The Nintendo Switch has been available for purchase since March 3, 2017. When I reviewed the Switch shortly after its release, I scored it a 7.5/10. Back then, my feelings on the console were mixed. While the hardware was mostly great and the console had immense potential, I was disappointed by the lack of must-own games at the time. Furthermore, Nintendo’s confounding omissions in both hardware and software resulted in frustration. As a result, I urged most gamers to simply wait before splurging on the hybrid console.
Now in late September, the Switch has been on the market for a little over six months at the time of this writing. Is it still a “wait and see” type of decision, or is it worth a buy at this time? Read on to find out.
What Hasn’t Changed
There are still aspects of the Switch experience that haven’t changed, for better and worse. Let’s start out with the bad. There are still a number of features missing from the console. For one, there’s still no Virtual Console support. Support for achievements does not exist, which limits the appeal of third-party games on the console (although that may be coming soon). You still can’t comfortably play with headphones with the console in docked mode, unless you’re sitting very close to your TV or you invest in an obnoxiously-long auxiliary extension cable. This problem could have been rectified had Nintendo just included a 3.5 mm jack on its Switch Pro Controller, but alas, they did not.
Most damning, however, is the fact that your game saves are still tied to your individual Switch console. There is no support for cloud saves, nor is there a way to transfer saves from one Switch to another. This is inexcusable for a console that’s meant to be taken around and used as a handheld system. It creates more scenarios where you could break your Switch, resulting in your save game data being irrecoverable.
Speaking of storage, there is an extra hidden cost associated with buying a Switch. With less than 32 GB of usable storage out of the box, purchasing a microSD card with at least 64 GB of storage is pretty much a requirement. This especially true with the recent news that NBA 2K18 and some future games may require a microSD card to install game content.
Another issue is the continued lack of some basic apps on the Switch. For example, the Switch still does not have a built-in web browser as of this writing. Additionally, apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Hulu are not available for the console. While I do not believe these are significant issues (the smartphone or tablet you already own can do these things better), it still represents a pain point for some. Even the 3DS family of systems supports Netflix, after all.
While that seems like a lot of gloom and doom, there are still a lot of things that the Switch gets right. The console and dock continue to work seamlessly together. There’s still something magical about playing Mario + Rabbids on my living room TV, then taking the Switch out of its dock and playing for a little more in bed before going to sleep. To do all of this without the hardware or software skipping a beat is still a pretty amazing experience, even six months after release.
Battery life for me has continued to meet Nintendo’s estimates. Typically, I get anywhere between three and five hours on a charge, depending on the game. This is more than enough to get me through my lunch break and the occasional bus or train ride. When I do need to charge, a standard Anker battery pack combined with a USB-C cable does the job well. As an aside, I do have an interesting observation when it comes to charging the Switch. When I plug the console into my 2017 12-inch MacBook, the Switch charges the laptop, not the other way around. Odd.
As far as the controllers are concerned, the Pro Controller is the best controller currently available outside of the Xbox Elite Controller. The Joy-Cons still continue to work well, and are surprisingly comfortable when held separately, Wii-style. I’m also happy to report that my left Joy-Con has not lost sync once during gameplay since I purchased my Switch at launch.
The rest of the console’s hardware and software continue to work well. The screen still looks great, although I’d still recommend investing in a screen protector to be safe. The hardware itself has held up well, with no blemishes, warping, or any other related issues. Lastly, the OS is still snappy and pleasurable to use. Sharing screenshots to Twitter is a breeze (I wish it was like this on the Xbox One).
In summary, the Switch is still mostly the same as it has been since launch in these areas. The features that are missing are still irritating today, and the features that work still work just as well.
The Voice Chat Issue
Nintendo is a company that marches to the beat of their own drum. Sometimes, this philosophy pays off for them. The Nintendo Switch voice chat scenario is not one of those times.
To enable voice chat, you inexplicably need to download an app to your smartphone as opposed to just doing it through the console. I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this about a console that released in 2017. Consider that Microsoft already had this figured out pretty elegantly when Xbox Live debuted in 2002.
The picture above has been circulating around many gaming sites for a while now. While it is more than a little disingenuous, it doesn’t take away from the core issue here: Nintendo needs to figure out a better way to do voice chat. I see absolutely no reason why this feature can’t be managed from the console itself.
The consequence of this situation is quite comical. Nintendo finally gives us voice chat, but it’s implemented in such a backwards, asinine manner that many don’t even bother to use it. Show of hands: does anyone use the phone app to chat while playing Splatoon 2? I know I don’t. It is telling that third-party options such as Skype and Discord are being used over Nintendo’s own app.
Does All That Really Matter?
Despite some truly frustrating omissions and a terrible voice chat system, Nintendo is still selling Switches by the boatload. In my opinion, these issues are minor frustrations at most because Nintendo is really bringing it where it matters: games.
You want exclusives? Nintendo has been on an absolute tear in 2017 in pumping out amazing exclusives for the Switch. Just this year, we have seen The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Even 1, 2 Switch is fun in its own right as an amusing party game. A port of Pokken Tournament and surefire game of the year candidate Super Mario Odyssey are still on the docket for 2017. If this year is anything to go by, Nintendo seems to have learned their lesson from the failure of the Wii U. They seem committed to providing the Switch with a steady stream of game releases, something they did not do with their previous console.
Nintendo’s continued support of indie games is quite refreshing. A sizable catalog currently exists on the Switch, and many more are in the pipeline. Third-party support has also been unexpectedly strong so far. While some big games like Madden, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto V are still missing, there have been some surprises. Big-name sports games NBA 2K18 and FIFA 18 are getting Switch releases. L.A. Noire will also be coming to the Switch with support for some of the console’s unique features. Bethesda will also be bringing the heat, with Switch versions of Skyrim, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Doom releasing before the end of 2017. Nintendo’s challenge going forward will be maintaining this level of support from third-party and indie developers.
I’ll cut right to the chase: you can go out and buy a Switch now. Yes, some elements of the experience are frustrating. However, there are several truly great games available to play, with more in the pipeline. The most important aspect of any console will always be the games you can play on it, and the Switch delivers. This alone makes it worth owning as part of your gaming setup.
You do need to keep some things in mind when making your decision on whether or not you want to purchase a Switch. For one, don’t expect it to be any kind of multimedia powerhouse. That’s what Apple TVs, Rokus, and even your other gaming consoles are for. Speaking of other consoles, don’t expect the Switch to replace your PS4 or Xbox One as your primary console. The Switch is best as a secondary console, just like the Wii and Wii U before it. You’ll use it to play Nintendo games and the occasional indie or third-party game that you want to take along with you on the go.
Overall, the Nintendo Switch is an excellent console, and six months after launch, its future has never been brighter. The last Nintendo Direct was proof of that. Not once since launch have I regretted my purchase. If you buy a Switch today, I highly doubt that you’ll regret it either.