Switch

The Nintendo Switch: A Mixed Bag

by Alex Culafi - January 14, 2017, 7:40 pm PST
Total comments: 15

Thoughts on the Switch from a guy who played it.

Let me apologize for that title immediately. The phrase “a mixed bag” has long been considered the laziest phrase a reviewer can use when talking about a video game, but man, is it accurate here. The Nintendo Switch is the most mixed bag that ever did mix.

I say this as someone who played the Nintendo Switch in New York City on January 13. I say this as someone who was ecstatic at seeing Odin from Shin Megami Tensei in Unreal 4, and as someone who started screaming in his hotel room when Suda 51 said, I think, those four magical words: Travis Touchdown is back. I pre-ordered a Switch the night pre-orders went up, I was overall extremely happy with the software side of Nintendo’s presentation, and I managed to be enthusiastic about Nintendo at levels I hadn’t been in years.

As I write this, I’m still so excited.

I played Splatoon 2. It’s great. It’s Splatoon but with mechanical and competitive improvements (no more spawn camping!), and even more stylistic flair.

The Switch screen is sharp, bright, and beautiful. The bezels aren’t nearly as intrusive as the initial videos made them seem.

At its best, some of the Joy-Con implementation feels like a full realization of the Wii’s promises. Moreover, the HD rumble is a fun gimmick that actually works.

That Mario game looks like the freshest take on Mario since Galaxy 1, and this comes from someone whose favorite Mario game is 3D Land.

The Pro Controller is the best controller Nintendo has ever had.

We have a weird, open-world, future Zelda game coming at launch that aims to shake up the formula in massive ways.

And it’s (generally) region-free! Don’t forget that!

But the critics aren’t wrong. Almost every criticism of the system is spot-on, and I have a few more to add:

The L and R buttons are so small that I went out of my way to tell a Treehouse employee collecting feedback that they don’t feel great, while another Splatoon player immediately agreed with me.

The Joy-Con, and especially the Joy-Con Grip, are not terribly intuitive to hold in the way they should be. Though my play time was limited, I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable holding them the entire time. They’re small, the button placement is weird, the shoulder buttons aren’t great, and the sideways mode is not my favorite way to play video games, to put it softly.

ARMS is Wii Boxing with the movement of Pokken Tournament. Splatoon 2, while great fun, plays and looks exactly like Splatoon with new stuff in it. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is just Mario Kart 8 with more stuff. I’m still not convinced that Zelda is anything more than an also-ran open-world action game with a Zelda skin, and I say that as someone who played it. 1-2 Switch feels like Spin the Bottle on Wii U. No software on the system feels wholly fresh outside of Holiday 2017’s Mario game.

Switch graphics don’t look all that much better than Wii U graphics. If you told me it was the same difference between a game being played on a PS4 vs. a PS4 Pro, I would believe you.

The accessories are expensive, the console is expensive (borderline too expensive in my opinion), and Nintendo announced that they are finally charging for online without immediately convincing arguments that paid online is worthwhile for the consumer.

Are you kidding me? Monthly usage of NES games that gets taken away at the end of the month?

There is so much to be positive about on the system, and yet, there is just as much to be critical about. I enjoyed my time playing many of the games, and yet, fears for the future of this thing slowly creep in.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope everything negative I wrote here is 100% wrong, and Nintendo Switch is everything we all dream it to be. I hope it’s the system that brings it out of the funk that is the Wii U’s legacy as a commercial failure, and more than that, deserves to be.

From what I played, I just don’t see it yet. The price isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s not exactly where it needs to be. The launch lineup is a game or two short of where it probably should be. The graphics aren’t much more impressive than the last Nintendo system. Overall, the console just isn’t inspiring to me in the way the Wii was (yet).

If you email me in a year and tell me how unfounded all my concerns and pre-release criticisms are, there would be nothing more pleasing. That everyone bought the Switch and everyone loved it. Because man, nothing would make me happier than to see that the phrase “Travis Touchdown is Back” is a lucrative one.

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Talkback

EnnerJanuary 14, 2017

Mixed and mingled.


I've been reading and hearing all sorts of impressions and criticisms since Thursday. The brief stroll through article comments outside of NWR has shown me a large number of people that really wanted or needed for Nintendo the business to not be present for the Nintendo Switch. Sadly, that was not to be.


I still come away from Thursday's presentation and the subsequent New York City and Tokyo streams satisfied with the Switch's prospects, though not quite immediately sold on the first day. I could mince words and details, but honest truth for me is that Nintendo had me at Xenoblade Chronicles 2.


Everything else is just me managing how my money will work out, which is the prime enduring bummer about the Switch for me.

SorenJanuary 14, 2017

There's a very real chance this system doesn't sell well. The pricing on every item is ridiculous and it doesn't help the messaging when you talk about charging for online but then give zero details on how much it costs.


The messaging has been botched and unless NOA or NOE does some serious damage control this system could very well be DOA.

LucarioJanuary 15, 2017

Great review dude!


Sucks that i wont be able to afford this thing...

Ian SaneJanuary 15, 2017

I think a mixed bag is a good description.  If Nintendo had better standing right now that might be acceptable but they have no wiggle room so a mixed bag might be as damning as a complete disaster.  They really needed to kick some ass and I haven't encountered any opinion that feels they did that.  The best I hear is that they revealed some great stuff but there are some issues and concerns.

I'm very concerned about the first six months or so.  Zelda is the big game but it's not an exclusive and 1-2 Switch looks barely worthy of being a retail product.  The price is way too high for the system and the accessories.  The lineup looks pretty thin.  Zelda, Splatoon 2 and Mario all look like great games but in the end that's going to be essentially three games for the year.  My fear is that the thin lineup and high prices will seriously hurt sales and third parties will bail.  The Wii U was pretty much finished in six months because of that.  If the same fate befalls the Switch it won't even make it to Mario before the writing will be on the wall.  And what if Mario gets delayed?  I think it HAS to drop in 2017.  Mario and Zelda are the best things the Switch has going for it.

I'm excited about SMT and that new Square Enix game but those games are far off and if the Switch limps out of the gate then those games can get cancelled or moved to another platform.  The only games we can truly assume will come are those slated for the first year.  Everything else depends on how well the system does.  Third parties were looking for the first excuse to drop the Wii U and that was following one of the most successful consoles ever made.  The Switch is following up a dud so I would expect an even lower tolerance for poor initial sales.

It's actually really similar to the 3DS which was overpriced and had a weak initial lineup.  But that had the benefit that Nintendo has less competition in the handheld market so there was the opportunity to make up for the poor start.  The Switch is launching in direct competition with the very popular PS4 which is cheaper and already has tons of games and an established online community to play with.  Nintendo is also emphasizing the Switch primarily as a console which invites the PS4 comparisons more than it would if they marketed things more as a hybrid.  But the battery life is not so hot and if the Switch is seen more as a handheld the price will be considered ridiculously high.

In a vacuum I kind of like the idea and after the presentation got through 1-2 Switch and Arms (neither of which I have the slightest interest in) they kept showing games that excited me.  But the price is too high for me and since I can get Zelda on my Wii U I really have no incentive to buy until probably Super Mario Odyssey's release at the earliest.  And I'm very concerned that this will have a rough start and the public will write it off quickly and the third parties will leave and nothing will be able to turn it around... except maybe a major price cut and a proper Pokemon game, which we presumably would get at some point anyway.

WoodyJanuary 15, 2017

I went to the premier in London, I agree with most of your points. Disagree with ARMS. It was the star of the show for me. I played it once and yeah thought it was a better Wii boxing. I came back at the end and no body was in the line and played it with the Nintendo staff. The controls just clicked and we had a real battle on. I beat the staff member in round one as he was going easy on me. Round two the battle was on, a small crowd gathered as we went toe to toe. The controls were great moving and punching with amazing control and precision. You really need to think about what you are doing and match them with quick movements. With proper online and some type of single player, this could be the reason I will switch.

rygarJanuary 15, 2017

Good article, thank you. I was especially interested in the comments on the controllers.

Quote from: Ian

It's actually really similar to the 3DS which was overpriced and had a weak initial lineup.  But that had the benefit that Nintendo has less competition in the handheld market so there was the opportunity to make up for The Switch is launching in direct competition with the very popular PS4 which is cheaper and already has tons of games and an established online community to play with.  Nintendo is also emphasizing the Switch primarily as a console which invites the PS4 comparisons more than it would if they marketed things more as a hybrid.  But the battery life is not so hot and if the Switch is seen more as a handheld the price will be considered ridiculously high.

This is why I reacted so negatively as a consumer. Nintendo is in direct competition with Sony/Microsoft and the 3DS. The hardware is great and they unveiled some exciting games, but it's priced very uncompetitively.

Relative to other consoles: the battery life doesn't seem long enough to compensate for the tiny controllers, so you need the pro controller for it to be a true hybrid. But at that point you are paying a whole lot more than for the competition and the signs aren't promising that the Switch's software library will be supported by western developers going forward. The exclusive games do look great but I can still get Nintendo experiences on my 3DS.

Relative to the 3DS: without the pro controller, it's primarily a handheld. It does seem to offer far more robust experiences, but the best games are substantially more expensive, and its battery life my not support those games as viable portable titles. It seems like the best option is to wait until there is a price drop or its next iteration.

sudoshuffJanuary 15, 2017

You concern about Zelda in the article confused me. You really think it will be standard open-world action/adventure with a Zelda skin?  I haven't heard that complaint from anyone else who played it (or seen the latest trailer).  If anything, Zelda seems like the one known quantity for the Switch. 


I am extremely positive on the Switch overall.  The Joy-Cons are surprisingly robust, the games look interesting (Zelda, ARMS, Snipperclips, SM Odyssey), and the build quality looks fantastic. 


There is one thing that everyone seems to be underestimating as far as the market is concerned.  Unlike the Wii U, the general public will actually get to see people out in the wild playing the Switch.  Imagine seeing someone in a coffee shop with a different looking tablet that has cool detachable controllers playing an awesome looking Zelda game.  What is that ?  That's the new Nintendo system?!?  I think the form factor alone will help the Switch sell better than the Wii U in the first year.

Evan_BJanuary 15, 2017

You best not be talkin' shit about my girlfriend ARMS, yo. She's better than Wii Boxing and more novel than Pokken.

As said prior, Nintendo wants the marketing of the Switch to be its portability. They want people going out with a copy of 1, 2 Switch! and showing it off to their friends. They want people to see it in the wild and be intrigued. I say that's a hard sell. People rarely pull out their 3DS and play it in public, and this thing is not a kids' toy. Not at that 300 dollars, that's for sure. I think the Switch has the potential to fail from a marketing standpoint but succeed as a development platform. Only time will tell.

wjcarlJanuary 16, 2017

Only one Zelda as the stand-out early titles - this really reminds me of my ambassafor 3ds days when OoT 3D was announced...

Quote from: wjcarl

Only one Zelda as the stand-out early titles - this really reminds me of my ambassafor 3ds days when OoT 3D was announced...

I think the launch is relatively light specifically because Nintendo's chosen to to space out major releases over the rest of the year to avoid the long droughts that plagued the first year of both the 3DS and Wii U. It's getting Mario Kart a month and a half later, and then Splatoon 2 a couple months after that. The Ambassador program happened because the 3DS was going long stretches without any releases between launch and the end of 2011, which led to hardware sales drying up.

wcmullinsJanuary 16, 2017

Wasn't there a rumor that the 3D mario was almost done a while ago? They must be holding it to prevent droughts and let w/e small 3rd party games they can get have a chance.


Only thing that still gives me hope is that we don't know what Retro is doing or what virtual console will bring. Maybe we'll get a direct sometime in Feb that gives a release date for Pikmin 4 (that's supposedly done as well)


Also, what's up with Ubisoft? If they have a couple of games for launch that will go a long ways to helping matters. I find it extremely telling that they weren't in Japan during the reveal.

nickmitchJanuary 16, 2017

Quote from: wcmullins

Wasn't there a rumor that the 3D mario was almost done a while ago? They must be holding it to prevent droughts and let w/e small 3rd party games they can get have a chance.

I believe Emily Rogers was reporting that, so I would assume it to be at least somewhat true.  It also sounds like a Nintendo thing to do.

I think Nintendo might get forced into a price drop this year, if not a bundle option or two.

But if the Pokemon Stars rumour turns out to be true, that could give Nintendo a good boost in the install base.  But that would be Nintendo breaking from a pretty established tradition.

Mop it upJanuary 16, 2017

It may be clichéd, but "mixed bag" sure is apt!

Though, I wonder why that phrase means "good and bad things" instead of just "variety." A mixed bag of trail mix is better than just having a bag of peanuts. Unless it has raisins in it, then there's some bad.

AdrockJanuary 16, 2017

Quote from: Mop

Unless it has raisins in it, then there's some bad.

That's raisinist.

lolmonadeJanuary 17, 2017

Truthfully, I'd be more ok with the console price if the accessory prices were more reasonable.  At the current juncture, I feel like i'd be getting nickel & dimed by all the accessories.  I know I won't be getting any of them unless I end up getting gift cards as presents, and that would likely only bring the price down to what I think it should have been in the first place.


I'm not so concerned about the launch lineup personally, because I expect that I'll be neck-deep in Zelda for a while.  If Nintendo Keeps the dates they've listed for year 1 on their games and don't slip, I suspect that there'll be enough for me to play between Zelda, Splatoon, and Mario in the fall.


From a business standpoint, I think Nintendo's making a mistake by having this thing be a "Swiss-Army Knife" video game machine in similar fashion to the Wii U.  How much more cost is the "HD Rumble" adding to those joycons?  Without playing 1-2 Switch, I don't necessarily see a use case where anyone besides Nintendo will do something that justifies its existence.  Pictures make it appear that the right joycon has an awkward placement for the stick compared to the left one.  If I want a true D-Pad to play anything on, I HAVE to get a pro controller.


That's why the reveal from last year was perfect.  It honed in on the concept of portability, flexibility (tv or portable), and sharing (joycon separation & playing multiplayer locally out of the box).  Even having motion control in the joycons is fine, but I'd like to get some input from developers or people in the know how they expect HD rumble to affect gaming experiences beyond counting marbles in a cup.

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