Trying to figure out Nintendo Switch
December 31, 2020 11:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm not a gamer, but I received a Nintendo Switch for Christmas. I haven't actually played any games yet, because I'm still trying to puzzle-out the basics.

The Switch came with a Comfort Grip. You slide both Joy-Con controllers into it. I'm confused -- why would a single player want to use both Joy-Cons at the same time? I thought that the Switch was designed so that you only needed to use one Joy-Con (and if you were playing in two-player mode, the other player would use the second Joy-Con). But maybe there are some games that require a single player to use both Joy-Cons at the same time? My Google-fu is failing me here.

Related to the above: If I want to play games with my spouse, should I purchase a second set of Joy-Cons and another comfort grip, so that we could play at the same time? Or is it enough for each of us to use just one of the Joy-Cons?

Also, this diagram explains the all the parts of the Joy-Cons. Most are self-explanatory, but the "ZL" and "ZR" have me confused. I think "L" stands for "left", and "R" stands for "Right" -- but what does the "Z" stand for?
posted by akk2014 to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Some games do require both joycons for one player, like Zelda Breath of the Wild. The comfort grip is designed to hold the joycons so they mimic a controller similar to Xbox or Playstation controllers, but you can still use them without it. Nintendo also sells pro controllers that are more comfortable to use than the joycons in the comfort grip.

All of the multiplayer games that I have can be played with each player using one joycon. I'm also not a big gamer, so I'm sure that there are exceptions.

I call the Z buttons trigger buttons. I think they just use Z to go with X and Y. The L and R stick are actually buttons, too, and you might see control references with a down arrow + L or down arrow + R -- those mean to push the button, not just move the stick down/toward you.
posted by amarynth at 11:29 AM on December 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

My partner bought a switch just before the pandemic and the Comfort Grip offer a more natural/comfortable hold for both of us. Yes, you can simply use one Joy-Con to play, but after first playing using the Comfort Grip, it always feels odd/more delicate to switch to one (this happens for us if one con's battery goes before the other).

I don't have the controllers in front of me, but I believe that the ZL & ZR are stacked just below the L & R buttons. I barely played video games until my 38th year, so I often hit one instead of the other, all while insisting that I hit the proper button.
posted by icaicaer at 11:30 AM on December 31, 2020

Yeah, unless you both have tiiiiiiiiny hands, it's much more comfortable to use the comfort grip. It can be done, we've played many a round of Mario Kart with each of us using one controller, but your fingers will cramp up eventually.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:41 AM on December 31, 2020

The joycons really depend on the games. A one player game will make use of both sticks and some combination of buttons on each joycon. For example it is common for 3d type games to have the analog stick on one joycon to control movement and the other to control the camera. Plus games will make use of the additional buttons. I've been playing Xenoblade 2 recently and it uses all of the buttons and sticks. A game with multiplayer will likely use both in one-player mode but then be able to play using just one as well. So Mario Odyssey for example uses both joycons in one-player mode but in the cooperative multiplayer Mario uses one joycon and Cappy uses the other.

The comfort grip isn't needed for anything - even if a game requires both joycons you can just keep one in each hand but some people may prefer having just one controller in their hands. I don't think I've ever used mine.

As far as the ZL and ZR buttons I guess the Z stands for Z-axis. X and Y are already taken for buttons so you can't say XL and XR without confusion. Similarly if you called them the "lower" L and R buttons then you'd end up with LL and LR.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:42 AM on December 31, 2020

I don't think the Z stands for anything -- on the oddly shaped three-pronged Nintendo 64 controller, they had L and R buttons on the left and right prongs, and then a trigger on the middle prong which they arbitrarily named Z.

Meanwhile Sony made the Playstation whose controller had two triggers each, named L1/L2 and R1/R2 -- easier to understand. People realized this was generally a good idea for more complex action games, so Nintendo wanted to imitate it.

I'm guessing they stuck to the "Z" naming convention as a nod to their history and to avoid getting sued by Sony.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:50 AM on December 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Most games support multiple control methods.

They are:

Single joycon held horizontally - this is supported by most games that don't need a lot of buttons and most first-party Nintendo games. This is usually what you will use for old NES/SNES games as well as games like Mario kart.

Single joycon held vertically - very few games support this.

Two joycons in a comfort grip - I have yet to see a game that doesn't support this. This is the "default" modern video game controller setup. Anything with multiplatform support is going to want this setup. This also gives you them ost button options. Finally, this is also the setup used if you have the joycons slotted into the Switch.

Two joycons held vertically - most games support this. It is functionally the same as the comfort grip, except the joycons aren't connected. This is actually my preference since it lets me be a lot more flexible about how my hands and arms are positioned.

Two joycons connected to Switch - same as the last two. Considered a default and will work with all games.

Pro controller - this is for anyone wanting a controller more like you'd use with any other console system. These are quite a bit more comfortable than the comfort grip and have a longer battery life.

Honestly, the Switch is very good about telling you what your control options are when you start a game up. This goes doubly so with any games made by Nintendo. My suggestion to you is not to worry about it too much and just start up a game or two and it will become clear. If in doubt, use two joycons in a comfort grip. That will work with pretty much any game.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 11:51 AM on December 31, 2020 [4 favorites]

Also most games do a good job of teaching you the controls as you're playing. Plus you should be able to look up controls from the menu at any time.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:52 AM on December 31, 2020

Oh, also there is one other control method! The Switch has a touchscreen! Support for this is kind of hit or miss and sometimes undocumented, but comes in handy for some puzzle games or if you a complicated password or something.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 11:53 AM on December 31, 2020

There are two (four I guess?) toggle or trigger buttons on the upper when both joy cons are on the Switch or the comfort grip. These can all do 4 different things
In Animal Crossing for example ZL, ZR and R are used while L isn’t used at all. However thats a 1 player game really so the issue of using an individual joy con doesn’t come up
posted by raccoon409 at 12:17 PM on December 31, 2020

The one thing I could nooooooot handle about the switch is the joycons. I like most things about it, but those joycons just suck, and yeah, the switch doesn’t do a good job of explaining how/when to use what configuration.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a couple of these. the muscle memory from a SNES has stuck since childhood, apparently. I found the switch to be a much much much more pleasant experience using these. Ymmv.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:51 PM on December 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

We bought two of these and never regretted it for grown-up comfort and playability. We still have the little joycons and the holder for them but they are still not very comfortable unless you have what my friend called "little hamster hands." Sorry if that is upsetting to hamster aficianados - I'm quoting. YMMV.
posted by nkknkk at 2:47 PM on December 31, 2020 [4 favorites]

Nthing that most games (especially 1st party Nintendo games) will tell you what joycon configuration they support, and will help you figure out the controls.

If you're looking for a controller more like your typical console game controller, I personally prefer the 8BitDo SN30 Pro+ over the Nintendo Pro controller as they support button remapping and tweaking and are a bit less expensive while still feeling really good. Plus you can use them as a controller for PC and Android devices too if you want.
posted by Aleyn at 3:34 PM on December 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

My suggestion is to just pick a game that sounds interesting to you and give it a try with the joycons you already have, without the comfort grip. Speaking as someone who grew up with the original Nintendo controllers (plus several other systems/controllers), I didn't think I'd be able to get used to the separate joycons but I actually really like them (and my hands are definitely not tiny). Not having to hold my hands together is quite nice, especially when I'm playing something laid-back like Animal Crossing. Not sure how it is playing two-player games with a single joycon each, but I'd give it a chance before shelling out for other equipment you may or may not need.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:24 PM on December 31, 2020

You’re maybe overthinking this a bit. The game (any game) will teach you how to play it, how to use the controllers and what the buttons are for. Rather than studying the console as an artifact, pick a game and start playing.
posted by jeoc at 7:56 AM on January 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

I purchased a Switch on a whim a few weeks ago after hearing excellent things about Animal Crossing, and sure enough I love it. I am NOT a gamer. At all. Not even iphone app games.

I generally use it as a handheld console vs. plugging it in to the TV, especially when playing Animal Crossing, which does require you to use both joy cons plugged into the handheld. Most single player games require both joy cons. My partner plays Fortnite on it as a handheld console as well. So we don't use the comfort grip when we do that. But we did plug it in to have Animal Crossing on the big screen and I used the comfort grip for that, and it was clearly the better option.

We also did plug it in to play Just Dance (haven't played that as multiplayer yet) and that was super fun (and only required you to use one joy con.

If you are just starting out, I highly recommend Animal Crossing to get into the mood of video gaming. The pacing of the game is lovely and not at all stressful and its turned out to be really really fun!
posted by something_witty at 12:40 PM on January 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

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