Scott Hanselman

Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are an ABSOLUTE JOY

March 12, '17 Comments [21] Posted in Gaming | Reviews
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I bought a Nintendo Switch last week with my allowance and I'm utterly smitten. It's brilliant. It's absolutely brilliant.

The Nintendo Switch is FAB

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.

Zelda is gorgeousWhat 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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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Sunday, 12 March 2017 03:36:30 UTC
Got it for my Wii U. Amazing.
David
Sunday, 12 March 2017 03:39:17 UTC
Soooooo then, Mr. Hot Shot MSFT Exec Guy Who Loves Both Nintendo Switch and .NET... what you are saying is that we can build Switch games using .NET, and add to this Indie Game Community that you speak of???

:) :) :)

---

OK so I wrote the above thinking that there is NO chance that Nintendo would support .NET, but now looking at their developer page, they support Unity...

https://developer.nintendo.com/tools

And of course, Unity is supported mightily in Visual Studio. So is it actually already possible to write Nintendo Switch games using .NET?! THAT is the big story here, if so. :) :) :)
Sunday, 12 March 2017 03:41:08 UTC
Mike-EEE - Um, you lost me at "exec." I'm hardly an exec. I'm a mid-level manager who works for a mid-level manager. In fact, I'm 4th down from the first "executive." And I have no inside info on how you make games for Switch. I've never made a Unity game.
Scott Hanselman
Sunday, 12 March 2017 03:57:43 UTC
Awesome!! Happy for you.
I may get one.
I like retro gaming.
How much can I get for a good condition PS3 with a broken cd drive? :-)
Jim c
Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:24:42 UTC
It is great to have such joy from a toy.

I was wondering how would the affiliate work with your allowance. If you get any money from this post could it go back to your allowance? Or does it end in the income part with everything else?
I guess it would be hacking/cheating the system :-).
Martin
Sunday, 12 March 2017 08:28:07 UTC
Martin - It really is. As far as "bang for the buck" I'd say it's paid for itself already, so every hour beyond this is all gravy. Yes, I make some pocket money on the affiliate links but nothing to quit my job over. ;) I put it in the family pile and it's used for allowances.
Scott Hanselman
Sunday, 12 March 2017 15:33:59 UTC
Liked your you tube presentation of 2015 November on iot and Machine learning on Azure on your data. Cool.. and came to your blog.
the key message of being in control of your own "Mydata" and learning insights can be hijacked. Yes you can figure out what causes you stress and who, by co-relating Calendar data with Stress. But on the flip side, how will you protect your data and such other Insights from your adversaries? Would using private access Handles be sufficient or can they be encrypted?
Above is just my thought, otherwise the use case is Great.
Cheers and Looking forward to hearing more on this.
Regards,
Sunday, 12 March 2017 16:22:05 UTC
The format of your review is incredibly well formed and easy to read or scan. Having spent most of my time on in code, google, and stackoverflow, I feel it's hard to read top-to-bottom anymore.

Also, loved the "$500 Zelda-specific" reference. That's a very valuable perspective to consider.
Sunday, 12 March 2017 18:21:59 UTC
Looks fantastic! Been a huge fan of Zelda since Ocarina. Twilight was definitely my favorite with its awesome sword battles - esp. Ganondorf. Hyrule Historia is really cool if you follow the franchise.

Sounds like they borrowed elements from the Far Cry games too - crafting, tower maps, riding animals. Weapon degradation will be interesting.

Can't wait to, eventually, get one :)


P.S. I'm still holding out hope that one day I'll see another HaHa show, maybe on On.Net ;) Been 6 years since the last one
Sven
Sunday, 12 March 2017 19:10:02 UTC
Mike-EEE - C# is on the menu for the Switch through Monogame as tweeted here: https://twitter.com/MonoGameTeam/status/836954195479658497
Paul Smith
Monday, 13 March 2017 08:50:25 UTC
> says he's not a hardcore gamer

> owns an arcade machine

> lists several hardcore games in his blog post

Suuure you're not a hardcore gamer, Scott ;)

I am a little bit torn on the Switch. I think I'm warming to the idea, but only if it gets the software to back it up.

If someone gets retroarch or something running on it, it could be the perfect machine.
Stephen Donaghy
Monday, 13 March 2017 09:17:23 UTC
Darn you Hanselman - I've been wanting to buy the Switch, purely to play Zelda, but have been managing to resist the urge, as I simply don't have the time to devote to playing games.
Your review, however, is severely testing my will power
Robert Armour
Monday, 13 March 2017 12:34:14 UTC
Thanks for the awesome review. I purchased Breath of the Wild Wii U for my children on launch day and were having a blast with it - it's an impressive game with lots of depth. I can see a Switch in our future as well!
Terry
Monday, 13 March 2017 13:05:31 UTC
I got myself an NVidia Shield as a post-Christmas present. It's pretty much the same hardware as the switch, but with an Android TV OS instead of Nintendo. So, it's not great for playing cutting-edge games, but...

It does support NES/Sega/Atari/etc emulators *very* well. So I'd expect switch to pick up NES capability pretty soon. The hard problems have already been solved (in open-source, no less: https://github.com/Rakashazi/emu-ex-plus-alpha).

It also acts as a great streamer. Not just a Plex client, but a Plex server with hardware-based H.264 reencoding. I have my media on a WD NAS - less powerful than yours - which simply can't reencode HD on the fly, so it limits my usage when travelling. Setting up a Plex server on the Shield using my NAS as a media source was pretty easy, and it works great!
Monday, 13 March 2017 14:32:08 UTC
$300 for a Nintendo system? I'm getting old.
Monday, 13 March 2017 17:02:39 UTC
I love the Switch. And Zelda - I think they've also added elements of Dark Souls to it.
Seems to be a lot of hate online for the Switch - from people who don't own one! Just smile, and know that you're enjoying the Switch no matter what these self styled experts say.
My favourite of the eshop games has to be Snipperclips, great multiplayer puzzle fun.
Rogue Trooper is going to be released later this year, I loved that game on PS2, so really looking forward to it.
Diarmuid
Tuesday, 14 March 2017 10:49:59 UTC
Combining their home and portable consoles is great but I really think Nintendo has missed a huge market by not supporting Android apps in some form, possibly their own market.

I can't justify buying the switch for occasional Nintendo gaming when I still need a separate tablet.
Pete
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 08:38:18 UTC
Until the Switch has proven itself to be supported by 3rd parties I'm not touching it with a barge pole - so not for a couple of years at least.

See Wii U as an example of epic fail.

The main problem I have with Nintendo systems is that they don't bother to get 3rd parties involved at launch. To me all I hear in the adverts is - yay new Switch, Mario Kart 256, Zelda 39, Mario 25341, give me a break and come out with something new Nintendo instead of relying 100% on former glories.
Peter
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 15:31:12 UTC
Great console indeed.
You may also enjoy this three-part documentary on the making of The Legend of Zelda:
The Beginning , Story and Characters, Open-Air Concept
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 18:17:40 UTC
"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. " -- A thriving Indie scene on a game console would be really, really great but I can't see it happening, not unless some kind of 'jailbreak' becomes available but you only have to look at what happened with the 3DS to see that this is pretty much an unlikely scenario. I would so love for console developers to open up their platforms to the little guys and hobbyists.
Paul Irvine
Sunday, 26 March 2017 14:05:32 UTC
About those microfiber clothes. I have glasses and these keep getting lost. My solution is Zeiss lens cleaners, they are single use moistened tissues that are safe to use on sensitive glass.

They are very useful for getting oily residue (finger smudges) off glasses and screens. I think every glasses wearing person should get a 200 pack of them.
Ziv
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.