Nintendo Switch review: Great console, but questions remain

Nintendo rarely is one to conform to its peers in the video game industry, often eschewing the familiar in favor of innovation. Sometimes the approach works (Wii), and sometimes it flops (Wii U).

The Japan-based gaming titan’s next generation console, the Nintendo Switch, appears to have what it takes to follow in the Wii’s footsteps, with a few critical caveats.

amNewYork spent a week with the Switch, provided for review purposes by Nintendo, and what follows are our impressions of the device and what those interested in purchasing one should know ahead of time.

Hit the Switch

The Switch’s key feature — its ability to play as both a set-top, TV-bound console and an on-the-go handheld or tabletop device — is the real deal. Transitioning from one mode to the other takes just a few quick Joy-Con controller inputs and it’s ready to play. It really is that simple.

More good news: The console’s performance both on a television and as a handheld is superb, with no noticeable difference. The tablet can get pretty warm, but it never crossed into too-hot territory.

While the Switch’s graphics aren’t quite at the level of Sony or Microsoft’s flagship devices, games such as “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and “Just Dance 2017” look pretty in 1080p on a TV. Handheld mode produces some gorgeous visuals on its 6.2-inch, 720p multi-touch screen. The best-looking gaming device New Yorkers will see on the subway surely will be the Switch.

More Con than Joy

Unfortunately, amNY suffered from issues with the left Joy-Con when not connected to the device in handheld mode. When syncing remotely for a single-player game like “Zelda,” the left controller routinely failed to link up with the Switch. On the rare occasion it did sync, game-crippling input lag from the left Joy-Con plagued the experience.

amNY reached out to Nintendo to find out more about the issue, which other media outlets have experienced, but did not receive a response. Perhaps Friday’s Day One system update can fix the issue, but that’s not a given.

The issue never presented itself in handheld mode or with multiplayer “Just Dance,” and in those instances the controls responded well and felt intuitive. If not for the left Joy-Con debacle, there would be little to complain about.

Motion controls are particularly impressive in games such as “1-2-Switch” and “Just Dance.” Nintendo has come a long way since pioneering mainstream motion gaming in the Wii.

Juiced up

Commuters rejoice! The Switch’s battery life should be all most people need.

Several tests with “Zelda,” presumably one of the console’s more powerful games, averaged about three hours of playtime before hitting the 1% mark. And, if train delays ensure the Switch won’t make it through a round trip, the device can charge using a USB-C cable. That’s the same power adapter that plugs into the dock, so there’s no need to buy one.

Great unknowns

Although the Switch can connect to Wi-Fi, its online component was not ready for the pre-release window. There’s no way to know how any of that will function, and the Virtual Console of past games isn’t going to be ready for launch.

That, coupled with the left Joy-Con problems, makes for a sizable chunk of concerns entering the Switch’s first days of availability.

What’s in store

With 32GB of storage, the Switch may be lacking in that department for some. At least physical game cartridges, which aren’t much bigger than an SD card, don’t need to install and offer instant satisfaction.

Storage space can be supplemented with microSD cards, which don’t cost too much. They slide in behind the Switch’s kickstand — which, by the way, was perfectly fine and kept the screen upright while away from the TV.

Hidden costs

The $299.99 price point for the Switch doesn’t sound too bad on the surface, but that’s not the whole story.

The package comes with the console and dock, power and HD cables, left and right Joy-Con, the grip accessory that turns the Joy-Con into one controller, a more conventional controller, and a pair of strap accessories for the Joy-Con.

Notice that doesn’t include a game (“Zelda” retails at $59.99), the aforementioned expanded storage (32GB starts at about $10) or a protective case ($19.99). All that pushes the cost to nearly $400.

Extra controllers aren’t cheap, either. The more conventional Pro Controller is $69.99. Additional pairs of Joy-Con are $79.99 and individual Joy-Con are $49.99 each.

Keep all that in mind when budgeting.

Buy, wait, skip?

The Switch is a great game machine at its core. Nintendo really nailed the design and capabilities in a way that makes it worth playing and, likely, owning at some point.

That said, it might be wise to wait and see how the biggest questions — the left Joy-Con, the online offerings — resolve themselves over the next few weeks before committing a big chunk of money to the console and its necessary add-ons.


Nintendo Switch launch event

Friday, 9 am. to 5 p.m.

Madison Square Park, Broadway between 23rd and 24th Streets