Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Switch Lite vs. The Original Switch - a Switch Off???



For most of my computer gaming/video gaming forays into this corner of the broader gaming hobby I have never considered myself much of a Nintendo guy, but I've had my moments.....specifically I once did own a Nintendo 64 specifically so I could enjoy Shadows of the Empire and Goldeneye, and later on I had one of those Gameboy Advances to keep myself occupied during a period when my jobs seemed to require a lot of waiting around between driving. I recall nothing of the GBA other than it existed, though.

Later on the Gamecube arrived and that most definitely was worth getting, although for every good game on the Gamecube its competition had 3 more so the machine was, while neat, not exciting enough. We got a few really memorable titles for the day on it (Resident Evil 4 when it was still an exclusive, and Eternal Darkness, may the short-lived but awesome franchise R.I.P.) In the end though it was the Xbox which won the day.

I missed the entirety of the Wii phase of Nintendo, and later dabbled only at the end-of-life on the Wii U when I could get a cheap console and games just to experiment with it and play its handful of good exclusives. I only ever owned a Nintendo 2DS briefly, and found it amusing but not quite as awesome as the PS Vita for what I needed as an adult human gamer; finding DS games that were more engaging for adults* was possible but took digging and effort.

So a year and a half or so back when I decided to grab a Switch to see if a portable system that's key selling point was you could dock it with the TV for a bit more processing power, it was mainly from a "this is an interesting tech/gadget" perspective, and only a few games were out for it yet which I really had interest in. As it turns out....here I am a year and a half later, and I think the Switch is the defacto video game machine in my house right now, right behind the PC itself. How on earth did this happen?!?!?

Now, here we are in September 2019 and a Switch Lite is on the loose. I snagged a grey edition, and because this is a thing even though I don't do the tweets or whatever, I guess I'll start the #greyguys movement for this particular console color. The Switch Lite is like the Switch Regular except for the following:

   It is smaller and lighter (it is bigger than most DS models I have seen but distinctly more petit than its bigger cousin);
   It does not have detachable joycon controllers;
   It does not dock to a TV station (thus does not, if you will, "switch");
   It does not get along well with Nintendo Labo although given you can still pair joycons to it anyway I am not sure why;
   And lastly it can be bound to your existing account but if you plan to maintain two switches on the same account will require some Nintendo-level unique juggling of save files and wifi connectivity to work as intended.

So what's the appeal? Well, to address each of the above distinctions:

Smaller means more portable. You can fit this thing comfortably in a pocket and the carry cases are like 1/3 the size of the standard Switch carry case. If you're looking for something a little more discreet and slim, this is it. Some have reported that the slightly smaller screen makes small text harder to read, but here's the deal, speaking as a 48 year old gamer who needs his reading glasses for fine print: if you need glasses to see the current Switch, this one will be about as clear. The difference in size is sufficiently marginal that I am finding no meaningful difference, and the slightly smaller screen size honestly makes the image look a bit crisper to me.

No Detachable Controllers. You can still pair them up through bluetooth connectivity, but for many this is probably an improvement. I know both my son and wife are hard enough on their controllers that they have managed to get them loose during play on the regular Switches. How? I have no idea. On the plus side, I have larger hands and these built-in controllers on the Switch Lite feel just fine to me.

No TV Dock. Look, if this is the feature you want then pony up for the Switch Regular. I did, and I love it. The Switch Lite is the thing I will take with me on business trips or camping trips or pretty much any trip, really. The bigger switch and its dock is how I play my Switch 90% of the time at home, so it's absolutely essential to the Switch identity, but there is lots of room in here for a dedicated handheld-only version that takes up less space and costs less as a result. @All You Youtubers stop breaking your Switch Lites open and trying to mod them to work on the TV, it doesn't have the guts for it (literally).

No Nintendo Labo. I don't know much about Labo, my son is too in to Beyblades and Fortnite to care about it, so I am the least informed person to comment on this. My guess....give Nintendo time, if Labo was a big seller I bet they'll make a kit for the Switch Lite.

Multiple Accounts. So I've personally been messing with this part. Here's what you need to know to do this:

Copying the SSD Contents: you can't just copy data from one SSD to another and stick it in your new machine, it has to be downloaded. Only saves can be transferred. I learned this the hard way by plugging my MicroSD in to the PC, migrating the data to a new MicroSD and then having the Switch tell me the data originated from an evil foreign machine (my docked Switch) and therefore it must be expunged. Sigh. So now I am manually loading the collection to the Switch Lite, all 400+ GB of it.

No Duplicate Saves, No Easy Cloud Saves:  Nintendo's odd method of control is to only allow one save on a machine at a time; even if you're loading to the cloud it appears the save is also "local" and therefore you can keep a save on only one machine at a time. There are some exceptions: you can still play the game on both machines, sure, but it will be two different saves at that point. Presumably the cloud save will backup from the primary console, but I haven't confirmed that yet.

Playing the Same Game on the Same Account on Two Machines: (UPDATE!) You can't play both machines at once, regardless of the game. So You can't try playing any game on one account with two machines, you need a second account to do that. I tried this out tonight under the impression this was not an issue and....surprise. In defense of Nintendo I can't do this on my Xbox One or PS4 Pro either.

Save Juggling: The save juggling is what you need to remember. If you plan to take off on a trip, take your Switch Lite and transfer the save from your docked machine to your travel machine. When you get back, you can load the save back to your docked machine. Easy enough, right?** You can also make sure your Switch Lite has games on it which benefit from or are not hurt by having saves going on two or more machines. For example, I have a whole different save going for different characters on my copy of Torchlight II on both Switches, and I am fine with that.

So...is this machine for you? This is the question all sorts of bloggers and vloggers have been asking over the last few days because the Internet is full of this stuff, and I'm bored and happy to contribute to the clog. Here's my assessment:

Are you a tech/gadget person? Then yeah this is a fun console to own.

Do you travel a lot and like a slimmer portable machine? Then totally, yes.

Is your interest mainly in playing on the TV and engaging with the Switch in ways that benefit from the removable controllers? Then the Switch Lite will disappoint.

Have you always wondered how awesome it would be to have a portable version of an Xbox 360, but even better? Then hell yeah any version of the Switch is right for you, especially as its current and imported game library has grown enormously and includes a ton of "classic" era 360 titles and updated ports such as Bayonetta, Saint's Row III, Dragon's Dogma, the Darksiders series, Dark Souls, Resident Evil Revelations I and II, Assassin's Creed III (with IV and Rogue on the way), and many more. What the Switch can run is frankly shocking.

Do you love RPGs and especially isometric American RPGs? Then you are a criminal for not owning a Switch. You can, as an example, play all the usual assortment of JRPGs on the machine, but you can also play Divinity II Original Sin, Pillars of Eternity and action RPGs like Torchlight II, Titan Quest and Diablo III. More importantly: in the next month we will see releases of Baldur's Gate I and II, Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment. Holy cow. I hope those last few are enormously good sellers because the Switch would be a great place for the Shadowrun titles to land as well as Torment: Tides of Numenera. Future releases include Pillars of Eternity II: Dreadfire and I understand  Neverwinter Nights I as well. That's a lot of classic RPG goodness.

Now, the down side is so many of these are retro ports that you may or may not have already played some, all or even just the ones you wanted to and are good where you're at. But if you're like me and you have found that moving such games to a portable medium with a dedicated gaming experience and real controllers is actually the best way to give you the tools (if not the time) to play these games.....then you might want to consider it.

So....is it worth it for me? I'm happy to have a compact portable console and love the ownership of uselessly fun gadgets, so I guess so. But the incredible difficulty I have in being able to seamlessly play on either Switch without having to manually cross saves is almost a deal-breaker. Right now, for me, the practical solution is to designate some games (the ones I prefer to play big screen) on the classic Switch, and other games (which make for a better portable experience) on the Switch Lite. But I shouldn't have to do this; the cloud save feature should be better than this, Nintendo. Seriously.

Okay, Switch rave off!



*What I mean here is not actual adults, who do enjoy the DS line, but "Adult gamers who are not in to Pokemon, cutesy anime stuff, chibi, cartoon characters, or hypercuteness." Grimdark and gruesome stuff did exist on the DS/3DS lines, but you had to dig into the dark underbelly of Nintendo and Gamestop to find it. Dementium for example, or RE: Revelations. But not enough warrant keeping the machine.

**Actually it is a pain in the ass. Fix this Nintendo! The 21st Century and Cloud Data is a thing and you should just accept it.

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