The Nintendo Switch: Early Impressions

While I’ve been preaching restraint with regards to buying the Nintendo Switch, I have to admit that I was starting to get a little antsy over the console’s lack of stock. Sure, Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Mario Kart 8 were already available on the Wii U (and I couldn’t care less about ARMS), but Splatoon 2 is a must-buy for a me, and the possibility of not having a Switch by the game’s July 21st launch date was starting to loom large. As someone who’s logged 1000+ hours on Splatoon, such a scenario was totally unacceptable.

Luckily, the console gods smiled upon me, and demonstrated their mercy in the form of a pair of Switches sitting in a display case at the local Target. I have now officially joined the over two million Nintendo fans who own the company’s newest console.

After conducting extensive testing over the weekend using Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, my current position is that the console itself seems to be ready for prime time, even if some of Nintendo’s supporting infrastructure still needs some work:

  • For better or worse, the Switch looks and feels like a modern piece of technology, and lacks that endearing-but-childish aura of past Nintendo consoles. Despite all of the promotional and reviews photos I’d seen, its small size still surprised me when I finally saw it in person (in console?), especially the dock.
  • Despite its small stature, the Switch’s handheld screen looked unbelievably sharp and crisp. However, if you’re playing in tabletop mode, and especially if you’re running a split-screen multiplayer game, you’re still going to have to sit really close to the screen (4 feet away at most).
  • Setup was mostly a breeze, and while linking my old Nintendo Network ID to a new Nintendo Account was kind of a pain, its a one-time cost that you’ll never have to think about again. However, as someone who has to constantly “switch” their HDMI cable between their Switch, Wii U, and cable box, I wasn’t a fan of the dock’s HDMI port placement, as plugging and unplugging the cable was enough of a hassle that I mostly ran the Switch undocked and left the cable plugged in elsewhere.
  • I was absolutely certain that I would need a Pro Controller to play (and I may still go that route for Splatoon 2), but the Joy-Con Grip turned out to be a lot more comfortable than I expected, and using the Switch in handheld mode felt exactly the same as the Wii U gamepad, right down to the “quick flics” I did to perform stunts off of jumps in MK8D. While I found holding the Joy-Cons separately during a race to be a little awkward, I imagine it would feel more natural for motion-control-oriented games.
  • Battery life didn’t seem to be too much of an issue with MK8D, and I went through several hours of online matches without any problems (the battery was around 15% by the end).
  • The problems that were most-often reported by early Switch buyers were non-existent here: I had absolutely no Joy-Con connectivity issues, and docking/undocking did not scratch the screen. Of course, these results suffer from a problem of small sample size, and I tended to sit/stand pretty close to the Switch while playing.
  • Unfortunately, I wouldn’t say Nintendo’s online infrastructure passed its first test over the weekend. Connection errors tended to happen in bunches, but when they hit, MK8D was completely unplayable. It’s a huge regression from Mario Kart 8, and makes me wonder how useful/reliable the paid service coming this fall will be. Nintendo’s got a lot of work to do between now and them.
  • One small note for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: I didn’t know I needed a revamped Battle Mode in the game, but Nintendo did, and what they gave us is glorious. I haven’t decided which mode is my favorite yet, but they’re all pretty chaotic and a ton of fun (yes, even Coin Runners).

I’m comfortable enough with my experiences thus far to shift my stance on both the Switch from “hold” to “buy.” The console now has a decent library of games and appears to have worked through its early growing pains, and Nintendo still has a few months to get its online act together. If you can find one selling for the MSRP ($299.00), you should grab it, because there’s no telling when you’ll find another one.

For now, I am a satisfied customer.

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