We were lucky enough to get an early look at the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But now that the console and its killer launch game are finally available to all (if you can find them, at least), we've asked several of our editors about their thoughts on the system. Despite the Switch's limited launch-title selection, most of them came away impressed.
Gallery: Nintendo Switch review | 7 Photos
Gallery: Nintendo Switch review | 7 Photos
Aaron Souppouris, Senior Editor
I've had the Switch for just under two weeks. I was always going to like it, but recently, I've grown to love it.
I traveled away from my home in London to New York a couple of days ago, and the Switch has made a great travel buddy. Typically, I take a 3DS or a Vita (or both) to pass the time on the eight-hour flight and scratch my gaming itch after late nights writing in hotels. This time, though, I essentially have a home console always within arm's reach.
I played Zelda pretty much solidly on the flight over, and the plane's USB port kept me reasonably charged. Since then, I've raced in Fast RMX when I've had a spare 10 minutes and also played a fair amount of the new Shovel Knight DLC. Gaming is such a huge part of my life, and the Switch has kept me connected to it more than any portable console before it.
Moving forward, I can see myself using my Switch to play cross-platform indies a lot. Why would I buy Celeste on my PC or PlayStation 4 when I can grab it on Switch and play it anywhere? The same goes for pretty much every cross-platform game that comes to Nintendo's console. That flexibility -- even to play in bed rather than on my couch -- is a huge plus. Sure, the Switch is never going to replace either a PC or a PS4 for me, but it's definitely going to fill the gaps in between better than my Vita ever has.
Sean Buckley, Associate Editor
I bought the Nintendo Switch thinking I'd use it mostly as a home console. I imagined dropping it in the TV dock on the first day and taking it out only rarely to play in bed or at my desk. My weekend had other plans, taking me out of the house to pitch in at a part-time job and visit my in-laws for a surprise dinner. I took my Switch with me everywhere. It was fantastic.
Playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild during the slow moments of my day and lying on the floor of my wife's childhood home at night was the perfect respite from my unexpectedly busy weekend. I knew the Nintendo Switch was designed to be a hybrid portable game console, but I honestly didn't expect it to work so well. The Switch pops in and out of sleep mode almost instantly, making it ideal for quick pick-up-and-play sessions. There's no load time for the game you were playing back at home or impatient wait for the console to boot up. The screen felt a little small if set anywhere further than a couple feet away, but whenever I wanted it, Hyrule was there.
You can blame my trepidation about the Switch's performance on its spiritual predecessor. No, not the Wii U (though it has its own imperfections) but the NVIDIA Shield tablet. Like the Switch, it's a NVIDIA-powered gaming tablet that's designed to hook up to your TV for full-screen gaming. Unlike Nintendo's kit, its TV experience is cumbersome, forcing the user to dip into menus and choose the right setting before settling back on the couch. The Nintendo Switch, on the other hand, just worked. It completely fills Nintendo's promise, offering the same experience I have on my TV at home anywhere I can carry the console's tablet.
I'll still probably use the Switch primarily as a traditional home console. The way I play video games has just changed -- but unlike my 3DS, which I almost never play at home, the Nintendo Switch is the console I play at home. That's far more enticing than I thought it would be.
Kris Naudus, Senior Editor, Database
After three days with the Switch, I have so many questions. Why can I only put the dock on the right side of my TV? Is Nintendo trying to instill some fūsui into my living room? How the hell did my friend manage to put the Switch into the dock backward and crooked? How many five-year-olds will do the same thing? Why are the wrist-strap attachments so hard to put on? How long will it be before I lose this kickstand? Why are the game cases so damn big? Could these game cards taste any worse? Why did I put that in my mouth? Am I milking this cow right? Why won't this baby shut up? And finally, am I the only person who didn't buy Zelda?
Stefanie Fogel, Contributing Editor
I spent all weekend playing on the Switch in both handheld and TV configurations. I love handhelds. I was an early adopter of the PS Vita, and if I had to save one gaming console from a fire I'd probably pick my 3DS. So I absolutely love the idea of a home console that also works as a fully functional handheld, but I'm withholding final judgement on the Switch.
The Switch in its tablet form feels comfy enough, as does the Joy Con grip. It's great that it powers on so quickly, and I like the minimalist UI. The battery life isn't great, however, and the lack of wireless headset support is disappointing. But the biggest reason that I'm currently in wait-and-see mode is the library. It's anemic right now, and a lot of the announced games don't have solid release dates. I have faith the situation will improve though. After the mild disaster that was the Wii U, Nintendo needs the Switch to succeed.
Timothy J. Seppala, Associate Editor
My biggest takeaway after a few days with the Switch is its social implications. No, not sharing screenshots to Facebook or Twitter but carrying the device with me wherever I go. The fact that I can take my shiny new Nintendo console anywhere and, within seconds of pulling it out of my bag, show it to my friends and parents has been a cool experience. I don't have to invite them over to my apartment or have a TV handy; I just press the power button and a no-compromises console game jumps to life in front of them.
I waited in line at Meijer with a few friends last Thursday night, got my console (neon, thank you very much) at midnight and picked up Zelda. We formed a Facebook group chat and have been trading tips and tricks since. But what surprised me most was how that Messenger chat translated to the real world. On Sunday, we went to a cafe to play Breath of the Wild together. It was an extension of something my friends had done with Elder Scrolls games prior: getting together in one room with everyone playing a massively single-player game on their own console, trading strategies and secrets they'd discovered.
Except this time no one was lugging around bulky CRT TVs, LCD computer monitors and boxy consoles that were meant to be set up once and never moved. No, we had three Switches sitting on a wobbly pair of tables, headphones half on, trading "holy shit, look at this cool thing I just found!" moments as people filtered in and out of the coffee shop. It didn't feel like we were spoiling anything for one another; instead, it drove us to seek out the neat thing the others had discovered. At that moment I realized I was not only a fan of the new Zelda but also the Switch itself.
But even as big as Breath of the Wild is, the Switch won't stay afloat without a steady stream of new games. Mario Odyssey is due out later this year, sure, but what's the future look like beyond that? For me and countless others, that's a question Nintendo needs to address. Thankfully, E3 is coming up, so we only have a few months left to guess. Until then, I have plenty of Sheikah Shrines to discover with my friends.
Mat Smith, Senior Editor
The Switch didn't launch with many games -- but that's OK. Nintendo's last console, the Wii U, came with a hefty 32 (mostly forgettable) launch games, ranging from New Super Mario Brothers U to Just Dance 4. In comparison, the Switch has just 16. But! It has The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. It sounds like shallow video game hyperbole, but (at just 14 hours in) I'm calling it a masterpiece. Nintendo made an open-world game that doesn't swallow you up in side quests and collectible time sinks. Sure, there are plenty of shrines, puzzles and trinkets to find, but I didn't feel obliged to do so -- and I didn't.
My journey in the game takes on a more organic shape. I run toward a shrine and a village girl chastises me, dragging me back to the entrance and forcing me to walk in a laborious spiral to the entrance. The nomadic traders offer me discounts in rainy weather. If I see something weird, I play around with it and I'm more often than not rewarded with items for my efforts. There's so much character built into everything, and the learning curve is just challenging enough that I don't even mind that this is the only game I can play on it.
You might be better off waiting for the next Mario game (or that Mario Kart 8 remake), but Zelda is such an incredible launch title -- heck, it's such an incredible game -- that I don't regret buying an entire console for it. Nintendo is off to a great start -- now it has to follow through soon with some more games.
Nick Summers, Associate Editor
Nick's Switch pre-order didn't show up, and he is sad.