The Little Console That Could

01/13/20 As the Nintendo Switch reaches 3 years of age, I believe it’s a good time to reflect on some of the things I love about the console, as well as some of the things that I believe are missing from an otherwise well-rounded gaming experience.

I always like to backtrack a little, so let’s get that out of the way.

The year is 2016, around October. The year of Pokemon GO, where my years of obscure Pokemon knowledge was relevant for a few months. The year of Dark Souls III. I honestly don’t remember too many games that came out that year.

With regards to Nintendo, the Wii U clung on in spite of it’s apparent commercial failure. It simply could not compete with consoles like the Xbox One and the PS4. The 3DS, however, was Nintendo’s bulwark.

Sony tried with the Vita to take a chunk of the handheld market, and ultimately this proved fruitless. They gave up. Nintendo’s 3DS, as confusing and gimmicky as it was (is), stood the undisputed champion when it came to handheld gaming – a niche of sorts in the age of smartphones, relying on gamers who were prepared to pay for a fuller gaming experience with characters they loved.

Nintendo’s consoles were growing long in the tooth. The 3DS released in 2011, with the Wii U following in 2012, the rumor mills had begun working. Mario fans everywhere couldn’t help but wonder, what’s next for the Big N?

Naturally, there were rumors. I love rumors. These rumors were very, very specific and I spent more time than I’d like to admit reading analysis on forums by people smarter than I am debunking these rumors.

I came very close to buying a Wii U around 2014. I’m glad I didn’t, in the end. I had read the rumors, weighed up how much entertainment the Wii U would provide, and ultimately decided that due to it’s performance commercially and it’s drip-feed of mostly first party games, I should hold out.

The Wii U – It didn’t print money

I finally procured a Switch in 2018 after doing a silly poll here on TAY knowing fully that my heart was set on the little hybrid. Fortunately, my fellow TAYters voted accordingly.

After nearly 2 years with the console, I do believe it’s time to weigh in on the good and the bad that I’ve experienced while Switching it up.

First of all, I have predominantly used the console as a handheld, essentially as a replacement for my battle-scarred 3DS. Given the option initially, I likely would not have foregone the hybrid functionality (with reference to the Lite), mostly because it’s just so damned neat. I did, however, predict a handheld only version at the outset, which materialized this year. A screen-less version that I also surmised might be on the cards has yet to surface, and may never do so. .

In terms of actual games, the third party support has been comparatively phenomenal. The combination of Nintendo’s handheld and console divisions has done nothing but good for the company as well as the consumer, as they are now delivering their very best, most charming games all in one place

The Switch has also become a haven of sorts for all kinds of indie games. There is no end to the amount of interesting games on the eShop, though, granted, there is a fair mass of less ambitious titles available as well that one invariably has to wade through to find something good.

In a sense, the console has come full circle with the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield. Pokemon games have always, always been one of the heavy lifters for Nintendo, and over the years have driven sales of their handheld systems. With this, I feel it is only fair to have my 2 cents about an otherwise fantastic little console.

The Good

1) The Games – I don’t believe Nintendo has ever been able to offer such a wide variety of games in one place. They have an enviable repository of some of the most memorable games ever made, and thus far they have made many of them available. Sure, there are many more that aren’t available, but the 3rd party support more than makes up for that.

2) Gaming on the go – The 3DS was great for this, too, but the Switch is a much slicker looking device that I find I’ve taken with me out the house much more than the 3DS ever did. I play it during my breaks at work, while I’m waiting for appointments, or whenever I get a gap that can be filled with a video game.

3) Hybrid functionality – The main selling point of the device, it’s even in the name. I find that I rarely dock the device, but have been doing so more regularly of late. It’s nice not to be tethered to the couch, I can pick it up at any time and go play somewhere else. Similarly, it’s also a boon not to be confined to the small screen on the device (even though it’s the biggest handheld screen Nintendo has ever had)

4) The look – This is the best looking console, handheld or otherwise, Nintendo has released in years. It’s sleek PSP-esque design is coherent and sensible, a much trendier and more social device than the 3DS ever was.

5) It’s for everyone – Nintendo has been very, very good at making games that are appealing to a wide range of people as well as being fun to play together either competitively or co-operatively. In terms of design, it’s a marvelous little machine, especially now that they’ve added the Lite version so your kid can have one too.

The Bad

1) Themes – One of the first things I did when I got my Switch was set the theme to Dark. This apparently helped with the battery life. Not that one spends a great deal of time on the home screen, anyway. Naturally I’d prefer Nintendo to commit their resources to making excellent games, but I believe custom themes are long, long overdue, and not that big of an ask. Or just let me use one of my screenshots as a wallpaper! This is totally unacceptable for a console nearing 3 years of age.

2) Netflix – Apparently, don’t ask for sources, Netflix has had a Switch app available for some time now. Alls they need is for Nintendo to flip the switch (lol) or so I’ve heard from dubious sources.

3) Music – I could probably have put this under the previous point, but the lack of music streaming or (to my knowledge) a media player in general is a glaring omission. I’d like to be able to listen to what I want while strolling through Alrest in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or tending my farm in Stardew Valley please.

4) Achievements – The only way to really track your game progress is in the amount of hours you’ve spent playing a title. Achievements, found anywhere else just about, would do the same job only better.

…. I can’t really think of anything else, these are at best nitpicks.

The Ugly

No piece of hardware is without it’s flaws. That said, the Switch has had it’s share – some of them began curving, (fortunately this doesn’t seem to affect the console adversely) but most of the problems people have seemingly been having are with the Joy-Con controllers.

It’s nice that one can simply buy another pair and pop them onto the console, but this isn’t cheap at all.

The issues that I am aware of, one right out the gate, was the right Joy-Con would disconnect/ fail to interact with the console at certain points. To this day, I still experience this sometimes when playing in docked mode.

Another issue I am currently experiencing, is the issue of Joy-Con drift where the controller seems to “drift” i.e. detect a directional input where there is none.

Granted, my console is 2 years old, and if the video I watched on YT is correct, I simply have to clean the offending joystick, but this has to be one of the most annoying and intrusive problems I’ve had with the console. I have never experienced this kind of problem in all my years of gaming. It sure beats a crumbling circle pad (thanks, Sakurai) but is annoying nonetheless.

Considering the joysticks on the Lite are the same, it might be even more of a problem for that version of the console.

Another thing to consider with regards to the Switch, is the longevity of the console. We have recieved a sizeable cache of excellent ports, but with the 9th generation of consoles on the horizon, one has to wonder how much longer this will last.

All in all, I think the Switch has had a great run so far, and it’s not quite out of steam just yet. I can’t see it lasting 6 or 7 years like the 3DS did, but I do think there is a lot to be excited about for newcomers and early adopters alike.

Feel free to pick a fight with me in the comments, or share your favorite thing about the Switch. Tell me what you think the future holds for the little console that could. What do you think?

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