The Nintendo Switch: The Worlds Worst Console But the Best Handheld
The Nintendo Switch is the best handheld ever made. Inversely, the Nintendo’s switch is by far the worst console I’ve ever plugged into my TV.
Before we get too far into this discussion, I want to be up front about something. Before last month I had never bought a Nintendo product for myself. Nintendo always seemed to me like a company that was fueled by awkward gimmicks and the promise for simple, childish games. I wouldn’t call myself biased against the company, but every single one of my friends would say I was. What I’m saying is, I’m probably going to say some things that are going to upset a certain rabid fan base.
The Switch isn’t really a gaming console. Modern Gaming consoles have a number of features that make them less like the Genesis that I had growing up and more like a central entertainment device. Want to watch “Last Week Tonight”? Good, turn on the Xbox. Want to torture your roommate with some stupid movie about shark tornadoes? Put your DVD into the PS4. Has it been a few weeks since you talked to your brother? Invite him to your party and catch up while you work through a couple of strikes in Destiny. A modern gaming console is more than a place to play games, it’s a hub for media consumption and creation. With access to steaming services like Mixer and Twitch, and the ability to record game play and post it to social media services, both the PS4 and Xbox One do this extremely well. The Switch doesn’t yet do any of these things, and some of them simply can’t be done by the console.
The left joycon hates you and your joy.
Trying to play a game on your Switch in docked mode is a test of patience and determination grueling enough to break even the most hardened gamer. The left joycon refuses to stay connected. The left joycon hates you and your joy. The left joycon will throw Link off a cliff face that you spent 20 minutes, and all your best stamina dishes, scaling. You’ll beg, frantically call out to any and every god to stop this thing from happening, but the left joycon has no gods…
Big TV’s also tend to make the underwhelming power of the Switch more apparent. Forests and ruins that might look absolutely stunning on the small mobile screen tend to look sparse, or even barren on a 65 inch wide screen. Breath of the Wild is an absolutely beautiful game, but anyone who tells you that beauty carries over to a large screen TV is lying to themselves and to you. The sunsets are pretty, but if you look between what's immediately in front of you and what’s on the far horizon, well, it’s pretty bad. The controller that you slide your joycons into for docked play is absolute garbage. The PS4 and Xbox controllers have really hit their stride this generation, and the switch block feels like compromise. It’s small, uncomfortable, lacks features like a headphone jack, (Nintendo, why didn’t you just put the headphone jack in the joycon? I’d rather have to pick between motion controls and headphones than not have the choice at all.) Also trying to take off the slim inserts so you can hold the joycons in each hand always puts the fear of god in me. They always feel like they are going to break. In fact, sliding the joycons onto anything other than the controller block feels like a risk. I recommend just leaving them attached to the console at all times.
All of this is to say, The Switch is a compromise. You can’t have everything, and Nintendo had to make a choice. They always make a gimmick, and this time around they tried to convince us that the gimmick is that you could carry your console around on the go and play outside on rooftops during swanky parties. That’s not quite right though. The gimmick is that you can plug your handheld console into a TV… which is something I don’t ever recommend doing, because it’s awful. Here is the good news. You don’t ever need to.
Que the bit in top gear where the music changes and suddenly we learn about how amazing the new Aston is. You all got that in your head? Great.
The Nintendo switch is the best handheld ever made. The screen renders games beautifully, quickly, and smoothly. The controls are brilliant. It looks great, feels great, works great. The first time I looked into a sunrise cresting over distant mountains in Breath of the Wild, I gave a Reevesian style “Whoa”. I was surrounded by people in a Starbucks and, honestly, if any of them had looked at me at all questioningly I would have shoved the Nintendo into their face and said, “See? This shit looks good huh?”. They would have replied “Oh damn, is that the new Zelda game? It looks amazing!”. But they didn’t, and I didn’t, so they didn’t, so let’s move on to the controls.
The controls are amazing. The implementation of motion controls for a handheld is totally brilliant. Short sticks usually mean poor range of motion, which ruins fine control aiming for those sweet, sweet headshots. Worry not, fair reader, Nintendo has solved this problem. Use the stick to get to the general area of your target, then use the motion control to put an arrow right into that dome. I was amazed by how quickly I got used to this method of control, and by how well it worked. I want Tomb Raider on the switch, just to get those difficult head and heart shots down for once in my god damned life. Lastly, the motion controls are well implemented for fun and challenging puzzles. Good job Nintendo.
The thing that really struck me about the Switch is a bit more difficult to describe than how well it renders visuals or how immersive and natural interacting with games feels. The switch is just packaged well. This might be why people love this company as much as they do. I liked to hold it, I enjoyed showing it off. I liked when the fan clicked on and I could feel my little Nintendo boy working hard to show me all the awesome vistas I was gliding over after conquering my latest tower. I connected to that Switch in a way I haven’t to a console in a long time, if ever. My Xbox and I are business partners. My Switch and I were friends. Were friends, because I sold it on eBay after beating Breath of the Wild… Because the switch doesn’t have any games. And the Switch only plays games. And you can sell one for MSRP.
Bye Switch, I loved you. I’ll get you again when you’ve had a price cut and get a games library!
Rating: 10/10 (as a handheld,) try out 2017’s game of the year for free!