When Nintendo first announced the Switch Lite I kind of thought, what’s the point and saw it as a money-making gimmick. But my cynicism was unfounded.
It may look like the Switch and do most of the things a Switch can do, but in reality this is the colourful, cool successor to the Nintendo 3DS.
Let’s start by getting the tecchy bits out of the way.
The biggest thing about the Switch Lite is that it is solely dedicated to handheld play.
As such the Joy-Con controls are integrated as a fixed part of a single unit.
The Lite has a smaller screen too at 5.5 inches (14 cm).
A regular ‘old school’ directional pad has replaced the four directional buttons on the integrated left Joy-Con too.
As you may imagine the first question people ask is about the battery. Yes it is smaller than the main Switch, but the Lite uses a more ‘power-efficient chipset’ to extend estimated use from 2.5-6.5 hours to 3-7 hours on a single battery charge.
The Lite does limit what games you can play - but not to any real detriment at the moment. But it is worth noting that anyone trying to purchase games digitally on the Lite will be notified of any incompatibility. And in addition to other normal Joy-Cons, the Switch Lite also supports external controllers otherwise compatible with the Switch while you still have the main unit’s gyroscopic sensors and Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC compatibility.
Knowing all of that I felt better already as I first set out using this super cool bit of kit. I should say straight off the bat that in no way do I believe the Switch Lite will or can replace the main Switch for current owners.
This is aimed at a younger market, families and a more casual gamer, and with good reason. Nintendo are not stupid either. The Lite was released in September, just a few months before Christmas. It has already sold two million units and counting and that number is expected to swell over the festive period.
The Lite is more sturdy and feels great in hand. It will present a challenge for some games given the fixed controls and positioning of the thumbsticks. But this is another triumph from Nintendo. They have taken my favourite console for generations, added limitations and restrictions yet somehow improved it in several areas.
So much so that I now sometimes begrudge playing my original in handheld mode as it feels decidedly old and clunky all of a sudden. At around £90 cheaper than the main unit, you have to ask yourself does not being able to play it on the TV screen bother you?
If not, or if you have a young family where sturdy, handheld gaming is what you need then look no further.
What the Lite lacks in flexible gaming and cool gimmicks, quirky control methods and innovative add-ons, it more than makes up for in just about every other area. At long last the 3DS has a worthy successor.