First Impressions of the Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is finally out and I have had the pleasure of playing it over this past weekend. It was really great that Nintendo decided to launch the Switch worldwide on a Friday, instead of a Sunday as they have in the past. I was lucky enough to receive my Nintendo Switch and my copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Master Edition on launch day after pre-ordering online from EB Games. Others were not so lucky, including Taylor, and won't be getting their new Nintendos until sometime next week. With that said, let's look at the hardware itself, starting with the different ways to play.

PLAY MODES

What sets the Nintendo Switch apart from other consoles is that it is truly a hybrid. It is both a home console and a handheld portable console. Nintendo has really out done themselves here. Even as a long time, die hard Nintendo fan, I am thoroughly impressed.

TV MODE

Slide the console into the dock that is included in the box, hook the dock up to your TV via HDMI and the Nintendo Switch becomes a home console, outputting 1080p to your TV in seconds. Pairing extra controllers is easy and this is my most preferred method of play so far. To me there is nothing like sitting back on the couch with a Nintendo controller in your hand and this mode functions as perfectly as you would expect.

HANDHELD MODE

Undocking the Nintendo Switch instantly transforms the console into a handheld, but it is a handheld with the power of a home console. You don't have to even pause your game. Just grab the console, slide it out of the dock and the console switches modes, pausing the gameplay for you. The built in screen begins displaying the picture in under 3 seconds and it looks fantastic. At 720p, the 6.2 inch capacitive touch screen has phenomenal pixel density and it looks like no handheld I have ever played before. The one downfall with this mode is potential battery life. Depending on the game, the Nintendo Switch battery lasts between 2.5 - 6 hours.

TABLETOP MODE

This mode is for multiplayer on the go. Slide the Joy-Cons off of the console, hand one to your buddy and turn them sideways. Then prop the console up on its built in kickstand and you're all set. This is the mode I have spent the least amount of time with but I did play Breath of the Wild in tabletop mode for an hour, with the Joy-Cons out of the grip to get a feel for the mode. I can see how this will be great for killing time with a friend on the go. The thought of playing Mario Kart 8 local multiplayer anywhere gets me fired up, but you will both have to be sitting pretty close to the screen.

CONTROLLERS

The system comes with two controllers called Joy-Cons which can either be attached to the console itself for handheld mode or slid into the Joy-Con Grip (also included) for use in TV mode. You can also purchase the Pro Controller separately for a more traditional gamepad feel. I have spent several hours in TV mode with both the Joy-Con Grip and the Pro Controller and I must say that both feel great. The Joy-Con grip is surprisingly comfortable and would be totally sufficient if I had not decided to get a Pro Controller.

The Joy-Cons individually provide us with two fully fledged controllers right out of the box, complete with shoulder buttons tucked in on the rails. My first thought when I saw them was "Wow, those are tiny..." which they are, and you kind of forget they are in your hands after a few minutes of holding them. However, this doesn't mean they feel bad. I was surprised at how good they felt sideways, especially the right Joy-Con, and I can definitely see myself using them out of the grip. I haven't had a chance to test the new HD Rumble feature included in the Joy-Cons and Pro Controller yet, because this function is not utilized in Breath of the Wild. Battery life for the Joy-Cons is not an issue as they will run for 20 hours on a full charge.

The Pro Controller is absolutely perfect in my opinion. The sticks and buttons feel amazing and the button layout is great. I initially had some trouble hitting the plus and minus buttons but after an hour or so I got used to it and it was no longer an issue. The rubbery grip feels superb and the added motion control and rumble put this controller well above the Wii U Pro Controller. The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is quickly becoming my favourite video game controller ever. Just hold one in your hands and you will see what I mean. Battery life is again not an issue. The Pro Controller will run for 40 hours on a full charge. With the Joy-Con grip being so comfortable you may not feel the need to buy a Pro Controller, and they aren't cheap, but I think the increased button and control stick size is worth it, not to mention the overall incredible feel.

BUILD QUALITY

Everything with the Switch is very sturdy and has that top-of-the-line Nintendo construction feel. When the Joy-Cons are connected to the console they do not wiggle at all. The dock actually has a bit of weight to it and I feel like I could throw the Pro Controller off a building and it would be fine. The power supply that comes with the system is very nice and features a very thick gauge USB Type-C cable, which I love. No fumbling around with direction and this is the first time Nintendo has used a standard connector for a portable console charger. Each iteration of the DS, 3DS, Gameboy Advance SP and Gameboy had its own proprietary charging connector.

The cartridges for Nintendo Switch are tiny, even smaller than a 3DS or DS cartridge, but they come in really nice boxes. I think they are a really good size and will look great on a shelf. The clear plastic of the game boxes is a nice touch and feels as robust as usual.

CONCLUSION

It is obvious that I really like the Nintendo Switch hardware. I think it is a must own console that you should definitely pick up, if you are still on the fence. The sheer amount of possibilities with this thing is incredible and I can't wait to see what developers do with it. As far as the hardware goes, I am very satisfied. After waiting so long since we heard the first whispers of Nintendo's new console, code name NX, I thought my hopes and dreams had climbed too high for the Switch to live up. I am happy to say I was wrong. It lives up to my expectations in every way so far.

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