Image shamelessly linked from YouTube.
Nintendo Switch, how do I love thee?
Let me count the ways...
To say I was excited for the launch of the Nintendo Switch would be a bit of an understatement. In the months leading up to the release of the console, even well before we knew its name, and it was still "Codename NX", I was eagerly scouring the interwebz for scraps of information, rumors, and more - any tiny morsel to sate my appetite. I was excited about the Wii U, before its release, but budgetary constraints kept me from buying one until well after its launch. I had never purchased a console at launch before, but based on all the details of what "NX" was supposed to be, I felt as though I may want to finally jump on that bandwagon. Once the system was revealed to be the Switch, my desire to have one intensified, and I watched every possible YouTube reaction video to the reveal trailer I could find, as well as several YouTube channels providing coverage of all things Switch, leading up to, and past its release. At least a couple of those have become favorites that I tune into nearly every day.
As I mentioned in my previous article
, I mentioned that I hadn't pre-ordered the Switch, because I didn't have the cash to do so when pre-orders were available online. As expected, the console sold through pre-orders faster than I could get funds together for, and I missed out. I figured it would be weeks before I could get my hands on one, seeing as how the North American market was only supposed to get a small number for launch day, over and above what was pre-ordered. Imagine my surprise when, calling around to stores on launch day to see if they had sold out, I found that my local store had 2 units! So at 6:30 PM on launch day, my local store had one unit, as I walked out of there with the console in hand. Of course, they had no physical games or accessories, so I had to wait until the following day to purchase any games or accessories. I grabbed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
as well as Super Bomberman R
, and a BotW
-themed carry case. Because I had a trip to take the week after I bought the system, I didn't have much chance to play it beforehand, though I took it with me, so I spent the first week playing the console exclusively in handheld mode. Since getting back from that trip, I have played almost entirely in TV mode with the console docked, though I have used it handheld in a couple short bursts in that time. Now that I've had it for a month, and put a fair bit of time into it, I thought I would share my thoughts so far.
HardwareImage shamelessly linked from VG247.
It's no secret that the Wii U was seen by many as looking like a Fisher-Price toy, and while I don't entirely share that sentiment, I understand where folks are coming from. The Wii U game pad, though quite functional, is large, clunky, has that overly shiny plastic look, and despite its weight, doesn't look or feel overly solid. I certainly wouldn't want to drop mine on the ground. The Switch stands in stark contrast to the Wii U Game Pad. This console is just...sexy. It's sleek, streamlined, well-proportioned, has good weight balance, and overall just looks stylish in a minimalist sort of way. The tablet/console portion has a no frills look, but that suits the functional nature of it, and with the Joy-Con controllers flanking the tablet in handheld mode, gives a nice overall look and feel. The Joy-Con controllers in the Grip accessory may look a bit like a dog, as you may have seen hinted at online, but it feels good in my hands, and despite my relatively large hands and fingers, doesn't feel like they're too small, or as though I don't have good control over my gaming experience. My only gripe about the Joy-Con pieces themselves would be that the analog sticks are a little too short, and don't have enough travel distance. This was a compromise Nintendo had to make so the system was more portable, so I understand that, but it is a minor gripe nonetheless. I have spent most of my time playing via the Joy-Con Grip, as it was only a few days ago that I was finally able to acquire a Switch Pro Controller. This thing isn't necessary, because the Grip does a great job, but for serious gamers who want that "total control" kind of experience of a game like Breath of the Wild
, I would say it's worth the investment.
The user interface, or UI, of the Switch, is also very minimalist, streamlined, and functional. I don't get along too well with cluttered interfaces, like that of the Xbox 360, and while I appreciated the simplicity of the Wii U interface (at least the Game Pad side), it was just too slow. I have always appreciated Sony's XMB, or "cross media bar" concept on the PSP and PS3, as they were simple, functional, and well organized. Nintendo's Switch UI is even more spartan, making getting to what you want a snap. There are essentially 2 rows of icons. The top row is the list of recently played games (and presumably apps, down the road), with the most recently used at the far left, followed by the next previously used, etc. The bottom row of icons is the Switch system controls, from the News area and eShop to the Gallery, where you can look at screenshots you've taken (a new feature for a Nintendo system), to controller options, a full settings menu, and a power icon where you can put the console into Sleep Mode (for quick retrieval), as well as other power options, like reboot or a full power down. In the top-left corner, you see the icon for your account, and you can choose that to manage your Nintendo account, or switch to a different profile. There are other niceties as well, such as the ability to, in handheld mode, tap the battery icon on the screen to see the percentage of available battery left, or tapping both L & R simultaneously on the Joy-Con or other controller in tabletop mode to see the same thing. All in all, the UI is refreshingly simple. Also, at any point during a game you can press the Home button to jump back to the UI, which is nice for going into the Gallery, where you can then post screenshots you've taken to a connected social media account, like Twitter or Facebook, or answer/send a friend request. Once done, you can jump immediately back into your game.
Super Bomberman R
This is Konami's first entry in the series in some while, and the first I've played and been aware of since the simply titled Bomberman
on the PSP. I see this as a return to form for the series, because it brings back the classic gameplay that made the series famous, plus adds additional content and modes for extra fun. There's a full story/campaign mode with 8 different playable characters, all with their own personality and style. There's the obligatory couch co-op or competition mode, with the ability to play against (or with) another player in tabletop mode, as well as up to 8 players on a single Switch in TV mode. You can also do local multiplayer with up to 8 players across either 4 or 8 Switch consoles, if memory serves. Let's not forget the online modes, which will give players plenty of chances to battle it out with other people as well. Despite Nintendo's online infrastructure not having been fully rolled out yet, these modes are all still available, and look to be a lot of fun. I have only dabbled in the story mode so far, and though I haven't got into any online matches, I'm looking forward to putting some time into this one with a friend for some good couch co-op, as well as some online play. So far, however, the graphics are solid, the game play is good, and the music is bouncy and catchy. Konami has also released a patch that improves online play, and reduces lag.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I've mentioned this before on Twitter, and in reviews, but I've never been a "Zelda
guy" at all. A couple friends had the original games when we were kids, but we always opted for 2-player co-op or competitive play games, or stuff that was much more "pick up and play" in nature. It wasn't until August of 2016, when RF Generation hosted a play through of the original NES classic that I decided to finally dive into the series. I ended up falling in love with the game and the experience, and I finally "got" the Zelda
franchise. Fast forward to January 2017, and I spent the month devouring The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
, live-Tweeting the experience, and then reviewed the game
that month. Suffice to say, by that point, with all the anticipation of the up and coming Switch release, I was primed and ready for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
. Thankfully, my anticipation and waiting has been generously rewarded with one of the most engrossing video game experiences I've had in a long time.
"I'm on a boat! I'm on a boat!"
I haven't played a lot of open world games, so I haven't been spoiled by over-saturation, but this game may have spoiled me for going back to some of the earlier open world standard bearers, because there's so much to do here, so much interactivity, and so much subtlety in the design and implementation, that I'm not sure much else can match it. I've spent an entire evening just hunting animals for food, and then cooking up the meat, along with other ingredients I've found in the wild. I've spent an entire evening just trying to figure out a puzzle in a shrine that stumped me, or trying to get past a boss battle in a combat shrine that was particularly difficult. I love climbing buildings, towers, and rock faces, just to see if I can get somewhere new, find some hidden treasure, new enemies, or unlock more shrines. Hyrule is such a lush, beautiful landscape, and it's fun to just run around (or ride a horse) and explore the terrain. I also love to reach a high place and paraglide down to new areas, or use that tactic to get the drop on enemies. Did I mention riding horses? Yeah, you can do that, too, and it's a heck of a good time!
Paragliding is one of the game's sublime pleasures, and is an efficient means of travel.
There are so many little touches that make the game more engaging as well. When it rains you have a more difficult time climbing things, as would be natural. You also have to watch out to make sure you don't get struck by lightning, holding on to weapons or shields made out of metal! If you travel somewhere cold, with out warm clothes, you either lose health, or have to cook up food or elixirs to compensate. Same goes for if you go somewhere too hot, you end up shedding layers of clothes or wearing lighter clothes, and making up cooling foods and elixirs to help you keep from overheating. The abilities you gain in the game are useful in a number of ways, and I've found myself solving a few shrine puzzles I'm certain weren't quite meant to be solved in the manner I did, but I suspect the design team new that players would find creative ways to problem solve within the game.
You said it, kiddo.
I'm not sure if this was a conscious decision during the design, but the game also works well with the concept of the Switch. There are 5 main boss encounters, including the final showdown with Calamity Ganon, but otherwise, it's a series of smaller, more bite-size encounters, shrines, and story elements. You can sit and play an entire evening like I have, discovering and clearing multiple shrines, finding towers to get more of the map, obtaining or upgrading abilities, etc., but you can just as easily boot it up in handheld mode, knock out a shrine quickly, and put it back into sleep mode if you have something else to do. This synergy, whether intentional or not, helps make the game easier to play with the way the Switch is designed to be versatile, but it doesn't take away from the sprawling world, or the ability to become enthralled with it, and get lost for hours. I know I certainly have. I didn't intend for this write-up to practically become a Zelda
game review, but as much as I've enjoyed it thus far (80-85 hours, as of this writing), I wanted to make sure I expressed just how much this game has affected me.Final Thoughts
Despite being only available for a month now, having scant few physical releases, and still having a few technical issues that Nintendo needs to iron out, I'm impressed with the Switch so far. Once I'm done with the latest Zelda
adventure I'm looking forward to going back to the story mode in Super Bomberman R
, as well as playing some couch co-op with a friend. I've also picked up The Binding of Isaac Afterbirth+
and Has-Been Heroes
in physical format, and will be putting time into them. I look forward to downloading Blast Master Zero
as well, and eventually diving back into kart racing with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
. There are other indies I'm interested in as well, plus new stuff like ARMS
, the Switch port of Skyrim
, and of course, Xenoblade 2
coming up that I'm excited for. And let's not forget Super Mario Odyssey
, which looks fantastic from what little we've seen so far. For my first launch-day console purchase, I consider myself a satisfied customer so far, and I'm looking very forward to what's to come in the months ahead.