It’s been just over a month since Nintendo’s newest hybrid home console/handheld, the Switch, was released out into the wild, and on the whole, it’s been selling like Hyrulean hotcakes. Industry analyst Michael Pachter has gone so far as to predict that The Big N’s newest piece of hardware will outperform Microsoft’s 4K behemoth Scorpio console, which releases later this year, and has gone as far as saying that it will become the secondary console to purchase to complement your primary PS4/Xbox One system.
The Switch is a fantastic concept and after spending a lot of time with it, I too, am a believer. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a piece of Nintendo hardware and been as enamoured with it as I have been with the Switch. It really is a beautiful and well-designed piece of tech and is a night and day reaction to the Wii U’s unwieldy Fisher Price-esque design. Unlike the Wii U’s ambiguous messaging (many consumers thought it was an accessory for the original Wii), The Big N have doubled down on a clear, laser focused message and a very unique, tantalizing idea: this is a modern Nintendo console that you can play anywhere.
As a parent, I often have to play second fiddle when it comes to access to the big TV in the living room — damn you, Dora! Nevertheless, this is where the Switch’s handheld capabilities really come into their own. Within mere moments, the Switch transforms into a large, comfortable and powerful handheld. I can’t stress the latter part enough; the Switch might well be underpowered when compared to the likes of the Xbox One and PS4, but when you compare it to other portable systems on the market, it really is a bit of a beast.
Under the hood you’ve got a Nvidia Tegra X1 graphics chip — granted, it’s likely to be a modified 2015 model — but it still packs a punch, along with 4GB of RAM, which is not too shabby at all. Compare that to the PS Vita’s 512MB of RAM (which really is no slouch by handheld standards) and you get an idea of the kind of power that’s waiting to be tapped into by burgeoning indie developers and big triple-A teams. The UI is also snappy and responsive, with a similar design to the PS4’s clean, minimalist home-screen, and it’s great that you can pop in and out of games on the fly and visit the e-shop. It’s also nice that if you run out of juice, the system automatically saves the game you’re playing, which will surely rescue you from some hair-pullingly frustrating moments when you’re in the middle of a marathon gaming session.
Now, there are a few foibles that Nintendo should try their best to iron out going forward. The lack of an achievement/trophy system is a glaring omission that could be easily rectified through a software update (a little like how the PS3 introduced trophies back in July, 2008). Maybe Nintendo as a company are philosophically opposed to a trophy/achievement system, which is kind of baffling I know, but this could well be the case. Maybe Ninty don’t want players to compete with each other in a similar way to Xbox and PS4 and maybe instead focus on their own brand of family friendly fun. Perhaps the company just haven’t yet caught up with the times — I’m really not sure, but I still think it’s not too late for a trophy/achievement system on the Switch. Personally, I believe that such a thing would really help to bring new players into the Nintendo fold.
Another bone of contention is the console’s startling lack of third-party support. Now, I actually think that the Big N have tried to build some bridges with the Switch. Bethesda’s Skyrim: Special Edition is pencilled in for release later this year and is a huge boon for the system — granted, it’s a six-year-old game — but it’s also a massive, open-world title that you cannot play on a 3DS or a PS Vita. Having a game of that caliber and scope on a handheld is a tantalizing prospect and is a step in the right direction in regards to the console’s third-party relationships and support.