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Nintendo Switch Review: The first real hybrid console

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It has been two weeks since the Nintendo Switch launched worldwide, and with a custom NVidia mobile GPU, awesome Joy-Con devices, and a solid tablet experience, the Nintendo Switch has redefined how I look at handheld gaming. Up to now the most handheld gaming I have done has been on a 3DS, or the odd game of Mario Run on my iPhone. It was not until I slid the Switch out of the dock, clipped on Joy-Con, and played Breath of the Wild with the screen right in front of my face, that I realized just how amazing this little piece of hardware is.

Nintendo has successfully untethered us from our TV, and even better, moved the source of the console completely. The Nintendo Switch is everything the Wii U should have been, with even more impressive hardware to boast. It feels like everything Nintendo has ever created, packed into one hybrid console. 

Week 1 - Adapting to my current gaming lifestyle

Instead of a traditional review on this device, I want to touch on how it slowly adapted to my lifestyle and merged itself into my daily routine without me even noticing how addictive it was. On the day I picked up my Switch I was ecstatic, there is nothing like new hardware, especially when this hardware is a new console. Knowing you will own it for years, and imagining all the games I would play on it was so exciting. Unfortunately for the Switch, its launch line-up consists of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 1-2-Switch, and a few other games on the Nintendo eShop like a handful of sad NeoGeo ports, and Snipperclips. All this meant for me was that I had to direct my attention to Breath of the Wild.  

The lackluster amount of titles on launch day did not hit me until a few days after I got my hands on the Switch, when I just felt like playing something else. I spent the first few days playing 1-2-Switch with my niece and exploring the vast open world in Breath of the Wild - it was truly a rewarding experience. These two games showcased the great hardware that the Switch has, and just how capable it is when thrown a challenge. It was always interesting to see how the Joy-Con handled the HD Rumble feature, and how the battery life dealt with Breath of the Wild. While I experienced connectivity issues with the Joy-Con, moving closer to the console solved the issue, and the battery life was great in my opinion. 

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I first started off with the console strictly on my TV. I am a console gamer, so sitting with my feet up on the couch and a controller in my hand has always been my thing. When I do play handheld games, I tend to lose interest after a while and go on Facebook, or watch YouTube video. To stop this from happening, I dedicated my time to playing the Switch on my TV. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a gorgeous game, and in 1080p on my UHD TV is was a marvel to look at. Even with the odd frame rate drop here and there, the game never once disappointed me in combat, exploration and the great puzzles. 

New features keep me intrigued 

The only challenge I had playing the game, at first, was the controls. Yes, the Joy-Con is tiny, and even when docked into the controller dock that comes bundled with the console, it is still small, but the dock does help turn it into a great console-like controller. The Joy-Con also looks great in the dock, with the neon red and blue, contrasting against the black. The grips on the dock are solid, but all this does take a while to get used to. I messed up my bomb throws so many times thanks to mixing up the back buttons. One of the best features of having the Joy-Con in the dock is the ability to move the controller around to get that perfect aim. With this feature, I could ready and arrow, and move the analogue to the position, but then also tilt my hand a bit to get the perfect shot. I know this is not revolutionary, but for some reason, it felt so great with the Joy-Con.

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It was not until one night that I felt like just climbing into bed and carrying on my Zelda adventure that I realized just how easy and seamless it was. I slid out the Switch's screen, pulled the Joy-Con off the dock, and slid them onto the screen. Holding it in my hands as I stared into the screen. It felt so great, and visually it is nothing I have ever seen in mobile gaming before. I played for a couple of hours before realizing it was 3 AM and I had work in a few hours’ time. The sights and sounds were unbelievable, and who knew so much beauty could come from such a tiny little screen. Being that it is only a 6.2-inch display, the visuals are perfect. The Switch's speakers are quite loud too, and even on mid-volume, they are sufficient. They also pack enough punch to output great audio quality, without crackling. 

The handheld mode became my love, and the more I used it the more I could imagine one day playing a new Pokemon game on it, or Super Smash Bros. Then there is also the kickstand which lets you prop the console up as a small TV. For me, it just does not have the same impact as I hoped, especially playing alone, but I can see myself using it when Mario Kart 8 Deluxe releases and I challenge my brother to race. 

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Messing around on the UI proved one thing; Nintendo needs to work on it before it can be taken seriously. Instead of including a web browser, Netflix App, or even a Facebook app, the UI has nothing much going for it other than a capture library, the empty eShop, and the settings. It would be so nice to stream shows on the device through a media player app, and given that it has this portable feature, it would be a very attractive addition to the console. Right now, however, you can play games and fiddle with the settings. Even adding Miitomo to the console could be great. After the 3DS's successful list of Plaza games and apps, the Switch's UI and OS functionality is a complete letdown. I would often just search the UI in hopes that I missed something cool, but alas there was nothing.

Week 2 - Falling in love with portability 

The more time I spent with the console, taking it out of the dock and putting it back in, I worried about the damage that would slowly form on the screen. So, I did what every other Nintendo fan would do, I spent R350 on a carry pouch that came with the screen protector. It was the only way to get a screen protector for the device, as third-party accessories, and even the cool official Nintendo ones I have seen online, do not exist in SA. Regardless, the screen protector put my mind at ease while sliding the device into the dock, and I can now rest easily knowing that it is safe from scratches. Still, for a console worth R5000, and one would expect some sort of safeguard for this cosmetic damage. Perhaps some foam on the inside to slide the screen against, or even rubber? Instead, the dock is just plastic, and it could mean issues in future. 

I went from only using the Switch on the TV, to days of leaving it next to my bed and playing every night, back to the TV. Now I play Breath of the Wild, with my DualShock 4 next to me while I chat to my friends in a chat party on the PS4. When my niece comes over she insists that we spend time together playing 1-2-Switch, and she beats me in every game. I even had a power outage one night for about 4 hours and I sat with the Switch and played Breath of the Wild right until the battery went dead, give or take four and a half hours on 70% brightness. 

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The Switch now goes everywhere with me in my bag, just in case I am stuck or waiting a long period for something. The issue with all this is that it highlights the best and worst of the console. Everything that makes the Switch great, is brought down by the fact that you can essentially experience all this across two games. Of the two, 1-2-Switch is not the game you want to be pulling out in the middle of the License Department and start milking a cow, so this makes it one game. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a superb title, but it will not keep us busy forever, so what I want on the console more than anything else right now is simple - more games!

Two weeks with the console and it has managed to merge into my gaming lifestyle, and blow me away countless times with its hidden hardware features. The Joy-Cons are probably the best gaming controllers ever made, and the portability of the Switch to and from the dock is like nothing that has come before. 

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All we need now is a solid future and a sure sign that Nintendo, and hopefully third party developers, see the potential in the Switch; and work on content and games to fill the UI and our gaming libraries with things to do. The Nintendo Switch is a jewel stuck in a barren wasteland of no games, waiting for someone to find it and polish it up so that it shines brightly. 

Take a look at a full unboxing of the device, as well as a hands-on impression in the videos below. 

Unboxing the Nintendo Switch

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