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Should You Buy a Nintendo Switch?

The Nintendo Switch has been elusive since its release in March. I had to drive an hour on a weekday to a Best Buy in a retirement town to find one. I also bought a Pro-Controller, a travel case, a screen protector and The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild as well as an Amiibo.

The size of the Switch is the first thing that struck me when I opened the box. It’s smaller (and slimmer) than the Wii U gamepad, although the screen is slightly larger (6.2”).

Comparison of Screen Sizes

The Wii U Gamepad vs. The Nintendo Switch

What’s New

The box comes with the console, a left and right Joy-Con controller, a connective grip for those controllers two wrist straps which augment the ZL & ZR buttons, a hub to connect to a TV, an HDMI cable and a power adaptor. My kids didn’t know we got one, I had them pretend they were doing an unboxing:

The novelty of the console is that it’s portable yet powerful. The Joy-Con controllers can be removed and be used independently as a left and right controller, they can be connected to a grip as a single controller, or rotated sideways to be used as two separate controllers. Extra left and right Joy-Con controllers and a charging grip will run you about $100 and a Pro-Controller is about $70.

The console broadcasts in 1080p when connected to a TV via a docking hub and an HDMI cable. Nintendo says the battery life is about 6 hours, about 3 hours when playing Legend of Zelda. We’ve found the 3-hour limit to be true for Breath of the Wild.

There have been issues with the screen getting scratched while being inserted into the hub so we bought a screen protector and haven’t had any issues on that front. The screen has a kickstand that the kids snapped off recently. We were able to re-attach it easily enough but it isn’t the best at propping up the device.

Nintendo Switch Vs. the Wii U

I still enjoy the much maligned Wii U. It’s an innovative console that got abandoned by 3rd party developers. By the end of its life it built an impressive library and can’t be beaten for couch gaming. I’ve written about the Wii U before here.

The second screen experience is out because the Switch needs to be docked to use a TV . Several games made innovative use of the Wii U’s gamepad as a second screen for inventory, maps or aiming (i.e. – Legend of Zelda-Windwaker, Zombie U, NintendoLand, Minecraft). But in Breath of the Wild, the Switch console can still be physically moved around to aim your arrows and that’s still pretty cool.

At the moment there is no backward compatibility. The Nintendo Switch runs on cartridges instead of discs, so if Nintendo does introduce this feature in the eShop, you’re going to have to pay for it.

Nintendo wants to introduce a paid online subscription service to the Switch similar to Playstation Plus and Xbox Live. Will Nintendo have the titles or library to offer a service of similar value to Playstation’s or Xbox’s?

There are no video apps on the Switch. Nintendo focused on this being a gaming console first. I assume Netflix or YouTube apps will eventually come, but the Wii U was my go-to Netflix browser.

The Games

A similar problem that plagued the Wii U is also a problem for the Nintendo Switch. The number of games available on release day isn’t great. The Wii U came with NintendoLand, a mini-game collection/tech demo, the Switch doesn’t come with any titles, so get ready to drop another $70 or so.

1-2-Switch is pretty awful and I expect this will be heavily discounted in the next few months. Snipperclips skews fairly young and gets old quickly. My kids insist Minecraft is amazing and the Mario Minecraft world looks fun if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you don’t have a Wii U, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is amazing, hands down the best karting game out there. But buying it again at full price for a few extra vehicles and courses seems steep.

The Nintendo Switch eShop is a pretty sad place right now. What the Switch does have is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This can easily tide you over until more games come out. It also looks amazing on the gamepad or the big screen.

The Verdict

The $299 price tag matches the release price of the Wii U. Once you add in accessories (Pro-Controller, scratch guard, travel case, etc.) and a game, you’ll easily be spending over $400. I think this is a great system and you know Nintendo is working on some solid games (Arms, Splatoon 2, Super Mario Oddessy). If you can find one and have the money, I would definitely get this. Just know you’re essentially buying a Zelda machine for now. If you’re on a budget, you still can’t go wrong with the Wii U. Stores are discounting these games and will further discount them in the coming months.