The Online Plan

PlayStation and Xbox owners are accustomed to paying for online services and access to their favorite games' multiplayer, but Nintendo players have always had a free ride. That ends with the Switch. Nintendo hasn't detailed many of the specifics of its new service, but players who subscribe can play games online, participate in online lobby and voice chat (via a mobile app), and have access to exclusive eShop deals. Subscribers can also download and play one NES or SNES game for free each month. Nintendo says it is adding new online components to these classic titles, but that subscribers will only have access to them for one month, which feels like an inferior deal compared to Sony and Microsoft's services. 

Exact pricing is still unknown, but it sounds like this service will be cheaper than those offered by Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima told the Japanese business journal Nik kei that the Switch's online services will cost players between ¥2,000-¥3,000, which would convert to somewhere between $17 and $26 U.S. dollars. Nintendo expects to launch this service in full in the fall, so Switch owners will have limited free access to online multiplayer until then.

The Dashboard
The Switch's dashboard might be Nintendo's best UI to date. We breezed through the first-time system set-up, which is as simple as entering a name and selecting a player icon. Much like the PS4 dashboard, all your Switch games and apps are displayed along a media bar that scrolls horizontally across the middle of the screen. This content could get crowded once you have more games, but the overall design is simple and elegant, and can be navigated with a controller or the touchscreen.

Along the bottom of the screen, useful buttons give you access to the system's settings, the eShop, and your photo album, which houses screenshots you take using the controller's capture button. We're disappointed you can't organize photos into subfolders, but you can easily sort them by game. You can also edit each photo with personalized captions. Another useful button along the bottom of the dashboard takes you to the Switch's news feed, which is full of useful console tips and news about up coming Nintendo games. The Dashboard itself is quiet, but the buttons make different-yet-satisfying sounds when you click them.

We were surprised to find Nintendo's Miis buried in the settings menu, but these customizable avatars are still around, even though their significance has diminished. Mii customization is as robust as ever, and you can even copy over a Mii if you are fond of the critters you designed on the Wii U and have one saved to an Amiibo.

The Amiibo's NFC reader is built into the left Joy-Con's analog stick, which makes it easy to register Amiibos to your profile. Unfortunately, there isn't much else to do with your Amiibo collection on the Switch Dashboard. Of course, Nintendo plans to continue Amiibo support with future game releases.

The settings menu also houses options to calibrate you controllers, pick dashboard themes (right now just black or white), adjust your parental controls, or turn on airplane mode. Overall, the Switch's menus are clean and easy to navigate.

Up Next: We break down the Switch's online functionality.