The Nintendo Switch officially releases to the public today, alongside launch title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Despite the extremely high praise of the newest entry in one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises, even what many critics are regarding as the best Zelda game ever doesn’t excuse the absolute mess the Switch is releasing into.
Let’s start with the troubles surrounding the hardware itself.
The Nintendo Switch’s main claim to fame revolves around its hybrid console nature. Users can seamlessly ‘switch’ from playing in console mode on a television, to playing as a handheld, to a mixture of the two. My first issue with the console arises from the functionality of this hybrid play.
Early reports have indicated that when not in handheld mode, the left joy-con has been de-syncing from the console. This means that either an entire controller or half of one doesn’t work. Many have suggested that Nintendo will provide a firmware update to address the issue, but as of writing, the day one patch for the console doesn’t appear to fix the problem.
Next is the issue of power.
I’ve spoken at length before that the power of a console doesn’t matter as long as there is enough to support the software available. The Nintendo Switch allows for 1080p output in console mode and 720p in handheld mode.
This arguably mediocre performance is not a deal breaker, but the accompanying frame rate drops reported on AAA titles such as Breath of the Wild along with poor battery life of three hours or less in handheld mode does nothing but leave me skeptical about the viability of the hardware.
The Nintendo Switch seems to attempt a lot of different configurations without ever fully succeeding with any of them.
The launch titles for the Switch represent a mixed bag of of impressions from my perspective.
The main event stated earlier is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Through the 62 reviews appearing on metacritic so far, the newest Zelda game touts an unreasonably impressive 98 on the site. For reference, Grand Theft Auto V is sitting at a 97, Uncharted 4’s metascore is 93 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a highly respectable 92.
While I fully recognize the significance of a new Zelda game, especially one receiving such acclaim, one has to ask what Switch buyers will play after they finish Link’s latest adventure. The list of Switch launch titles is as follows:
- Fast RMX
- Just Dance 2017
- Human Resource Machine
- I Am Setsuna
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Little Inferno
- Shovel Knight
- Skylanders: Imaginators
- Super Bomberman R
- World of Goo
Human Resource Machine, I Am Setsuna, Skylanders: Imaginators, Just Dance 2017, World of Goo and Little Inferno all have seen previous releases and even the almighty Breath of the Wild sees a simultaneous release on the Wii U today.
My point? Unless Switch buyers have been absent from games for some time now, there won’t be much new to play after Zelda.
I can already hear the counter to my argument. “But Logan, The Switch isn’t aimed at the hardcore gamer”. To that, I call bullshit. Day one buyers of the Switch are the definition of hardcore enthusiasts. They are the ones throwing upwards of $300 at a new piece of tech the first day it’s available. And while many may have skipped the Wii U as evidenced by it’s atrocious sales numbers, I can say with confidence that a large subset of potential switch buyers have passed on the console because its best game releases on a system they already own.
If Zelda is the only reason you’re craving Nintendo’s latest console, you could easily find a Wii U for cheaper and enjoy a mirrored, albeit slightly less graphically detailed version of the game many are claiming to be a masterpiece.
Finally, let’s dive into a lightning round of detractors nagging at the potential of the Switch.
Online functionality for the Switch will now feature a paid subscription of which pricing has not been confirmed. What has been confirmed is a free NES/SNES game every month…that goes away at the end of the month. In comparison to Xbox Live and Playstation Plus offerings, which feature 4 to 6 free games per month which remain available for the duration of your subscription, this is completely laughable.
What isn’t laughable is the continuation of the awful friend code system of the past making a return to the Switch, despite the implementation of player usernames for the first time on a Nintendo console.
Yes, you’ll be able to add players you’ve met online through your profile page, but for those you haven’t randomly joined into an online match with, you’ll have to use that atrocious system of 12 mixed digits and letters to add each other as friends.
Frankly, this is unacceptable in a world where both Microsoft and Sony have had individual usernames for the better portion of a decade, especially considering that Nintendo will still lack the trophies/achievement systems Steam, Sony and Microsoft also sustain.
Another issue that presented itself just yesterday concerns that lack of transferability of Nintendo Switch game downloads. The full article from Gamespot can be read here, but to boil it down for you, your saves are tied to your own switch system, regardless of whether they are made on the console’s internal storage or on a micro sd card.
While not a deal-breaker day one, Nintendo once again has exhibited a lack of communication in informing its consumers of when basic functionality is coming to their console…that has already released!
A final issue I see many dismissing now, but mark my words will rear its ugly head in the future, is the lack of prospective releases for the system. Big titles scheduled for Switch this year include:
MarioKart 8 Deuxe, A port of the Wii U title releasing April 28.
Arms, a new intellectual property from Platinum Games slated for sometime in Spring 2017.
Splatoon 2, the team shooter that STILL DOESN’T FEATURE TEAM CHAT will be out this Summer.
And Super Mario Odyssey will be set free in Holiday 2017, though I doubt that release date won’t be pushed back into 2018.
This creates an average wait time of literal months between significant releases from Nintendo. Meanwhile, competitor Playstation has seen Resident Evil 7, Gravity Rush 2, and Horizon Zero Dawn release in just the first two months of this year. More specifically all three of those titles released within a 40 day span.
These issues culminate in an all but confirmed theory about the Nintendo Switch that has been plaguing all aspects of its release.
The Nintendo Switch was rushed.
I see why Nintendo would rush the Switch to market. The Wii U tanked in sales, investors were getting anxious about the viability of Nintendo’s home console division and the opportunity arose to get ahead of the rumored Xbox Scorpio release later this year. But no advantage gained from an early release and a stellar launch title in Breath of the Wild can carry the Switch for the next five years.
Sony has done an impeccable job maintaining momentum throughout the PS4’s life cycle. A console that lacked truly essential first party titles for the first 14 months of its existence thrived off of third party support. Now, with the combination of magnificent first and second party exclusives, PS4 is poised to become the best selling console of all time.
Playstation 4 also worked out of the box, so there’s that.
I don’t have a vendetta against Nintendo, they provided some of my happiest gaming memories growing up. On the Contrary, I simply want the innovative and awe-inspiring Nintendo of old to come back and fix the mistakes that have already been made concerning hardware, software and communication with consumers.
In December I wrote that I hoped Nintendo Switch would fail and I stand by that statement if Nintendo continues on their current path. We shouldn’t reward companies for shit business practices.
So far, most of the news I can dissect about the Switch has been just that, Shit.
Maybe someday soon the Switch will represent more than a $370 copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But until Nintendo can prove otherwise, I can’t advise friends or family to purchase the Switch.