5 Surprising Things About the Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch: Surprising????

After much hemming and hawing, I finally took the plunge and bought a Nintendo Switch last weekend. (It’s worth noting that Nintendo did launch a surprise sale the day after I bought the console, confirming all of my fears and anxieties as at least partially legitimate. Thankfully, the sale was not so dramatic as to result in any tangible hair loss.) I purchased a single game, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and a year subscription to Nintendo Switch Online. After tax, the console, game, and subscription came out to $411.32.

So! Still not a cheap investment, even though the console is two years old at this point. After four days with this thing though, I’m feeling pretty good about it. It does everything it says on the tin, and the kickstand is just as hilariously flimsy as everyone made it out to be. But even as a Professional Video Games Person™ who know all the things about all the things, there are a few truths about the Switch that didn’t really land until I plugged it in. If you’re still on the fence, here are some things to know.

Yo This Thing Is Tiny

Pictures don’t really communicate just how small the Nintendo Switch is, once you have it in your hands. For whatever reason, my brain anticipated a device with the heft and presence of a Wii U GamePad, and it is absolutely not that. The Switch is just barely thicker than my iPhone 6S* when the phone’s in its case, and width-wise it’s not entirely dissimilar to a DVD case with a candy bar on either side. Just smaller, of course, because everything about the Switch small. It could just as easily fit in your purse as it could on your media shelf, or on your actual desk where you do all your work, as seen above. (For scale, the controller is resting under a 21″ monitor. Shout outs to TinyTeee.) Perhaps most surprising, however, is the real-world smallness of the buttons and sticks on the Joy-Cons, which leads to my next big point:

Joy-Cons Are Not a 1:1 Substitute for a Full-Size Controller

The Switch comes with a little plastic shell thing that you can slide the Joy-Cons into, which locks them into a more traditional controller configuration. In pictures, this always looked like it would be roughly equivalent to using a Dual Shock 4 or Xbox One controller — maybe a bit taller than those controllers, but otherwise about the same. This is not the case! Since the Joy-Cons were designed with portability in mind, the buttons are about half the size of buttons on a normal controller, and the sticks are about half as tall. Imagine holding a 3DS with no screens in the middle — that’s about what the Joy-Cons in controller mode feel like. (The sticks are real sticks of course, not a Circle Pad like on the 3DS, but you get what I’m saying.)

For Zelda, this hardly matters. There’s nothing I feel like I should be able to do, but can’t, because the controller’s components are weirdly small. But if I were playing something that demanded precision, like Super Smash Bros. UltimateBlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, or even Fortnite Battle Royale, I’d benefit hugely from investing in Nintendo’s full-sized Pro Controller. But hey, speaking of Zelda:

That Zelda Really Is as Good as Everyone Says

A good Zelda game may not be surprising to many of you, but for me it’s positively bewildering. I’ve always, like, respected these games, but I’ve never made it more than two hours into any of them, and at this point, I think I’ve tried all of them. (Well, all of the console ones at least). They’re all lovingly crafted, gorgeous games with impeccable design philosophies and some of the best music ever written for this industry, but for whatever reason, they just never clicked. Breath of the Wild, though — this one clicks.

I love ransacking bokoblin camps. I love constantly using new and different weapons. I love my blue horse, Hoof Lord. I adore solving these dang shrines, and you can bet your sweet bippy that I’m gonna find all those little korok goobers. This game even lets me catch frogs and keep them in my inventory, where I can assure that they are safe from Calamity Ganon. If Zelda has never really worked for you before, try this one.

And for those of you saying “Hey, this is supposed to be a Switch list, not a Zelda list,” you’re right. My apologies.

Handheld Mode Feels Super Dangerous

Aside from being surprised at the size of my new Switch, I’m also terrified of holding it. It doesn’t feel cheap, per se, but it does feel fragile. Delicate, even. It’s a beautiful piece of minimalist engineering, to such a degree that anytime I’m playing it out of the dock, I’m constantly aware of how expensive it was, and how even a single drop might flush $300 down the toilet. I don’t know how true that actually is, as I haven’t dropped it to find out, but it feels that way. It doesn’t have the same sort of indestructible-ness to it that my beloved 3DS XL has.

Also, There’s No Netflix App.

There’s a Youtube app and a Hulu app, but no Netflix app. In 2019. On the fastest-selling console of the last decade. How is this possible? What are you doing, Netflix? What hashtag do I have to start to get this to happen? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WATCH VOLTRON IN BED?


*Yes, an iPhone 6S in 2019. Apple can pry my headphone jack from my cold, dead hands.