Nintendo has a rich history of re-releasing hardware in their portable market. A look back at the GBA, DS and 3DS era will tell you that you can always expect them to tweak hardware to help them drop the cost and make it a more affordable product. The Switch is the first hybrid console of our time, but there is no denying that its strength comes in the form of it being a mobile device. Nintendo knows this and with that we now have the Switch Lite.
Dynamite still comes in small packages
Yes, the Switch Lite is going to cost you much less than its original unit, coming in at a much more affordable R3,999. That there will easily be your number one reason to consider this new piece of hardware. However, I’m about to tell you that there is much more to this handheld console than happy days for your wallet. It’s mind-boggling to hold the Switch Lite in your hands and to consider that you’re virtually holding a piece of tech that allows you to play Mortal Kombat 11, Diablo 3, Wolfenstein, Doom and many other spec-hungry games in the palm of your hands. When compared to the original Switch, it’s much, much lighter. It’s a drop from 400g to just over 270g. It might not sound that significant, but in reality it is very noticeable. Considering that there are many games that’ll have you ignoring those 30-minute regular breaks, spending three hours playing a game is something that the hardware allows you to do with ease. It’s made for both quick and long sessions of gaming.
Nintendo has gone with simplicity in all areas. From opening the box with only the console unit and a power cable (along with some paperwork) to the simple build quality. Everything feels just about perfect. The Switch Lite comes in grey, yellow and turquoise and has a matte finish, so no nasty fingerprints in sight. The button layout is exactly the same as before, it’s just that the face and shoulder buttons are now soft to press. Other than the L3 and R3 analogue stick buttons, that clicky feel is nowhere to be found.
Be aware that those pretty white buttons and analogue sticks won’t stay as pretty forever, so best you clean it regularly.
The big addition is unquestionably the improved D-Pad. With an eShop with hordes of 2D games to download, this is a welcome addition. If you’re wondering how it compares to previous D-pads then you’ll be glad to hear that it’s ejected the terrible Pro Controller D-Pad for something in favour of what you might have experienced on the DS Lite. It’s got a much more squishy feel to it and feels just about perfect to use. I tested it playing several Mega Drive games and not once was there an incorrect input, unlike the Pro Controller. Be aware that those pretty white buttons and analogue sticks won’t stay as pretty forever, so best you clean it regularly.
You got to give and take
Surprisingly the screen size isn’t that much smaller. It is a drop from 6.2” to 5.5” and at no point did it feel like much of a downgrade from what I was accustomed to with the original Switch. In terms of screen quality there is absolutely no drop in quality. You’re getting exactly what you’ll find on the original console. Colours are bright and crisp. The unit itself also feels very solid, thanks to there being no Joy-Con’s that can be detached.
The big question you need to ask yourself before deciding on this purchase is simple: Do I only want to play it as a portable experience?
The feature that made the original launch of the Switch so unique was the fact that it was so incredibly versatile. That is unfortunately what the Switch Lite leaves behind. In terms of it being portable, it still hosts some versatile functions, but it’s nowhere near as diverse as the original. It can’t be connected directly to your television at all, no matter what you try. It also comes without HD rumble. It’s something I noticed right away as it’s a feature I enjoy on the Switch, but the lack of rumble does provide an additional 30 minutes of play.
Unfortunately there are obvious limitations.
The flimsy stand on the back has also been discarded and with that you now have a much improved slot to insert your micro SD card in to download games to your console. Should you own other Joy-Con’s or a Pro controller it can be synced to your console too. But, without the stand it’ll have to lie on a flat surface or a possible third-party stand in the future.
Unfortunately there are obvious limitations. Some games, including Super Mario Party, LABO, 1-2 Switch and the upcoming Ring Fit Adventure are unfortunately not compatible with the Lite. If are not planning to buy any of those games, you’re not losing out on too much. This brings me to the two biggest issues.
Nintendon’t understand online
There is a ‘might happen to you’ and an ‘if you’re an owner with two Switch’s’ problem. There are already reports that the Switch Lite might come with faulty analogue sticks. I was one of the unfortunate people who had the left analogue stick going faulty on my original console and I simply replaced it with a left Joy-Con purchase. Should this happen with the Switch Lite you’ll be able to send it in for repairs, but you’ll be without your entire console as you can’t replace a Joy-Con.
The other first-world problem comes in the form of Nintendo’s terrible account integration. You can add your account to a second console, but only the primary console can download and play the games you own as well as upload its save file to the cloud. It’s frustrating if you have two people in a household and would like to share the titles you have paid for. It’s understandable why Nintendo did this, as people will abuse it, but for people who plan to do it for legitimate reasons it sucks. The Switch Lite is the ‘perfect’ substitute to owning a second Switch in a household. It’s a shame Nintendo are taking the stance they have.
It’s an incredible piece of tech.
But, the best news is that it is fully compatible with the original Switch consoles. I played several wireless multiplayer games of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and it was as if we were playing on the exact same hardware. If a game can play in handheld mode then it’ll work on the Switch Lite just as it would have worked on the original model.
If the Switch is a cost-effective form for you to get access to all the Nintendo goodness you’ve been missing out on and you plan to play it portable then I can’t recommend this enough. It’s an incredible piece of tech. But, if you’re thinking about owning that sidekick console in the house you might want to wait for Nintendo to fix their user account stumbles.