I bought a Nintendo Switch last week with my allowance and I'm utterly smitten. It's brilliant. It's absolutely brilliant.
Now, to be clear, I'm neither a hardcore gamer nor a journalist. However, I am someone who grew up on Mario, enjoys Retrogaming and my Xbox One, and most of all, I know genius when I see it.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a wonderful example of the very best that video games can offer as an art form in 2017. - Me
It may be the best video game ever. And it is because it borrows so much from the decades of refinement whose shoulders it stands upon.
Let's break this down into two halves. First, Zelda (which is available on WiiU and Switch), and later, the Switch itself.
If you don't feel like reading this, just trust me and buy a Switch and Zelda and bask in the hundreds of hours of joy and wonder it will bring you. It's the most fun I've had with a video game in recent memory. I also profoundly recommend the gorgeous hardcover The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Complete Official Guide Collector's Edition. The maps, the art, and the gentle walkthroughs are more fun than googling. The kids and I have enjoyed exploring the wilderness with the giant map unfurled in front of us.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
It's HUGE. It's estimated at 360 square kilometers. They are saying it's 1.5x the Skyrim map and may be larger than Witcher 3. A cynic could call Breath of the Wild derivative, but an optimist like me says, well, they stole every game mechanic that was awesome over the last few decades, and made the near-perfect game. I love that this is a console launch game that is polished and has at LEAST 100 hours or more for the completist.
What is Zelda like?
- Just Cause - Fly off a cliff with a paraglider, fly over a raging river and land on an elk, tame it and ride it. Because you're awesome and you can.
- Witcher 3 - Massive map, armor sets, crafting and more.
- Assassin's Creed - Climbing because...it's fun. Getting maps by unlocking towers and jumping off.
- Grand Theft Auto - The first massive sandbox without loading. You enter a new area and get a brief subtitle announcing you're in a new "neighborhood" and then you wander.
- Skyrim - The Elder Scrolls was the first video game I played where I climbed mountains "because they were there" and really had a sense of wonder when I got to the top. Draw distance!
- Shadow of the Colossus - There's amazing HUGE boss fights that involve climbing the enemy, racing after monsters with horses, and sometimes going inside them.
- Bard's Tale - Because I'm old.
Complaints? Honestly, if I had to truly nit. And I mean really nit I'd say the durability of weapons, particularly swords, is annoying. I would make them last maybe 50% longer. Also, moving in and out of Shrines has a load screen that takes 10-15 seconds. But really, that's like saying "I wish Beyoncé was 5'8", not 5'7". I mean, REALLY. Beyoncé. Shush.
The Nintendo Switch
It's portable. Just like in the ad, you can pull the Switch out and leave. In my video below I also switch to portable AND have to re-sync the controllers, so there is one additional ceremony, but it's easy.
It feels like a console when it's plugged in. I've got it plugged into my TV and from my couch it looks as nice as any of my devices. Sure, it's not an Xbox One playing Tom Clancy: The Division. But it's a brilliant tradeoff for a device I can simply pick up and go outside with (which I've done, with considerable appreciation.)
I'm surprised that folks are complaining about the gaming resolution, frame rates, battery life, older processor, or said "it's just like an iPad with an HDMI cable." Here's why:
- Resolution - Zelda runs at 720p (the native res of the touchscreen) at 30fps. It's just 6.5" and 720p is just fine when it's a foot or more from your face.
- Battery - I got an easy 3 hours out of it. If you're on a plane, carry a cable and extra battery. If you need to portably game more than 3 hours, take a break. ;) Seriously, though, given my appreciation of it's portability and power and experience this is reasonable. One can always complain about battery life.
- Frame Rate - When you dock the Switch and run Zelda over your TV the resolution is 900p and sometimes it lags. If you're in the forest, and it's raining, and there's a bunch of enemies around there will totally be moments of 20 fps. But it passes. And it's still gorgeous. A small price to pay, and we don't know if it's fixable with a software patch. Given that launch titles rarely use the new hardware in an optimized fashion, it's more than reasonable to give them a break on this.
- Older Processor - The Switch is using the older Nvidia Tegra X1 processor. As a business person this makes sense. It's a $300 device. It's not reasonable to expect all day battery life and 4k gaming on a device that weights two-thirds of a pound.
- Innovation - Yes, you can plug your iPad into your TV. But most folks don't. And the iPad and iOS clearly haven't tried to optimize for this scenario. Apple has scandalously under-supported their MFi Controller Spec, even though the SteelSeries is brilliant. Frankly, Apple handed Nintendo a huge opportunity by not making a proper controller and supporting MFi better with Game Devs. The Switch might not exist if I could BlueTooth Pair any controller to my iPad and play Skyrim on an iPad. Oh ya, I'd have to have an iPad with expandable memory or a cartridge slot. ;) The Switch is a new category of device. It's not an iPad.
It's a fantastic device for the price and the promises, for the most part, were kept. That said, a few gentle warnings if you do get a Switch.
- If you put the joy-cons on backwards they might get stuck and you could perhaps damage the system.
- The joy-cons have these little wrist straps as well, and to be clear if you put these on backwards you're in trouble. Make sure you line up the plus + signs. There's a + on the right joy-con and a - on the left one. Use the correct strap for the correct joy-con.
- If you slam the Switch into the dock it's possible you could scratch the screen. I always treat $300 equipment like it cost $300. Be somewhat careful.
My Recommended Nintendo Switch accessories (I own each of these)
These accessories are by no means required (the Switch has everything you need out of the box) but these are all 4+ star rated and I've purchased them myself and appreciate them. Yes, I've gone overboard and my $300 Switch is now a $500 Switch BUT I HAVE NO REGERTS. ;)
- Some kind of Carrying Case. I have the Zelda Special Edition case, but all the cases that are official Nintendo are excellent.
- The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. If you're going to hook your Switch up to the TV you might consider the pro controller. The Switch does come with a quasi-controller that has you pop the two joy-cons into a harness to simulate a typical Xbox/PS Controller but the ergonomics are exact by any stretch. The Pro Controller is fantastic. It's 99% the same as an Xbox Controller and includes (quietly) the full 360 degree gyro support that (I believe) Switch Games will be known for (see the second above on gyro in Zelda.)
- Joy-con Grips. This was a frivolous purchase but a good one. I've got big hands and the Joy-Cons are NOT comfortable when turned horizontally and used for any period of time. These little holsters turn them into tiny Pro Controllers and make two player a LOT easier.
- Compact Playstand. The Switch has one major hardware design "flaw" in that it can't be charged while it's using its kickstand. This little folding playstand is nice because it's 3-in-1 and can also perfectly fit a 3DSXL.
- Large 128g EXTRA-FAST microSDXC SD Card. The Switch has only 32gigs of internal space and if you (theoretically) downloaded Zelda you'll use 13gigs. I can see myself using up a LOT of space in the next year so I got this 128G SD Card. And it's FAST.
- 6 pack of Microfiber Cleaning Cloths - I can't stand a dirty touchscreen. Can't. I have two dozen of these spread around the house, my car, my backpack. Can't have too many given laptops, TVs, and iPads.
- USB C cables - Both the Switch and Pro Controller use USB C (finally!) so pick up a few USB C cables that you can use to charge in a pinch from your laptop, existing car charger, or portable battery. I only buy Anker Batteries.
- A Zelda Amiibo - Amiibos are these little figurines with an RFID/NFC dealie inside. They are registered to you and they can "light up" features in all kinds of games. In Zelda specifically you can (a little later in the game) use them to get daily food and other bonuses. Plus they look nice on your desk.
My Predictions for the Nintendo Switch in 2017
I'm looking forward to seeing what the Nintendo Switch can become. I think/predict we'll see this on the Switch in 2017.
- A thrilling Indie Game Community. Yes, the launch titles are weak. There aren't a ton of launch games. Call it a soft launch. But give it a few months.
- Virtual Console - The ability to play SNES/NES and other games via some kind of emulation from Nintendo. We have already seen NEO-GEO games show up in the last few days! I can imagine we'll see a Mario Collection going back 30+ years.
- Video Apps - If they add Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, then I'll be taking my Switch with me to
- A USB-C to HDMI cable - I don't want to take the dock with me on trips, so I'd love a USB-C to HDMI cable from Nintendo (It'll need their magic box/chip) to free up my bag.
- A great balance between AAA Games and "classic" games. If Zelda and Shovel Knight are any indication, the future is bright.
- Continued updates to the online experience. I suspect we'll get firmware and store updates quarterly.
But at the same time, what's the nightmare scenario? Nothing happens. No games come out and I have a $500 Zelda-specific device. I'm totally OK with that give the joy of the last week. So between the worst-case scenario and the best case, no matter what happens it's awesome and I'm a satisfied customer.
* I've used Amazon referral links here. Please use them and you'll support this blog and my Amiibo Habit.
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