Rumors about two alleged new models for Nintendo Switch, the hybrid console of the Japanese company published for the first time in March 2017, have been spread around the internet for months. Through some insiders, but also through simple assumptions dictated by the current market trend - in which at mid-cycle of any gaming platform, the manufacturer produces a more powerful, high-performance model or, on the contrary, more minimalist (at least in size) and light model - it had in fact been talked about the possibility that Nintendo had ready two new versions of Switch to offer to their players. In what appeared to be an obvious move, at the beginning of this summer, the Kyoto-based company unveiled Switch Lite, a new smaller and more compact version of the hardware released just a couple of years ago and specifically designed to play in portable mode.
Yes, because unlike its "big sister" - which made the versatility between home console and portable platform its greatest added value - Lite is a product that aims to make the flexibility one of its flagships, aiming at an audience that, if in some ways intersects with who buy a standard Switch, it looks for something different from it. We paid a visit to Nintendo Italy's office this week and we were able to get our hands on one of these brand new devices, whose launch is expected this Friday, September 20th. And after an hour spent with it, it seems almost impossible not to grasp its potential. Yeah, because Lite isn't a "incomplete" version of the original platform, but an absolutely standalone product and it doesn't intend to replace Switch - which still remains, however, the premium version offered by Nintendo - but which perhaps aims to be more appealing to who's missing Nintendo 3DS and who doesn't want to give up playing the same games designed for the main hybrid version.
The first thing that came to our mind as soon as we took the new Nintendo device in our hands was "compact", while the second was "light" like a feather. Compared to a standard Switch model, Lite is, in fact, decidedly more comfortable thanks to its significantly reduced dimensions (it's 20.8 cm wide and 9.14 cm high) - but which make the difference when used for longer gaming sessions - to the point of being quietly between our (small) hands, without the risk of slight pains to the fingers as instead happens to us today using the original model. Although the thickness of the console is the same, its weight of just 277 grams (instead of 399 grams of normal Switch), combined with its perfectly rounded shape, allows the user to hold the device with greater grip and comfort in their hands. The integration of Joy-Con to the colored body (by the way, there are three different colors such as yellow, gray and turquoise) is elegant and refined, which fits well with the screen which, although slightly smaller than the one on classic Switch (5.5" compared to 6.2" in the previous version), it's brighter.
As for the controls, there's a small difference compared to the standard Nintendo Switch, which is perhaps what most closely resembles Nintendo 3DS: the d-pad. Since the Joy-Cons are no longer removable from the console and therefore can't be used as a stand-alone mini-controllers, there's no need left-Joy-Con to be equipped with Y, X, B , A buttons, and consequently Nintendo has reinstated that much-loved control. In this regard, during our hands-on session we could also test some Nintendo first-party games, including Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario Maker 2. As already confirmed to its announcement, the new console is completely compatible with the all the games published on the main hardware, so from this point of view there are no differences between the two models.
The only thing that surprised us was our somewhat weird experience while we were playing Super Mario Odyssey: in fact, as you may recall, when the game starts, a screen appears advising the user to use the Joy-Cons "disconnected" from the hardware, as this mode offers a far more natural and optimal experience, especially when you use Cappy (although you can still play the game using Joy-Cons anchored to the console, when in portable mode). Well, this screen - present on several occasions especially in the game tutorial, as soon as you start using the cute hat-shaped companion - is still there, even if you play the game on Lite, as the Joys-cons are now integrated in the console. For heaven's sake, it's a trifle - and we are convinced that Nintendo will release a patch in the future to avoid similar situations with other games - but we can't hide that we were a little surprised by this slight oversight on the part of a company as careful as the Kyoto-based company.
Apart from that, the games work just like on the Nintendo Switch and even with the slightly smaller screen, playing in two is absolutely feasible and the image on the screen is particularly sharp. There's another rather important question, a question that many of you will have asked yourself: is it possible to play in two (or more) players on a single Switch Lite, despite the integrated Joy-Con? The good news is that the answer is yes, you can do it, but you need to connect two external Joy-Cons (or more) to the console. However, even once connected to the console, another problem remains: Switch Lite does not present the rear stand as the original model, and therefore it's not possible to use it in table mode as we are used to do in the standard version.
This issue was very useful for us to understand what kind of audience Nintendo really wants to reach with that console, which is very different from who buy a normal Switch. They are usually players who want to enjoy Nintendo experiences at home with all the practicality and versatility of an exclusively portable platform. Some might argue that it is exactly the concept behind the hardware released in 2017, but here the discussion becomes more subtle: Lite clearly wants to make up for the lack of Nintendo 3DS - which will probably retire shortly after the launch of this platform - but offering the same graphic quality and power of a home console, with far better weight and comfort, more similar to those of Nintendo's previous portable hardware.
Moreover, another added value is given by the lower price of Switch Lite (219.99 euros) compared to the original model (329.99 euros), which makes it more "light" even for the wallet, maybe for those parents who want to invest in a gaming console for their children (lighter and more comfortable), without them remaining in front of the TV. Furthermore, it is still possible to continue playing not only online (subscribing to a Nintendo Switch Online service), but also locally by connecting two or more consoles together. During our test, we connected multiple platforms to play Mario Kart 8 and the quality remained unchanged compared to what we saw on Switch.
Will Switch Lite send Switch into retirement? Absolutely not. Will Lite send Nintendo 3DS into retirement? Absolutely yes. Being devoid of cable and HDMI input and the appropriate dock-station, it is clear that the intent behind Switch Lite are to "talk" to an audience that makes mobile gaming excellence one of its priorities, and from what we have tried, we must admit that it does so in an excellent way. Despite a couple of initial doubts, resolved clearly by Nintendo, we don't deny that we were really impressed by this miniature version of Switch, as it boasts all the strengths of the "top of the range" version, but with greater versatility and comfort. As for its launch, Nintendo Switch Lite will be available from September 20, this Friday, at a price of 219.99 euros. In addition to the three colors already mentioned, from November 8th the platform will also be available in the Nintendo Switch Lite special edition Zacian & Zamazenta, with elegant cyan and magenta buttons and illustrations of the two new legendary Pokémon of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.
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