The Switch is Nintendo's 7th home console 5th handheld
newest hardware. After the Wii U's struggles over the past four years, especially with advertising and PR, this is Nintendo's comeback kid.
As the name implies, the Switch is a hybrid console, capable of going between standard TV play and on-the-go gaming. The console itself is actually just a thin, tablet-esque bit of hardware that's like a slightly smaller and less bulky Wii U gamepad. But don't be confused: whereas the gamepad was just a screen that streamed from the Wii U itself, the Switch is a fully independent console. It has a capacitive touch screen (a departure from Nintendo's preference for resistive), two slots on the side for controller attachments, Wi-Fi, and uses a USB-C cable to charge. Due to its mobile nature, it uses cartridges to play games. There are three main ways to play:
This the traditional couch playing mode. The Switch comes with a dock that uses an HDMI cable to broadcast the Switch to your TV. This is where the Switch acts like a regular home console, and there's not much else to say. You can play using the game's controller (Joycons) separated or together (there is a grip included in box to give the joycons a controller form factor, but it does NOT charge the Joycons), or you can opt for something more typical like the pro controller (Sold Separately).
The mobile mode, this is just taking the Switch out of the dock and playing on it. The Joycons slide on to each half of the console, giving you a more handheld experience. Battery life will vary based on the game and what you are doing, with estimates being a broad 2-6 hours. Breath of Wild was used as a benchmark, going three hours on a single charge. People are saying something like Shovel Knight can go as long as 7 hours. The general rule of thumb is that polygon-based games will drain the battery roughly twice as fast as ones uses sprites or less demanding graphics. Switches can also connect to up to seven additional Switches for local multiplayer purposes.
Tabletop mode is basically handheld, but the Switch has a little kickstand that lets you prop it up. Each half of a Joycon can operate as its own independent controller, so you can use this mode to play games with another person. The Joycons also have an attachment called a strap that slides in and gives you better L/R button and a bit more grip. It's worth noting that ALL controllers work in this mode, including the pro controller, so you don't need a bunch of joycons.
Oh, and the Switch isn't region locked. You will have to make foreign accounts on your Switch for each market, AND switching markets in the eShop empties your wallet, but it is possible and easy!
There are two models of the Switch.
The Standard Switch retails for $299.99, and it comes with the following:
- Switch Console
- TV Dock
- Left and Right Joycons
- Joycon Wrist Straps
- Joycon Grip (NOT a charging grip)
- HDMI Cable
- AC Adapter
You have the option to buy a Switch with black Joycons or Red/Blue Joycons. CHOICES! There is also no shortage of bundles coming out, and they usually save you some cash by coming with a game or extra accessory, so I'd keep an eye out for those instead of buying the base system.
NOTICE: BUY THE LATEST MODEL.
It has a fairly decent boost to battery life over the launch model at no other expense. This doesn't release until August 2019, but it will be worth the wait!
The Switch Lite retails at $199.99, and it comes with the following:
- Switch Lite Console
- AC Adapter
- That's it
The Switch is an obvious budget model aimed at people who don't care about the dock and just want those games. It is smaller than the Switch, with a 5.5 screen, has a somewhat better battery, joycons that are fused to the system (and have d-pads!), and the inability to dock. Despite presumably having the same USB-C port to charge. For more details, check out this huge fuck-off chart:
I'd only get the Lite for like...a kid. Or if you just 100% don't nor never will care about docked mode. Because for the cost of like, 1.5 games you can get a lot more flexibility and features.
Need more crap? Accessories are available if you got cash to burn. Remember that a lot of these won't work with the Lite. Do your research!
Want a more traditional controller? That'll be seventy bucks, pal. As a bonus, it comes with a USB to USB-C cable that can also charge the Switch itself, and the Pro can connect to your bluetooth-enabled PC with little difficulty. The Pro has most of the features of the joycons, including motion controls, HD rumble, and NFC support. I don't think it has the infrared scanner thing, however.
Additional Joycons can be purchased for a hefty fee. They do come with two straps, however.
Lose just ONE Joycon? Nintendo has got you covered, although they will charge you an extra ten dollars more than what they cost bundled together. Because business.
That pro controller sure was pricey, wasn't it? Well, for less than half the cost, you can just slap your joycons in this thing and get a similar experience while pretending it's a dog or something. This one also charges your joycons while they're connected to it, unlike the one that comes with the Switch because Nintendo is cheap.
Because you really
want a wheel icon next to your name in Mario Kart. Slap a joycon in and race or just use it as a very awkward controller grip.
Breakdowns of the dock expose this thing as being hilariously overpriced. Please don't buy it.
The Switch will probably be Nintendo's biggest step forward regarding online play since it actually added online services to its hardware. It seems like Nintendo is finally learning from its contemporaries, having all online stuff managed from your Nintendo account. Sadly, Nintendo is also
learning from its contemporaries in that they're going to charge us just to play online. The good news is that the service is fairly cheap, being $3.99 on a month by month basis, or $20 for a year. Another popular thing to do is join in with other people on a Family Account, which is $34.99 a year for up to eight people. That's less than five bucks a YEAR, so I'd definitely go that route if you can find the people. Check out the chart to see what a subscription gets you versus being a plebeian who thinks online play should be a basic free service.
The monthly game downloads may have caught your eye. Nintendo is doing something new, and they're launching a Netflix-esque service for their catalog of classic games. While subscribed to Nintendo Online, you'll have access this library along with bonus features like online leaderboards and multiplayer. It's (currently) just NES titles, and they've been adding new titles each month. There's also been little bonuses for subscribers, like the free Tetris 99 game or a coupon to save $20 on two games. Nothing outrageous just yet, but something to keep an eye on.
What's the battery life for everything?
The Switch: 2-6 hours (Launch iteration), 3-7 hours (Switch Lite), or 4.5-9 hours (2019 iteration) depending on the game. As a rule of thumb, 3D games like Zelda or Mario will last about three-five hours. A game with sprites or 2D effects like Shovel Knight will last about 6-9 hours.
Joycons: 20 hours. Note that that do not draw power from the Switch when attached to it and in portable mode.
Pro Controller: 40 hours. The dock does have three USB ports that can be used to charge.
Is the Switch backwards compatible?
No, it uses carts and has no disc drive to play Wii U media. And no, it's also not backwards compatible with the 3DS, DS, or any other Nintendo system.
Do the carts really taste bad?
Yes, they are coated in denatonium benzoate, which is one of the most bitter compounds for humans. It's meant as a deterrent against children eating them. Don't lick the cart, dummy.
Can I go online in portable mode?
Yes. Also, while it has no browser, if you are at a place with Wi-Fi, there will be an applet that lets you pay/agree to their terms so you can get online.
Are there seriously friend codes?
Yeah, who knows why. The good news is that when you punch in someone's code, they'll get a request instead of playing this game of "Did you send it?" Furthermore, more options are set to be added like traditional friend requests through your Nintendo account, which...raises the question of why use friend codes in the first place.
Is the Switch region-locked?
Nope! Import to your heart's content. You can even switch regions on the eShop, BUT you will lose whatever current balance your account has in its current region. So spend your money first.
Can I connect to the TV using third-party USB-C cables?
No, for whatever reason the Switch must be docked to display on the TV.
Can I recharge the Switch using a portable power bank used for cell phones?
Depends on the amperage and voltage. There are now power banks specifically designed for the Switch, so I'd recommend those first. But those are pricey, so a phone one can work in a pinch. Just keep in mind that you will, at best, maintain battery while playing off a power bank. It just isn't strong enough to meet the wattage demands of the Switch. Power banks for laptops work better, but at that price point you may as well just get one guaranteed to work.
Which screen protector should I used?
Tempered glass. While plastic ones are cheaper, they themselves are prone to being easily scratched, which means you'll have to replace them every so often. On top of this, tempered glass feels better when using the touch screen, and they tend to be easier to apply (fewer bubbles). Tempered glass will set you back more cash, but you'll save more in the long run. Right now, amFilm is the screen of choice for most people.
How much memory does the Switch have?
32 GB, of which around 25 is usable. For reference, Breath of the Wild uses around 13GB. You can use micro-SD cards to expand the memory. Because Switch carts are so small, I recommend a micro-SD with plenty of memory, because Switch games will be large and it defeats the purpose of going digital if instead of 32GB carts you're just swapping 32GB SD cards. A Sandisk Ultra with 128GB of memory should last you a while.
Can the pro controller cable be used to charge the Switch?
Yes, the cable that comes with the Pro Controller can be used like any other USB to USB-C cable. Hook it up to power banks, charge your pro controller through your PC's USB ports: go wild.
Where's Virtual Console?
It's dead, Jim. There's been rumors of a VC successor, but as of E3 2019 only the Switch Online service offers classic Nintendo titles.
Does this mean end of the line for the 3DS/Wii U?
As of 2019, Nintendo has ended support for the Wii U and 3DS. Long live the Switch.
The Switch has games, making it a true revolution in the industry. Oh, and in case you missed it: the Switch is not region locked.
You can create separate accounts for other regions and access their eShops there.
The following games are almost unanimously praised by the community. If you need a place to start, make it here.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Blaster Master Zero
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Pokkén Tournament DX
Fire Emblem Warriors
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Steamworld Dig 2
Has Been Heroes
Resident Evil Revelations I & II
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
But what other games are good?
There are a lot of games on the Switch and some of the good ones might slip past you. Not the obvious stuff like BotW and Odyssey, but the smaller gems that go unnoticed. With so many games getting released, it's hard to keep up. So the PA folks are gonna compile some mini-reviews of these great titles in the following format:
Price (mention if digital only here)
1-2 sentence review with pros and cons
$14.99 (eShop only)
Mario Golf GBA
A fun and addictive golfing game that has a lot of customization. Some of the NPC side quest stuff drags a bit, but not enough to ruin the fun. Highly recommended!
Penny Arcade mini-reviews:
- $4.99 (eShop only)
- Zelda 1?
- This short indie game tasks players — who control the titular priestess Kamiko — to take down demons and complete puzzles along the way, racking up combos. With 3 characters to choose from, each playthrough handles differently.