Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch Lite

I’m somewhat late to the Nintendo Switch party. Four years late in fact, having jumped from the good ship Nintendo to the formidable force of Sony and their all conquering PlayStation 4 after the hot mess that was the Wii U. It’s not that I had any particular beef with Nintendo after spending the past few years in the company of their ill-fated first foray into HD gaming. More that I had multiple issues with the way in which they treated the Wii U, it’s small but dedicated install base and some of their best loved franchises. I mean, what on Earth were they thinking with Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival?

Still, a switch (no pun intended) to the PlayStation platform introduced me to several of what have since become some of my favourite game franchises in the shape of Uncharted, Horizon, Persona and the mighty Overwatch. So I have zero regrets for my defection.

A couple of months ago thanks in part to the inability to find a PS5 anywhere, a global pandemic and the sheer amount of time that we’ve all been forced to spend at home as a result, I decided to dip my toe back into Nintendo charted waters and picked up a Switch Lite. I had considered grabbing a full-fat Switch instead but as my intentions were to use it exclusively as a handheld, the Lite made far more sense.

It’s a nice looking console too. Despite being predominantly made of plastic it doesn’t feel like a cheap bit of kit. The screen is bright, sharp and a decent size and the controls feel solid. The presence of a proper D-pad over the four directional buttons of the original Switch is a welcome addition too, especially when it comes to playing traditional 2D platform games. My only real niggle with the controls is the position of the right analog stick which I feel should have swapped places with the face buttons. Playing fast-paced first-person titles can be quite awkward and somewhat uncomfortable compared to say a Dual Shock 4 controller.

The system OS is somewhat bare bones compared to the competition. However I get the impression that Nintendo have the Switch positioned firmly as a games machine and nothing more. There’s the obligatory YouTube application of course and (finally) the ability to share screenshots and short video clips of your gameplay to social media at the touch of a button. But there are no options to live stream your play sessions to Twitch or even a Twitch application. The whole online element of the Switch’s OS is also a real relic of times gone by, with friend codes still hanging around like a bad smell and no ability to send direct messages to your friends via the console. Party chat too is non-existent. In fact, if you want to use voice chat in general you have to download a dedicated app to your smart phone. In 2021 why is this still a thing?

Technical gripes aside, a console is only as good as its games and it’s here where the Switch really shines brightest. Of course the first party Nintendo titles are the main attraction here, as always. But unlike its chunkier predecessor, the Switch actually benefits from healthy third-party support as well. Sure, the increasingly aging hardware prevents some of the most popular annual releases finding a home on the system. Call of Duty being one of the most obvious. But there are still plenty of well loved side dishes from the other consoles surrounding the main course of Mario, Zelda et all.

My console came bundled with last years Animal Crossing: New Horizons included as a download. It’s a good game and certainly the sort of title that sits well on a handheld. Allowing you to easily drop in to your island whenever you have a few moments free. However, it offers very little over New Leaf on the 3DS in terms of gameplay, and those that have racked up the hours on that particular title won’t find much to pique their interest here.

Two of my best loved franchises in the form of Overwatch and Persona 5 have been squeezed onto the Switch hardware. The former is an impressive feat considering the hardware limitations. But having played almost 1000 hours of the Blizzard behemoth on PS4 it is obvious where the development team have had to make cutbacks, with missing graphical elements, low-res textures and an unfortunate drop in framerate to 30fps making it a tough sell for anyone coming to the game from another platform. Still, having Overwatch on a portable system is great as long as you can learn to live with the technical restrictions.

The latter arrived on the Switch recently in the form of Persona 5: Strikers. A spin off and sort of sequel to the main Persona 5 game that at the time of writing is still a PlayStation exclusive. It runs well, with very little noticeable slowdown or framerate issues. The Persona series thrives on portable hardware. The PlayStation Vita title Persona 4: Golden being a great example, and so it seems logical for Persona 5 to find a new home on the Nintendo Switch. Here’s hoping that Atlus see fit to port 2019’s Persona 5: Royal to Nintendo’s handheld soon.

Overall there’s plenty to love about the Nintendo Switch and personally I regret not picking one up sooner. But the hardware is really beginning to show its age and it’s difficult to recommend as a primary console. However, as a complementary system to either a PlayStation, Xbox or a decent PC gaming rig it’s a must have.

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