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The Nintendo Switch Lite is a Better Portable Device than the Original Switch

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Earlier this week, Nintendo invited me to try out the Switch Lite and after a few hours playing such games as The Witcher 3, Luigi’s Mansion and Daemon X Machina, I can say with confidence that the smaller and more compact Lite is in many ways a better portable device than its bigger brother.

When I first reviewed the original Switch before it ever hit store shelves, I was skeptical of Nintendo’s hybrid system. Thankfully it didn’t take long before I was sold on the product and in my review, I wrote: “what at first seemed like a strained miscalculation turned out to be one of the most brilliant marketing ploys ever pulled by a multibillion-dollar entertainment conglomerate”.

The Switch was, and still is a giddy blast of fresh air, an exercise in unfettered glee that leaves behind all the angst and self-seriousness of too many modern gaming consoles to revel in just how freakin’ fun Nintendo can be. There was just one problem, however, the Nintendo Switch was bloody expensive and nearly three years later, the price hasn’t dropped. Now, in classic Nintendo fashion, the company has decided to rectify this problem by releasing a cheaper alternative for consumers who maybe can’t afford the standard Switch — and in classic Ricky D fashion, I was skeptical yet again.

The Switch Lite blew my expectations out of the water when I saw just how smooth a game like The Witcher 3 ran on the mini device.

Nintendo Switch Lite Review

The obvious major difference between the Switch Lite and the original Switch is that the Switch Lite is solely a handheld device which may not sit well for many fans considering the entire point of a Switch is to have the option to play handheld or on your television set. However, while the Switch Lite sort of goes against the raison d’etre and branding of the original Switch, the new handheld is worth the purchase for those who can’t afford a regular Switch or for those looking to buy a secondary console without having to shell out a ton of cash. The bottom line is, the Switch Lite looks great, feels great and honestly it blew my expectations out of the water when I saw just how smooth and gorgeous a game like The Witcher 3 looked and ran on the mini device. The results are nothing short of spectacular!

Just the Right Size

When I picked up the Switch Lite, the first thing I noticed was how comfortable it felt to hold when compared to its predecessor. The original Nintendo Switch is an impressive piece of hardware and a leap over the aging 3DS and DS lines. At the core of the standard Switch is a sexy tablet with a 6.2-inch LCD screen running at 720p resolution (1080p on your television set when docked) and it weighs approximately 297g (398g with Joy-Con controllers attached). The Switch Lite, however, improves in size and in weight. It features a 5.5-inch display while still providing 720 pixels resolution so you’re not losing anything in terms of picture quality. Meanwhile, the height of the Switch Lite is .4 inches lower; the length of the Switch Lite is 1.2 inches shorter, and when compared to the original Switch, the Lite is .27 pounds lighter. That all adds up to a huge difference.

I wouldn’t say the Switch Lite is something that can easily fit in your pockets but in terms of portability, it sits somewhere in between the standard Switch and the Nintendo 3DS which seems like a perfect size since it feels more comfortable to hold and easier to carry. And if I was given the choice, I’d choose the Switch Lite any day over the bulkier Switch when playing games on the go.

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Image Quality

As mentioned above, Nintendo had various games for journalists to try out at the press junket and while Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Daemon X Machina both looked as sharp and colorful as they do on the standard Switch, what really blew me away was the presentation of The Witcher 3. Given the complexity of the game and Switch’s portable hardware, the port of The Witcher 3 is without a doubt, a remarkable and impressive technical feat. If you were impressed with the port of Skyrim, you’re going to be even more impressed with how CD Projekt RED managed to bring their magnum opus to the Switch. It looks, feels and runs so incredibly smooth, I’m seriously debating buying the game a second time just so I can play handheld.

The Look

The Switch Lite looks similar to the standard Switch, only being a dedicated handheld device the console doesn’t come with a dock, a kickstand or the HDMI cable. It does, however, feature far thinner bezels and I was impressed by the soft matte finish which provides a solid grip. And given that there are no detachable Joy-Cons, the Switch Lite just seems more sturdy when compared to the original Switch.

My only gripe is the three original colors chosen for release which includes turquoise, gray and yellow models – the best of the three being the turquoise. I can’t help but think Nintendo’s marketing team should have convinced Nintendo to release the Lite with either more colorful skins and/or a model that called back to Nintendo’s earlier handhelds such as the original Game Boy or the Game Boy Color which was available in an array of striking and bold colors. In my eyes, the yellow model is a real eye-soar and the grey model is extremely bland leaving me with only one color choice if I were to buy the Switch Lite.

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Buttons

The Switch Lite doesn’t have removable Joy-Cons like the standard Switch, but it does offer the same buttons as the original Switch with the exception of the A, Y, B, and X buttons, which have been replaced with a traditional D-Pad. The Switch Lite’s control pad is certainly a step up from the four separate directional buttons on the Joy-Con and unlike the regular Switch, the direction pad feels more responsive for 2D platforming games and certainly more suited for handheld play.

Aside from the d-pad, the Lite features the usual dual analog sticks, face buttons and has a small plus/start and home buttons on the right side of the screen, with the minus/select and capture buttons on the left side. Meanwhile, two pairs of triggers sit on the top left and right corners. All of these controls are identical to the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons.

Additional Info

It’s also worth noting that the Switch Lite does not come with HD Rumble or an IR Motion Camera. The device is made to solely play handheld games and will therefore only play Nintendo Switch games that support handheld mode. In other words, there are some games such as 1-2 Switch and Nintendo Labo accessory kits that are not suitable for the Switch Lite. These games, however, are few and far between and the trade-off is a portable console with a slightly longer battery life of 3-7 hours depending on the game you are playing. In addition, the Switch Lite allows for wireless connectivity, Bluetooth and the use of MicroSD cards to increase the 32GB of console storage – and cloud saves are supported as well (so long as you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription). In the end, you aren’t really losing out on many features save for docked mode which allows you to play on a bigger screen.

Verdict

The Nintendo Switch Lite is the perfect console for those who prefer handheld gaming, and for $199, the price point is just right for those who can’t afford the standard Switch. It’s also great for anyone in need of a second console either because they share the standard Switch with their family members or simply prefer to keep one system at home and another in their bag when they travel. As a handheld, I can’t stress enough how much of an improvement the Switch Lite is over the standard Switch. If you’re looking for a more comfortable, lighter and overall better handheld device, look no further.

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Rogerio Andrade

    September 10, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the new device.

    At first, I was somewhat skeptical about the idea of the Switch Lite, since portability is also a key feature of the original Switch. But I was being narrow-minded. Nintendo is just offering a different way for people to enjoy their games, and that´s a good thing. It´s great to offer different options for your clients, and let them decide what fits best their needs.

    Then, my second concern was how Nintendo would market it, since it also loses the detachable joycons (then losing compability with certain products like Labo and the upcoming peripheral). I still have memories of how some people got confused with the first 2DS, then with the New3DS … So far, it seems that they´re doing a much better job with its adverstiment. I don´t see many people confused or concerned about the pourpose of this device and it seems that many consumers (specially in Japan) are very interested in this cheaper Switch that, ironically, does not “switch” at all. lol

    That said, it´s not a product for me, I do prefer to play my Switch docked, at home, but I would be dumb to complain about this. Nintendo is not ending the original model, after all

  2. Ricky Fernandes da Conceição

    September 10, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    I also prefer to play my Switch docked. I rarely take it on the road but one of the reasons is that I don’t want to lose it or break it. The Switch is really expensive here in Canada. It costs $400 plus tax — so basically $450 and you still need to buy a game and most people will want to buy a pro controller. So at the end of the day, I spend $600 day one on the Switch.

    The Switch Lite here in Canada is $200. That is a huge difference.

    We discussed this on the latest episode of the NXpress Nintendo Podcast and I tried my best to explain that as a straight-up portable, I think the Switch Lite is better but if you don’t own a Switch already, the obvious choice is to buy the standard Switch.

    I’m looking into buying a second console and while I would love a second Switch, the price point of the Switch Lite is making me lean towards it.

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Games

Junked: Coming Back to Life in ‘Detroit: Become Human’

Quantic Dream’s games have always leaned into horror, even if the chief genre might not be. Detroit: Become Human is no exception.

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Detroit Become Human

Quantic Dream‘s games have always leaned into horror, even if the chief genre might be something else entirely. Detroit: Become Human is no exception, with much of the game revolving around our android protagonists finding themselves in one horrendous situation after another. The most terrifying of all, though, is Markus’ trip to a junkyard afterlife.

After being shot in the head during an altercation, Markus looks to be dead. Since player characters could indeed die in previous Quantic Dream games, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for him to have been killed off either. What awaits Markus on the other side of consciousness, however, is one of the most horrific struggles for survival ever waged.

As Markus awakens in a junkyard for discarded androids, he finds himself immobilized and terrified. Played by Jesse Williams (the sort of chiseled hollywood hunk that only seems to exist on network TV), Markus’ destroyed facade is all the more horrendous for the juxtaposition to his previous appearance.

Detroit Become Human

As the player embodies Markus, they are thrust into a nightmare realm of discarded android dreams. Like a metallic graveyard, filled with the shambling dead, the junkyard is a place so nightmarish it nearly defies explanation. Add to this the stress of Markus’ shattered form, and you begin to get a knack for just how unsettling this chapter of Detroit: Become Human truly is.

While not everyone is a fan of Quantic Dream’s trademark QTE-filled gameplay, it is used to maximum effect here, as the player is truly transposed into Markus’ desperate situation by the control scheme. You begin by alternating L1 and R1 to slowly drag Markus’ shattered body across the tumultuous landscape. The long presses and holds of each button help to relay the pain and effort of Markus’ struggle for survival.

It only gets more horrific from there, as Markus must tear off body parts from other fallen androids in order to rebuild himself. The legs must come first, as mobility is key in a place like this, but with the added moral complications of the other androids begging you not to harvest them for parts, the struggle takes on a nasty new dimension.

Detroit Become Human

A particularly stirring, and disturbing, moment sees Markus moving between two closely stacked piles of android remains. Like sidling between two close-together buildings, Markus shuffles his way through, sidelong, as dozens of hands reach out for his help, and the cries of the dying paralyze his senses.

As mentioned above, the control scheme really embodies the horror of what you’re being forced to do in order to survive here. Whether tilting the analog stick to pop out an eye or tapping the X button consecutively to wrench a limb free, the act of becoming a self-made Frankenstein’s monster is not a pleasant process to endure.

The rain-drenched landscape and lonely darkness of the junkyard only add to the chilling horror of this world. Science fiction is often at its best when it shows us a pristine utopia, before turning it over to show us the horrific consequences that come as a result. Here Detroit: Become Human soars, showing us a world where machines can save us from destroying our bodies with manual labor and android doctors never make a mistake.

It’s a world where androids do the dirty work of the US military and undertake the home care of the elderly, freeing us from the sights we’d rather not see. The trade-off, though, is grisly, and the discarded robot graveyard is just one of the first inklings of how ugly this future can be when one looks too closely.

The quasi-messianic character of Markus is only one facet of this troubled world, and while some of Detroit: Become Human may lack in subtlety, it manages to create an effective, evocative look at what could be our own future one day. This sequence is just one striking example.

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Game Reviews

‘Shovel Knight: King of Cards’ and ‘Showdown’ Review: Really Spoiling Us

It’s a Yacht Club Games overdose this holiday, as the Kings of Kickstarter are back with two new entries in the Shovel Knight franchise.

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It’s a Yacht Club Games overdose this holiday season, as the Kings of Kickstarter are back with, not just one, but two new entries in the Shovel Knight franchise. Not content with just releasing another new character’s twist on the original formula, Yacht Club have also developed their own fighting game in the Shovel Knight universe. It’s to the developer’s credit that two simultaneous releases can be of this quality, but valid questions can also be asked as to whether the original formula has gotten stale, and whether Showdown’s new concept does the series justice. Fear not, for both questions will be answered in this bumper, two-for-one review!

Shovel Knight: King of Cards

King of Cards is the latest re-tread of Shovel Knight, and this time the emperor’s new clothes are the regal duds of King Knight, who is on a quest to become the greatest player in the kingdom of the card game Joustus… without really having to beat that many people at it. After the stoically heroic Shovel Knight, the dastardly cunning Plague Knight, and the broodingly enigmatic Spectre Knight, King of Cards’ protagonist embodies an enjoyable dose of pompous entitlement. His quest isn’t all that noble, and he really can’t be bothered to do a lot of hard graft to reach his goal. Thanks to the typically witty script, King Knight shines as a loathsome oik who doesn’t pay attention to any advice he’s given, and would rather have a fight, or cheat, than actually get better at Joustus.

Shovel Knight
This a late-game bout of Joustus, which shows how complex it can get.

Joustus might not really be all that important to King Knight, but it adds an entirely new element to the traditional Shovel Kinght gameplay. Those players who are a sucker for a built-in card games (myself included) will find a lot to enjoy when stepping away from all the platforming and fighting to engage in a round of Joustus. The game is played by placing cards, one at a time, onto a grid with the goal of having more of your cards placed on top of gems than your opponent.

All cards contain abilities and can be used to shove opposing cards out of the way (and off the gems), with advanced cards used to blow up, slam or recruit those of the other player. It all starts off simple enough, but can get really brain-taxing as the story progresses, and grows to be a real highlight of the game – and one of the better card-games-within-a-game I’ve played. Cheat cards can be bought to give you a leg up for trickier opponents, especially as the winner of each game gets to take one (or three if you control all gems at the end of the round) card from the loser.  

Shovel Knight
Platforming at its satisfying best. Y’know, without actually touching the platforms.

Outside of Joustus, King of Cards will feel pleasingly familiar to fans of the series. As in previous entries, the levels all share the same look and gimmicks as the original Shovel Knight, but are reshaped to adapt to the new abilities of King Knight. He has a shoulder barge attack that launches him forward, across gaps if need be, and will send him into a spin on contact with enemies or certain types of walls and blocks. This spin move acts very much in the same way as Shovel Knight’s shovel pogo attack, and allows King Knight to bounce around levels with impressive finesse. Anyone who’s played Shovel Knight before knows the drill now – try and clear every screen by chaining together as many bounce attacks as you can. It’s the law.

Shovel Knight
Familiar foes return, but the way you deal with them is the same!

It also wouldn’t be a Shovel Knight game if there weren’t a ton of unlockable moves and buffs. Amongst the best unlocks for King Knight are a Tazmanian Devil-esque tornado spin that allows him to climb walls and smash up enemies, a hammer that produce hearts with each wallop for precious HP, throwable suicide bomber mice, and the ability to stand still and have a big ol’ cry to regain HP. Something we can all relate to.

The world map returns, and is in its best guise in King of Cards. Levels are now a lot shorter than you’d expect – there’s typically only one checkpoint in the non-boss levels – but there are a lot more of them, and a large number have secret exits to find. They’re interspersed with the multiple opportunities to play Joustus, and with the seemingly random appearances of traditional Shovel Knight bosses who show up, Hammer Bros. style, on the map to block your progress. It makes for a really tight campaign that’s filled with a ton of variety.

The floor is literally lava!

It seems almost arbitrary to say, but if you like Shovel Knight and you’re not tired of the standard gameplay, there’s so much to enjoy with King of Cards. He’s probably not the most fun character to play as (for me, that’d be Spectre Knight), but his game is easily the most diverse. He’s just such an enjoyably unlikeable idiot that you’ll constantly be playing with a smile on your face, bopping along to the classic Shovel Knight chiptunes, pogoing around levels and pausing for the occasional game of cards. Who could ask for more?

Shovel Knight Showdown

Who likes Shovel Knight boss fights? Everyone does, right? How about fighting three of them at once in an amalgamation of Smash Bros. and Towerfall? It’s as chaotic as you’re imagining, and seems like a total no-brainer as a second genre for Yacht Club to transpose their blue, spade-loving hero into.

What seemed like an obviously smart move doesn’t necessarily play out in an ideal way. The one-on-one fights in Showdown are as tightly-contested and entertaining as ever, but the multi-man rumbles are absolute mayhem. There are a few different stipulations applied to fights, and these typically involve simply whittling down your opponents’ lives, or depleting their health bar to briefly kill them off and steal any gems they’ve collected from around the level, with the winner being the first to an assigned number.

Shovel Knight
I found it best to just try to escape in every multi-man level.

Standard fights are more enjoyable, as the simplicity of smacking seven shades of snot out of the competitors keeps things manageable amongst the cacophony of onscreen visual noise. The gem-collecting levels, especially with multiple opponents, are frankly a bit of a mess that I rarely found enjoyable.

Perhaps I’m just not very good at Shovel Knight boss fights, but the game felt overly difficult even on the normal setting. Playing story mode often sees your chosen character up against three opponents on the same team, and when it comes to collecting gems from around the level, they’ve got way more of the space covered and you barely get a chance to breathe with them swarming you from the word go. It’s basically an exercise in getting wailed on while you try to run away and scramble for gems, and it’s just not that fun.

If the whole game were 1v1 I’d have more fun, but it’d be a bit pointless and unsubstantial.

What does add a layer of fun to the game is the chance to play as the complete ‘Knight’ roster of Shovel Knight characters, and the best part of Showdown is learning new moves and trying to find your ‘main’. Perhaps, with more time to sit down and learn the move sets in the practice mode, the game would feel more rewarding than if you just jump in and try to slog through the chaotic story mode like I did.

With a four-player battle mode as the only other gameplay option, Showdown was clearly never meant to be anything other than a brief little curio to give fans of the series’ boss fights an overdose of what they love, but as a complete experience I found it lacking in both modes and reasons to keep plugging away at the arcade fighter-style story mode. It turns out that the boss fights in Shovel Knight are more fun at the end of a platforming level rather than in the middle of enclosed space filled with flashing lights, random effects, environmental hazards, and three bastards all chasing you down. If you can handle all that stress, you’ll have a much better time than I did.

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Game Reviews

‘Disco Elysium’: A Thought-Provoking Mystery

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Disco Elysium Review

For the most part, the majority of games are easy to classify, but from time to time a game is released that defies conventional rules and resists simple categorization. Disco Elysium is just such a game. On the surface of it, it’s a topdown, isometric RPG of the oldest of old schools. It draws upon long-established systems, structures, and mechanics that make it comfortably familiar. However, beneath that patina of tradition lies something completely unexpected and utterly unique.

Developed by the small, independent studio ZA/UM, with a story penned by Estonian novelist, Robert Kurvitz, and a painstakingly detailed world crafted by artist Aleksander Rostov, Disco Elysium stands apart from most RPGs in that it is startlingly realistic whilst simultaneously being grimly fantastical. Set on an isolated archipelago in the wake of a failed communist revolution, the game casts players as a detective sent to solve the murder of a man found hanging in the backyard of a rundown boarding house/cafe. It’s a simple setup made all the more complex by the fact that the player character is suffering from a severe bout of alcohol and drug-induced amnesia. The mystery that needs to be solved concerns piecing together exactly who the player character is, as much as it involves reconstructing the chain of events that resulted in a brutal death.

Arriving at conclusions to both conundrums requires navigating complex webs of social and political intrigue. Along the way, players will encounter union bosses, disgruntled workers, war veterans, and all manner of extraordinary and mundane citizens just trying to go about their daily lives in a place that seems designed to thwart their ambitions at every turn. More than that though, players will be required to engage in continuous internal dialogues that involve the protagonist gradually putting themselves back together. The result is character customization in a quite literal sense of the word. Rather than the standard array of physical options that most games of this type present players with, the options are entirely psychological. Player actions and choices determine the overall structure of the internal workings of their character. Whether they decide to be a high-minded idealist trying to better themselves and the world around them in whatever way they can or opt to descend into anarchic, hedonistic self-obliteration such choices determine exactly who and what their version of the character is.

The foundation of stats and skills that are usually inert background components that all RPGs are based on is firmly in place. However, rather than being a numerical bedrock upon which all gameplay is based, Disco Elysium takes those sets of modifiers and statistics and makes them an active part of character progression and world development. As you progress through the game, skills points can be used for a variety of purposes. They can be used to upgrade core character stats, of which there a total of twenty-four covering a whole range of mental, physical, and social attributes, that govern player’s ability to immediately interact with the game world. However, they can also be used to learn or forget particular thoughts These thoughts develop depending on how players decide to approach situations and solve problems and can unlock semi-permanent bonuses and even penalties.

Disco Elysium Review

Much as in reality, the things the character is capable of are largely dependent on their frame of mind. If players opt to make a character that is brash and uncouth then they will find it difficult to subtly manipulate interactions to their benefit or arrive at unobtrusive solutions to various situations. On the other hand, if they elect to play a character that is more thoughtful and introspective, or cunning rather than crass, then they will find it difficult to emerge unscathed from more physical challenges. It’s an interpretation of character development and player progress that feels much more organic than in any other game of this sort. This is probably where Disco Elysium does the most to stand out from other such titles. Such a flexible approach to progress is hopefully something that other companies will emulate going forward, as it allows the character to develop a true personality that goes a step beyond the mathematically-oriented, incremental statistical increases that are usually the norm.

Disco Elysium Review

The ways in which player action, character interaction, and game reaction combine together is probably the closest it is possible to get to a truly curated dungeon master-guided play experience in an RPG. There is such a wide and unpredictable variety of moment-to-moment options that players can never be certain what exactly is going to happen next. This sense of improvisational unpredictability is a quintessential element of any RPG, but it is often lost in translation from tabletop rules to computer game mechanics. This pitfall is avoided thanks to the fact that the world of Disco Elysium was conceptualized as a tabletop game but doesn’t actually exist as one yet. As such the developers were able to implement systems without the expectation of adhering to pre-existing mechanics. This expectation has often been the downfall of many such games in the past, such as the much-maligned Sword Coast Legends which was lambasted for its apparent butchery of the 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons ruleset. It will be interesting to see if Larian Studios can avoid similar problems with Baldur’s Gate 3.

Disco Elysium Review

As intriguing and unconventional as Disco Elysium is, and no matter how deserving it is of the accolades it won at 2019’s Game Awards, it’s hard to recommend it as something to play if you’re looking for fun. It’s relentlessly grim even when it’s trying to be funny, and its stream of consciousness style makes even the most basic of interactions a minefield of potential disturbing possibilities. With its biting combination of continental existentialist ennui, pseudo-Lovecraftian undercurrents, and socio-political critique it isn’t a game that you play for the sheer joy of it, but rather for the esoteric and unusual experience that it offers. That being said, in a market that’s full to bursting point with crowd-pleasing blockbusters and oftentimes strictly by-the-book sequels or carbon copy titles, it can be incredibly rewarding to delve into a game as intricate and nuanced as Disco Elysium.

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