Updated: Nintendo has partially unveiled its E3 2017 lineup, and it looks like Super Mario Odyssey will be playable on the show floor. Additionally we’ve been promised more details on both ARMS and Splatoon 2. There are still more games to announce, so we’ve got all of our digits crossed for a Pokémon Stars reveal…
Having ushered in the modern console landscape back in the day, in more recent times Nintendo’s focus has been on trying out weird and wonderful ideas with each new hardware release.
Nintendo Switch Review
And it’s a trend that’s continuing with its latest console, the Nintendo Switch. Here the idea is that it’s one piece of hardware that can function as both a console and a handheld, allowing you to seamlessly transition from playing your games at home to taking them on the go.
The Switch’s central premise, meanwhile, is something that can benefit literally every game. After all, who hasn’t wanted to take their console with them in the past to enjoy full home gaming experiences on the go?
For the most part, the console delivers well on this premise. It’s a solid, premium-feeling handheld, and works more or less as you’d expect a home console to work when you need it to.
Read on for our full thoughts.
Nintendo Switch price and release date
- What is it? Nintendo’s newest console
- When is it out? March 3, 2017 (pre-orders open now)
- What will it cost? $299.99 in the US, £279.99 in the UK, $469.95 in Australia
- Three form factors; handheld, console (docked) and tabletop
- Lots of accessories, which are at risk of being misplaced
In the Nintendo Switch box you get the main body of the console, complete with two detachable controller sides, a grip which enables you to combine these controller portions into a more traditional gamepad, two straps which can be attached to these sides to make them into two individual controllers, and a dock that allows you to plug the console into your television.
You also get a USB Type-C power cable (with a non-detachable power brick) and an HDMI cable for connecting the device to your TV.
We’ve taken to wrapping our Joy-Con straps around our Joy-Con grip just to keep everything together, but it would be great if there was some way of attaching them to the console so they don’t end up getting misplaced.
It’s a pretty novel (not to mention somewhat complicated) setup, so it’s worth delving into each of the different ways you can use the console.
- Bigger than traditional handhelds
- Slightly cramped for the right hand due to right analogue stick
- Split D-pad on the left side
irst up is handheld mode, which is the form factor that’s most like the hardware that’s come before it.
In this configuration you attach the two controller portions (the Joy-Cons) to the left and right edges of the screen, and you use the console much like the PlayStation Vita.
Along the top of the device you’ve got a slot for game cartridges, a headphone jack (bluetooth headphones/headsets are not supported), a volume rocker and a power button.
The bottom of the device is a much more spartan affair. You’ve got the kickstand for using it in tabletop mode (more on this later) concealing a small microSD slot which provides the console’s expandable storage. Internal storage is limited to just 32GB, so if you’re planning on downloading games rather than buying them then you’re going to want to invest in a microSD card (capacities up to 2TB are theoretically supported).
The detachable Joy-Cons have a lot going on. The right hand side has the classic A, B, X, Y button configuration that Nintendo has used on and off since the SNES, an analogue stick (slightly awkwardly placed underneath the face buttons) and two shoulder buttons. There’s a small plus-shaped button which acts as the equivalent of the Wii U’s ‘Start’ button, and a home button for reaching the console’s system-level menus.
Instead of the classic cross D-pad Nintendo has utilised since the NES, the left Joy-Con instead has a set of four circular buttons that are identical in shape to the face buttons on the right Joy-Con.
This decision, which appears odd at first glance, has actually been made so the left Joy-Con can be used as an individual controller, with the D-pad acting as face-buttons in this configuration (again, more on this later).
- Connects to your TV via an included dock
- Docking process is seamless, and can be done mid-game
The second form-factor is console mode. You place the main portion of the console in the included dock, this connects the device to your television, and you’re then free to detach the Joy-Cons to control the Switch from a distance.
The way the console transfers the viewing experience from its own screen to the television is as seamless as it could possibly be. You don’t even have to pause your current game – it happens completely in real time.
Detaching the Joy-Cons can be a little fiddly, but is essentially done by holding a small button on their backs and sliding the controller up.
On the left-hand side of the console are a further two USB ports, which will mainly be used for charging your controllers as you play wirelessly (more on this later too).
If you want to use the Switch with multiple televisions throughout your home then you can buy additional docks, which should make it easy to transition from one screen to another.
- Screen can also be detached and propped up on a table
The final form factor is what Nintendo calls ‘tabletop mode’. Using the kickstand that’s attached to the back of the screen you can prop the console up on a table and then detach the Joy-Cons for some semi-portable gaming.
It’s certainly lovely being able to use the Joy-Cons in the grip rather than having them attached to the console. The grip provides just enough extra plastic to make the controllers much more comfortable in the hands, and having the console a little further away from you means that your sitting posture feels a lot more natural.
But there are a couple of issues that prevent the console from fully capitalising on tabletop mode.
First is the kickstand. Although it’s rubbarised, which means that the console doesn’t slide around, it only supports the console at a single height. This means that if your tray table is a little closer to you then there’s no ability to prop the console up so that it’s facing you more directly. You’ll instead be stuck with the screen pointing at your chest rather than face.
Second is the charging port, which is in accessible when your using it in tabletop mode. During a recent train journey this meant that although we were in the perfect situation to use tabletop mode, we ended up using the console as a handheld so that we could make use of the charger next to our seat.
- Set-up is simple
- Console will need to be told whether Joy-Cons are being used together or separately
Setting up the new console is suitably simple.
If you’re using the device as a handheld then simply attach the Joy-Cons and press the power button.
If you want to play games on your TV you’ll need to plug the dock into the TV via HDMI, and hook it up to some power via the included USB Type-C power lead. The console then easily slips into the dock.
Pairing the controllers is a little more complicated than with other devices because of the fact that they can either be paired or used separately. The way you tell the console which controllers you’re using is to press both the L and R shoulder buttons in whichever configuration you’re using.
On the software side the console will ask you for the standard combination of Wi-Fi details and user account set-up info. These details are a doddle to input if you make use of the console’s touchscreen; the keyboard isn’t quite as good as a smartphone’s, but it’s a lot better than using a traditional controller.
After that’s done you’re able to play games off a cartridge, or games that are saved on the system’s memory.