I was the first in line at my local GameStop for the release of Nintendo’s latest console. What started out as a duo quickly turned into a handful and then into a decently sized crowd. By the time the doors opened and we were ushered into the store, people passing by had begun to stop and question the assembled queue. I led the procession of excited gamers and bewildered parents, purchased my Nintendo Switch, a copy of "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," a protective carrying case then quickly left the store and headed home.
After several hours spent setting the new console up, playing games, and just fiddling with the system and its peripherals, I found myself extremely impressed. As much flak as Nintendo tends to get for their less-than-mainstream ideas, the Switch succeeds as the first console/handheld hybrid. From the outset, everything just works. Each Joy-Con controller snaps into place on the unit itself or onto the controller grip with a satisfying click, and they just as easily slide off for further rearrangement. I have repeatedly jumped between various control figurations and playstyles and not a single one has been uncomfortable or unwieldy. The true power of the Switch is its unprecedented versatility and ease.
The Switch’s flagship title, "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," is a wonder to behold, whether in handheld mode or on the television. The breadth of the world in this game can feel truly magical with its grandiose ruined kingdom and beautifully populated natural vistas. It is a deceptively hard game, forcing you to do everything you can to survive in the monster-infested landscapes of its world. It is triple-A gaming as only Nintendo can make it, exuding personality even in its most intense moments. "Breath of the Wild" is at once nostalgic and exceptionally new, acting as the perfect launch title in an admittedly minuscule lineup of mostly decent to sub-par games. "Zelda" is the perfect counter to this problem and is more than enough to occupy early adopters of the Nintendo Switch for quite some time.
In the Nintendo Switch it is easy to see Nintendo’s knack for experimentation and their tendency to work outside the norm to try and give players fun, unique experiences. It is also not hard to find the past elements of their work and design philosophy in each and every aspect of the Switch. The Joy-Cons evoke the Wii Remote and its Nunchaku peripheral, yet when turned sideways each one becomes its own pseudo-SNES controller. The main console’s tablet design and touch controls come from both the Wii U and the DS handhelds, using their qualities to inform the construction and versatility of their latest oddball invention. Nintendo has certainly solidified itself as the mad scientist of the video gaming industry, concocting strange, wonderful ideas in the name of fun and technological curiosity. While the Switch may not be the graphical powerhouse of PS4 and Xbone rivalry that some players had hoped for, that misses the point entirely. What this machine accomplishes is versatility, the idea of allowing gamers to play how they want to, where they want to, when they want to.