Nintendo Switch Essentials

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6 mins // 22 TRE 17

Merry Christmas! I’m guessing a few of you received a Nintendo Switch (Affiliate, Regular) yesterday. Congrats! Welcome to what I think might be my favorite console of all time.

While the system itself is pretty intuitive, I figured as a day-one owner I could provide some insight into the better games, accessories, and tips for your new console. Here’s a quick list of the essentials for the first calendar year of the new console from Nintendo.

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The System —

Most of the setup and initialization of the system is pretty straightforward. You set a user, download the newest updates, and pick a theme, and you’re ready to play. The system itself is just the tablet part in the middle. That’s the whole deal. The controllers on the left and right are called the Joy-Cons, and they can be used either attached or detached from the system.

The dock provides access to power and charging, as well as an HDMI output so you can play on your TV. The dock doesn’t provide any more power to the system, but there are minor differences between games played handheld and docked. These vary game by game, but it’s usually in resolution or frame rate. I have yet to see anything I found distracting between these different modes, but your mileage may vary. Some people are bothered by the slight differences, but if you’re playing on a Nintendo console I’m guessing you won’t be doing too much pixel peeping.

Likewise, the controller grip provided in the box doesn’t change the way your joy-cons function at all, but simply change the ergonomics. That’s one of the nicest things about the Switch; flexibility. Nintendo is just as happy to accommodate you in any way. If you want to play only docked with a Pro Controller (more on this in a bit), that’s great. If you like playing in tabletop mode, with joy cons detached, that’s great too. If you play handheld on the bus, more power to you. The system is set up with so many different options and ways for you to play, each equally supported and valid, and that flexibility is a revolutionary development.

Games —

Well, you just got a new video game console, I’m guessing you want to play some games. Hell yeah.

For my money, the star of the show is Zelda (Affiliate, Regular). I’m a Zelda fanatic, and would’ve bought the Switch just to play Breath of the Wild. There’s a reason it’s winning so many game of the year awards. Much like the system itself, the game is a dramatic step not only for the Zelda series but for gaming in general. The range of systems at play, all interacting in surprising ways, and the opportunities afforded to you that allow you to interact back are staggering. I think this game will resonate with us for years to come, but only time will tell. Even if you’ve never played a Zelda game before, I would say this one is the killer app here.

Of course, there’s plenty more than just Zelda.

Not only did Nintendo’s newest console get a new Zelda game, we were lucky enough to get Mario Odyssey (Affiliate, Regular) as well. And it’s no surprise this is also a big winner. This Mario game is a true successor to the likes of Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine, and a step in the right direction for the franchise. I don’t know if Mario will have the same ripple effect I expect from Zelda in the future, but it’s a masterpiece all the same.

Splatoon 2 (Affiliate, Regular) is another standout experience. This third person shooter came out of no where a few years ago, but quickly has taken root in the Nintendo ecosystem. In this tremendously inventive franchise, you play a squid kid (half squid, half kid) with the ability to swap forms at will. When you’re a kid, you use ink guns not only to “splat” the opponent players, but primarily to paint the ground of the map with your team’s color. Whoever inks more territory, wins! There are more game modes than just turf war, which I’ve just described.

With a massive selection of weapons and equipment to build a load out from, different modes and play styles, massive group events (splatfest), as well as a great single player and horde mode, this is the best multiplayer experience on the system right now.

There’s also a ton of great games available on the eShop, Nintendo’s game marketplace; many of which are exclusive. Some of my favorites are Golf Story, Axiom Verge, and Shovel Knight. Any game that’s available as a cartridge is available as a digital download copy on the eShop.

I started buying only cartridges, but I think I’m going to transition more to digital. I like the convenience of being able to simply return to the home menu to swap games, as opposed to having to pull a cartridge out of the system to put a new one in. Given that the Switch only has around 30gb of space available, that leads perfectly to —

Accessories —

Ah yes, accessories.

While the Switch has plenty of memory if all you want to do is store save files and screenshots and videos, there’s plenty of reasons why you might want more. If you think you’ll be buying a lot of games digitally, you probably want to invest in a MicroSD memory card (Affiliate, Regular). These are available super cheap now, so this shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. I got a 128gb Samsung card on Amazon for $30. They go right under the kickstand. After you put it in, a menu will pop up to initialize the card for the system, and then you’re ready to go.

The first accessory I got for the Switch was a case (Affiliate, Regular). I wasn’t worried about the toughness of the hardware, or anything like that. I just wanted a way to keep the buttons and screen protected when I put the console in my backpack. I’m on my third case now, because the first two I got weren’t really what I was looking for. I didn’t need a way to store accessories or anything like that, I just wanted a way to hold the system itself, and a few cartridges. I finally settled on this slim model from Tomtoc, and I really like it. It fits the bill exactly, and takes up no more space than I need it to.

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I must admit, I am against screen protectors (Affiliate, Regular). I’ve never used one on any devices. I’m really careful about all of my technology, and the idea of scratching a screen is not keeping me up at night. Many are worried about the screen on the Switch, which is covered by plastic, especially with the prospect of sliding the console in and out of the dock so frequently. However, I did end up buying this glass screen protector, as it was really cheap as an add on item.

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I was really surprised by how well the glass feels to the touch, much better than the plastic screen that it comes with. It seems like my fingers glide much easier across this surface than the default one. I was worried it would feel odd when the screen protector ends, but the glass rounds into the system itself, and feels totally natural around the edges. Installation was easy, and they even come with a second in case you mess up the first time. Really, there’s little reason not to get one. I wholly recommend it.

Finally, controllers. I have been playing with just the regular grey joy-cons that I bought my system with, and that’s a great way to play. When playing docked, I usually would use them in the plastic grip provided. I was shocked when I first got my hands on the joy-cons, just due to how small they are. And also, I have really big hands. But everything feels nice, if a little plastic-y.

However, a friend of mine just got me a Pro Controller (Affiliate, Regular) as a gift (thanks Joe). And wow, this thing is great. I had been looking at getting one, but since I was so comfortable with the system, already I wasn’t sure what a benefit it would be.

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Truly, the Pro Controller is the nicest feeling controller I’ve used; it surpasses Microsoft’s Xbox controllers as the new king. Even though it too is plastic, everything has a nice weight to it, and it fits so well in my hands. I was a little skeptical of the soft buttons, given how fond I am of the click offered by the joy-cons. However in practice, I don’t notice the difference. The shoulder buttons curve around your fingers, and the joysticks have a lot of travel, making movements feel very smooth. If you expect to do a lot of gaming on the couch, you can’t go wrong here.

Summary —

So, in summary:

Of the games out there, I would definitely recommend Zelda, Mario, and Splatoon. If you like JRPGs, and aren’t put off by anime tropes (that’s a weird venn diagram intersection) then Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a blast. There’s great ports of Skyrim and Rocket League and Stardew Valley. Golf Story is a great eShop exclusive.

I think the only accessory you need is a travel case. However, there’s little reason not to get a screen protector and memory card as well. And a Pro Controller or another set of Joy-cons (Affiliate, Regular) would be a great addition too.

Happy Holidays, everyone!


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