Frantically burning through short games to get my backlog count down meant that I didn’t actually crack open the box of my new Switch until this Saturday – and then, of course, I spent way too long getting a screen protector installed on it. I do love glass screen protectors, as an aside – they can be finicky to get on but the feel of them is so much nicer than plastic.
Speaking of feel, let’s start there because it’s one place where the Switch really knocks it out of the park. I’ve been a fan of Nintendo’s design philosophy since the SNES days, where every connector port had a definitive “snap” when you insert cables, so you knew they were in right. The Switch carries on this tradition, and the act of popping the controllers on and off is just a tactile joy. I’m still not quite used to where the release buttons are, but that will come with time.
The controllers also feel very good – the short analog sticks have a good bit of resistance to them, which is a heck of a trick to pull off, and the primary buttons have a nice pop. I’m much less of a fan of the + and – buttons, but those don’t get a lot of use during play so I’ll deal with them. Nintendo also continues to stick with the “confirm on right, cancel on bottom” layout they had during the SNES days, which is always a little frustrating when going to a Nintendo console from a more mainstream console. I’m sure Nintendo fans have exactly the same reaction whenever they step outside their comfort zone as well, so I won’t gripe too much about it.
That’s all backed up with some really good use of rumble and sounds to let you know when you’ve done something right. The console practically purrs at you.
I haven’t taken the dock out of the package, as my plan is to use this primarily as a handheld. I had some initial misgivings about that plan when I first got the thing out of the box and the controllers fitted – it just looked HUGE – but those worries quickly went away once I started using it. It IS big, but it doesn’t feel like it – it’s solid, and has a heft to it, but it doesn’t weigh your hands down too much. It’s just heavy enough that I find myself holding it like an Xbox controller, with index fingers on the triggers, so it may take a little extra time to acclimate if games use the bumpers frequently.
The initial setup was very polished, and uses a Nintendo Account login instead of an NNID. I still have reservations about Nintendo’s account system, but they keep seeming to get closer and closer to a modern setup. I would have liked a “reveal password” checkbox when entering any passwords or my WPA key, but after a couple of typos I managed to get online and connected. It even let me browse the eShop without forcing a system update, which is a nice touch – usually, the first thing you get slapped with on setting up a new console is a mandatory update, just when you’ve finally gotten to the main screen for the first time.
Mind you, downloading the bundled copy of Super Mario Odyssey DID need a system update, followed by a rather long download session to get the game installed. Big points to Nintendo for dropping the cutesy little Pikmin animation in favor of just having a progress bar, btw.
I’ve only put about 45 minutes into Odyssey, but it does have the same sense of playfulness that just kept bringing smiles to my face when I was playing through 3D Land a couple of months back. I’m still absolute rubbish at platform games, mind you, so that playfulness and joy may not be a permanent thing. Some more points to Nintendo for having a tutorial bit that was just long enough to get the game rolling.
The screen is, well, it’s a 6.2″ 720p screen when I’m used to looking at a 5″ 1080p cell phone screen. There are definitely some jagged edges, by comparison. That said, it’s a good match for the under-the-hood hardware, and I’d much rather have a 720P screen at a good frame rate than a 1080P slide show.
Overall, I have really positive feelings about the Switch. With the slow decline of Vita support over the last few years, I’ve been worried that portable gaming was going to be relegated to virtual D-pads and on-screen buttons, but this makes a great Vita successor. It’s also got Koei Tecmo and Marvelous on-board, so I’m pretty confident that my tastes in gaming will be well-served.
Now then, time to get back to possessing innocent, unsuspecting woodland creatures with my demonic hat.