Nintendo Switch, and the Appeal of Gaming on the Go

After I got my promotion a few months ago, I decided to splurge and pick up a Nintendo Switch. I had very little experience with the console; other than using Shaun’s to play through all of Super Mario Odyssey, I’d never touched it before. Even then, I was a newcomer to just about everything the Switch had to offer — I didn’t even try it in handheld mode, since the system had to be docked for recording purposes. So let’s consider this a mini-review from a pseudo-newcomer.

I’ve only picked up two games so far: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. Okay, three — I bought Rocket League for the fourth time on four different systems. It’s a bit out of control, I admit, but it’s actually a perfect fit for the system. One of the coolest things about the Switch is its most obvious feature: portable gaming. The ability to play high-quality, visually appealing games on the go is fantastic. Rocket League (and to a lesser extent, Mario Kart) works great in settings where you only have a few minutes for a short gaming session. Only got time for a couple quick matches, or maybe a quick 150 CC cup? The Switch has you covered.

That same principle also extends to long-form play. You can sink a couple hours into a full-length RPG like Ys VIII, but you’re not beholden to save points or stoppages in the story — instead, if you get an unexpected phone call or have to dash off to work or something, you just put the system into sleep mode. Obviously this same idea works with other systems like the PS4, but you still have the benefit of being able to play anywhere.

I’m sure that on a conceptual level there are people out there who play the Switch in handheld mode when they’re on the go or moving about the house, then drop the system in the dock for a big-screen experience when available. I am not one of those people. After playing through all of Odyssey in docked mode, I’ve only used the system that way once: to play multiplayer Mario Kart. Otherwise, it’s been all portable, filling the void that the 3DS used to occupy.

The controllers are…a mixed bag. It’s cool that you essentially get two for the price of one, and being able to make two mini-controllers is great when you have guests. Configuring them is quick and painless most of the time. Unfortunately, I have giant hands, so they’re not real comfortable for longer gaming sessions. But sliding them onto the screen for portable mode makes for a nice, beefy feel that still isn’t too heavy. It also stings a little bit when you stare at the price tag for an additional set — it might be a while before I suck it up and purchase a second pair.

So what are the concerns going forward? Well, to me it’s twofold. One issue is Nintendo’s fledgling paid online service. Nintendo has always struggled with its online features and has often felt behind the curve when it comes to now-standard features like voice chat and friend lists. They’ve evolved a bit when it comes to the Switch’s service, but the question for me (and most consumers) is how many systems do you want to be paying for online play at once? I recently stopped my Playstation Plus account and haven’t really felt the urge to dive into Nintendo’s either. The other concern is another familiar one for Mario and Co.: third-party support. The Switch has already blown other Nintendo systems out of the water when it comes to past games appearing on the system, and it’s quickly rivaling the 3DS and the Vita as an RPG mecca. But what about the big titles of today and the future? Can the Switch survive without the Spider-Mans and the Red Dead Redemptions of the world? I guess we’ll see.

To some extent it’s nice just having a Nintendo system again. I waited in line for hours for a Wii, and while I was content with my purchase, it never really grabbed me the way the GameCube did. I skipped the Wii U entirely and I don’t regret it for a minute. So as someone who thoroughly enjoyed the SNES, N64 and GameCube, it’s cool to be back in the fold again.

Overall, I’m happy with my purchase and the Switch has been a fun addition to the family. It’s nice to be able to play it while lying in bed or while fighting off boredom at work. Assuming some more killer first-party titles are on the way (and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will be a good start next month), I’ll continue to be happy with the Switch going forward.

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