I’m talking, of course, about the Nintendo Switch. Every glowing word has me more and more psyched for The Legend of Zelda, and the short play sessions I’ve had with it have been encouraging. Snipperclips is as much fun as I’d hoped. Mario Odyssey looks like fun even though the whole New Donk City thing weirds me out. I want a Nintendo Switch more than perhaps any Nintendo system since the SNES, and it pains me – because it pains me.
While the left Joy-Con controller is quite comfortable to hold for the most part, the right Joy-Con left me, after 10 minutes, with a cramped hand that stayed sore for hours. Neither of those times as exaggerations. It’s all about the thumb stick.
In terms of quality and feel, the sticks themselves are fine. I don’t think they’re the best analog sticks in gaming, but they get the job done. It’s the position, where they sit on the controller. To make sure that each player gets the same controller when the Joy-Con controllers are split off into two-player mode, the left and right Joy-Con controllers have a flipped configuration that has established the Switch console’s look and logo.
Reaching that stick, though, ranges from inconvenient to painful depending on the situation and how long I’ve been playing.
At a glance, the configuration doesn’t look that terribly different from the DualShock or Xbox controllers, but a little bit of plastic and an angle change make all the difference. Like the Switch controller, Microsoft’s Xbox controller flips the orientation of analog stick and the face buttons from one side of the controller to the other. Unlike Nintendo, though, Microsoft sets the two at an angle. When you reach for them, they’re essentially the same distance from your thumb. The DualShock doesn’t flip the stick and buttons, but the same angled configuration applies.
Nintendo knows this is an issue, too, and it can be easily solved with one of Nintendo’s $70 Pro controllers.
But then it’s not a portable device anymore. It’s a stationary home console. A major feature of the system is worthless, and I’d have to spend an extra $70 right out of the gate to invest in a Switch. Spending almost 25 percent more to lose out on half the functionality is a pretty big compromise. That doesn’t even take into account the fact that some games, like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, actually perform noticeably better when played in the system’s portable mode as compared to when played in the dock.
Look at this amazing game I can’t play
I know this isn’t just me. Between conversations with friends and chatter on social media, word seems to be that the right Joy-Con is acceptable at best and unusable at worst. Maybe if I had smaller hands, it wouldn’t be such a problem, but I have big adult-sized hands with adult-sized thumbs on them, like some kind of adult.
In a way, the Switch is Nintendo’s most “Nintendo” console. It combines two of Nintendo’s core ideologies – portability and local multiplayer – in a way that no Nintendo console has before. But it seems that’s all come at the cost of single player use. Either the system isn’t intended for single-player use, or the Pro controller is an omission from the basic configuration rather than an extra option.
I thought for a while that a flipped right Joy-Con would fix the issue, but that’s not quite right, either. A Pro controller, but for handheld mode, would make all the difference. If I could slot in big-grip Joy-Cons that were shaped more like a traditional controller and, in turn, far more comfortable, I’d be in line on day one.
For now – and until Nintendo or a third party introduces a solution for adult-sized hands, I won’t be getting my hands on a Switch. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t.