The Nintendo Switch launches this week all over the globe, but we've been lucky enough to have our very own system for the past week.
We've put the hybrid console through its paces by exploring Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, wiggling our behinds in Just Dance 2017, blowing up friends in Super Bomberman R and milking imaginary cows in 1-2-Switch.
We're now pretty confident we can pass judgment on Nintendo's new ‘all-in-one’ gaming platform, so without further ado, here's what we love about Switch – as well as the things we'd change, if we could.
We love: Play anytime, anywhere and with anyone
Nintendo are making a big deal out of the fact that the Switch is a home console and a portable at the same time – and rightly so. This is a unique concept in the gaming arena. It's a system which blurs the lines between the handheld and domestic markets. No longer do you have to put up with playing a lesser experience on the bus to work – you can take your AAA epic with you on the road. Not only that, the slide-off Joy-Con controllers double as joypads, offering the potential for two-player battles no matter where you happen to be. You can challenge a friend or simply ask the person sitting next to you on the train if they fancy their chances at Ultra Street Fighter II. The choice is yours.
We love: No more waiting
From a standing start the Switch boots up in an astonishingly fast time, which makes a refreshing change from the likes of the Wii U and 3DS, both of which could be much faster in this respect. However, it's the Switch's sleep mode which really impresses. You can force the console to slumber and pick up where you left off in your current game instantly, a vital feature when you consider that you'll be using the system out of the house where the ability to pause your progress is of paramount importance. By opting to use solid-state game cards, Nintendo have removed the annoyance of lengthy loading times, giving us a surprisingly nippy experience.
We love: The glorious UI
Nintendo systems don't have the best reputation when it comes to user interfaces – they tend to be functional rather than a pleasure to use. But with Switch, the company have truly turned a corner. The UI is sleek, clean and incredibly fast, with no lengthy pauses when moving between menus. What's perhaps most exciting is that there's plenty of scope for Nintendo to build and improve on what's here so far. They can add more options and features as time goes by, potentially making this one of the most accomplished interfaces on any console system. We also love the fact that it's possible to move around and make selections purely via touch control, too.
We love: Zelda, also known as the best launch game, ever
It may sound like a bold statement, but Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is the best game ever to launch alongside a games console – and we include the likes of Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 in that. Of course, it helps that the game has been in development on Wii U for years – this isn't something Nintendo have had to cook up in the space of 12 months – but regardless of its origins, Breath Of The Wild is worth owning a Switch for alone. We'd even recommend it over the Wii U edition, because nothing beats the thrill of being able to take your adventure with you on the road, and Hyrule looks positively stunning on that 6.2-inch, 720p screen.
We love: Impressive battery life
With early reports suggesting that the Switch could be saddled with lacklustre battery life, it’s come as a pleasant surprise to find it's not actually as bad as we thought. In fact, Switch has around the same stamina as handhelds like the 3DS and PS Vita, which is packing some serious graphical grunt compared to what’s gone before. It's also worth noting that the USB Type-C connection on the system happily accepts USB power banks, so you can use one of those to top-up when you're on your travels.
We love: Those adorable Joy-Cons
Remember the first time you picked up a Wii remote? You may well have consigned this groundbreaking controller to the back of the cupboard, but Nintendo's spiritual successor has the potential to be every bit as famous. The Joy-Cons are small but comfortable to use, and come with a wide range of features, including super-realistic HD Rumble, NFC read/write support and a motion-sensing IR scanner that can detect hand movements and other objects. Taken on their most basic level, they're small controllers which have impressive battery life and offer the scope for two-player action at all times. But titles like 1-2-Switch – which are built around the special functions of the Joy-Con – truly show what can be done with these input devices. We can't wait to see what Nintendo and third-party developers come up with in the future.
We'd change: The lack of Netflix
We're so accustomed to our consoles doubling up as media centres that it's actually quite jarring to not see that familiar Netflix symbol on the Switch's home screen – or any other media service, for that matter. Nintendo have already stated that they'll be bringing other services to the console soon – including a web browser – so we're not too concerned about this. But it would've been nice to have the option from day one, especially as the Switch – complete with its lovely kickstand – would make for the perfect portable movie-binging device.
We'd change: The tiny internal storage
The Switch has 32GB of internal storage, but when OS files are taken into account you only have access to around 25GB of that figure. When you consider that Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is a 13GB download on its own, it's pretty obvious that you're going to need to buy a microSD card sooner rather than later. Thankfully it's possible to pick up these cards relatively cheaply, and the cost of the high-capacity versions is dropping all the time. Even so, we'd fully expect Nintendo to release a revised Switch in a year or so that comes with more internal space out of the box.
We'd change: The scratch-prone screen
If you own a cutting-edge iOS or Android device then you'll know how resilient the tempered glass screens on those products are – they're capable of taking some serious punishment. Sadly Nintendo haven't used that kind of material on Switch, and have instead opted for a plastic panel which picks up scratches like a magnet. You'll want to purchase a screen protector if you're really sensitive about this kind of thing, and a carry case is a must for when you're out of the house. If you have kids then expect your Switch's 6.2-inch screen to have some battle scars within a few weeks.
We’d change: Virtual Console delay
Given that the Wii U failed precisely because of its dearth of third party games, a lack of Nintendo’s own games on day one puts a damper on festivities somewhat. Nintendo’s back catalogue is utterly unparalleled, so why it isn’t available on the Switch from the start we’re not sure. Technical and licensing reasons almost certainly, but we certainly hope they get resolved quickly, as the reports that GameCube games will come to the service have us more excited than Tingle at a map sale.