Nintendo Switch: First Impressions

For the first time in nearly a decade, I own a gaming console.

Back in July 2020, I released a “Throwback Thursday” (TBT) post detailing my experience with video games. Unlike a lot of other kids, my family never had the “latest and greatest” gaming consoles.

My first experience with video games came from a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) my parents had. Despite the GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 being the dominant contemporary consoles at the time, I grew up enjoying Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (the first game I ever defeated), Super Mario World, Donkey Kong 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. To someone who didn’t have internet access until I was seven years old, it was all we had.

My first experience with video games was with a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), which debuted in 1990.

When I was eight or nine, I begged my parents to make the 16-year jump to the Nintendo Wii. My begging paid off, as on Christmas Eve (2008?) I unboxed a brand new Wii plus two games – Mario Kart Wii and Super Mario Bros. Wii. The Wii and these modern games were a world better than the SNES I was used to. Like Yoshi’s Island before, I became “obsessed” with Mario Kart Wii and battling my parents on it.

Then, in October 2010, our home burned down. Since, I haven’t had a gaming console. Most of my gaming experience since has been spent on Minecraft (PC), an emulator, playing Flash or contemporary games (including SuperTux Kart and SuperTux), and – of course – playing 30-year-old games on one of my vintage Macs. (For a while, Stardew Valley captivated me on my iPad.)

Fast forward to 2021, when one of my friends persuaded me to look into buying a Nintendo Switch to fill my free time. To her and many of my other friends, the Switch has been a popular gaming console due to its portability and game selection.

Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch – like other electronic gadgets and products – has been hit hard by COVID-19. Production shortages, supply chain issues, and a shortage of microprocessors and semiconductor components have all put a tight limit on the electronics industry, resulting in short supply that can’t keep up with the big demand. I have kept an eye out for a Nintendo Switch for a month, but unfortunately every place has been sold out – every time.

That is, until Monday, April 12, 2021.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time at a Walmart. While unsuccessfully searching for a cable needed to update the firmware and change settings on my SCSI-2-SD in the electronics section, I happened to walk down the Nintendo aisle just to make sure they didn’t have any in stock. To my surprise, they had not one, but two Switch consoles in stock. A customer right behind me purchased one, leaving me with the very last one in stock.

The story goes deeper but, for the sake of boring everyone, I’ll leave it there.

The Nintendo Switch is my first gaming console since the Nintendo Wii in 2010.

In the days since picking up the Switch, I’ve been playing one game: Mario Kart Deluxe 8. As with the Wii before, I really enjoy the experience. The game itself is fun, just like its predecessor – to the point where I played it for three or four hours straight.

The Switch itself is an interesting little console. It can be portable (which is how I’ve been using it) or you can dock it into a special docking station to play on a TV. The wireless Joy-Con controllers are detachable, and the Switch screen or “system unit” features a little kickstand allowing you to play with multiple people without a TV.

So far I’m impressed with it. The controls work pretty nicely and are fairly responsive, at least in Mario Kart.

Battery life isn’t the greatest, but is fair considering gaming is a power-intensive task, requiring a lot of power draw from the CPU and GPU. On a full charge, I was able to get my Switch to last about 3 hours of continuous play.

Speaking of the CPU and GPU, the Switch – like many other modern devices – is powered by an ARM SoC. This System-on-a-Chip, specifically a Nvidia Tegra X1, utilizes a ARM quad-core CPU and integrated CUDA graphics.

I bought two games to use with my Switch: Mario Kart Deluxe 8 and Super Mario 3D World: Bowser’s Fury

Because the Switch isn’t compatible with some encryption standards my university uses on its network, I haven’t been able to take the Switch online. (Just a forewarning to those wanting to use their Switch at work or in school: it may not work with your institution’s WiFi. An alternative is to use your own mobile hotspot, but this may eat a lot of data.) While I may not be able to access advanced features such as a Nintendo account, download games directly from Nintendo, use social media, or browse the internet – games run fine.

Overall, the Switch has left a favorable first impression with me. It’s fairly easy to use, portable, and works great. I’m looking to get Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe as my next game to try out, since I really enjoy platformers.

This post written on the 1991 Macintosh Classic using Word 4.0.