It’s been just over two weeks since I waited in line at a local Target for just over an hour to be one of the first people (other than you midnight release folks) to own a Switch and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. My thoughts two weeks later are: “Switch, where have you been all of my adult life?”
For refreshers, I am like many other “grown up” gamers. I have played games all my life. My family had a second-hand Pong system, followed by an Atari, and an NES. I completely skipped the last generation of consoles in favor of PC gaming. My life today is not well set up for traditional gaming, with two kids, a demanding job, and a spouse who does not care about video games. With its portability and ease of use, Nintendo seems to have designed the perfect console for me.
The Hidden Benefits to Portability
When people think of what it means for the Switch to be a console/portable hybrid, the first image that often comes to mind is throwing it in the backpack/suitcase and bringing it to a friend’s house, on a business trip, or on vacation. I plan to do all of those wonderful things in the future, but I feel that I have have made excellent use of the Switch’s handheld mode to date without doing any of those. Well, okay, I did bring it to a friend/single father’s house so his kids could play it while we shot the shit and drank a few beers.
Day-to-day I use the Switch in a much different way. My “down time” often comes at the end of the day when my youngest is in bed and my oldest is taking a bath, brushing teeth, etc. I usually lay in bed and read or mess around on my phone. Now, however, I can lay in bed for half an hour and play a full feature console version of Zelda. Similarly, my wife might spend a half-hour before bed on her phone. Old me would do the same. New me, Zelda. Kids are watching a cartoon in the living room? Maybe another quick hit of Zelda. Not being tethered to a TV or PC monitor allows me to fit gaming in to those little windows that were impossible to use in a meaningful way before.
Efficiency and Security
The other real difference maker is the ease in which I can jump into and out of the game. Our youngest is a crazy 2-year-old who climbs on or digs in to everything within reach. For that reason, the PC is upstairs and far enough away from our router that an ethernet cord is required to maintain a stable connection. It was impossible for me to jump in to a PC game. By the time I hooked up the cord, maybe booted the PC, and loaded the game, 15 minutes would have gone by. At the end of my session, I would spend almost as much time shutting everything down.
The same bundle of joy makes a traditional console risky as well, as he is constantly rummaging around the entertainment center. He would find a PS4 and dismantle it in some way. I have older-generation consoles in our unfinished basement, but I am not going to spend serious time down there gaming.
The Switch dock and console, however, are so small that I have them tucked behind the TV, and he still has no idea that they are there. When I am going to play, I move it around to the front, slide out the Joy Cons, drop them in the controller frame, and I am ready to go. Takes less than a minute. If I am playing in handheld mode, I just pull it out of the dock, charged up and ready to go. Either way, I go from zero to gaming in less than a minute.
Then there is the load time. Yes, Zelda has load screens that can take 10-15 seconds. Starting from a turned-off console, however, is a dream. Press the Power button at the end of the night, and your game is suspended. Press it again the next morning, press the A button a three times, and the console comes on at the very point you turned it off. Less than a one second load time. It is amazing.
To put it all together, if I want to squeeze in a half-hour of Zelda while my daughter gets ready for bed, I grab the handheld from the dock, bring it upstairs, and when I am ready to play, start up is instantaneous. Nintendo could not have made it any easier.
On the Road Again
Although I have not brought the Switch on the road, I am looking forward to it. I picked up a beautifully constructed and compact case that is big enough to hold the console, 9 games, and a charging cord. And that charging cord? The Switch uses a standard USB-C port. I picked up a USB-C to USB cord on Amazon for $6, and the Switch will charge off of any USB outlet, be it a phone charger, a PC, or the one in my car. My Switch will be accompanying me on many business trips and vacations in the future. Down time no more!
Final Thoughts – Yes, They are About Zelda
I can’t say too much about Zelda that hasn’t been said by reviewers before. It is beautiful, large-scale, open world game. Often times, there is little direction given. Other times, you know where you’re going, but it takes so long to get there because there are hills to climb, horses to tame, bad guys to fight, or just something that looks worth checking out that catches your eye.
The most telling thing I can say from my own experience is that, I have showed friends videos on Youtube of boss fights I have beaten or puzzles I have solved to show them what the game is like. In each one so far, the person in the video has completed the encounter using a different strategy than I employed. Not only are there varied boss mechanics, but there are a variety of ways to best them. That is a high mark in game design.