Nine months with Nintendo Switch

It’s sort of hard to believe, but it’s been a whole nine months since the Nintendo Switch launched. Part of what makes that feel unbelievable is just how big of a year the Switch has had. 2017 was indeed packed for the Switch, and as we close in on the end of the Switch’s first full year of retail availability, it’s clear that Nintendo is onto something special.

The Good

That will come as a big relief to everyone who was holding their breath and hoping that Nintendo wouldn’t make the same mistakes all over again. Though it’s not perfect, the Switch represents a big one-eighty for Nintendo, not just in terms of sales, but also in terms of approach.

Perhaps the biggest change from the Wii U is that it finally feels like Nintendo has confidence in its platform. It didn’t take long to figure out that the Wii U was going to have a disappointing retail run, and after that became obvious, it felt like Nintendo’s own enthusiasm about the console dwindled quickly. It’s hard to blame Nintendo, but on the other side of the coin, how can customers get excited about buying a console if even the manufacturer isn’t giving its all in supporting and promoting it?

Nintendo almost seems like a completely different company these days. Fueled by consumer enthusiasm for the Switch, this little console is being promoted left and right, and Nintendo is putting first-party games on it at breakneck pace. There’s no such thing as giving a console too much support, but the number of launches the Switch has seen in its first nine months is certainly a rarity in the gaming world.

These aren’t second-string franchises either. Between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo has thrown some of its biggest franchises on the Switch in its first year. Those have been joined by new (or at least relatively new) franchises like Splatoon, ARMS, and Xenoblade Chronicles, leaving plenty of famous Nintendo characters and series for the years to come.

Not only that, but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are two of the best-reviewed games of the year. I gave both of those titles scores of 10/10, and I truly believe that when counted together, they are all you need to justify the purchase of a Switch. Both games offer so much excellent content that gamers of all kinds should make it a priority to play them.

Here’s the thing, though: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey aren’t all the Switch has to offer. Even if you have no interest in other Nintendo games, there are plenty of third-party releases and indie games to justify a purchase. It’s true that many of these games are ports of existing titles, but in many cases, they’re worth purchasing again on the Switch.

Take Skyrim, for instance, a game that many of you have played for hundreds of hours already. I thought I was done with Skyrim years ago, after spending many late nights playing and modding it on PC. Regardless of that, I’ve still been drawn to Skyrim on the Switch, thanks to the portability factor. Don’t get me wrong: the PC Skyrim is still the definitive version, but being able to play it anywhere I have my Switch is making even vanilla Skyrim fun again.

The same goes for games like Stardew Valley and The Binding of Isaac. While these games are just as good on other platforms, the Switch’s portability makes all of these a joy to play again. Then we have surprising Switch-exclusives like Golf Story, which seem to come entirely out of left field but are immensely enjoyable.

I’ve been buying consoles – many of them at launch – for the past 25 years, and I have a hard time coming up with a system that was so well supported within its first nine months. Players and developers both seem to be rallying behind the Switch, and assuming Nintendo doesn’t do anything to compromise that, we could be starting a very successful retail run for the console.

The Bad

Of course, Nintendo is often its own worst enemy, and there are still a few things lacking with the Switch. The complaints I have nine months out are largely they same as they were at launch. We still don’t know entirely what to expect from the Switch’s online component, and though that got a bit clearer with the launch of Splatoon 2, there are still some crucial features missing.

The biggest question I have right now is “Where is the Virtual Console?” Nintendo has said nothing about it, suggesting that it has no plans for such a feature, but why? The Virtual Console was one of the best things about the Wii and the Wii U and all implementations of it have been wildly successful. With GameCube and Wii games coming to the NVIDIA Shield in China, this seems like the perfect opportunity to launch something similar for the Switch.

I still don’t have a ton of confidence that Nintendo knows how to implement proper online systems, but I am more encouraged in that area than I previously was. The launch of voice chat with Splatoon 2 was a complete mess. There’s no reason to sugarcoat that, but in the time since then, it has gotten better. It’s not much, but the changes Nintendo made to the way the Switch smartphone app works are definitely a step in the right direction.

Still, I remain confused about why the app is even necessary in the first place. Can’t we simply have a communication system that’s based on the Switch hardware? Maybe there’s something I’m missing here, but the presence of that app seems frivolous and suggests that Nintendo is taking shots in the dark when it comes to creating value in an online service.

It’s true that there’s still time before Nintendo starts charging us for the privilege of playing online, but I feel that a lot of things need to change before the Switch’s online service is worth the $20 monthly fee Nintendo plans on implementing.

The Verdict

Even though I’ve enjoyed the Switch since day one, I didn’t say that it was a console worth buying until Super Mario Odyssey launched. That’s the major difference between this nine month review and my check-ins at three and six months after launch. Barring a few frustrations with Nintendo’s online strategy, the Switch is an immensely fun system that I think gamers of all backgrounds can enjoy.

Are you primarily a PC gamer? Get a Switch for when you’re away from your rig. Already have a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One? Buy a Switch instead of the other console you’re missing and tap into some of the great first-party games Nintendo has launched for the system. Don’t have a console at all? The Switch is a good place to start, especially with a $300 price tag.

I feel like most gamers out there would enjoy owning a Switch. The future looks bright too, with franchises like Pokemon and Metroid confirmed as in development. Given the typical industry lull we fall into after the holidays, I would imagine the next three months are going to be relatively quiet for the Switch, but I’m still excited to see how it closes out its first full year of retail availability.

How about it? Do you think the Switch is worth buying now, or should interested gamers wait longer? Do you have a Switch of your own that you’ve enjoyed playing? Head down to the comments section and give me your take!

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