I think the Nintendo Switch is the handheld I've wanted since I was ten years old.
I was a Nintendo kid. Here in the UK, that's quite unusual. Most guys my age seemed to have grown up with Spectrums and Commodore 64's - but for me, a couple of years living in the US in the mid-late 80's exposed me to the NES. It stuck with me; it ingrained in me an idea of what games were supposed to be and I've been a console gamer ever since, for better or for worse.
I took my first steps into mobile gaming with a Gameboy in early 1990. It was a gift from a family friend who went on a business trip to Japan and came back with it and a copy of Xenon 2. I played the hell out of that machine, pouring more hours into Tetris and Super Mario Land (and later RoboCop) than I'd care to think of. I still own it today, and it still works - much to the amazement/amusement of my kids. It was eventually superceded though - a Sega Gamegear with a colour(!) screen found its way into the house. Since then, I think I've owned most handhelds with the exception of an Atari Lynx. I keep eyeing those on eBay, but haven't ever pulled the trigger. Yet. Gameboy Advance and SP were probably the two best in recent years. I liked the DS but it always felt clunky, and I've had a 3DS XL sitting unused in my bedside table for the last 2 years or so.
I've come to understand something in recent years - something I think I realised even when I was a lot younger. You know when something bothers you enormously but you can't quite put your finger on what it is? That was my relationship with handheld gaming machines for a long time. I was enjoying them, but with one eye always on the horizon. They always felt like a pared back experience, a compromise. Yes, I could play Super Mario in the back of the car... but no, it didn't look or sound or feel like real Super Mario on my NES. By the time they began to get some sense of parity, it was to an experience that was years old. Street Fighter 2 on the Gameboy Advance SP looked and sounded a lot like Street Fighter 2 on the SNES, but the latter had been a new game ten years previously at that point. I was looking for the impossible, apparently - a handheld gaming system that I could play on an aeroplane, that would run full versions of big, exciting, triple A games. For a while there, I thought Sony's PS Vita was going to be the one - but ended up disappointed with the lack of big games for it. The ones that did get converted were compromised, again - either missing content or having suffered serious visual downgrades.
So, when the Switch was announced, I pre-ordered it. Then I cancelled my pre-order and forgot all about it. I played a bit of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Wii-U that we had in the lounge, but it felt strangely imprecise. I filed it away and moved on to other things and didn't really think much about the Switch again. Bayonetta 2 caught my attention, but not enough to pick one up. Various indie games dropped that raised my eyebrows, but still I didn't bite. By this point, I was thinking something almost unthinkable: I'm too old for Nintendo. And beside, their first party stuff doesn't excite me that much these days, and third parties just don't ship games on Nintendo systems. And then, suddenly, three things happened in quick succession that changed my mind. The first was Gris being released on the Switch and not on the Xbox One. Gris, if you haven't seen anything about it, is a beautiful looking platform game, made by small Spanish team Nomada Studio. Here - watch this:
I love games like this, where an artistic vision pushes a game though to a conclusion. It looks like a cross between Journey and Ori and the Blind Forest. I NEED to play it - and to do that I either need a gaming rig, which isn't likely to happen, or I need a Switch.
Secondly, Final Fantasy IX was announced. I know several people who hold that game in the regard that I hold VIII in - which is to say pretty bloody high. The third and final thing? The rumours circulating that Microsoft and Nintendo are working together to bring Xbox Live and Gamepass to the Switch via the new Xcloud tech that Microsoft have been working on. Suddenly, a Switch seems more essential than simply viable - so I took a deep breath and coughed up for one. So far, I've played Zelda in bed while drinking tea - which was probably the happiest hour of Sunday morning I've spent in years - and I've played on the couch while my wife was watching TV, and I've played it at my desk. I'm almost as far in as a I got in the Wii-U version - but it feels a lot better playing it as it was so clearly intended. A copy of Bayonetta 2 is en route, and I can see Mario Kart 8 Deluxe finding its way here sometime soon too - not to mention loads of indie games.
I'm aware I'm late to the party, here. There's probably lots of you reading this with a "yeah, duh" expression, wondering what the hell took me so long. To those people, I say "better late than never." I've been waiting for a machine that can do this for 30 years - when put into that perspective, taking 2 years to finally buy one is no big deal. If you've been sitting on the fence though, wondering... I think you should treat yourself.