Minecraft Nintendo Switch Edition Review

Game Title: Minecraft Nintendo Switch Edition
Developer: 4J Studios, Microsoft Studios, Mojang AB
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Download: 540 MB + 2 GB for Save Data (2.6 GB Total)
Availability: Digital Download (Europe, North America, Japan)
Battery Life: 3.5 – 4.5 hours
Supported Modes: TV, Tabletop, Handheld

There are a lot of Third Party games that release on most consoles that are considered “staple” games in today’s gaming world. For indies, there are games like Terraria, The Binding of Isaac, and even games Darkest Dungeon, among other titles. Even among indies, nothing is as big as the giant, open sandbox building game, Minecraft.

Minecraft has been on consoles for a long time, though Minecraft on handheld consoles has only been a thing for the past few years.  That is thanks to the building game coming to the PlayStation Vita, which marked the first time the full console experience was available on the go.

With the Nintendo Switch, the idea was to bring the Wii U experience on the go, and enhance it when hooked up to the TV. So, how is the final product? Let’s find out. Here’s my review of Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition!

Story

Minecraft does have a story, but it isn’t given until the very end. The basic premise is that you’re a person out in a big world, aiming to survive, fight off monsters, and take out an evil dragon hidden in an alternate dimension. You don’t know any of this until you actually go and kill said dragon, but once you do, you get a engthy dialogue sequence from the “Gods” of the world, based on your exploits and a philosophical speech about the game and life in general.

Obviously, the story isn’t anything to focus on, but it’s there to be there and give you a bit of a reward once you do actually “Beat” the game. It’s worth noting that the ending sequence in the Switch version is drastically longer than it was in previous console editions like the PS3 and Vita versions.

Gameplay

Minecraft is a 3D Sandbox game where you create a randomly-generated world to collect materials and make literally anything you want from weapons, shelter, tools, and more. It also has some light RPG elements with leveling up and enhancing items, but it’s essentially a Lego Simulator, if all Lego pieces were square cubes.

For handheld fans, let’s talk about the differences between the PlayStation Vita Minecraft and Nintendo Switch Minecraft. The Switch version contains Adventure Mode (which the PS Vita version is currently missing), which is like Survival, but requires tools to mine anything (even simple materials like wood).  Apart from the Mario Mashup Pack being included like on the Wii U, the worlds are also larger.  The PS Vita and Wii U Editions contained worlds up to 864 x 864 blocks, while the Switch version has world sizes up to 3072 x 3072, a more than triple increase.

Another enhancement from the PS Vita version is a higher capacity for characters on-screen. I quickly noticed that there were a lot more animals on the Switch than Vita.  While I would travel and barely have enough food to survive when playing on the PS Vita, I have plentiful amounts of food when playing on the Switch.  As well as animals,  there are also wider and thicker trees, more enemies, etc. It’s all around a much busier game.

For anyone unfamiliar, the point of Minecraft is Creation and Imagination.  You make a world based on a texture pack that is generated completely at random. Once you spawn in the world, you mine materials and build a shelter to protect you from monsters at night, tools to mine harder materials, collect and cook food to survive from day to day, and use your imagination to create and build whatever you feel like making.

Many people play Minecraft to build creations, like recreations of their favorite location from a TV show / video game, or just any random thing they want to build. Did you ever take generic Lego blocks when you were young and build whatever? Minecraft is essentially like that, except you have to collect/mine the right colors (or go into Creative Mode and access all materials at the same time).

Obviously, these projects last a long time. I made a Castle Town project in the Vita version of the game and across clearing land, collecting materials, and building everything, that single project took close to 50 hours of playtime. That is what Co-Op Play is for. The game supports up to 8-player Multiplayer across local and online play. Get 3 or 4 friends together, put them to work, and that 50-hour project becomes a 10-15 hour project. Something you can easily do a few hours each weekend and be proud of your work upon completion.

As far as time is concerned, that depends on what you wish to do. A full survival run of building up food and equipment and searching for the right underground stronghold to find and defeat the Ender Dragon will likely take you at least 5-8 hours, given the random element, the fact that the Switch Worlds are larger than the Vita worlds, and the specific equipment and inventory needed for that final boss fight. I’ve played the Switch version for about 25 hours thus far and that’s across one Survival Game only barely past setting up a shelter, some bridges to some material-gathering locations, and near-completion of the first armor set.

In short, it’s very easy to get lost in your own personal tasks and sink tons of hours into Minecraft, even more-so if you play with your friends.

Controls

The controls of Minecraft: Switch Edition are a bit different than you may be used to, but they work out pretty well. The biggest different Vita owners will notice is the fact that the Jump/Confirm button is now A, where Circle is on the PlayStation control map.

Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and the Right Stick moves the camera. The D-Pad/Arrow Buttons can be used to cycle through your inventory, whether you’re in Crafting Mode or just Exploring Mode. The L and R triggers can also be used to cycle from side-to-side in your main inventory, and ZL and ZR are used for using items and mining, respectively.

The face buttons are pretty standard. The A button is for jump/confirm and B is used for cancel in menus. X is used for pulling up your inventory and Y for the Crafting Menu. Finally, the Left Stick can click for perspective changes and Right Stick can click for crouching/standing, just like on the PlayStation TV.

The tutorial does an excellent job of explain how all of this works, so there’s really no learning curve with it.

Presentation

Visually, the Nintendo Switch version is identical to the Wii U, though resolution has improved. Minecraft for Wii U ran a resolution of 720p while the Switch runs 720p in handheld mode and 1080p in TV/Docked Mode (unlike many rumors about it running 720p in both handheld and TV mode, but considering it stretches beyond the screen of my 720p TV, safe to say it does display in 1080p). The renders certainly aren’t perfect like the PS4/Xbox One versions. There are jaggies here and there, but nothing too incredible. As I said a moment ago, it is identical to how the Wii U version looked.

The only real blemish of the game is the music track swapping in the Super Mario Mashup Pack. I didn’t notice this at first, but there’s a wider gap between tracks than on the Wii U. As a comparison, when one Mario track ends, the next starts up about 7 seconds later on Wii U, but 25 seconds later on Switch. This seems to only be localized to the Super Mario Mashup Pack, as the other packs I’ve used don’t have that much silence. Nothing too major, but just a little thing I noticed.

The draw distance is around the same as the Wii U version, though in Handheld Mode, it’s slightly under. To be more precise, it has slightly more draw distance than PS Vita Edition has and slightly less than the Wii U Edition has as a handheld, but the same as Wii U as a console.

Performance is wonderful. I never realized how much slower the Vita version was until I played Minecraft on the Switch. Menus go by lightning-fast and the frame-rate is a great 60 fps for the majority of the game. In handheld mode, it sometimes will drop down to 30 fps, but no matter where you are, you will get 30 fps and more, though 90% of the time, it will be a constant 60 fps, which is amazing, considering the fps of the Vita version dipped relatively often under 30.

Battery Life

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Battery Life. On one hand, it’s a 3D game, but at the same time, it’s not exactly super-high-graphics. Here are the times I got from 100% to 0%:

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 20 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 29 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 52 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 20 minutes

This isn’t bad. About the same as what Mario Kart 8 can net you, Minecraft will last between 3 and a half and 4 and a half hours, depending on your settings. I’m pretty satisfied with it, especially considering the high network usage that Minecraft uses, even when you’re not playing with 7 friends.

Summary

In conclusion, Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition is essentially the most versatile “handheld and console” version of the game yet. Across versatility, the smooth frame-rate, and triple the world size from Vita/Wii U Editions, this is the best handheld Minecraft to date (and the best Nintendo Console Edition of Minecraft to date).

10/10

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