I’d been thinking about getting a Nintendo Switch for quite some time, but I always had my doubts. I mean, it’s a kids’ console, right? Underpowered graphics. Cartoony games.
So, time and time again I’d find myself standing in the local toy store, playing with the display model, trying to convince myself that it couldn’t really be as flimsy as it felt, telling myself that there were some great games on the way.
Let me step back a bit. I made a New Year’s Resolution in 2017: To play more video games. See, I absolutely love video games. I make video games for a living. But for the past 20 years or so I’d been too focused on work to play them much. So I bought a PlayStation 4 and I’ve been buying every major game that comes out for it. Even if I don’t play them to completion, at least I’m playing them.
Getting a Switch was another part of this grand plan. Being able to play games whenever, wherever I wanted would mean I had even less excuse to not bother.
Long story short, a few weeks ago I bit the bullet and handed over the cash. What’s the worst that could happen? I’d be £300 out of pocket. I took the gamble.
That gamble paid off big-time. So for anyone else who’s still on the fence about Nintendo’s portable console, here are the six things I wish I’d known six months ago, which would have helped me make my decision sooner.
1. It’s not flimsy.
The controllers don’t wobble. Yes, if you’re looking to find a little bit of give in the controllers then it’s there. But in normal play, the console feels like a single unit. It feels solid and sturdy. (So no DIY fixes for me, thank goodness.)
2. It’s not underpowered.
The Switch sure does have a lot of cartoony games with cartoony graphics, but that’s just the nature of the Nintendo platform. Take a look at Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (screenshot below) and tell me this is anything less than a state-of-the-art fully-fledged games console that can sit in your hand and fit in your pocket, if you’ve got a big pocket.
3. Digital copies of games can often be found for the same price as boxed copies.
This is a huge bugbear of mine on the PS4 — Sony charging upwards of 25% more for digital copies, something of a tax on disabled people. The argument made in favour of these inflated prices is that they’re kept high to help support bricks-and-mortar retailers. But if that’s the case then why not allow retailers to sell digital download codes at the same price as boxed copies?
With the Switch, though, you can at least shop around a bit and find online retailers selling digital copies at discounted prices. Generally a £55 download code can be had for around £45 at somewhere like CDKeys or AllKeyShop. (And if you’re willing to delve in to the legal but murky depths of “primary licence” discounts then you can usually get the game a good bit cheaper. I’ve not ventured there myself.)
4. Don’t be put off by the games on the store shelf.
Retailers that stock Switch games tend to have only the most popular titles and, obviously, none of the games that are download-only. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a console full of Mario games, games with characters from Mario, and games that want to be Mario but didn’t have the budget. No no no! Take a stroll through the eShop and you’ll see that the Switch has a great variety of games from all genres, everything from Doom to Wolfenstein, from Rime to Super Meat Boy.
5. Indie games are the Switch’s strong suit.
Look beyond the big-budget £50 games on the Switch and check out the shop full of cheaper, and often better, indie games. Hollow Knight is gorgeous and offers some solid platforming action with a unique art style, and it’s only £11. Celeste is a torturously rock-hard platformer that I fell in love with in minutes and it has dominated my Switch time so far. You can get it for less than £15 if you shop around but even at full whack the £18 price tag is a bargain. Coming later this year we have Bad North which is very exciting. Developers reportedly find the Switch a joy to work with, so it’s no surprise that indie devs are flocking to the platform.
6. Don’t invest your hopes in Zelda.
One of the lines I kept telling myself before I bought the Switch was that, even if no other decent games came out for it, at least I’d get tens if not hundreds of hours of fun from Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Sadly, that’s not the case.
The beginning of the game is brilliant, really impressive, and the graphics are amazing. The animesque rendering is beautiful. But once you get past the opening couple of hours? It gets obnoxiously difficult and happily wastes your time with a boring crafting system, long-haul missions, and one-hit deaths from the monsters you meet on the way.
You know how with RPGs you usually get the thrill of finding new armour or weapons when you defeat a camp and find a chest to open? In Zelda, you usually get some raw material that can be sold or used in crafting. It totally breaks the dopamine loop. It’s all repetition and no reward. When you do get new weapons or armour, which are usually just lying around, they break after half a dozen hits. The game is a huge disappointment and it feels like some very minor improvements could have made it a thousand times better.
The general consensus on Zelda seems to be split between it being either too easy or too hard with basically nobody saying that the difficulty level is right. So take my opinion with a big pinch of salt, but also, prepare to be disappointed.
So taking all of that in to account, the advice I’d give to myself from six months ago is: Just buy the Switch! And to you I’d say: If you think there’s a place in your life for a handheld games console, and there are some games on the Switch that appeal to you, then go for it. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. And the platform is only going to get better as more developers embrace it and bring their titles in to the palm of your hand.
Oh and before anyone jumps in to the comments to scream Snipperclips at me: The reason I didn’t mention that above was because I knew about it all along, expected it to be good, and it is. So it doesn’t really fit in to the list 🙂