Lets talk Switch, and my thoughts after having one for a month.

A month after getting my Switch, lets talk about it!

Way back when the Switch launched I bought one, and after a few weeks sent it back. Why? Several reasons to be honest.

Why not pick it up at launch?

Firstly, none of the launch titles I’d played, or were coming out appealed to me. In fact none of the launch titles even got a small rise from me; though admittedly I’m not really a launch release buyer. I tend to wait until theres a game being released that I absolutely have to have. For example I bought my Wii U specifically to play Xenoblade Chronicles X; and to this day I still only own 4 games on there!

The first title that caught my eye and almost made me re-buy the Switch was Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I loved X and I was getting a little hyped for the Switch game. Sadly however the more I learnt about that game the less and less I was wanting to buy it. Finally it came out and I decided to watch a few streams of it. Sadly I was let down by the horrendously bad English dub. Adding there was, (at the time) no Japanese voice pack in sight, I gave up, and moved on. The Switch became one of those consoles I’d (most likely) never touch, just like the Dreamcast and the 2DS.

So why now?

Flash forward to December 2018 and Diablo 3 came to Switch. Suddenly my interest was sparked again, though admittedly with a lot of trepidation. Given Blizzards actions of late, I was wondering how a port of this would do. In the end my love of Diablo won out, and I bought the Switch again. As well as a number of other titles. (All of which I’ll be reviewing over the coming weeks.)

However lets first start talking about my month with a Switch, and how I became a convert!

The Switch itself is typical Nintendo, as in underpowered, underwhelming and under-appreciated; I don’t think they’ve ever had a console that was on par with the Sony or Microsoft. And the Switch is no different really, after all it’s a glorified low-mid range tablet.

Let’s talk ‘docked’

Although it’s ‘designed’ as both a handheld and a ‘console’ it’s clearly primarily designed as a handheld. Most likely aimed at slowly replacing the 3DS and 2DS. I personally find this to be a genius move on Nintendo’s part. Since right now the only other contender in the handheld sphere, Sony, has declared handhelds as dead; and even killed of their PS Vita.

Clearly Sony haven’t a clue what they’re talking about as the Switch has proven them wrong!

However Nintendo really dropped the ball in the ‘console’ side of things. The design of both the Switch itself, and the dock are filled with flaws; that frankly make the Switch fail as a product.

You would think in docked mode (or even if it’s plugged in and playing in handheld mode); you’d get a graphical upgrade. As the graphics card and cpu could draw more power and thus work faster and harder. Sadly this is not the case. Sure you get a resolution upgrade, depending on the game anywhere from 960p to 1080p. However you don’t really get a better graphical experience. Though, depending on the game you can get a slight FPS increase. In the games I’ve played so far though, the games have been so well optimised that this is negligible to none existent! (Which is a good thing!)

That said, this is not me saying games look bad on the Switch. So far I’ve not found an ‘ugly’ looking game. Sure, some of the ones I’ve played have had some gnarly pop-in; but frankly I’ve seen worse on my PS4, and even some PC games.

For me the problem with the ‘docked’ Switch is it’s thermals. I’m a heavy gamer, I can easily do 12-18 hours straight in a session if I get into a game. Naturally the PC and PS4 handle that perfectly fine. Sadly the Switch can’t do that due to the insane heat build up. Which can, and has led to a myriad of problems with the console.

One of the first things I noticed, was that even after a short 2 hour session the heat was causing the screen protector to start peeling off. Though I will admit that I’ve yet to see any of the reported warping that supposed long sessions of docked play can do. Nor have I found the case to be ‘soft’ or malleable as you’d expect from a potential warping case. I can however see where this might happen; as after all it is only ABS plastic casing and not a more heat resistant variant.

Next up the screen protector itself was starting to get damaged. I found this was due to the groove on the inside of the dock scoring the protector. Now, admittedly it’s not huge issue per se. However it’s a huge design flaw to have something like that on the inside of the dock. I got around it by using a microfibre cloth to cover the edges, and so far it seems to work.

A pointless dock is pointless!

The dock itself seems to be nothing more than a connector hub for the USB and HDMI. With no other purpose, so I’m left wondering why it’s designed in such a way as to keep heat in. You would have thought that they’d have designed the dock so as it would be open faced. Which would allow for better thermal exhaust, like the ones in the images below.

In truth, I feel the dock itself; is the sole reason for the issues with the docked mode. A better designed and built dock would have eliminated these. And frankly it would have looked better than the chunk of plastic we get now.

Okay, lets move on handheld, since thats what I bought the Switch for.

Now onto handheld mode!

Handheld, for me at least, has taken some getting used to. With the Joy-Con’s attached to the Switch it’s big. Almost too big, in fact it reminded me of the old Lynx handheld from the 80’s with it’s size. As a handheld I find it to be a bit unwieldy, and not very portable. Especially when it’s in comparison to the 3DS/2DS and Vita. All of which I could either put into a trouser pocket (2DS/3DS) or in my cargo pocket for the Vita.

Sadly the Switch is to big for that. Sure I can remove the Joy-Con’s and carry them separately, but for me I like to keep things together. Less likely to lose them! Sure you can also buy cases (and I have) and carry them in a back-pack (I do). But, especially for the 3DS; I’m used to just putting it in my pocket and jumping on the train or bus.

This size also has another issue. Due to how big it looks I’m less likely to play it on the bus. Down to the possibility of it being knocked out of my hands if the bus gets busy. I also find I’m self conscious about thieves when I’m out with it. Something that never bothered me with my other handhelds. Though admittedly my other handhelds didn’t cost anywhere near the £650 I’ve spent on the Switch thus far!

However, I do play the Switch frequently when I’m on the train heading to London, or in someones car. At those times I have to admit I love the Switch. Being able to play Diablo 3 on the go, which was my reason for buying the Switch, is amazing fun. I also like the fact that you can suspend the game, and literally pick up right away hours later with no worries.

This has been my experience with all the games I’ve played. Whether they were the epic J-RPG’s such as Xenoblade, down to little titles like Crashlands. This is by far one of the strongest benefits of the Switch; and it’s something it does better than it’s big brothers!

However one of the weirdest things I’ve found is you can’t download and play at the same time! Come one Nintendo! It cant be taking that many resources to download a game; that you’ve got to literally stop all other functions on the tablet. If that is the case, then you’ve got other problems!

The screen itself is really good. Not as good as the original Vita OLED screen (which was so good people complained thinking it had issues); but far superior to the 3DS. Colours are crisp and sharp, and games for the most part are gorgeous to look at. I do wish more developers would take Blizzards route with their handheld versions though. Give up screen resolution, dropping it to 720p and focus on the FPS and visual quality. Diablo runs at 720p and a rock solid 60fps!

Sound is pretty much what you’d expect from a tablet, neither great nor bad. Slap in the middle of average. Thankfully docked does have better sound quality, but thats more based on your TV than the Switch

Nintendo’s Big lie

Lets move onto the next big issue, and the big lie Nintendo sold us. Battery life!

The battery in the Switch is frankly, garbage. The box the Switch comes in claims to have a battery life of 2.5-6 hours. So you’d usually expect to get around 4-4.5 hours. Not me, and not according to anyone I’ve asked, including several shop sellers. They all say the same thing, they consider it lucky to get around 2.5 hours of game time. The battery is in fact worse than many low end tablets on the market.

Admittedly for me this isn’t a huge issue. I bought a second power adapter, (I’m genuinely surprised they didn’t try and sell the adapter separate again!); which I carry to work. It takes around 1.5 hours to get to work, so for me it works out. However on a recent trip to London (5 hours on the train) the battery gave out after a couple of hours. So if you want to do any long distance travel with it, you’re going to have to buy a battery pack; or a charging case. Which ultimately is more costs on an already expensive console.

Region Free? Not Really!

One of the big changes for the switch was it’s supposed to be region free, meaning you could play any game bought from any region, and not have to deal with multiple accounts. And that is….half true. The game cartridges themselves are indeed region free. So If I buy, say, Shining Resonance Refrain from Asia, it will indeed play on my EU switch.

However that is only half of the story. While the cartridge itself is region free, the eStore is not. So what this means is, if you bought the above Asian copy of Shining Resonance Refrain, you’d be able to play it, but you wouldn’t be able to access any DLC. Also, by buying cartridge games you can earn points by registering the game through the menu. However on games from other regions that’s not going to happen. Again, see the below image.

Now there are ways around this, but they’re annoying, and require even more work than just setting up a new account. Also, I’ve seen a lot of dodgy sale of Asian games being passed off as English. Shining Resonance Refrain is a prime example. The seller assured me it was an English copy, but it turned out to be an Asian copy.

Joy-Con’s? Where’s the Joy?

The joy-cons are something I have a love hate relationship with, but as time has gone by I’ve grown to like them…I think.

I honestly cant stand the joy-cons when they’re in their controller dock, it’s weird; and unwieldy to use. Not to mention uncomfortable as hell. However, I found using them separately, and just allowing my hands to naturally fall where they will while I’m gaming to be amazing. This has now become my main mode of play when I play in bed. Set the Switch up on it’s kick stand and just let my hands lie naturally while playing. I’ve actually found it’s eased up the pain I get in my wrists when I use a controller for to long these days.

Whats that smelly thing in the corner?

Finally lets talk about the smelly stuff in the corner of the room, the “Switch Tax”. Games on the Switch simply cost more than they do anywhere else. I’ve seen a lot of arguments for this, and frankly almost all of them are total bull shit; of the smelliest kind!

Games on physical media cost more, this is just common knowledge. You’ve got the cost of the initial media purchase, production, shipping, advertising etc etc. So yes, I get physical media is expensive. However this doesn’t change from console to console.

A prime example is the recent Diablo 3 physical release, The Eternal Collection:

This is just total bollocks of the big hairy kind! There is no reason for the same game to be £20 more expensive on the Switch. Other than Nintendo knowing they can do it, cause they’re Nintendo.

Now look, as I said, having a physical media does incur more costs. Which is why I don’t begrudge some of the prices for console games. However it’s also true that digital costs less than it’s physical counter parts. As such the price should be lower for digital. One of the arguments that I saw was that Nintendo is apparently being charged around £20 for a game card. Hence why its more expensive. I call bullshit on that! When I bought my Switch, I bought a high speed 64GB Class 10 170mb/s from Sandisk. It cost me £20, so if I can buy an almost top of the line card for myself and it’s £20, they would be able to buy it in the thousands for significantly less.

Since the end user (thats you and me); are absorbing the price of the physical media by buying the larger Micro SD cards, there should, you would believe, be a drop of the cost for the digital games. However it’s claimed they can’t drop the costs due to ‘platform parity’ which is again, total BS. Platform Parity is most assuredly a thing. But it only applies to a new releases and to the first 2-3 months. The idea being that for new releases, prices would be the same on all platforms for a set amount of time. That is what ‘parity’ means. However this hasn’t been an actual thing since 360/PS3 era. Now there’s no such thing as parity as each platform and storefront will set their own prices and offer steep discounts.

So yeah, when it comes to the Switch tax, not really a leg to stand on!

Are we there yet mommy?

However, lets wrap this up, I’ve waffled for to long…..mmmmm waffles

I’ve written a lot of criticisms in this post, and you probably think I hate the Switch right? Well, you’d be wrong. As a ‘console’ I personally think it’s mediocre to the extreme, and not worth buying. However as a handheld, something to be used on the go, I honestly find myself liking it over the vita. I hope we see more J-RPG’s coming to the Switch, and ports of older titles. The ability to take said games on the go, on holiday, on the plane, train and tractor far outweighs the cost!

As much as I love this console though, it is expensive! Hell for what I’ve spent on this I could buy a PS4 Pro, second controller, year of PS Plus and half a dozen games. So do bear that in mind! However if you’re looking for a console on the go, this is the one for you! Sure at the moment the Vita still has a large catalogue of J-RPG’s and other awesome Japanese games on it, but we are starting to see more and more of these being ported to the Switch. Including rumours of a port of the Persona 5!

Ultimately though it boils down to this. Is there a console seller title on it for you? And by this I mean a game that you want so badly, you’d go and buy a console just to buy it! If there is then it’s a no brainer. If there isn’t, then I’d personally wait until there is.

For the record these were my system sellers:

  • PS1 = Final Fantasy 7
  • PS2 = Final Fantasy X
  • PS3 = None I won it.
  • PS Vita = Persona 4 Golden
  • 3DS = Zelda (I bought the Zelda collectors edition!)
  • New 3DS = Xenoblade Chonicles 3D
  • Wii U = Xenoblade Chronicles X
  • PS4 = Nathan Drake!
  • PS4 Pro = Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Switch = Diablo 3

What were your system sellers?