Sunday, October 08, 2017

A few thoughts on the Nintendo Switch now that I've spent a couple of weeks with one

It's been about two weeks since I got a Switch, so I figure now is as good a time as any to share my thoughts on Nintendo's latest piece of gaming hardware.

Something I need to note before I continue: I've only used my Switch in handheld mode so far. In fact, I haven't even taken its dock, which lets you to play games on a TV, out of the box. I'll probably free it from its (beautifully decorated) cardboard prison around the time I get my hands on Super Mario Odyssey, but even then I can't see myself using it all that often. That's how much I prefer playing games "on the go" (which in my case usually means while sitting on the couch or lying in bed) to staring at a TV screen these days.

Anyway, I've spent a good amount of time with the rest of the Switch hardware since it arrived on my doorstep late last month, so here are my impressions of the main unit, Joy-Cons, user interface, eShop and more.

It's smaller than I imagined--For whatever reason, before I bought my Switch I was under the impression it was pretty bulky in its portable form. So, imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the opposite of huge. No one is going to call the thing "tiny," of course, but it's plenty small for the occasional car and plane trip. Would my tune be different if I commuted with my Switch? Perhaps, but the fact is I've only ever played my original 3DS on the bus. I've never once taken either of my 3DS XL systems or my pink-and-white Vita to work, and I'm pretty sure the same will be true of my Switch by the time its hold on me, or the portion of my life that's spent using public transportation, comes to a close.

The huge screen is a huge plus--Truth be told, I've never been a size queen. In fact, even now I'd rather play games on my original "flame red" 3DS system than on my pink-and-white 3DS XL. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wished the Switch's screen were smaller. It's nice to not have to squint while reading text, for example. Granted, I don't think the increased screen size--and improved screen resolution--will really hit me until I play a game like Super Mario Odyssey or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on it. Assuming I react to that experience like I think I will, I may never hook up my thus-far-ignored Switch dock.

I like how solid it feels--This is the aspect of the Switch that surprises me the most, to be perfectly honest. Before I held the system in my hands, I thought the Joy-Cons might seem a bit loose or wobbly. Thankfully, they don't. In fact, I often forget the controllers are detachable--that's how snug everything feels when Switch is in its handheld form. I know some folks will say, "of course the Switch is solid--Nintendo made it!" Well, Nintendo also made the original 3DS hardware that features a floppy hinge and a scratch-prone upper screen, so one should be forgiven for worrying the Switch, with its far more complicated design, may follow in its footsteps.

The UI is sleek and snappy, but still leaves something to be desired--Although I'm a big fan of the user interfaces Nintendo's designers created for the 3DS, Wii and Wii U, I appreciate that they went with something a little sexier and a little less kiddie or cutesy this time around. Plus, the Switch's user interface (UI) isn't just sleek; it's also noticeably faster than the Wii and 3DS UIs. (I can't speak to the speed of the Wii U user interface, as I've sadly never experienced it.) Unfortunately, a game system's UI needs to be more than elegant and brisk. It also needs to be functional, and that's not how I would describe the Switch UI at the moment. Why can't I move my game and demo icons? Why can't I display them in various ways (other than in a straight line), or make folders to contain them? And why can't I change the background of the system's home menu like I can on my 3DS? I have a feeling  an upcoming update will allow all of this--and hopefully more--but, boy, it sure would've been nice if it had allowed it right out of the box.

I hope the eShop gets an overhaul (and soon)--Much like the Switch UI, the system's eShop is sleek and snappy--and not entirely satisfying. I'm sure some people think the 3DS eShop is a jumbled mess, but I'm not one of them. I like that it offers visitors plenty of opportunities to find and discover games and demos. You don't have to know exactly what you're looking for when you make your way to the 3DS eShop. With the Switch eShop, though, you've got a tab for recent releases, a tab for best sellers and that's about it. If you want anything else, you have to search for it. Again, I'm pretty confident this will change in the future and the Switch eShop will become quite a bit more dynamic, but the question is: when? Here's hoping Nintendo gives us a more user-friendly, and publisher-friendly, digital store soon.

Now that I've shared my thoughts and feelings on the Switch, what are yours? Those of you who've spent at least a little time with the system: do you agree with what I've said here, or do you disagree? Regardless, let me know your opinions on the matter in the comments section of this post.

See also: 'A few thoughts on Golf Story for Switch now that I've put about eight hours into it'

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