Power and Pricing:
Whilst the technical wizadry of the Switch’s titular trick is undeniably impressive, it’s still hard to rationalize the 329 euro purchase. Right now in Europe, for instance, you can pick up a PS4 Slim or Xbox One S for about 30-40 euro less, with a bundle of games and an extra controller. They also have the benefit of being a machine that’s much more powerful, feature rich and – most importantly – host to massive libraries of great games to pick up right now.
As aforementioned, however, its not entirely fair to actively compare these systems. Comprimises in graphical prowess have been made to facilitate the portable nature of the system, and to that end Nintendo are successful. Playing the new, beautiful Zelda game on the go is stunning, for instance. Still, £280 feels steep – especially when you factor in everything else you’ll be buying for the system.
There is quite a bit of nickel-and-diming here, and it seems a little mean, all things considered. Realistically, most people won’t be walking away from a purchase for less than 380 euro – assuming they want a game (which range from 50 euro for 1,2 Switch to around 65 euro for Breath of the Wild) and any one of the numerous, expensive accessories. Protective cases (20), charging docks (35) Pro Controllers (70), extra Joy-Cons (80) and more are available, with some more indespensible than others.
The console and accessories all feel sturdy, and slotting things together and pulling them apart is mostly a breeze. The shoulder buttons really don’t like to be detached, however, and I see a couple of cut thumbs in my future if the mechanism doesn’t loosen in time. Despite this, setting up your switch is often toy-like, and that’s a great, very Nintendo thing. They’ve always tied fun to functionality, and it’s evident in the colourful controllers and fun, spunky sounds of the menu system. The UI itself is quite spartan, however, and doesn’t faff about with constant background music or Mii Plazas. In my opinion this is absolutely fine – it allows me to dive in and out of games ridiculously quickly, and the experience is a compact and smart one.
In terms of visuals, whilst Zelda looks fantastic both on the big screen and on tablet, it does chug sometimes during hectic battles (moreso when docked). It’s a little worrying, considering the experience only attempts to run at 900p / 30FPS, so the fact that it can’t even keep up with these humble requirements seems to speak volumes about the Switch’s power. At 720p on the tablet it fares better, but this is 2017: why are we achieving 720p on a 6 inch tablet anyway? My phone (the Pixel XL) is almost as big, and it displays at 2k resolution. It’s a concern, to say the least. Also, the thought of that already-small screen being split four ways for some tabletop Mario Kart makes me squint just to think about, but time will tell.
The battery life for the Switch is about three to six hours, but should you be playing a console-quality game you’re definitely looking at the lower end of that spectrum. That’s… alright, I guess? Again, looking at how pretty Zelda is on the tablet makes me undestand why the battery life is so modest, but it doesn’t do much to alleviate my concerns for using this as a genuine handheld for any length of time. Carry a spare AC adapter with you at all times (about 20 euro, by the way.)