I’ve spent a good three or so hours with my Nintendo Switch so far today. Though it might not sound like a lot of time to get to grips with everything, the good news is the painless setup and clean OS have made getting used to Nintendo’s new console a breeze. Of course, it helps to have a top class launch game by its side, but let’s stick with the hardware ins and outs for now.
When the Wii U launched, things weren’t all that good. The OS was missing a lot of parts, downloading the day one update took a lot of time (something my internet connection struggled with, though it isn’t too surprising) and a lot of features were missing to begin with. The biggest criticism, of course, was the lack of quality software, but that seems to follow every console launch no matter which one you go with. Personally I enjoyed the Wii U to begin with, the launch games were solid if a tiny bit uninspired in places, but in truth it was the OS design left me a little disappointed. It just didn’t feel real, even after the update.
Flash forward to today, and after staring down its predecessor and pulling apart what went wrong at that launch, it’s clear that the lessons have been learnt. Within minutes of bringing the system home, my Nintendo Switch was connected to the internet, had its system update downloaded and installed and loaded into Zelda: Breath of the Wild. To say it was easy would be an understatement.
Now I’ve already had some previous hands-on time with the Switch, so you know how I feel about it already in terms of the controls and the like. But I don’t think I’ve ever ‘enjoyed’ an installation process like this before. Granted, there’s that level of excitement when a new piece of tech arrives and you un-box it for the first time, but having gone through the last few console generations, I can say for a fact that the Nintendo Switch is a joy right from the get-go.
I’ll give you a comparison. When I bought the Xbox One on launch day, I didn’t play anything for a good two days later. System updates and game installations dragged on and on as so many other users tried to log in and get going, let alone the fact that I had to take it to another house as my internet connection at the time just couldn’t handle the load. Even today, Xbox One S owners come across issues with the servers, hanging the installation of the console’s much needed system update. The whole experience was a letdown, and thankfully the NBN will help to ease some of those problems in the future, but it won’t help us all.
The Switch, on the other hand, took all of 15 minutes. Five of those were for the console update, the rest to install the update to Zelda. In-between, I was treated to a colourful and surprisingly fun setup process that had me connecting the two Joy-Cons, which connect with a satisfying click into either side of the console, along with the now famous ‘click’ sound you hear at the beginning of a Switch trailer. Yup, they added that too!
The main menu then appeared, and though it’s somewhat familiar to the Wii U (large icons for games and smaller icons near the bottom for options, eShop, news, etc.), everything has been given almost a professional polish. The icons are clean and easy to understand, the text easy to read, all backed by some simple click sounds and a few added effects that brought a smile to my face (if you didn’t chuckle the first time you clicked your icon in the top left to see your friends list, you’re not human).
With the system update applied, I was off to the eShop to see what else was available whilst the Zelda update continued downloading in the background. It’s a tiny bit barren in there right now, but the menu’s are nicely laid out and it’s easy to find what you need, whether it be a particular game or redeeming an eShop voucher. No doubt more menus will be applied later on, in a similar fashion to what’s come before, such as exploring special offers or breaking things up into genres, but so far it’s rather easy to navigate.
A few setting changes meant my background changed from white to a more appropriate black (I get the feeling more colours and paid options will appear down the track, in a similar vein to the 3DS). If you want a more detailed tracking system for the games you’ve played, the parental control app is your go to, otherwise there’s very little in the way of statistics of your use so far. I’ll miss that feature, since it’s fun to see the time put into some of my favourites, but it isn’t a big loss in the grand scheme of things.
A few other things I picked up on so far:
- Tapping the battery icon displays a percentage. You can also click on the controllers icon to get a breakdown of the current charge of both Joy-Cons.
- Whilst Mii’s still exist, they’re for now sitting in the background and waiting to be used for certain games.
- There’s very little menu music or eShop music this time around, which is sad in a way. I’ll always miss Mario running across the screen on the Wii giving me updates on its progress. Everything’s more professional here, with the game icons on the main menu telling you what you’re currently playing or how far along the download is.
- The capture modes are entertaining, arguably better than what was available on the Wii U. A quick tap of the button on the left Joy-Con captures a photo instantly, and you can then edit and upload to Facebook or Twitter. There’s no video capture yet, but it might be added at a later date.
- The kickstand at the back of the console holds it up rather well, and the good news is, it’s meant to come off if you get the angle wrong or push against it the wrong way. Just snap it back in and you’re good.
So far, the battery life has held up rather decently. It dropped from 100% to just under 70% after an hour and a half of Zelda, so on par with what you’d expect from a 3DS. Given the much higher processing abilities, that’s a solid result for someone like me who won’t be taking it on the road as often as others. If you are, I’d suggesting looking into a portable battery pack, but you’ll easily get a train trip up and back from work out of it without any hassle.
One more thing I’ll mention, and it’s something I was a tad worried about before I got my hands on it, is the heat given off by the console during play. The console does warm up, that’s a given, but it’s not going to burn or create discomfort. Right now it’s comparable to my Samsung S7, even when pushed to its limits by Zelda, and that’s rather comfortable for me. Better still, its design means you’ll rarely come into contact with the back of the unit where any heat will reside, thanks to either holding the system by both sides with the Joy-Cons attached or using it in the dock, etc.
I will say this though, I haven’t even gone near the dock yet. I’m more than happy to use the system as a portable, with both controllers attached or using the pro controller where appropriate. I’ll get into more detail on that during the next week, either on the podcast or here in good old fashioned written word. I’ll also be reviewing Snipperclips and the latest addition of Shovel Knight, so keep an eye on that soon. Oh, and Zelda, of course.
For now, if you’re mad keen on buying a Switch, it’s a no-brainer choice. I’ve enjoyed every minute with it so far and I haven’t come across any problems. If you’re sitting on the fence or aren’t sure at all whether it’s worth buying it just for Zelda, I’d suggest checking out some of the other games that are available on the eShop to see if anything suits your taste, then decide from there if it’s worth it. I won’t bully you into making that choice, but as a fan of every console this generation and a regular user of them all, I can say without question that the Nintendo Switch is exactly what I’ve been both waiting and hoping for.
Nintendo has proven that they’ve learnt from the Wii U in its hardware. Now, beyond Zelda: Breath of the Wild, they need to prove they’ve learnt a similar lesson with its software. Time will tell, but this is a solid start indeed.