New Toy: Nintendo Switch!
I actually got this a couple of weeks ago as an early Christmas present, but I feel I’ve had it long enough to actually write about it at least somewhat impartially and without trying to retroactively justify spending so much money on a toy I would probably not play with long-term. We bought three games with it: Mario vs Rabbids Kingdom Battle (came with the console in a bundle), Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario Kart 8. A few days ago, I went and bought Splatoon 2 as well after hearing it’s very good (and having never played Splatoon at all).
The console itself is pretty neat, with HDMI-CEC so if you turn the console on while it’s in the dock, or slide a powered-on console into the dock, my TV swaps over to the Switch automatically. Unfortunately, my TV has a really questionable way of handling CEC (or maybe it’s a limitation in the protocol itself) where the TV turning on, even if turned on by another device, turns on the PS4… which then turns the TV over to its input! So I have to choose between giving up the ability to use the TV remote to control the PS4, giving up the ability to have the PS4 turn the TV on and switch to its input, or just putting up with it and turning the TV source back by hand if I turn things on in the wrong order. None of that is the fault of the Switch though.
The joycons aren’t particularly pleasant to use by themselves, luckily I bought a Pro controller at the same time as it’s much more pleasant to use - though I do note that the analog stick on the pro controllers do the same thing the early PS2 sticks did, where you get that powdered-chocolate looking residue around the underside of the stick from it rubbing against the housing. Because we bought a pro controller and you can split the inbuilt Joycons up, we can play three-player games already which was fun. The pro controller is nice enough to use, no real complaints about it other than the fact many games come with motion controls already enabled, which is pretty annoying.
The ability to just slide the Switch out of the dock and take it to the back of the house when someone else wants the TV is awesome. I don’t think I particularly like using the built-in stand to use the Switch as a small TV for itself, but as a handhold the screen is lovely and huge. That part of the console certainly lives up to the hype, and as long as you’re not looking for something to compete with the Xbox One X or the PS4 Pro the hardware is powerful enough. I mean, I’ve noticed that both Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 are 1080p60… at least one game company gets the impact a smooth game can have!
Mario Kart 8 is nearly flawless… this is exactly how I imagined it when we played the original on the SNES. The online didn’t work for me at first, but after trying to connect to Splatoon, I realized that I’d neglected to add the Switch to my gaming network, so my rather draconian network policy wasn’t allowing it the appropriate privileges. Once I’d sorted that out, the online play works flawlessly.
… were it not for Nintendo’s godawful online experience. They still haven’t figured this crap out! I read somewhere that Nintendo actually has a philosophy against making friends online, and that the lack of communication tools is by design to limit the potential for negative interactions - that is to say if you add friends from real life rather than randoms you met in a Mario Kart lobby, you’re both less likely to have it devolve into an obscenity-filled screaming match and also quite likely to have some other out-of-band communications method. Looking at it in that light, the online seems pretty adequate - I haven’t had to wait long for a match ever. I would still prefer a persistent online presence with some social networking aspect built in, even if it were opt-in to keep impressionable children out.
Software updates are fine, I’m not sure if they’se using binary diffs or just have better content delivery servers than Sony or what, but the initial system update was done in about 30 seconds, and then I don’t think I’ve had a game update take longer than about 2 minutes. Contrast Gran Turismo on the PS3 where if I want to play it I have to decide two days beforehand because that’s how long it’ll take to apply all the updates!
On the whole, I had a child-like experience with this console, just pure unadulterated fun. The PS3 was like this, as Sabriena surprised me with one for Christmas, but as far as Nintendo consoles go I’ve not felt like this since the SNES (I skipped the 64 and the Gamecube in favor of Sony’s offerings).