Gaming

Nintendo Switch: Reinventing The Handheld For The Better?

I didn’t buy my Nintendo Switch with any intention of writing an article on the matter. In fact, I rather assumed that, in this, I would keep my personal life and professional life apart. Regardless, I found the experience more and more interesting as I continued to use the device. Ultimately, it seemed worth the time to record a few thoughts on my journey so far with Nintendo‘s new handheld/home console hybrid.

A Different Sort of Handheld Gaming

Nintendo Switch - Handheld Dock

Before I go any farther, I must say: what an unusual concept! Who but Nintendo would think it was prudent to design a home console that could be carried around as a portable device? Of course, I understand handheld gaming (you know, the “smart”phone kind) has become an increasingly popular activity. To that point, it seems more and more people every day have caved to peer pressure and finally installed Angry Birds or some such thing. Increasingly, an entirely new demographic of people—for better or worse—have found themselves compelled to a gaming experience.

While capitalizing on the mobile trend seems smart, the Switch is very different from a phone. Understandably, the biggest reason this type of gaming has taken off is because of the simple fact that most people carry a phone all day, anyway. Conversely, the Switch is not the sort of thing you’re likely to take everywhere – unless you’re really committed. Compared to a smartphone or tablet, it’s both longer and thicker than is convenient to port about. The battery life is also much more limited.

With that being said, while I wouldn’t take it everywhere with me, I can still see the appeal. Myself, I’ve found the mobility to be a blessing. Perhaps you’re baking something in the oven and want to stay close-at-hand? Or maybe your television is downstairs, but you’re tasked with waiting all day for the UPS driver upstairs? As the days turn into weeks, I’m surprised by all of the times I’ve found it convenient to be able to pick my home console up and take it with me.

And the Inevitable Detractors…

Nintendo Switch - Handheld Controllers

There are compromises, however. One of the biggest pertains to the Joy-Con controllers. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but my opinion is that these pint-sized, mini-gamepads weren’t designed with a proper, home-console experience in mind. Whether separate from the unit or combined together, either on the Switch itself or the Joy-Con Grip, they feel ill-equipped for the task they’re put to. In fact, I picked up an Xbox controller the other day for the first time in a week, and it felt like a real revelation in comparison.

Similarly, the horsepower of the device is second-to-all. In fact, as has been well-documented, the Switch itself is actually less powerful than the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – which are roughly four-years-old now. In a world that’s pushing for 4K resolutions, it’s disappointing to see a brand-new device that struggles at 1080p. It is what it is, and Nintendo has never been one for graphical prowess. Incidentally, I respect their constant decision to rely on tested, middle-of-the-road hardware rather than chasing the latest and greatest, but it’s still noticeable. When I observed framerates dipping to 20 and below during the initial portion of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed

The Road Ahead – Switch’s Content-Lite Launch

Nintendo Switch - Handheld Breath of the Wild

And that segues me nicely into my final thought: games. If you don’t know already, there might as well be only one game available on the Switch right now: Zelda. I’m told there are others – I’ve even seen pictures of them, but I’m convinced it’s Breath of the Wild or bust. Time will tell how the library might fill out, but I don’t anticipate we’ll see a sudden rush of third-party developers looking to make special versions of their games with dated hardware in mind. No, the Switch is a Mario machine, and there’s no mistaking. But I can love it for that.

Nintendo has always dared to be different. As a result of their tenacity, we’ve seen some of the most important innovations in the industry, but it’s a double-edged sword. The Switch isn’t flashy, and it’s not powerful; it’s not the most comfortable, and it doesn’t even boast a back-catalog of the company’s own titles. Yet, somehow, it’s good enough for me as it is. I believe this little device represents the maturation of the concept introduced by the Wii U. It also fulfils an interesting role which no other console can by being entirely portable. Only the years will decide whether it’s a success or the final nail in the coffin, but I don’t question my purchase. It’s a great handheld console, and will only get better with time

Have you tried the Switch? Do you think this will be Nintendo’s last console? Let us know in the comments below!

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