Welcome to he Wii U Mk. 2, also known as the Nintendo Switch. Taking many of the assets, ideas and aspects of its predecessor, while trying very hard to learn from what led its older design to fail, the Switch aims to offer three things from the start: Accessibility, portability and convenience. While such praise might sound back-handed, almost insulting, it doesn't take long to realise that the Switch has captured qualities other consoles have long forgotten.
The big one here, the obvious one, is ability to remove or plug in the machine from the television. Serving as both a cost cutting measure and a means to more easily work gameplay around a busy schedule, it manages to strike a far more effective balance between power and performance than the ill-fated PS Vita. The large six inch screen proves to be both bright and colourful, even on the power-saving airplane, and offers between two to six hours of straight gameplay depending upon the demands placed upon the processor. This makes it perfect for both casual gaming at home and on the move, and the plug-in station's compact design makes it a cinch to quickly recharge the device with few issues.
Furthermore, the bonus of two "Joy-Con" half-controllers from the start is a very welcome bonus for anyone who hungers for the long lost-art of split-screen gameplay. Permitting players to engage in multiplayer sessions at no extra cost from the outset, it means that you have smaller but engaging release titles like Fast RMX to rapidly supplement the AAA giants like Zelda. Going hand in hand with portability, this naturally means that split-screen gaming can be set up anywhere, and the previously arduous affair of moving a console from one house to the next is neatly sidestepped.
Many of the internal visuals remain identical to the Switch's predecessor, meaning there is a very low learning curve when it comes to getting to grips with this new machine. Selecting news, films and gaming is made easy thanks to a very simple but effective display and this goes for the machine on the whole. It is difficult to get anything wrong because it is so easy to set up, and even the act of basic upgrades such as internal memory is much easier to perform than with any other modern console.
Surprisingly, there are very few performance or graphical issues from the initial batch of games, with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild running almost perfectly save for one odd graphical glitch. Loading times are rapid and unlike some of the more sluggish issues a few other portable designs suffered from in their early days, the Switch rapidly reacts to almost any input or slight shift.
The main criticisms of the Switch stem more from its support than any innate failings on its part. Already Nintendo's infamous response to certain quality complaints, claiming that dead pixels are not a flaw, has spread like wildfire around the internet. Furthermore, the relatively limited (if easily upgradable) starting memory will understandably put off some buyers, and many of the accessories are already remarkably costly just for a few basic benefits. So, while you certainly get a decent and generally fun platform on release, no one would blame you for having some trepidation when it comes to any forthcoming releases. Plus, and this has to be said, the initial controllers do have their problems. While they are fine when fitted to the main body and the bonus of having two half-controllers on release is a definite bonus, there is no denying that they stat to feel uncomfortable after a few hours of use.
More than anything else though, the Nintendo Switch is a move back towards video games consoles actually being consoles. Much as we might love them, for all the great games they feature, both the Playstation and Xbox have made the continual mistake of trying to beat PCs at their own game. Forgoing performance in favour of higher graphics, abandoning accessibility in favour of rapid updates or a plug-in-and-play mentality, both platforms are stuck in a battle they simply can't win. With this move, Nintendo have not only focused upon aspects which do not directly compete with the PC, but they have offered additional benefits and reasons to buy a Switch even if you have an existing platform.
While it might have its flaws, there is no denying that this new system is a gigantic leap in the right direction, and shows great promise right out of the starting gate. If you have the slightest interest in getting one it is well worth your hard earned cash.
Basic Internal Specs:
- 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen (1280 x 720)
- Maximum resolution of 1080p 60fps when plugged into a TV
- Nvidia "customised" Tegra processor
- 32GB storage
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- Ethernet internet through optional adapter
- Bluetooth 4.1 (on tablet)
- Bluetooth 3.0 (in Joy-Cons)
- NFC (in right Joy-Con for Amiibo support)
- Stereo speakers (on tablet)
- PCM 5.1 channel audio in TV mode
- HDMI output (on dock)
- USB Type-C port (on tablet)
- 3x USB 2.0 ports (on dock) - USB 3.0 support to be added at future date
- Headphone/mic port (on tablet)
- MicroSD card slot (on tablet - plus microSDHC/microSDXC support)
- Game cartridge slot (on tablet)
- 4,310mAh battery (on tablet - up to six hours of play on one charge)
- 525mAh batteries (in Joy-Cons - up to 20 hours play time)