By Mike Malpiedi
Nintendo finally unveiled project NX last week and it turns out to be the Nintendo Switch. As previously rumored, the Nintendo Switch is a console-handheld hybrid that utilizes a tablet and docking station. The idea is that when at home you can rest the tablet in the docking station and play your favorite titles, such as the forthcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, on your tv from the comfort of your couch. Should you so choose to leave the house and want to keep playing, simply slide the Joy-Con attachments onto either side of the tablet and remove it from the station. The game will continue playing from the handheld tablet immediately without needing to restart the game.
Since the reveal, the Nintendo Switch has been met with mixed reactions because Nintendo has only revealed the look and idea of the console, but not more intricate details such as tech specs and the full launch line-up. Many developers and fans are excited by the idea of being able to take Triple A favorites such as Skyrim, Zelda, and NBA 2k17 on-the-go while others question the power of the console and hail it as yet another gimmick console from the house of Mario.
While I, for one, am definitely more on the optimistic side when it comes to Nintendo’s latest console reveal, I’d like to go over the potential pros and cons of the Nintendo Switch based on the information available thus far…
Flexibility – It is a console built for the home and the road, so it can be flexible to your needs. You want to kick back at home all day and play some Zelda? No problem. Taking a trip and you want to play the new Mario Bros during the flight? Done. The ability to switch from playing a console at home to on-the-go is definitely a refreshing change of pace. There also seems to be flexibility with the types of controllers that can be used with the Switch, just like the Wii U.
The Switch allows you to use either the Joy Cons or the Switch pro controller to play games at home and when in handheld mode. This will likely make multiplayer scenarios more enjoyable, especially with competitive games like Super Smash. No word on whether or not the Switch will be able to utilize the 3Ds, Wii, Wii U, or other Nintendo controllers. The console supports local multiplayer at home and on-the-go which is a nice touch as well. You can freely pass a controller to a friend wherever you are, even when using the tablet. Although, it does seem a little annoying to try and use only one half of the Joy-Con to play, but then again other controllers are supported. There is also an option to connect Switch tablets wireless, much like Nintendo’s other handhelds, if you and a friend prefer separate screens when out and about.
To add some icing to the flexibility cake, the system is the tablet itself and the console dock is just the means of out-puting gameplay onto a television screen. This means that all of the systems memory is kept on the tablet, essentially allowing you to bring save files to a friend’s house whenever you please. Simply plug into their Switch dock and you are good to go. There is a kickstand for the tablet too if you want to set the tablet down and play, which is an extra bonus.
I also have to say, seeing the two guys playing Mario Kart in a car during the announcement trailer reminded me of when my younger brother and I would take our Gamecube on family trips since we had the tiny screen attachment. I very much appreciated that bit of nostalgia.
Local Multiplayer – More and more games nowadays are leaving couch co-op out of the equation. This leaves less options for you and your friends to choose from if you just want to kick back and play something together. With the Nintendo Switch it seems that almost any game on the console will support local multiplayer to some capacity. Whether it is Mario Kart or NBA 2k17, there will be something for friends and families to enjoy together. Games can lead to some of the best communal experiences and are an excellent way to bond with those you love, which is why it is such a shame to see less and less developers and publishers support couch co-op.
Potential for 3rd-Party Collaboration – There will, of course, continue to be iterations of famous Nintendo franchises like Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and Mario Bros released for the Nintendo Switch, but there appears to be more interest from 3rd party developers and publishers to make games for the console as well. While Skyrim and NBA 2k17 may not be the “mind-blowing” 3rd party games we were hoping to see during the announcement, they at least allude to the potential for collaboration. Nintendo has revealed a list of interested 3rd parties that includes companies such as Bethesda, 2K Games, Sega, Capcom, Platinum Games, Activison, Konami, and more. The release has even perked the interest of Blizzard and rumors are already floating around about a Hearthstone port.
There is reason for hesitation though, since Nintendo has been claiming to have great 3rd party support with each console release since the Nintendo Gamecube, but hasn’t truly had strong 3rd party support since the SNES. There is still potential, but we will just have to wait and see once the launch line-up is revealed and the console is launched.
And yes, it is pretty ridiculous to see Skyrim being released on yet another console, but who wouldn’t want to play a superb, Triple A rpg on-the-go.
Focus – Having a console-handheld hybrid will allow Nintendo to focus on just one console as the Wii U and 3DS begin to phase out over the next few years. Now Nintendo has been known for both its console and handheld experiences for decades, but technology has gotten to the point where handheld consoles and mobile devices can handle more detailed and tech heavy gaming experiences. This ultimately means that Nintendo has no reason to develop and cater to two separate types of experiences. This is actually pretty exciting since it would mean that Nintendo would no longer feel the need to make Wii U and 3DS versions of the same game like they did with Super Smash Bros and Hyrule Warriors. Players will be free to experience all Nintendo has to offer through the Switch.
No Tech Specific Details – Nintendo has yet to reveal the actual specs of the Switch. Gamers across the world are curious to know what is under the hood, but Nintendo is reluctant to reveal any new details until we get closer to the Switch’s release in March 2017. The lack of tech details is disappointing to many and is causing worry that the console will not be as powerful as the Xbox One or PS4 as previously hinted by Nintendo. Many gamers were hoping for Nintendo to make their own powerhouse console that is more akin to its competitors as opposed to a less powerful console-handheld hybrid. The worry is that while the system may handle games like Breath of the Wild and Skyrim well on a home television, the look and performance of those games may suffer significantly when in handheld mode. There were quite a few people across the internet that saw frame rate and graphical issues during the announcement trailer as people were playing more intricate games on the tablet.
Recent reports also are not helping, with various sites reporting that the console uses a variant of Nvidia’s Tegra processor. The processor has been utilized in many of Nvidia’s gaming tablets which are great mobile gaming devices, but the Tegra doesn’t have the capability of running a game like Skyrim at 1080p and 60fps. In fact, it is being reported that the Switch will support games at 720p which is not acceptable for a good percentage of gamers looking for the best graphics and performance possible.
Speaking of the tablet, a number of tech questions have surrounded the handheld features of the console as well. Will the tablet feature touchscreen capabilities? How much battery life does it have when on-the-go? How large is the tablet screen exactly? There have been rumors regarding touchscreen features and the tablets size, but nothing on the tablet’s battery life. Obviously the lack of tech details is a bit concerning since the console is now only a four months away from release.
It Cannot Play 3DS or Wii U Games – Nintendo officials have come forth since the Switch’s reveal stating that the console will not support 3DS cartridges or Wii U disks thus eliminating the possibility for backwards compatibility with either system. While it makes sense for the Switch not to be backwards compatible with the Wii U because it uses cartridges instead of disks, it seems like a missed opportunity to not make it backwards compatible with the 3DS since it also uses cartridges. That being said, 3DS games are developed with 3D and dual screen mechanics in mind while the Nintendo Switch will not utilize either feature. This would make it much more difficult to play previously released 3DS games to their full potential on the Switch. There may be digital downloads for games that could then be saved on the Switch tablet, but Nintendo has yet to give the official word on that. Even with digital downloads, it is disheartening to see Nintendo move away from backwards compatibility since the company has excelled at it with their consoles up to this point and not many players are happy to keep purchasing the same games that they have already played or own.
Cartridges Might Be A Questionable Move – It is being reported that the Nintendo Switch game cartridges will support games up to 16GB in size. This would suggest that the console would have a challenge trying to play games such as the recently released Skyrim Special Edition since games of this magnitude tend to be more massive in terms of the storage space required to support it. Many games nowadays are 3 times the size of what a Switch cartridge is rumored to handle, such as the last iteration of Doom which weighs in at 45GB. While games like Skyrim were shown to be playable on the Switch, this does not make it set in stone and the reported cartridge size makes it questionable if that is even possible. If it is, it may only be due to the fact that the games detail and performance have been scaled down to make the game playable on the Nintendo Switch. This would also reinforce reports that the console is underpowered when compared to the Xbox One and PS4.
A Bit of Both
It Cannot Play Blu-Rays – Given that the console has no optical drive, it is safe to assume that the Switch cannot play blu rays. While this may be a downside to some who are looking for their next entertainment system, it can also be taken as a pro for the new console since it shows that Nintendo wants to focus purely on the gaming experience. With so many devices that are capable of playing blu rays and dvds, there really isn’t a need for Nintendo to focus on playing movies over playing games. The Switch will also more than likely be able to use streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.
The Console Utilizes a Gimmick – Yes, the Nintendo Switch is indeed a console built around the gimmick of being a console-handheld hybrid. For many this is a deal breaker since there was hope that Nintendo was building their own powerhouse console that could match up with the PS4 and Xbox One. That being said, Nintendo has always beat to its own drum and more often than not it is for the better. Many shot down the Wii U after Nintendo’s poor initial marketing campaign, but since its release the Wii U has gathered a lot of love and a strong line-up of titles both exclusive and cross-platform. This new gimmick also has the means to be quite useful (as detailed in the pro section).
As it stands right now, there are still too many questions surrounding the Nintendo Switch’s specs and usability to truly give a verdict on how good it will be. The console-handheld hybrid appears to have some slick and flexible features that will appeal to a wide audience of players, but may turn select audiences away due to underwhelming technical power and lack of backward compatibility.
I, personally, am really excited for Nintendo’s next console because I love couch co-op and often find myself running between artist events, work, and other obligations during the week. Having a console that would allow me play some of my favorite open-world rpgs on-the-go and play with friends wherever, whenever I want would be a major plus for me. It may not be as powerful as my PS4 or PC, but I also don’t need it to be. I tend to be someone that values story and experience over graphics and technical performances anyway. I am, however, pretty disappointed with the lack of backwards compatibility, specifically for 3DS games. I absolutely adore my 3DS, but it would be nice if I could swap it for the Switch and still play the 3DS titles that I love.
All this to say, I’m optimistic about the Nintendo Switch, but I would still recommend holding off on that pre-order until all the facts are in. Regardless, next March cannot come soon enough!