Nintendo Switch Review (2019): My new Favourite Console
After suggesting eight reasons to buy the Nintendo Switch this year and after dropping subtle hints that it would be the perfect present for my 27th birthday (hints like saying I wanted one everyday like clockwork until my girlfriend finally gave in), I have now been playing the Switch for around two months. And even over this short amount of time it is quickly becoming my new favourite console, one that I consider revolutionary and an absolute triumph for gaming. Here is my review of the Nintendo Switch 2019.
Nintendo Switch Review 2019
Play Time: 60-70 Hours
Played in: Mainly Handheld
The Good – Flexibility
The Nintendo Switch’s flagship feature is still its greatest achievement. It allows you to play either at home in console mode or on the move in a surprisingly lightweight handheld mode. The attraction of this feature will vary based on your available gaming time or routine. For example, you may use the handheld mode to liven up your daily commute, to play in bed on a lazy Sunday morning or simply to avoid accusations that you’re hogging the house TV (other uses are available).
Which mode is greatest is up for debate, but I’ve found no major issues switching between the two. While it can be visually jarring moving from a 43 inch TV to a 6.2 inch screen, the game remains the same, albeit with a couple of obvious downgrades when up-scaling (or perhaps on the smaller screen it’s harder to notice graphical issues).
While console mode might be preferred for others seeking a more traditional gaming experience, I prefer the handheld mode as it opens up so many possibilities. Being able to pop the Switch in my bag before I leave the house means I can play at non-ideal times, such as when I work away. When I return home I can then pick up from where I left off in console mode (literally if you put the Switch in sleep mode rather than full power off). It’s a revolutionary feature and I wish all consoles did this.
The Good – Original (and Third Party) Games
Coupled with the incredible flexibility are arguably some of the best games released this console generation (even more so if you’re an Xbox gamer like myself). Super Mario Odyssey, Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate have all received masterpiece status from mainstream games media making them essential plays for any fan of gaming. I’m currently playing through Breath of the Wild and agree it is of an extremely high quality. I can’t quite put it down.
There’s also nearly two-thousand other games available to play either on cartridge or through digital download. There are triple-A titles like Diablo III, Doom, Skyrim, the Witcher 3 and even Jedi Knight II (from 2002!) and incredible indie games like Undertale, Overcooked and Cuphead. However, if you play a huge game like the Witcher 3 on Switch you have to accept a reduction in graphical prowess as the game is squeezed on to the tiny 32GB cartridge. I’ve heard this looks good on handheld, but suffers in console mode compared to its Xbox, PS4 and PC, 4k counterparts. Of course, it’s a trade-off between visual fidelity and gaming flexibility.
Straight out of the box you’ll be unable to start building your digital collection due to a measly 32GB internal console memory, with around 26GB available to use (for reference Skyrim is 14.3 GB). If you prefer downloads to physical copies there is an option to use a microSD card to add up to 2TB of memory at an additional cost (a 128GB card could set you back £40 or more). Personally, I was happy using the cartridges. It’s quick and easy to swap them out, most travel cases have cartridge holders and each game can be played straight away. You just buy the game, put it in the Switch and play. In 2019, that is a simple, yet outstanding feature.
The Good – Improved Battery Life
This year a new version of the Switch was released with a hefty upgrade to battery life. Previously the battery was a hindrance to handheld play with a full charge lasting three hours for some games. Now, the battery can apparently last up to nine hours, although five hours is probably more reasonable for a big game. This will see you through most journeys in the UK, but power banks are available for £40-£80 if you need more juice.
The Good and Bad – The Joy-Cons
Elements of the Joy-Cons are superb. They’re incredibly lightweight, the buttons have a satisfying click when pressed down and the HD rumble varies in intensity, location and between either Joy-Con adding a nice layer of immersion. The Joy-Cons also have motion controls built in which help to refine your bow aim in Breath of the Wild or manoeuvre Luigi’s Poltergust in Luigi’s Mansion 3. They are essentially a jack-of-all-trades controller and can even last up to twenty hours on one charge alone.
But because they are trying to do everything at once, they occasionally fall short. For example, playing in console mode using the Joy-Cons doesn’t feel quite right. They slot into a controller shaped attachment, but their edges extend too far downwards stopping you from gripping the controller properly. Alternatively, you can play with a Joy-Con half in each hand, but I find using the right thumb-stick uncomfortable after a while. There is another option of buying the Switch Pro Controller, which feels great, but this will cost you £50-£60 on top of what you’ve already paid.
There are also issues when playing handheld depending on what angle you hold the Switch at. Playing on public transport is perfectly comfortable and even more so when using the screens kick stand to prop it up on a train/plane table and detaching the Joy-Cons. But playing laying down can actually be quite painful as I get pins and needles in my palms after around twenty minutes. I realise the Joy-Cons can’t be designed for every hand shape and size, but I’ve also read other people are affected by this issue.
The Bad – Absence (or Delay) of Triple-A Titles
Due to hardware limitations many new games miss their Nintendo Switch debut. For example, the brilliant Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order isn’t available. Other new releases are coming to Switch, like the Outer Worlds, but because the game must be optimised (or reduced) it is estimated to take a further six months.
Perhaps one day the Switch release date will be side by side with Xbox and PS4 (like with Doom Eternal), but seeing as the PS5 and new Xbox are coming in 2020 this is unlikely. Frankly it’s a shame. I would rather play games on the Switch simply for the increased flexibility and absence of annoying installation times. There’s a slim chance Nintendo will release a more powerful Switch Pro console which can handle these games, but this would alienate current Switch users and split the player base. Time will tell I suppose.
The Bad – Joy-Con Drift
The old Joy-Cons are noted to have a serious problem with drift, where the joysticks cause movement without player input. Whether or not this is fixed for newer Joy-Cons remains to be seen. Over my first two months and after a lot of playtime, I’ve experienced no problems. Probably best to hold on to your receipt so your warranty is valid.
The Bad – Social Sharing
If you enjoy sharing game clips and screenshots (or run a part time games blog), there are some issues with the way Nintendo handle their social media sharing. As it stands you can share to Twitter and Facebook, but Instagram is sadly left on the side lines.
There are ways around this, like sharing to Twitter or Facebook and re-uploading to Instagram. But downloading the image off Facebook causes an appalling reduction in resolution. You can also use a microSD card to move captures between Switch, laptop, phone, etc. but again you have to buy one.
I wish there was a stand-alone app which shares directly to any form of social media like with Xbox. That would be perfect.
The Switch offers incredible flexibility to play outstanding first party titles at home or on the move. And with an improved battery life, gaming has never been easier during long commutes or when away from home. These often mundane moments now present themselves as an opportunity to replay your favourite games or delve into boundary pushing new ones. But in order to reach the perfect set-up, you may need a large external microSD card, a brand new Pro-controller and potentially new Joy-Cons depending if they drift.
By trying to be a home and handheld console simultaneously the Switch sometimes falls short with uncomfortable Joy-Cons and issues with graphical quality. But in the areas that count it excels in every other way imaginable. For a console that is tiny in size, it has already provided me with a huge amount of joy. The Nintendo switch is my new favourite console and I’m sure it could be your new favourite too.