I didn’t hate the Switch when I reviewed it last year, but after spending an entire day hunting it down in stores I could easily say it wasn’t exceptional enough to warrant camping out or paying Craigslist scalpers. A year later I stand by that sentiment, but I don’t have to stand in line any more. I can stop into any store and pick one up, hassle-free, for $399. Anyone can. Which is wonderful, because despite the system’s vocal gamer fans, the Nintendo Switch is the console that’s actually best for every else.
That’s not shocking given Nintendo’s pedigree. It’s gotten very good at making systems with universal appeal. My best friend, who has never heard of Uncharted, still speaks fondly of Mario Kart on the SNES, and even my mum has gone a few rounds in Wii Tennis. But the Switch is exceptional because it balances its appeal for newcomers and nerds so handily.
A gadget nerd like me might find a lot of faults with the Switch. Shall we list them? It isn’t as portable as a 3DS or my modded Game Boy Advance—its big display and power sucking Nvidia Tegra mobile processor means it’s neither small enough for a pocket, nor long-lasting enough for marathon game sessions unplugged. I’m lucky to get 5 or 6 hours out of the Switch before I’m hunting for an outlet. And usually I only get about four.
Nor is it graphically capable as my PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. It’s only capable of 1080p resolution—no 4K or HDR. So even pretty games won’t look as pretty as they might on a more powerful system.
But the real killer is the display itself—which is almost obscene in its unattractiveness. Sure the Switch is $399, but an Amazon Fire tablet is a third of that price and has a better display. Colours simply don’t pop on the Switch. They’re washed out, and blacks are never truly black enough. True black would be the shade of black found on the bezel, versus the dark grey that renders on the Switch’s display. Nintendo also elected to cover the 15cm display in plastic instead of glass. That means it will hold up to drops better, but shoving it in my purse still leads to gouges on its surface, and the plastic, coupled with the only adequate display, combine to make the Switch feel extremely cheap.
As does that flimsy excuse for a kickstand on the back. I even updated my case (mainly for aesthetic reasons), and the new case’s kickstand was every bit as worthless as the original, which makes the Switch only so exciting as a portable console. Yes I can take it to the bar and milk virtual cows or play some Mario Kart with friends, but one wrong jostle and the Switch will tip over. Then it’ll run out of battery, I’ll snap the controllers back into place, and toss it in my purse, hoping my keys don’t scratch it again.
But lets face it: My complaints are the complaints of a gadget nerd, and even then, they’re nitpicky. What matters about the Switch is that despite these complaints it’s still a perfectly reasonable portable and home console. You’ll have problems, but none of them will be deal breakers, because the ingenuity of the system and the games available make it so much better.
The controllers are very clever, sliding out when you need two—or have a game that demands motion control, and then slotting back into the sides of the Switch when you want to use it as an enormous handheld console. There’s just a lot of tech jammed into the Switch’s controller, adding to the sheer wonder of its do-anything hybrid claim. Even when I’m frustrated with the Switch’s controllers, struggling to slot them back into place or annoyed with the lack of a proper D-pad, I can’t deny that they serve most of their purposes extremely well. The only time they truly falter is when playing traditional games on the TV. Then I reach for the Pro controller and spend a little time being annoyed that I have to drop another $80 (that’s nearly $500 total) for an experience a PS4 gives me for $400.
But I don’t need the Pro controller. I can survive without it, and depending on your game preference, you might be ok without it, too. Spend all your cash on the Switch’s remarkable game library instead.
That’s what really sets the Switch apart and allows it to be a more perfect system for everyone. For non-gamers it delivers a more than adequate taste of gaming in a reasonably affordable package. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best deal out there if you’re in the market for a single system. Yet for gamers like me, it’s appealing because there are some masterpieces like Breath of the Wild, some great games, like Octopath Traveller, and some games I could never otherwise get in a portable scenario, like Stardew Valley or Dead Cells.
When I really want a perfect console experience I can reach for my Game Boy or my PS4, but when I want a break and just want to play a fun game, whether while on a plane, or hanging out with friends, the Switch is what I reach for, and if I had to tell people to buy just one system the Switch would be my choice. It’s not perfect, but it’s got moxie in its willingness to do something different, and the things it does well, it does so well it functions an an ambassador to people who might be intimidated by the world of hardcore nerds. If you’re ready to dip your toes into games, or just want to own one system, the Nintendo Switch is the one you should buy.