In a rather odd turn of events, the press embargo for the Nintendo Switch lifted today, resulting in a wave of console reviews. This is weird because it seemed clear from “first impressions” posts that a Day One patch might fix a lot of problems. This patch has not yet been issued, as the console does not release until March 3, 2017. As of this writing, Nintendo has not detailed what, if anything, might be in that patch.
Seems kinda weird to have reviews of the Switch itself hitting before its launch day firmware is out.
— Jeff Gerstmann (@jeffgerstmann) March 1, 2017
Overall, while the reviews are cautiously optimistic (with universal praise for Switch launch title “Zelda: Breath of the Wild”), nearly every writer suggests waiting rather than buying this thing on Day One. There are just too many unanswered questions about the product roadmap and software titles at this point to make the Switch a decent investment.
Let’s begin with Kyle Orland from Ars Technica:
At this point, it looks like buying the Switch as your only game console means missing out on everything from Mass Effect and Call of Duty to The Witcher and Assassin’s Creed to Tomb Raider and Destiny. That list can go on and on. Maybe those major franchises will eventually be forced to pay attention to a Switch that absolutely flies off the shelves. For now, though, relying on the Switch for all of your gaming means risking that you’ll miss out on a huge array of the most popular and well-received current franchises. That’s a big price to pay for access to fully portable Zelda and Mario games.
Even as a secondary system, though, it’s hard for me to recommend you go out and buy the Switch immediately unless you have a burning desire to play the latest Zelda literally anywhere. The system as it exists now feels a little like it was rushed to make it to store shelves before the end of Nintendo’s fiscal year. After all, at launch there are some lingering hardware issues and extremely limited initial software support.
The most shocking thing about the Switch might be how many obvious pitfalls Nintendo has managed to elegantly avoid. Going from playing on the tablet to the TV is completely effortless, and there’s no sense of compromise whichever way you choose to play. Once you hold and use the Switch, it just makes sense.
Great hardware alone isn’t enough, of course. I have little doubt Nintendo’s first-party lineup will be amazing — Breath of the Wild alone is almost worth the cost of admission here — but the company’s weak spots have always been continuing and expanding third-party support, as well as providing a robust online service. Those are the potential pitfalls to come.
Unless you absolutely need to have the latest and greatest hardware on day one, you should hold off buying a Switch. If you’re a die-hard Zelda fan and have to play Breath of the Wild right away, just be aware you’re going to be shelling out $360…Wii U owners should keep in mind that the game is also hitting that console the same day.
There’s a lot that’s up in the air regarding the Switch’s future. Anything can happen. A purchase right now is definitely a gamble. First wait and see how the online functionality rolls out. E3 is less than four months away too, so hopefully there’s more clarity coming about the Switch’s roadmap.
Devin Coldewey, writing for TechCrunch, has perhaps the most positive take:
I think Nintendo has a winner here. The Switch is well made, super easy to get the “gimmick” of, though that’s not really the right term, and it does what it promises. Problem is: there’s just not much to play, and there won’t be for some time to come. I firmly believe Nintendo will make the Switch more than worth its purchase price, but there’s no reason for you to pay up front unless you really want to.
Specifically, unless you really must have Zelda on the go (it’s available for the Wii U as well), the Switch is not by any means a day-one purchase, and you can feel perfectly secure holding off for a bit. In a couple months you’re going to see game bundles, deals on accessories, additional info on things like the online services and virtual console, and more. Armed with that information you can form a better idea of what you’re willing to pay for the console. Hell, in six months you may even be able to find one used.
Personally I’m looking forward to the Switch not just as a platform for the next few first-party games, but as a platform fitting to lighter indie titles and innovative mobile crossovers. It’ll be great for kids, for people on the go, and for gamers who don’t always have the time or inclination to sit down and do the big screen thing.
As a handheld, the Switch is a powerful piece of hardware with a gorgeous screen, but it’s too large and power hungry to feel like you can really take it anywhere. As a console, it’s underpowered, unreliable, and lacking basic features and conveniences that all of its competitors offer. It’s nicely built and cleverly designed to be used in a variety of ways, but the bottom line is that the Switch doesn’t do any one of the many things it can do without some sort of significant compromise. Our testing will continue for the next few days as we try out the online features and other functions enabled by the day-one patch, but if I had to score it now I’d give it a 6.7.
Big picture: I fundamentally like using the Switch. It accomplishes its central goal admirably, and has already gotten me thinking about it differently than my other game consoles. It also has a number of irritating flaws and hidden costs, and there are so many things about it that Nintendo still hasn’t explained.
Any new gaming hardware is defined by the games it can play, and here the Switch bucks convention. It has a single sensational launch game, albeit one that can also be played on the Wii U you might already own. The rest of its launch lineup is nowhere near as compelling, but the fact remains that playing this Zelda on the Switch has been one of the finest gaming experiences I’ve had in years. I suspect that, Wii U version or no, Breath of the Wild will entice a lot of people to buy a Switch. I couldn’t fault them for doing so.
Compared to the Wii U on its merits, the Switch is a slam dunk. It takes the basic concept of the Wii U, of a tablet-based console, and fulfills the promise of it in a way Nintendo simply wasn’t capable of realizing in 2012. It’s launching with a piece of software that, more than anything in the Wii U’s first year, demonstrates its inherent capability of delivering what Nintendo says is one of the Switch’s primary missions: a big-budget, AAA game that exists across a handheld device and a television-connected portable. The hardware lives up to its name in how easily and smoothly it moves between those two worlds, in how dead simple it all is to make something pretty magical happen.
But beyond Breath of the Wild’s test run and the stunning basic functionality of the Switch lies a field of other obligations and requirements for an internet-connected gaming platform in 2017, and thus far, Nintendo hasn’t done much to prove it knows what it needs to do to recover from years of blind eyes and stubborn avoidance of modern ideas. The best example that Nintendo has a finger on the pulse of the modern gaming audience is a mobile game made by another studio.
From what I’ve seen, I have high hopes: The user interface currently installed on the device is clean, fast, responsive, well-designed. You can tap the Power button to send the unit into sleep mode immediately during gameplay, and pick up your game of Zelda right where you left off. It seems like it’s a thousand times better than Wii U’s slow, clunky interface. You just can’t do anything with it yet besides start and stop a game of Zelda.
And right now, that’s about all one can say about Switch: It has a new Zelda, you can definitely play it in handheld mode, and you might be able to play it in TV mode if you’re lucky. Switch has the potential to be all things to all people: TV console, next-gen Game Boy, wacky motion controls, traditional hardcore game machine, even multiplayer-in-a-box. But today, with just hours to go before launch, Switch is lacking some basic functionality.