Unless you have been either incredibly lucky in getting a pre-order or even luckier finding one in stores, you’re probably wondering if the Switch is worth all the buzz and attention it’s been getting. Hell, I’m sure that for some of you, you’re probably wondering what took Nintendo so long to make a new console, not realizing the Wii U has been around. Welp I was one of the lucky ones who not only got a Switch, but I also have had no problems with it. I can also safely say that without a doubt, this is one of the most important console releases in years.
When you look at the current state of gaming, it may not shock you that apps and smart devices are now being counted as game consoles as well. In fact, they are the reason many people wanted Nintendo to just give up and go third-party a few years back. I have never wanted to embrace smart devices as game consoles. I hate the Free-to-play model, and I loathe the luck-based bullshit surrounding these Gachapon-style RPGs. But then something interesting happened and that was Pokemon Go. Nintendo embraced the mobile device and made something that could really only exist on that hardware. Now, you might think I was pissed off, but to be honest, I realized that exposure to a Nintendo IP on a smart device could fuel interest in the rest of Nintendo’s brand. It’s actually a good thing. The smart device creates different experiences that you can’t really find on console, at little to no financial risk to the user. People embraced it, and it’s definitely here to stay. Now why am I mentioning all this? Well….
Thanks to the rise of the mobile game space, it’s a little less clear just what exactly is a game console. If you ask Sony, they feel it’s something to bridge media platforms in order to create all-in-one devices, sort of like a weaker version of a PC – only, this plugs into your TV and is dedicated to playing your games no matter what. If you ask Microsoft, they look at Sony and say “whatever they do, except with a green tint and better online functionality”. If you ask Nintendo, they don’t really seem to offer much of an answer. That is, until you actually play on the Switch for yourself.
The Switch looks exactly like a tablet. You can connect your controllers to the edges and make the ultimate portable console, or you can connect it to your TV and do some traditional gaming. The important thing to remember here is that it looks like a tablet. Nintendo saw that the smart device has changed gaming. Nintendo is asking the gamer, with the Switch, “What is a game console?” If you look at the start up screen, it’s very minimal. It shows your game library and a couple of icons at the bottom, one of which is for the E-shop, where you can obviously buy more games. You can’t surf the internet on it. You can’t use different apps on it like you can on your phone/tablet, and yet it looks like a smart device….Why?
I believe it’s because Nintendo is reclaiming what it means to be a dedicated gaming device. They wear the smart device as a kind of mask to hide what lies beneath: Nintendo’s interpretation of what a game console should be. Let’s look at the games that Nintendo launched (not the third-party ones): The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Snipperclips, and 1-2 Switch. These games were released on purpose to send a message. If you look at Zelda, it’s a game that has nothing but an open world to explore. This is something that has been done before, but it feels so amazing to be doing it in Hyrule. I’m dying more times than I ever have before in a Zelda game. I’m completely lost and unsure of where to go. I’m slightly overwhelmed by how gigantic the world is, and yet, it is one of the most sublime gaming experiences I have undertaken and it’s one I won’t soon forget. Snipperclips is a game that looks childish and stupid, but requires constant communication with the person you are playing with. You have to work together to solve the puzzles, and more importantly, you have to speak to illustrate your idea for what to do as a team. 1-2 Switch, despite its slightly hefty price tag of $50, will give you memories that you won’t forget because of how ridiculous you look playing these mini-games with your friends. With these games, Nintendo is saying that gaming is inherently a blank canvas, full of open ideas for the gamer to explore and see what they, as individuals, like and don’t like. However, Nintendo feels that one thing games should be is inclusive for all people and gaming skills, so it’s vital for Nintendo to create experiences that can only be had by playing next to the person and not just communicating digitally through the internet. That’s what I meant by the Switch treating its tablet structure as a mask. It’s using its tablet appearance to tell us that these devices have indeed changed our lives, but we may have lost how to communicate in person as a result. For Nintendo, it’s also never about graphical power or teraflops of their console; it’s about the unique memories and experiences that can be had with its hardware.
So what has my time with the Switch been like? Magical. Mesmerizing. Incredible. Not something I will forget. I think it goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway) that if you have even the slightest interest in gaming, you should buy one. It’s probably the greatest game console to come out in a long time.
Do you own a Switch? Is there anything else you would like to know? Feel free to leave comments!