Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 22.05.2017 5

Review for Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition on Nintendo Switch

Minecraft, the one and only, should need no introduction. It took the world by storm over the years, gathering a steady flow of followers since its original alpha release 7 years ago. It became immensely popular on the PC before being ported to every major console and platform that could run it over the years. Xbox 360, PS3, Android, and iOS as Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita, the Wii U in December 2015, and now, at long last, the Nintendo Switch. The reason that it keeps re-releasing like this as we go along is pretty simple: It's popular and it sells! The concept itself appeals to a massive number of people around the globe, and the core concept is always found intact on every platform, albeit with certain limitations in certain cases, so it's especially in the latter area that we will closely inspect how this Switch version stacks up, next to other concurrent releases.

In Minecraft, players take control of an avatar in a huge world made entirely of blocks, and are free to explore it as they please in several different game modes. This world is made out of different types of biomes that come with their unique look, weather conditions, fauna and flora, and so on. Variety is indeed right there and as updates have come out over the years, more and more types of biomes have been added into the mix, with new types of blocks added for good measure. The key element, though, is that the world is not static, and absolutely everything that the players sees can be modified, broken, reshaped, replaced. It is the epitome of a sandbox video game, where the world as it is originally randomly generated by the game, will progressively become what players, whether one or several in local or online multiplayer, will make of it. But the rules under which this is accomplished vary depending in the game mode selected.

The very first and most important mode is Survival. In here, you start out empty handed and must "survive" inside this virtual world by finding sustenance, either by gathering or planting edible things, or by hunting mobs, all while fending off hostiles that are out and about to kill you. To do all this, tools will be necessary. Moreover, to protect you from the dangers that lurk outside at night, building a well-lit shelter is of the utmost importance to keep distant enemies at bay and prevent more from spawning right next to you. How does one obtain the means to craft those tools and the materials necessary for construction? By mining for resources, using shovels and pickaxes for example.

Right there, newcomers can already see what Mojang, the original developer of Minecraft, did for the title of their game. However, there are those that simply want to use Minecraft as a support for their own creativity, without having to deal with limited resources. In Survival mode, players are restricted in what they can achieve by the resources at their disposition, which have to be gathered first. The 'Creative' mode circumvents this altogether by providing absolutely every type of block or item right off the bat, in infinite supply. In here, one can simply build whatever they like and take their time doing so without fearing any hostiles. Lastly, players can turn their world, created in creative mode, into a place where other players can come to live a true adventure in the third mode, 'Adventure mode.'

Screenshot for Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition on Nintendo Switch

This is a very specific mode where the world itself, as it was before shifting the active mode to Adventure, will then remain static and very little about it can then be modified without the required tool. In Survival one can break hard stone with their bare hand if the punch it for long enough, but in adventure mode, unless the creator of the world provides the means to do so, it can be modified. As such, creative gamers are allowed to create their own vision of a world full of adventure, and then have others come inside it and explore, and even set traps or riddles to solve. Then, last but not least, several mini-game modes have been added in more recent months in the form of "Battle," were people fight each other in the arena bundled with the game, or DLC ones, "Tumble" which also has players battle each other but, instead by trying to destroy each other's footing, by destroying the very blocks they're standing on to try and make each other fall to their death, and lastly "Glide" which has everyone race each other through flying races using the in-game piece of equipment called "Elytra" that lets you glide through the air.

This last mode is, at the time of writing, available on all versions of the game except for the Switch, but this is promised to be added in a future update, said to arrive very soon after the release on the platform. Another upcoming feature that is currently missing is the ability to import worlds from the Wii U Edition, also promised to arrive very soon as well. For the record, features and content updates were missing from the Wii U release when it launched in December 2015 too, but were added later on as promised and from there on, the Wii U version has always been up-to-date. With the Nintendo Switch being currently more popular than the Wii U has ever been, it's easy to believe the developers when they say that, pretty soon, this edition will catch up with the others, given their past history with a less popular Nintendo system.

The question that everyone who's already a Minecraft fan wants answered? What of the performance? If one was to judge from appearances, Minecraft would not appear to be a very demanding piece of software, but that couldn't be further from the truth. The nature of it, which is that everything can be modified and reworked, leaves the door open for pushing the engine to its limits. However, because of how well it is made, it is able to sustain pretty much anything the player throws its way, making it a very demanding game to run on any given hardware. For that reason, past versions of the game have incorporated some forms of limitations when compared to the PC release. World size, draw distance, resolution, frame-rate - components that the team at 4JStudios, responsible for the console versions of the game, have toyed with over time to get each edition of the game to run as best it could on its given platform. The previous version on a Nintendo system, the Wii U Edition, run fine for the most part, but could see some erratic frame-rate.

Screenshot for Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition on Nintendo Switch

Despite the Wii U being released in the same generation of systems as the PS4 and Xbox One, it also retained the same world surface as every version released on the previous generation, which was 864×864 blocks. This is equivalent to less than the surface covered by one map that the player can look at to locate themselves inside the world, which would otherwise be 1024x1024. The aforementioned newer generation of systems has a limitation of five maps by five, which is 5120×5120 blocks. A tremendous size upgrade indeed, even though still short of the virtually infinite worlds found on PC. The Switch Edition thankfully upgrades the world size over the Wii U Edition, but only up to three maps by three, which is 3072×3072 blocks and corresponds to the "medium" size setting found on other current gen systems. Lest we forget, the Nintendo Switch is a portable system with only half the RAM of the PS4 and Xbox One. Luckily, the medium size limit, while of course a regrettable sacrifice, still offers plenty of space for even 8 players sharing the same world to have a lot of room for their own creations if they so like.

It's noteworthy that the draw distance in docked mode is kept at 10 chunks (160 blocks of distance) like in the Wii U version and 7 chunks (112 blocks of distance) in portable mode. About the docked mode draw distance, this reviewer believes that it was kept specifically because this version is able to run comfortably at 1080p (or another unspecified native resolution superior to 720p) with this draw distance put in place, due to the system in docked mode being more powerful than the Wii U which could only run it at 720p, and not always very fluidly (as evidenced by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8, both running better and at higher resolutions on docked Switch than their Wii U counterparts did). Despite this, in its current state this only runs at a native 720p both in docked and undocked modes. As Microsoft recently told TIME in an interview, the docked resolution is not a result of lack of power to run it at a higher resolution, but of a currently unresolved issue that 4JStudios ran into with the game when trying to switch resolutions during the docking/undocking process, hinting that in-house, they did manage to run it at a higher resolution from which this problem arose.

It is not impossible that, should this problem then be resolved, the Nintendo Switch Edition could run at a higher native resolution when docked (maybe even 1080p) further down the line through an update, since it apparently already does in-house when not trying to undock it where problems then arise. This would therefore prove the aforementioned docked draw distance theory, but this is currently unclear. 4JStudios has now gone on record to tell Digital Foundry that they're working on a solution to allow the game to run at 1080p in docked mode, but has not made any promises.

Screenshot for Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition on Nintendo Switch

Then, about the handheld mode draw distance, one should think that the system could handle the same level of visual fidelity as the Wii U version running at the same resolution, given how well the system in portable mode runs The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for example, when compared to its Wii U version - maybe the shorter draw distance was made as a mild battery saving measure. Indeed, when playing this without any interruption in portable mode with Wi-Fi on and screen brightness at the maximum level, the Switch manages to deliver a full 3 hours of Minecraft action on the go in a brightly lit train travel, which is half an hour more than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, hinting that the Switch's power hungry GPU is clearly not pushed to its limits by Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition in handheld mode. Moreover, it delivered just under three and a half hours, still with Wi-Fi activated for local play with friends when the brightness was brought down to 50%, which proved to be perfectly acceptable for an indoor play session, proving that this version is capable of delivering a high quality console-like experience even on the go, and for a decent amount of time.

The question of frame rate and overall performance is then the last to be addressed. Overall, performance is definitely a big improvement over the Wii U's in docked mode, as well as in handheld mode, albeit with the aforementioned shorter draw distance. However, things do not always necessarily prove to be the heaven-like butter smooth experience that some seem to have seen in the Switch release when the latter is put under heavy stress. Subtle but noticeable dips in frame-rate are indeed experienced (even in docked mode) when playing with a higher resolution texture pack (like the Fantasy one) during quick camera turns in front of more crowded areas. These are more frequent in handheld mode too. Moreover, the usual light dips when moderately complex redstone mechanisms, such as dozens of pistons being activated at the same time, also occur in this version of the game, but this was not unexpected.

Honesty simply dictates that those very minor gripes be addressed however instead of simply being brushed over and ignored. The perception thereof does indeed, after all, vary a lot depending on the user's experience. Last but certainly not least, the £19.99 price point, which is still slightly higher than the same game on other consoles, offers in the package the same Super Mario mash-up pack of player skins texture pack, and a Super Mario pre-built world to play into, complete with some sweet classic Super Mario 64 music to accompany the action, which is exclusive to this version. Sadly, the price difference in Europe, outside the UK at least at €29.99 is sadly a bit harder to swallow, but the amount of playtime that one can get outside of this, complete with this version being the only hybrid of portable and home console in existence at the time of writing, helps sweeten the deal by quite a lot. The one decidedly disappointing element in this release, as pointed out in a recent news article on Cubed3 is the total lack of built-in voice chat in this release, which we can only hope the future Nintendo smartphone app will alleviate.

Screenshot for Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Besides Some technical limitations, Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition offers the same experience as other modern home console versions do, with the added benefit of being both playable anywhere, anytime. This is the key deciding factor that should determine whether one should pick this version or not over others, as this lets you play and build the same world, both at home and on the go, without any major compromises. The Wii U offered that comfort already with off-TV mode whenever someone else would want to use the TV for something else, but the Switch does way with the limitations of being away from the system hooked to the TV since the system here is completely portable, and this the best version possible outside of the realm of PC. Lack of voice chat is however at time of writing a drawback for those that never use Discord or similar 3rd party gaming communication apps.

Developer

4J Studios

Publisher

Mojang

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It's definitely an ideal platform for it, and it sounds like it stands up well. But I just can't buy the game again, not at £20.00. It's a little steep for my liking, even though it includes the Nintendo themed DLC.

I'm holding out for a sale price. Smilie 

Tom Barry [ Reviewer - Editor - Resident Sim-Racer @ Cubed3.com ]
RufDog Racing: Team Cubed3 | Current C3 Sim-Spotlight Feature | Follow RDR on Twitter |     
Our member of the week

The Strat Man said:
It's definitely an ideal platform for it, and it sounds like it stands up well. But I just can't buy the game again, not at £20.00. It's a little steep for my liking, even though it includes the Nintendo themed DLC.

I'm holding out for a sale price. Smilie 


Dont hold your breath then, as far as I know, the Wii U version has never been discounted at all.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

On sale now for £13.32!

Our member of the week

Flynnie said:
On sale now for £13.32!

This version Flynnie: http://www.cubed3.com/review/5056/1/minecraft-bedrock-edition-nintendo-switch.html

The Nintendo Switch Edition is discontinued at this point.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Oh damn, I hadn't realised they discontinued it! Booo!

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