After months of rumors and leaks, and roughly a week of pre-reviews, the hour of reckoning is nearly upon us. On Friday, the Nintendo Switch will be released to the masses (i.e., the folks who pre-ordered it and the ten people who manage to get one just by walking in to a store), and the world will finally discover if it is Nintendo’s best console or its last console. After the commercial flop that was the Wii U, consumers are naturally wary of Nintendo’s new offering, so is it worth taking the plunge?
After scouring the many hardware reviews put out by people who actually have a Switch in their hands, I’ve drawn the following conclusions:
- The main “switch” gimmick of the Switch has been executed surprisingly well, with the console swapping from portable mode to the dock and back again without a hitch. It’s one thing to articulate the main selling point of a console and another to actually pull it off, but Nintendo seems to have done both here.
- That said, this isn’t exactly an ideal portable console. Its screen is hard to view outdoors, and in addition to its so-so battery life, the system appears to drain power from external batteries faster than it can charge. You’ll need to plan ahead if you plan on taking this thing on a long trip.
- The hardware doesn’t quite match up with Nintendo’s usual quality standards—the kickstand in particular doesn’t seem to hold up over time, and the overall console isn’t as sturdy as past Nintendo offerings. You’re going to want to be more careful carrying this around than you were with your Game Boy or 3DS. (There are also connectivity issues with the Joy-Con controllers, but those can hopefully be remedied with a software update.)
- Opinions are mixed on the Joy-Con design: Some have found them comfortable to use, while others have criticized their size and layout. Regardless, the Pro Controller is almost universally considered the superior option.
- There are a ton of hidden costs to buying a Switch. Serious gamers, or even people who just want to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on a long trip, will need to shell out extra cash for Pro Controllers, carrying cases, memory cards, external batteries, extra charging cables, and perhaps even a Joy-Con charging grip. Throw in the $60 for Zelda, tack on a few extra bucks for some other interesting titles like Snipperclips, and you may be looking at a $400-$500 investment on day one! (And don’t forget: you’ll be paying for online services starting this fall.)
- Speaking of Zelda, the game’s hype appears to be well-deserved: Aside from some frame-rate drops at busy moments, I’m not really hearing any bad things about the game. It’s apparently really hard, but the game is configured to make death as painless as possible, encouraging the player to take risks and explore.
- Outside of Zelda, the launch lineup is still pretty thin (albeit improved from the January presentation). Still, the total first-year lineup
- seems promising enough to ensure that you will eventually get your money’s worth out of the new system.
- The OS and UI of the system has generally gotten high marks…at least, the things we know about have gotten high marks. That’s the biggest issue with the system thus far: We don’t know anything about their online setup, we don’t know how the Virtual Console will be handled, and we don’t know if past eShop purchases will be able to shift seamlessly onto the Switch (though we can probably assume they won’t, since Nintendo hasn’t allowed this in the past). There’s a massive day-one software update that will enable networking and some other missing features, but Nintendo’s asking its early adopters to take a huge leap of faith.
So with all this being said, should you buy a Nintendo Switch? Unless you’re a diehard Zelda fan who’s dying to experience the game on a powerful new system (granted, there are a lot of you out there), my answer would be “Not yet.”
As I mentioned before, Nintendo doesn’t seem to be totally prepared for the Switch’s launch. Buying into the company’s plan on day one is already an expensive proposition, and if issues like the Joy-Con connectivity problem linger, it could turn out to be one you regret.
Instead, sit back and give the Switch some time to build up its software lineup and fix any initial bugs. If you own a Wii U, you can pick up Zelda for that system instead—to paraphrase Trailer Drake, does the game really run $300 better on the Switch? Sonic Mania and Yooka-Laylee look great, but if you’ve already got an Xbox One or PS4, you’ll be able to play these games without Nintendo’s help. Mario Kart 8 originally came out three years ago; if you already own it, are battle maps and Inklings worth re-buying the game for the Switch?
Personally, I don’t see an absolute-must-buy Switch game coming until Splatoon 2 drops later this summer. By then, not only will Zelda, ARMS, and MK8 Deluxe be available, but we’ll likely have more clarity on future releases via E3, and you’ll be able to make a more-informed decision. If you can stomach waiting until the holiday season, you’ll be rewarded with Super Mario Odyssey and potentially a discounted Switch/game bundle.
Of course, the end of the Wii U era was really painful for Nintendo fans, and a lot of us are sick and tired of waiting for new AAA games. If you really want to pick up the Switch and get your Zelda fix on Friday, I completely understand. For most consumers, however, waiting seems to be the more prudent option.
In short, I think the Nintendo Switch will be worth buying. I’m just not sure it’s worth buying yet.