The desire to acquire this mysterious contraption grew gradually. An unusual form factor, strange games that millions of players in the USA and Japan are crazy about. At least it is interesting to try. And then this announcement of Shin Megami Tensei 5. In general, I decided to buy.
My eyes stuck to this box every time I walked past it in the store
I must say that Nintendo, unlike Sony, does not evoke nostalgic feelings in me and is generally not particularly associated with my childhood. Dendy was with me at such an early age that I practically do not remember her. Maybe a couple of the first levels of classic Mario and that music. Therefore, if NS were a regular home console, I would hardly consider purchasing one. In the same way as in previous generations I did not even think about buying a Wii / WiiU. But the Switch is no ordinary home console. By and large, it is portable with the ability to play on a TV. Some will even say “an overpriced tablet with 2015 hardware” and will be partly right. But in the pocket-sized gaming systems market scorched by smartphones, Nintendo was virtually left alone. And if you add here a huge number of exclusives, it turns out that the company has no reason to reduce the price and participate in the arms race – there is still no one to compete with. Smartphones actually killed at least the PS Vita at one time (although not without the tacit consent of Sony itself), but they themselves did not become devices for serious gaming. There was still hope in 2010 – although Gameloft released rather crooked story games, they at least tried. Now … you already know everything without me – indiscriminate fritupley and “make three in a row”. In this ocean of tools for constantly pumping out micropayments, no one is interested in creating projects like Monument Valley. Recently for Android the amazing Gorogoa finally came out. The number of downloads in the Play Store is a paltry thousand. Against the background of fifty million, mobile PUBG. Can we now expect something worthwhile from smartphone games? Switch delivers as close to home gaming as possible without being tied to the notorious sofa and TV – anywhere.
I'm sure there will be at least one reader who remembers GPD Win. I'll explain to the rest – this is a crowdfunding project, which is a pocket clamshell on an energy-efficient line of x86 processors Intel, running on a desktop OS Windows. Thanks to the operating system and GPD processor, win can run any PC game. In theory. In practice, this kind of gaming turns into a good old showdown with a PC, only multiplied by extremely low hardware performance. However, if you love PC gaming so much that you cannot live without Windows in your pocket, then why not. But Switch GPD win is a competitor only in a rather narrow scenario – you can't play on TV, there is no local multiplayer, the choice of games is limited to not very demanding titles with Windows. While Nintendo has tried to create a universal product that is friendly to users of all ages and categories.
First, it's worth explaining how it looks and works.
Hardware and modes of use
The core of the console is a rather chubby tablet with a 6.2 ”720p screen and active cooling. Contrary to my fears, the operation of the cooler does not raise any questions – in the portable mode you will hardly ever hear it, the revs are minimal. In a stationary, the rotational speed clearly increases, but even then the sound of the console can be heard only at a distance of a couple of tens of centimeters from it.
Removable controllers – joycons are installed on the sides of the tablet. From a technical point of view, joycons are the main distinguishing feature of the Switch. In the tiny body of each mini-gamepad, in addition to the standard controls for any console, batteries and wireless interfaces, there are accelerometers, gyroscopes, HD vibration motors, and in one – even an infrared scanner (reacts to proximity). In total, the number of buttons on the joycon fully complies with modern standards of consoles. This detail is important, because usually portable gaming systems are deprived of the second pair of keys, then the pressed sticks. Quite often even both. And this is minus four buttons, which is often an obstacle to porting classic games from large platforms.
Typical gamepad layout using an example of an XBOX controller. RT and LT are the second pair of shifts (triggers)
By the way, the vaunted remote play on the PS Vita stumbles over the absence of these buttons, allowing you to connect to your PS4 and access your home game library from anywhere. Triggers are the basis of control in many modern games, and the rear touchpad is a rather mediocre replacement. For the new Nintendo console, the keys were not spared, and this is an exceptional case. True, there were some compromises. First, the shifts are not analog, and that's bad. If you have experience with any stationary console in the last fifteen years, you know what speed control is in racing by pressing the acceleration button. Joykons have shifts, like other buttons, only have two positions. It is clear why this is implemented this way: inside the miniature controllers there was simply no room for deeply squeezed hammers. And for the sake of standardization (so that the same game is controlled equally in all modes), the same “clicking” keys were installed in the optional full-sized pro controller. But about him later.
The second disadvantage of joycones is expected – the size. Obviously, the Nintendo engineers did not have much room for maneuver – on the one hand, there are minimal dimensions for a comfortable game, on the other hand, the already not the most compact pocket console (I personally only found such a pocket in a down jacket) has nowhere to increase further. Not everyone is happy with the result – on the forums there are still complaints from users, whose fingers twist into a knot after a couple of hours of playing. But, on the contrary, after the acquisition I was surprised how easy it was for me to control with such a modest size of manipulators. But we are talking about me – a person who can spend 8 hours in a row in the game. It should be noted right away that the autonomy of the joycon is also pleasing. When the set-top box itself can be discharged in three or four hours, you cannot expect continuous operation from almost weightless controllers around 15 hours. And this is after the DualShock 4.
Joykons in the cradle
Perhaps someone will ask why gamepads have more autonomy than the console itself. So, it's time to talk about the second scenario for using NS – stationary. You remove the joycon from the tablet, install it in the complete docking station connected to the power supply and the TV via HDMI, and continue to play on the big screen. You either take the controllers one at a time in your hand, or install them in a special plastic mount (also supplied with the console), thus assembling an absurd-looking, but quite comfortable gamepad. This is where the autonomy of joikons becomes relevant. The fact is that they lack the usual connectors for connecting a charger. Instead, each has a dedicated contact pad. Either play or charge by connecting to your tablet. There is a proprietary type-c cradle on the market specifically to address this issue, but trust me, you don't need it. There will be enough controllers from morning to evening, even if you don't pause at all (and of course it's worth doing them). And nothing prevents you from putting them on charge in the evening before going to bed. For a year of use, I have never brought the joycon to a full discharge.
What is worth buying in addition to the rich standard kit out of the box is the already mentioned Pro Controller. Despite the name, it is, of course, not a Pro, but an ordinary Standard. A solid gamepad with an asymmetrical arrangement of the sticks and, in general, the size of the controller from Microsoft. It's easy to use the console with or without TV mode, but it really does get better with it. Firstly, this is the most autonomous gamepad of all the described here. Three weeks between charges? Easy! Secondly, you don't have to jerk the joycons again (mechanics, you know). Third, this way you get two full-size gamepads for local multiplayer.
I chose a funny Pro controller for myself – to match the console
Local multiplayer is the third (and most original) mode of NS operation. With the massive proliferation of the Internet, co-op games have come to focus primarily on online, while Nintendo continues to promote party gaming. How many manufacturers on the market offer the ability to play together on the same console as standard out of the box? One. And it would seem that all these split-screens are in the distant past, and now each player sits in front of his 60-inch screen in large headphones of aggressive colors and communicates with friends via voice chat on a special gaming newspeak. But it's worth seeing with your own eyes what happens to people far from the game world, after five minutes with a joycon in hand. In promotional materials, this management method looked contrived and overly casual. In fact, playing with a girl in Mario Kart 8 deluxe during an air flight should not have anything to do with competitive multiplayer in rainbow six siege. The main thing is that this thing is always with you, ready to launch at any moment. They threw down the built-in leg, set the tablet on a horizontal surface, took a joycon each and launched a game designed for co-op.
Portable multiplayer mode
And there are enough of these games. In addition to the aforementioned mario kart, there are also Arms, 1-2 switch, Pokken Tournament, Super Bomberman R, Super Mario Odyssey, Captain Toad – I haven't even listed half. And yet there is still Mario Party ahead, which single-handedly knocks out all Sony's attempts with Playlink (for all my love for the latter). Switch is a great party thing. And you can have such parties anywhere. More than once I have had a situation when the first reaction to my sudden offer to play something was perplexity. But as soon as the two of them made one race in Mario Kart, and the opponent was already unstoppable. The beautiful girl Alice, who steadfastly endures my gambling addiction (and, by the way, helps to edit this text, wading through the jungle of unfamiliar terminology), was not noticed herself in a special love of gaming. Having bought the console, on the first evening I offered to play something together. Imagine my surprise when, 15 minutes later, I lost my joikon, and then the beautiful girl Alice continued to play without me. Because “it's difficult with you.”
Flexible complexity is one of the pillars of accessibility in Nintendo projects. Almost every title I've tried seems overly simple at first. Some (like Super Mario Odyssey) can be played before the end credits without too much trouble. But, oddly enough, this is just the beginning of the real game. It took me 3 days to complete the story (about 15 hours). To complete the game – 3 weeks (70). As a result, the border between “children's” and “adult” projects is blurred. An affordable single with a furious endgame, asymmetric co-op, customizable difficulty for each participant in local competitive multiplayer – all this allows me to play with the same interest with my twenty-eight-year-old younger brother. Therefore, when I do have a child, I am ready to leave Swich as the only prefix. You can play with your child, and also, having seized a free moment, retire somewhere in a closed room without a TV.
As I said before, portable use is what interested me in the Nintendo Switch in the first place. My work is related to the execution of clients' orders. Accordingly, almost every day there are small breaks, when all tasks have already been completed, and new ones have not yet arrived. In such cases, a pocket console is a great way to pass the time. Especially if the bosses are focused on results, and not on creating the appearance of a stormy activity. Several years ago I had a PS Vita for these purposes, but it has outlived its usefulness. Since then, a replacement has suggested itself, which has become a novelty from Nintendo.
I perfectly remember my first impression after the coveted box was brought home and unpacked, half an hour later in the inevitable “Zelda”. A slight disappointment. No wizard in the blue helicopter flew in, the universe was not shaken. I had heard so much about the special atmosphere of Nintendo that I could not help anticipating some kind of alien experience. No, a game with quite ordinary graphics and familiar controls. But after another ten hours I caught a kind of childish interest. I was reminded of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, which I spent a lot of time with on PSOne, but I never saw the ending. The goal was not to finish the game, but to see what else was there. Find something new. And when I launched Soul Reaver a few years ago on PS Vita, I was delighted to discover that the game still has hidden corners with mysteries, previously unknown. So it is with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With rapture for a hundred hours, I explored the dungeons, found secret labyrinths and islands. I climbed the mountains, swearing dirtyly at the sudden storm that had swept me away from the very top. The plot-based external emptiness of the world hides behind itself an amazing feature that fills the gameplay with meaning: under every bush and stone, around every corner – some small discovery awaits. Conditions are constantly changing, you have to rebuild and use ingenuity. For example, in search of the next dungeon, you can stumble upon stones neatly laid out in a small circle on the ground. Only one thing is missing. You find a stone somewhere nearby, put it in an empty place – a funny forest elf appears and gives you a seed as a reward. What to do with it is absolutely unclear. And this seed has a use, but you can spend a hundred hours in the game and defeat the final boss, without knowing why it was needed. And in the game these seeds are hidden, for a minute, almost a thousand. Although the tasks are repeated from time to time, the search for these particular secrets alone brings a lot of positive emotions. There are also large-scale multistage riddles that cannot be solved just by passing by. This is the advantage of the hybrid console design. At home on TV, I slowly explored the world, put notes on the map and went through the main quest. In my free time at work, I visited previously found points of interest, one after another solving riddles left for later. It turned out to be a perfect division of the gameplay, and one game was split into two. The first is about exploring the open world, the second is a pocket puzzle.
If I have anything to dislike BOTW for, it’s for Yuri Lozu, who always sings in my head at such moments.
After Zelda, my love for the Switch grew from game to game. Then Disgaea 5, Splatoon 2, Mario + Rabbids, Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Donkey Kong, acquaintance with Bayonetta and Skyrim happened. Yes, I managed to never play TES until 2018. In general, I was very lucky with the assortment of multiplatform games from third-party studios on Switch: in addition to Skyrim with Bayonetta, I also missed L.A. Noire, and both Resident Evil Revelations. And if you add to this the exclusives of the failed WiiU, which Nintendo is now gradually transferring to a clearly more successful platform (the annual circulation of NS sold has exceeded the WiiU indicators for all five years of its short life), then a decent list of big releases is already coming out. The number of boxes in the house began to grow before our eyes. Despite my commitment to digital releases on PS4, it makes more sense for Switch to buy physical editions. As a medium, cartridges are much more convenient than disks. First, they are not so gentle. Secondly, the reading speed is high enough that the software is launched directly from the cartridge, without installation. Yes, the patches of the first day and other updates have not been canceled, but the savings in free memory are significant – 15 physical games with all updates take up much less space than their digital versions. There are projects for which there are no patches at all. For example, the mentioned Resident Evil, the 2012 game. All possible updates have already been released a long time ago and are immediately included in the release. By purchasing the cartridge, I save about 8 GB on the console memory card. As a result, buying boxes allows me to have a much larger assortment of titles with me – it was enough just to purchase a special case for cartridges. A two hundred gigabyte microSD is used for projects that came out only in digital form.
And this is indie. Lots of indies. On PlayStation, I usually bypassed such games and got acquainted only with very rare, very sensational projects: Limbo and Inside, FEZ, Journey – I think the pattern is clear. The point is that the amount of time I can devote to playing games on large consoles is strictly limited by the need to be at home. And in the list of priority projects indie are relegated to the background. With a portable, everything is different. So I began to study the proposals with interest. There were plenty of them. Shovel Knight, Celeste, Night in the Woods, Steamworld Dig, Hollow Knight, Owlboy, The End is Nigh all play nicely on the Switch, and the irony is that gradually the Nintendo console began to eat away at home game time. I could easily spend a weekend at Night in the Woods while the new Assassin was waiting on the PS4 Pro's hard drive.
Questions to the hardware
Before buying, I was worried about how the picture output from a mobile processor would look on a large 4K TV. Especially after six months of living with a “proshka”. The fears were in vain. Yes, this is not the level of older consoles, and when you come close to the screen, you can clearly see the image crumbling into pixels. But in the usual position “from the couch” everything is quite acceptable and within the normal range – certainly no worse than PS3. I don’t know how many of about a thousand hours played on the console were spent in stationary mode (the console does not give such statistics), but, according to feelings, not less than half. And there was never a desire to squeeze the picture down to a portable six inches to hide the flaws of the graphics. This is partly due to the console's ability to adapt to TV mode. The processor frequency rises, freeing up additional power, and the picture quality increases. Sometimes it's critical. For example, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which in portable mode can reduce dynamic resolution to ridiculous 360p in especially hot moments, does not allow itself in a docking station.
Breath of the wild in close-up TV mode
Regarding the tablet's own screen, the network also often contains complaints about the air gap, the easily scratched display coating and the low resolution by the standards of 2018. About the latter I will only say that the perception of grain is purely individual. Can you see specific pixels on the NS screen? No problem. Does it get in the way? Not at all. This is Nintendo. Have you seen 3DS XL? 800 × 280 on an almost 5-inch screen. That's where the pixels are. And this is a prefix, which is still not just produced, but also receives new revisions. You take Switch in your hands after it and you understand: progress is evident. The screen covering, in turn, is absolutely expected – it is plastic. Again, at first glance, in 2018, when glass screens of smartphones have long become a default feature, when even manufacturers of cheap Chinese pipes have mastered all these “lamination” and “airless screens”, to meet a plastic-covered display in a device for $ 300 is almost a personal insult to aesthetes. But I didn’t expect anything else, since smartphone building standards do not always apply to other handheld devices. It just so happened that, despite all the talk about the growing up of the industry, about the average gaming age, having crossed the threshold of 30 years, portable consoles are designed with the expectation that they will be used by children. Therefore, the screen was plastic on the PSP, and on the PS Vita, and on all Nintendo portables. Yes, it scratches very easily, but it practically does not break. Once I gave my “vita” to my younger brother, who managed to break a couple of tablets and smartphones before finishing the first grade. The console had a very hard time – whatever they did with it. But now, three years later (and six from the date of purchase), her screen is still intact. Worn but not broken. So, the plastic screen is, as they say, not a bug, but a feature. And adult aesthetes … Well, on the very first day after the purchase I pasted on a protective glass, and everything suits me.
And finally, one of the most important parameters of a pocket console is autonomy. In the case of the Nintendo Switch, this is perhaps the main drawback that almost everyone points out. Let me tell you straight: with due diligence, a fully charged set-top box can be brought to shutdown in two and a half hours. And then “but” begins. But this is at maximum brightness, with Wi-Fi on and in a hard game. My results are on average three to four and a half hours. Yes, it is not at all the ultimate dream, but in everyday life it does not bother me in any way. First, where I usually play autonomously, there are sockets. Secondly, I hardly have more than three hours a day for portable gaming. Thirdly, there is a charged external battery in my backpack anyway. Which a couple of months ago helped me survive the eight hour flight without any problems. Overall, when you consider the size of the NS and the quality of games it offers, its battery life can be considered an achievement.
Services and software
When it comes to software and services, Nintendo's minimalist approach to this issue is at first bewildering. The console, except for games, can … about anything. You don't look at YouTube for the level walkthrough you're stuck on. Don't open the guide in a browser. Don't start streaming. All this is not. Store, settings, screenshots album – this is where the list of pre-installed applications ends. Even the 3DS had more choices. On the one hand, this is a strange decision. Moreover, such austerity still did not save the console from hacking – the vulnerability was found directly in the processor, no browser was needed. On the other hand, having a six-inch smartphone in my pocket capable of stretching 6-8 hours of surfing, I have never suffered from the lack of YouTube on the Switch. But there are not enough trophies. In pursuit of another platinum on the PlayStation, I often and enjoyed playing games several times. In the absence of an achievement system on Nintendo platforms, there is often not enough motivation for a go-around in a Bayonetta.
iOS compared to such minimalism – starship interface
But while Nintendo ignores many of the generally accepted options in software, some things are worked out with much more attention than they have done in competing products. For example, parental controls and game usage statistics. I can see the number of hours spent in a particular game, how much time was spent per day (to the minute), and what days of the month I played. And in the same way, you can control the child's console – not only collect statistics, but also set time limits for the day, receive notifications on new installed games on the smartphone and extend the child's game session in real time. Just like in the computer clubs of my childhood.
I can only say about the online service that it exists. Connecting in games is usually p2p, that is, without dedicated servers. For me, a resident of the Far East, this translates into a small problem. With rare exceptions, all the players I met have one thing in common – their nicknames are written in Japanese characters. I made a total reassessment of the curvature of my arms after I started playing with the Japanese. But over time, I got used to it and began to get special pleasure from the evening in Splatoon 2 in the company of gamers from the Land of the Rising Sun. However, Nintendo plans to introduce a paid online subscription in September, following a bad example from competitors, and I'm not going to pay for it – it's very rare for me to need network multiplayer on a semi-portable console to pay even $ 20 a year for it.
I think I've come to the most frustrating part – talking about Nintendo and money. I often see complaints about the cost of games for this company's platforms. But who takes a word when you can go and check it yourself? At first glance, everything is simple – AAA projects cost four thousand rubles at the start. This is the standard and it would be naive to expect something different from Nintendo. But with further study of the topic, details are revealed. Firstly, eShop sales are the saddest promotions of all. It's normal to give a 20% discount on a game that came out a year ago. And judging by the prices, Nintendo's greed virus is magically transmitted to third-party publishers. If on PS4 Bethesda shoves its Doom and Skyrim into every sale (and on Xbox Live in general this week you can buy the Doom + Wolfenstein 2 bundle for a thousand rubles), then in the eShop there was only one discount for each – the price fell from four to about two and a half thousand. And this happens to almost everyone. Although there are exceptions – for example, Night in the Woods is cheaper on NS than on PS4. But such cases are extremely rare.
Secondly, the leapfrog with prices. Since the introduction of the so-called “tax on Google”, only one of the console digital stores increased prices by 18%, shifting the tax to end customers. Guess which one. Whereas VAT on sales of physical copies has been paid by stores for centuries. What did it lead to? To buy a cartridge in a store is often 300-500 rubles cheaper than downloading a digital version. And these are not retail promotions – this is the starting retail price for Nintendo's own projects. With games from third-party developers, the opposite situation occurs, and here the cost of the cartridges themselves – quite expensive and, naturally, proprietary – already affects. In addition, the price of the same game may differ depending on the region of the account. Which can be freely changed. As a result, the brain of an unfortunate gamer who decided to save money swells from the need to compare all possible purchase options. But it won't come out cheaply. By the end of my first year of owning NS, I decided to make a budget – to calculate how much money was spent during this period. 65 thousand. Taking into account all the discounts that I tried to apply whenever possible. 15 cartridges and 17 indies. Therefore, the Switch is definitely the most expensive consoles on the market. Yes, there is a hack, but this decision is already on the user's conscience.
In the comments on the PS4 text, I was told that there was a lack of a clear conclusion, so I decided to pay special attention to this part. Who needs a Nintendo Switch and why? The weakest of the home, the least autonomous of the portable, the console has no additional features and is perhaps the most expensive in terms of the cost of games. After a year of use, my opinion: this is the best choice for adults. When there is almost no time to play, there is enough money. If your head is already full of worries and the events of the last fifty hours of “The Witcher” simply do not linger there. If the TV is always busy with children or wife. If you are of little interest, ten good games came out on the platform in a year or a hundred, because one will be enough for you for a month or two. And if your youth was not without “Mario” and “Bomberman”. Also NS is great as a second console when AAA fighters become boring and cause you to yawn. An excellent (albeit not perfect) portable, unique party gaming device and platform for Nintendo exclusives. If the Switch were not so versatile, it could be considered another set-top box for a narrow circle of fans. But this is its main difference – it is designed for a much larger audience than PS4 and Xbox. The irony is that it is least suitable for hardcore gamers as the main and only console. NS is contraindicated for them – there will be disappointment and complaints about the lack of games. I myself, as you might have guessed, remained so delighted with this thing that in the end I also got a Nintendo 2DS XL – a cheap, truly pocket-sized console that provided me with a further immersion in the realm of Donkey Kong, Metroid ”And“ Mario ”. After that I was sure that I had equipped myself head over heels with consoles.
This continued until June 10 this year.