The Nintendo Switch is one of the most versatile home console’s ever released. The ability to switch (pun-intended) between both home console to handheld and vice-versa, seamlessly without interruption is one of the most innovative gaming experiences to ever grace gamers. While there have been many devices out in the gaming market with similar mechanisms that have the ability to display gaming on a tablet, and pass-through the output display to either a TV or Monitor, the Nintendo Switch was bringing a bolder experience with the promise of Triple-A titles coming to their units. Nintendo had tried their hand with a similar promise in the Wii U, and ultimately failed. The experiment of having a home console, completely under-powered compared to it’s competition in the XBOX One and PlayStation 4 was a risk that saw a massive decline in consumer trust, and the company’s traditional downfall. While trying to sell their wares as a unique take on gaming, Nintendo’s fans were turning their back on the company and the Japanese gaming manufacturer knew they had to work fast. The Initial concept behind the Wii U birthed the idea of the Nintendo Switch. Being able to play Triple-A titles, portably without the ongoing restrictions of keeping within the console’s radius. Instead, the handheld itself would become the console, resonating that of a smart tablet with the ability and power to run top tier titles, such as the Assassin’s Creed franchise, The Witcher 3, NBA 2K20, etc.
It has been an unbelievable near two years with the hybrid handheld, displaying some magnificence in gaming. Something that we adore about Nintendo, but has been a rare occurrence from them for quite some time. We’ve had the joy of experiencing some fantastic first party titles such as; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Maker 2, Astral Chain, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and more. Newcomers that bypassed the Wii U would have had the joy of also experiencing some missed gems that have carried over from the Wii U, such as NEW Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Bayonetta 2, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and myriad more. The console presents countless possibilites, and is sure to impress and inspire upon generations to come. But what if we were to strip away some of it’s current capabilities, such as parity, use of connectable joy cons, ability to dock and output it’s display on a full HD TV or Monitor, and essentially turn it into a fully fledged handheld console experience?
The Nintendo Switch Lite is the answer for those who are looking to increase the portability of their current Nintendo Switch experience. While the hybrid version of the unit is fully capable of being lugged and operated on casual or long trips, there is the complaint that the original is a little too large for comfort, and to continuously place it in a bag, or carry case seems somewhat cumbersome. This is where the Nintendo Switch Lite’s form-factor is a decisive circumstance. The accessibility the unit possesses for it’s users to easily slip in their pants pocket when inactive, and to retrieve when it’s go time is impressive. The efficiency of the Switch Lite maintains that of launch model hardware, with obvious factors coming into play. The removal of the Switch’s patent Joy Cons renders some titles completely useless, such as Super Mario Party. While other titles that recommend using the Joy Cons present some compatibility issues, such as Breath of the Wild’s Shrine dungeons that instruct players to use the Joy Cons themselves to complete certain puzzles (Yes… I’m going to link Holmesy’s Joy Con dab here. I still can’t believe it).
Albeit, the reasoning behind purchasing the Nintendo Switch Lite will not be for the hardware’s use of party games. The hardware’s intentions are representative of Nintendo’s previous generations of handheld units, of yesteryear. Releasing a remaster of the Nintendo GameBoy classic The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, parallel’s the developer’s objective and insight to designate this certain piece of kit as Nintendo’s next generation of handheld gaming. While title’s may not be exclusive to the unit itself, it presents opportunity to those who are looking at entry level Nintendo gaming. The appeal behind selling a consolidated, slimmer, and yes, lighter (with all the pun once again intended) version of Nintendo’s current generation console, with a cheaper price point to boot, only make’s the console evermore enticing. I had one concern while playing certain title’s that demanded a little more power than your standard run-of-mill indie, such as Super Mario Odyssey. The unit itself does heat up quite fast, and due to it’s matte type finish did raise concern for molecular expansion (Yes, I was a Material Technology nerd in High School).
The launch model Nintendo Switch experienced some issues such as overheating, panel warping, which resulted in LCD screens lifting completely off the hardware, rendering some units defective. These initial burdens did linger thoughts of similar fate for the handheld counterpart, but I must admit after playing countless hours of Breath of the Wild and Odyssey on the “sister” unit, all worries were disappearing overtime while enjoying these Triple-A titles on a considerably sleeker construction. Nintendo’s ergonomic form-factor promises a comfortable experience that won’t completely disparage players from returning to the original hardware, but will question the larger design. While the Nintendo Switch contained a 6.2″ capacitive multi-touch display, with the ability to output 1080p while docked, the Nintendo Switch Lite boasts a clean 5.5″ LCD display, mirroring that of an iPhone 8 Plus, but only outputs a 720p resolution, sans the dock in that respect. While performance will resonate that of the original un-docked hardware, a smaller screen will visually seem crisper due higher pixel density. However, some concerns such as text-to-display are apparent with titles like Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Dialogue in handheld on the original hardware was an eye-strain, so shrinking that by mere -12% does actually do some potential damage for players who are looking at that exclusive experience on the portable only hardware.
Of course, with the intention to design a portable console comes the question of improved battery life. There is no improvement. While battery life is exactly the same as the launch model, with a minimum four hour play-time I experienced with Breath of the Wild. I will say that this was the first time I sat down for an entire four hour period with no intention of doing, to play the title with the occasional rest break, but was completely immersed by the experience in handheld mode. While the original hardware will always seem substantial to complete it’s task of being a hybrid, there is the feebleness of the Joy Con rails, always making for an uncomfortable experience. The apprehension of holding the unit in my hands with the potential to damage my $120AUD controllers was always a thought that made for some uneasiness, that would lead me back to playing my Switch titles exclusively in docked mode. While the refreshed Nintendo Switch hardware may consist of the desired battery life upgrade, it does bode the question of why Nintendo did not include that for it’s cartable console? Regardless, the experience of playing Breath of the Wild on the “Lite” was enough for a certifiable verdict on the hardware.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is the perfect handheld. While some will certainly question it’s existence, fans of the original product will highly recommend this perfect piece of portability as an entry point for consumers who have not experienced the magic that the Nintendo Switch exerts. Is it for current owner’s of the launch hardware? Maybe? I’m not too sure. Is it for people who are looking for a manageable gaming experience on the go? Possibly? You get that from the Switch regardless of it’s form-factor or model. Is it for people who are looking to get into the Nintendo Switch library without having to completely fork over the Recommended Retail Price listing ($449AUD Switch/$329AUD Lite), Yes. Most definitely. The Switch comprises of a vast library containing incredible titles and exclusives. While the Nintendo Switch Lite strips away it’s use of convenient multiplayer and HD output, it still provides the exact same experience you would get from the original unit. There have been a number of arguments made that you could simply pay the remaining dollar amount and purchase the Nintendo Switch to include all the bells and whistles, but there is an existing market of gamers who play their Switch exclusively in handheld mode.
While many may not rush out to swap their original hardware for the smaller design, the experience between the two units are only comparable by preference. I personally will find it hard to go back to handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch after experiencing what the Nintendo Switch Lite exhibits. A sleeker, solid design that has been ergonomically shaped to slide into the portable gaming market and lead the way. Not that there’s any competition, but Nintendo are proving once again why they are the king of this court. While it’s a “toss of the coin” for some, stripping away the separable controllers made for a superior handheld experience, but a questionable one without the ability to dock the unit and play on a full HD display. Oh, not to mention Nintendo listening to it’s fans and retracing it’s routes with the reemergence of the D-Pad. Playing the newly introduced SNES Classics on the system made for some great game time with it’s simplistic representation, compared to the Joy Cons separated directional buttons, which was quite obviously designed for parity but has no use for the Lite’s architecture. Conclusively, the Nintendo Switch Lite bodes a bright future for Nintendo’s handheld market, and promises a diverse library of titles for those who are looking for the perfect portable gaming experience.
The Switch Lite launched worldwide on September 20, 2019. It was available in three colors: yellow, grey, and turquoise. It was launched and promoted alongside The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, a remake of the 1993 Game Boy video game.