Top critical review
A much needed Critical Analysis
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 8 September 2019
Im not sure how popular this review will be but not many people seem to mention the negative points of the Switch so I thought I would go over some criticisms.
I actually like the design of the Box/Packaging in this new v2 model. Bright red with the black Nintendo switch in view. I know its just a box but it looks eye catching. If I saw it in a store as a kid I can imagine it standing out more than the PS4 or Xbox.
Everything is neatly and compactly packed inside however the console itself is just placed in a plastic bag. There is no protective film over the screen and upon looking over mine with a fine toothcomb I noticed a tiny scratch under good lighting. Its not noticeable enough to return it but an annoyance on a brand new console.
Would it have been so hard for Nintendo to cover the screen with a protective film or even ship it with a screen protector attached? Lots of phone manufacturers are doing that nowadays.
From the front with no JoyCons connected it could be an Amazon Fire Tablet for anyone knows. Im surprised they didn't put any Nintendo branding on the front somewhere. There's certainly enough Bezel to put a logo at the top or bottom. The back has the Nintendo branding and logo however.
The touchscreen is made from plastic which is somewhat surprising as Phones and Tablets have been using glass for years now. At the same time I get why they did it, a lot of kids are going to be using this and glass shatters a lot easier when dropped but it does lack that premium feel with plastic.
The display is of the LCD variety so don't go expecting OLED quality. I say that because with everyone using high end smartphones and tablets these days we are so accustomed to a certain standard of quality. You may end up thinking "huh this game would look a lot better on my phone" and if you own a flagship such as the iPhone, Samsung or OnePlus you'd be right.
The kickstand is something I will never use. You really need to be at a table or desk at an appropriate height or you're going to end up with neck and eyestrain. And to me it doesn't seem sturdy enough, the surface needs to be flat and you better make sure no one is around to accidentally knock it over. I'm not taking risks with a £300 console.
If im going to nitpick the game cartridge cover could have been made better too. Its made from flexible plastic that bends backwards when you open it. Over time I can see that braking off then you're left with a large opening for dust to sink down into.
Ohboy lets start buy saying if you need to purchase a second one for whatever reason they retail at £80. This blows my mind. Because as you'll see when unpackaging it, its nothing more than a piece of light brittle plastic with a Nintendo logo on. There's some basic circuitry inside for the HDMI and power connection but nothing justifies that price. You may as well just start selling me cardboard for the same price Nintendo. Oh wait... Nintendo DO sell cardboard in the form of their Labo kits which cost anywhere between £40-£50 each. I don't know how someone can justify paying this amount for cardboard. The markup Nintendo makes on these kits must be outstanding. But its all about the Nintendo Quality right?
This must be the most poorly thought out and built Nintendo console yet. While at a surface level everything seems fine after owning it for a few days you notice some undesirable quirks.
Docking the switch feels clumsy like you have to carefully move it down into place so as to not cause any damage. You don't want to just casually let it drop in because you have a USB Type-C port on the bottom and it doesn't require much force to damage these. Constantly docking the console over time is going to wear that port out if you're not careful then you could end up with intermittent charging or TV connection issues. In addition to that a number of people have reported the dock scratching their console when docking and undocking. This is because the touchscreen is made from plastic and the dock is made from a matte feeling scratchy plastic. Nintendo didn't even bother to put some soft material on the guide rails inside so people are actually selling little strips of fabric on Ebay as a solution to this. Just ridiculous. It also wobbles about when touched in the dock position (For example pressing the power key)
What was stopping Nintendo from designing it so the console slides in smoothly with some soft material on the inside to protect the touchscreen and make the console sit flush and secure? At £80 for the dock that should be expected at the very least.
You connect the cables behind a flap on the dock and feed them through a hole at the bottom. Why are the ports above this opening so the cables have to bend downwards putting tension on the connections for no reason. I know that's nitpicking to the extreme but its like connecting your phone to a charger and pulling on the cable in the opposite direction constantly just causing unnecessary wear over time. Again I wouldn't care if a replacement dock didn't cost £80!
The WiFi signal is atrocious because Nintendo has decided to be cheap and use an inferior WiFi chip when making the console. These things aren't even that expensive for a quality WiFi chip so I just don't understand why they would do this especially when the console has no ethernet connection. Many people receive just one bar of signal even when 2 feet from their router. This impacts download speeds and Online Multiplayer connection.
The Con part they got right. Retail Price between £65 and £80 if you want a fancy colour (For reference a Dual Shock 4 Controller for the PS4 costs around £40-£45.
Again perhaps this would be forgivable if they were built well but there are endless complaints of drift issues with the analogue sticks after just a few months (Drift meaning when not even being touched during gameplay the game thinks they are so causes the camera or character to move unintentionally rendering the controllers useless)
On top of this the Bluetooth connection is poor and they are susceptible to random disconnects. It was said Nintendo had moved the antennas to fix this issue but even on this v2 console I had a disconnect just the other day.
Some solutions Nintendo provide is to keep your console away from other consoles, devices that use WiFi, speakers, cables... Basically if you want them to work flawlessly you need a laboratory environment. Again utterly ridiculous. How can we accept this poor quality when the PS4 and Xbox controllers are cheaper and have almost Zero issues?
Only with Nintendo consoles will you find an endless amount of accessories either from Nintendo themselves or third party manufacturers.
Nintendo generally sell anything to further cash in on consumers such as the plastic steering wheels, Labo kits or their new upcoming plastic hoop which appears to be trying to recreate the success of the Wii Fit. It should be noted that none of these products contain any functional technology. All the guts of what makes them work is in the JoyCon controllers you already own which feature a range of sensors such as accelerometers, gyro sensors and motion cameras. Basically you're buying plastic junk. Some people are ok with that but im not into it.
The third party manufacturers on the other hand often sell accessories to solve problems with the console that shouldn't be there in the first place. To name a few..
Screen Protectors - Nintendo don't supply any with the console so be sure to purchase one if you buy the Switch
Third Party Docks - Retail much cheaper than the official Nintendo Dock however I do not recommend them. Third party manufacturers often use inferior components and If its something that's going to be directly connecting to your Switch there's the possibility of it bricking your console.
Dock Sock - A piece of fabric that covers the Switch Dock to prevent the screen from scratching when docking
Power Banks - An additional large battery that can be used to charge your console. Useful for people who like to play in handheld mode a lot.
Stands - Various stands designed to prop up the Switch more securely than the flimsy kickstand is capable of with more adjustability.
Im sure there's many more but I would be here all day.
WHATS THE REAL PRICE OF THE SWITCH?
You're likely going to spend more than £280 if you buy a Switch. The first reason being the Switch only comes with 32GB of storage of which only 25GB of that is available. For reference games like Doom and Skyrim on the Switch are pushing 20GB in download size each if you purchase them digitally on the eshop. So you've already used up all your storage on one game.
This next one is debatable but one could argue that the Pro Controller sold separately is a must if you intend to do any serious gaming or play online. The JoyCons just don't cut it when it comes to precision and comfort, the buttons are small and the analogue sticks have such a small movement area that playing any kind of online shooter would be a nightmare. So now you need the console, an SD Card, a screen protector, a controller and lets go crazy and say you perhaps want a game with it too. Lets do the math.
Nintendo Switch Console £280
Screen Protector £10
128GB SanDisk SD Card around £20
Pro Controller £60
Mario Odyssey £40
For comparison i purchased my PS4 in 2015 for £290 and that came with The Witcher 3 Free. Even better Amazon are currently selling a PS4 bundle with Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted and The Last of Us all for £270. You'd pay half that price just buying 3 Nintendo games alone.
Its somewhat questionable when the most underpowered console is the most expensive to buy..
THE USER INTERFACE
This could really use some work. The console has been out for 2 years now and the design of the Main home screen is looking dated. No real changes appear to have been made since release. The icons along the bottom look like they could have been from a late 90s computer programme. Not to mention the complete silence of the home screen.
Im so used to the PS4 booting up with the ambient theme music that I thought I had the sound muted initially but no there just isn't any. Its a small detail but hearing that music before you start a game really puts you in the zone. Its a cue to forget anything else going on in your life and just chill out for a few hours. Does anyone remember the iconic PsOne boot up sound? That ominous music as you turned on your console was some great sound design.
With the Switch its like booting up into a void of emptiness. It doesn't set any kind of atmosphere, nothing is drawing me in to start up that new game other than the urge to get off the silent home screen as quick as possible. There's no real personality or identity to it. Maybe im getting too metaphysical for a console review but something definitely feels missing.
The only option you have is to choose a white or dark theme which as you would expect does nothing more than change the background colour. Its in serious need of some personalization. I've heard the DS has an endless amount of Themes to choose from so why Nintendo hasn't implemented anything like this in 2 years for the Switch is mind boggling.
GAMES & DEMOGRAPHIC
Since the days of the Original Wii console Nintendo have focussed on appealing to the more casual gamers going so far as to extend their marketing to an older generation who may have never thought about owning a console with the release of the Wii Fit. At the same time maintaining their core fanbase with regular releases of Nintendo classics that everyone loves.
With the Switch it looks like they aim to build on this further with their upcoming "Ring Fit" which appears to be a Pilates Ring which you can strap some Joycons to. In addition to this the portability of the Switch makes it popular with kids and teens. In other words Nintendo seems to be trying to cover all bases and its paying off for them as the console Is selling really well.
Its definitely a console you could take out at a party and get everyone involved. There's several party games on the Switch that are easily accessible to even the most inexperienced player.
There's also a huge selection of first party exclusive games suitable for kids - Mario, Mario Kart, Donkey Kong etc.
Where it falls behind in comparison to the PS4 would be in story driven single player games and mature content. While the Switch has some titles aimed at an older audience such as Astral Chain and Bayonetta these games seem to have a heavy Japanese influence and the style of them may not be for everyone. I don't even think Nintendo are trying to compete with Sony in this area, they are taking a different path. Definitely worth thinking about when purchasing as there is a distinct difference between the two consoles and types of games you will be playing. My preference leans more towards Sony when I want to get into a good story driven game.
In terms of graphics very little has improved from their previous console the Wii U. In fact comparing Zelda Breath of The Wild on the Wii U and Switch they appear to look almost identical. The Switch can output a max resolution of 1080p when docked depending on the game. This does leave it trailing behind the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X which both support 4k resolutions. This noticeable difference in performance will only be amplified in a few months time when the PlayStation 5 and new Xbox console are released. The Switch will be so far behind the competition at that point it makes me wonder how much support Nintendo will get from third party developers.
However I will say what the Switch lacks in graphical power it makes up for in art design. Games like Zelda and Astral Chain look stunning and really push the console to its limits. Quite impressive when you consider its small form factor and portability.
THE NINTENDO TAX
Nintendo games have always been more expensive than their competitors. As a kid it was often impossible to get a brand new N64 game for Christmas because even then the prices were pushing £60 on some titles. My parents could never justify paying that amount for one game especially back in those days so would often buy Pre-Owned to save a few pounds and i'd get a game in a squashed crumpled box because Nintendo sold their games in cardboard packaging back then for some reason.
Fast forward several console generations later and it appears this tradition is still going. A good example is Super Mario Bros on the DS. This game was released way back in 2006 and is still being sold on Amazon and GAME new for £30-£40. Cheaper than at release im sure but for a 13 year old game its held its price pretty damn well.
A more recent example would be Zelda Breath of the Wild. This game is 2 years old and is still being sold at full price £47.99 on Amazon. Even crazier GAME sell it Pre-Owned for the same price they sell it new. I could quite easily go into a rant about why I hate GAME stores right now but this review is already too long. Needless to say that example is just one of many of GAME stores trying to rip customers off.
Also consider the fact a lot of the Switches games are just ports from the Wii U. To name a few.. Bayonetta, Donkey Kong, Hyrule Warriors, Mario Kart 8, Zelda. Don't expect the price to be any cheaper on that basis however.
This only emphasises my point earlier that the Switch is an expensive console to own. You're never going to be able to pick up a first party title for half price if you wait a few years. Sony is a lot more forgiving in this regard and you can often find their exclusives selling for £15-£20 after a couple of years.
I've always had the same problem with Nintendo consoles. I get hooked into buying them because of that one great game they have - Zelda, Metroid, Super Smash Bros etc. But after im done with those what's left to choose from never quite reaches that same level of greatness. For playing single player games only it can fall a bit short in comparison to Sony who are constantly developing amazing story driven experiences - God Of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Of Us, Uncharted, Bloodborne, Death Stranding. Admittedly catering to an older audience.
The Switch has the fun factor on its side however. Getting the whole family involved in a party game at Christmas, wirelessly connecting your Switch with a group of friends for some local multiplayer gaming or taking the console with you on long trips will all be big draws to some. Nintendo are probably the most accommodating to a younger audience also.
Ultimately It comes down to personal preference. There's a lot to like but a lot where Nintendo should be trying harder to keep pace with Sony and Microsoft. With the Failure of the Wii U console it seems they may have rushed the Switch out the door resulting in a console which isn't quite as refined as it should be. Combined with a smaller library of games and limited third party support it doesn't quite meet the mark for a perfect score.
And that's my review of the Nintendo Switch. I salute you if you made it to the end.
Full disclosure I purchased my console from Argos as the deal was £300 with a game. I also have no bias to either Nintendo, PlayStation or Xbox and have owned all 3 in some iteration over the years.