mode directly back into the game, regardless of if you saved or not, makes for great play on-the-go or at home.

Battery life is something you don’t often talk about with home consoles, but that’s just another place where the Switch is different. Nintendo says it will last between 3 and 6 hours on a charge, and that’s basically accurate. Zelda can go about 3 hours of play before needing a charge, but I’ve yet to play a game long enough to test the upper limits of that. Best of all, charging the Switch is a breeze thanks to USB-C. The charger for my Pixel works great on the go, as does a compact charging strip I recently picked up.

So overall, is the Nintendo Switch worth buying? The short answer is yes, but with one condition. For many, Zelda alone is worth the purchase, but for many others, you’re better off waiting for more games to release. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe debuts in late April and looks to be another winner for the Switch, and there are more games coming too, such as Splatoon 2.

However, it all depends if you can find one in stock. At $300, the Switch is excellent across the board, but finding one to buy is difficult. Amazon has been limiting sales to Prime customers, Gamestop is estimating delays for months, and availability at other retailers is spotty. I got lucky with my Switch, finding it in-stock by chance at a local Walmart, but others, especially in bigger cities, may have trouble finding one. Of course, stay tuned to 9to5Toys for future info on that. In the meantime, all I can say is that if the Switch interests you and you can afford it, don’t hesitate to buy it if you have the opportunity.

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