Nintendo’s paid online service, Nintendo Switch Online, costs significantly less than Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Sony’s PS Plus (Switch Online is $20USD/year, Xbox Live/PS Plus is $60USD/year). While the cost is cheap and the service does what it’s supposed to – It does not do it well.
Switch Online is required for players to play games online. Much like Xbox Live and PS Plus, Switch Online has a voice chat system, but it is on a smartphone app. Nintendo has missed the mark on its voice chat system. The lack of an in-system voice chat is rather lazy of Nintendo. Switch has more than enough ways to connect a headset into the system. Even if the app was on system, that would be infinitely better than on a smartphone. The quality is good depending upon your phone’s speakers and connects to others fairly well, but the use of a separate application on a completely separate device is frustrating.
Sony struggled with voice chat (or the lack thereof) on the PS3. There was no party system on PS3, so friends could not communicate at all outside of the game they are currently playing together. With a paid service, subscribers would have expected something a little better than the app Nintendo already had for free to use with Splatoon 2. Switch Online’s voice chat is disappointing, but at least I can use my PS4/Xbox One to voice chat with friends while playing Switch instead.
A big selling point of Switch Online is the library of NES games. Like a Netflix-esque application, subscribers can download a new Nintendo Entertainment System app that has NES games ready to stream. These games include: The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Mario Bros., Dr. Mario, Ice Climbers, Donkey Kong, Tecmo Bowl, and Ghosts n’ Goblins. A slew of generic NES sports titles round out the remaining games available.
The line-up looks good on paper, but Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong have superior versions available on the eShop via Arcade Archives. Having downloaded those upon release, that leaves The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Ghosts n’ Goblins as the biggest hits for Switch Online. A problem with these NES games is the Joy-Con controller itself. The D-Pad on Switch is really exposed when playing NES games. The separated D-Pad is uncomfortable and does not do these games any justice. Playing The Legend of Zelda without being able to rock the D-Pad in full motion is painful at times.
It is not the most painful part of the NES games though. Having played The Legend of Zelda for many, many hours, I know how the game is supposed to feel. It’s surprisingly responsive many years later and is one of the most playable NES games in the modern day. On Switch, The Legend of Zelda has moments of significant slow-down. That is something I have never noticed on any other iteration of Zelda. On NES, Wii, and Wii-U it is not existent. For a console that is superior to all the aforementioned consoles, it’s sad and inexcusable. That is the case every now and then with other games on the system too. If the NES library was the reason for buying Switch online, spending $40USD more for a NES Classic would have been a better investment at this point.
Conclusion: Switch Online shows promise, but upon launch executes very little very well. It is not bad, but it is most certainly not good.
Ninten-Don’t invest in Switch Online yet.