Let’s get the braggy part of the post out of the way first. Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to have a hands-on experience with the Nintendo Switch. I’d won a spot on the London leg of Nintendo’s next console showcase before any release dates, prices or games were officially confirmed. After a sleepy Friday & Saturday (I’m too old for all-nighters and need a day to catch up), I headed off to the Capital to play Nintendo’s follow up to the Wii U.
Before I go into what I played and my thoughts of the console, I’ll quickly fill you in on the basics of the console. It’s only a brief overview since I can’t make a judgement with the nitty-gritty until the Switch is released.
- Nintendo say the Switch is a home console you can take on the go
- The Switch launches on 3rd March 2017 for £280/$300/€300.
- Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is the headline launch game
- New series: 1,2, Switch (3rd March) and Arms (later) are also launching with the console
- Controllers (Joy-Con) can slide off the side of the touchscreen for multiple ways of playing
- Joy-Con are packed with tech
- Splatoon 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Fire Emblem Warriors, Sonic Mania & Skyrim launching this year
- Online play will become subscriber based (like PS+ & Xbox Live) in the autumn
- Region free
There’s obviously more to the console than the Switch, but since I’ve not had chance to play with all the accessories or the system interface itself, there’s no point in mentioning it.
The console has a hefty price tag, but for a good reason. Holding the unit for 30 seconds, you can tell this is a quality product. It feels like a high-end tablet rather than a toy – something the Wii U gamepad always felt like. The Switch has a good weight to it and the HD screen is magnificent. It’s bright, responsive, and clear.
Sliding the Joy-Con (that’s one Joy-Con or multiple Joy-Con) from the side of the console, you’re met with a lovely controller that sinks into your hands. When I first saw them, I thought they would be uncomfortable but as someone with big yeti hands, they were surprisingly well thought out.
Both Joy-Con can be used together or individually. Think of them as two Wii remote Nunchucks but with more buttons. You can use them in the traditional sense or for on their side for multiplayer games. Motion controls (without the need of a sensor bar) are also built in, as well as HD Rumble – both nifty features, and I’ll get onto them in a moment.
Within the box of the Switch you get the console, both left & right Joy-Con and 2x wrist straps. There is a Joy-Con grip that holds your controllers to make a traditional pad. Also included is the dock that allows your Switch to connect to your TV. Finally, if you’re worried because this is a Nintendo handheld, you also get a power supply and HDMI cable too. Phew.
For your money, I think you get a rather good deal – a premium Nintendo tablet with games you know will be great. You have 2 fully fledged controllers in the box as well as a grip for the more traditional layout. The fact it can hook up to your TV is a very cool bonus.
This is the sole reason I buy a gaming console and so was the area I am most interested in. When I watched the Nintendo Presentation 2 days before heading to London, I was disappointed with the number of launch titles. It’s not the worst line-up by any stretch of the imagination but 5 confirmed games (now 8) was disappointing. However, after playing them and seeing how the rest of the year is shaping up, it softened the blow a little.
Zelda will take me more than a month to complete – I am taking my time over this game. Mario Kart 8 in April will be when I’ll be taking to the road again. Then Arms & Splatoon 2 will tide me over until Skyrim, Mario Odyssey and whatever announced games will be released at the end of the year. It might be a slow start, but by the end of 2017, the Switch will have (hopefully) great games. When I thought about this, it made more sense than throwing everything out in one go.
Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild
Let’s face it. Come 3rd March, it’s all about Link. Whether you pick up the Wii U, Switch, or both versions, The Legend of Zelda will be big. I had 15 minutes with the game and after skipping all the cut scenes (Imma take my time), I got to play it for real. The controls work like a dream, although Link now being able to jump on demand is odd to see.
The world of Hyrule is vibrant and full of greens and blues that really pop on the TV. When you make the switch to the handheld, the HD display takes the game to another level. Since I didn’t want to get into the story, I spent most of my time chasing squirrels. The rep at the event kindly informed me, you can catch wild animals but you must be sneaky. He lamented one gamer even took Link’s socks off to create as little sound as possible. The level of detail in Breath of the Wild seems to be incredible.
A quick word on docking/undocking the console. As soon as the tablet was pulled from the dock, you had the game on screen. When attaching to a TV it took less than 2 seconds – this is the delay seems to be down to the TV, not the console. It was very slick.
Mario Kart 8 / Splatoon 2
After Zelda, these were the places the cool kids hung out. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition brings together all of the content (inc DLC) from the Wii U version, gives it a proper battle mode, adds Inklings and other popular characters from previous games and an extra weapon slot. It handled as well as the Wii U version, although I thought it looked better. It also showcased the different ways of playing the Switch. You could have it in handheld mode, attached to the TV using the Pro Controller or with two plays each having a Joy-Con. Since half the people who own a Wii U has this game, I’m not sure if there’s enough to tempt you back.
Personally, I’m going to see how the online experience works before committing to the game. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe edition is out on 28th April.
Splatoon 2 on the other hand is getting purchased. I loved the original and played for hours. The rep advised there is a proper campaign this time as well as new weapons. Rumour has it that none of the original special power ups in the game will return but you can duel-wield. The game looks better than ever on both on the console and in TV mode. I cannot say enough just how much I want this game. Splatoon 2 comes out in Autumn.
1,2, Switch & Arms
In its simplest form, 1,2 Switch is a tech demo showing off what the Joy-Con can do. You can point and shoot each other in Gunsliger, milk a cow or catch a sword. The best games were ones that made use of the HD rumble feature. One game challenged you to guess how many balls were in your hand by turning the controller in the palm of your hand. It was surprising how realistic it felt. The second was hacking a safe. You turned your Joy-Con until a strong click was felt. Again, it was odd feeling the enhanced resistance when you hit that sweet spot.
1,2 Switch feels like a game to come with the Switch. As that would just add more cost to the Switch, I can see why it’s not. I hope people still give this ago when it launches on 3rd March.
Arms is like Wii Boxing, you hold a Joy-Con in each hand and punch at your enemy. Even in a busy hall, the punches seemed realistic and responsive. I’m not sure at this point what the full game will entail but for the 5 minutes I had, it was fun if exhausting.
Along with Nintendo’s games were a smattering of third party titles. Sonic Mania is the 2D Sonic we’ve been waiting for. The 16 bit style is incredible and you can get up some serious speed. Gotta go fast!
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers is crisp, clear, and responsive. It’s been 25 years but CAPCOM can still make a good Street Fighter II game. The sprits really standout on screen.
Fast RMX is as slick as the original on the Wii U and fills the F-Zero/WipEout gap in my life and Just Dance 2017 will be amazing with alcohol.
I unfortunately ran out of time to play Nintendo’s new Snipper Clip game, but I did play this at EGX when it was known as Friendshapes developed by SFB studios. It looks pretty much the same as the challenging puzzle game originally scheduled for the Xbox.
Closing thoughts on the Switch
Nintendo might market the Switch as a home console first, but I think it’s the best of both. After my time with it, I can say that as a handheld, it’s a step up from the 3DS. It is in the same league as the Vita in terms of style and feel. As a home console, you can tell the difference between the Wii U and Switch. It might not be on the same level as PS4 & Xbox One in terms of raw power, but it holds its own.
The success of the Nintendo Switch is something the shareholders, enthusiastic fans and media websites will debate for the months and years to come. I’m not getting caught up in this argument because to me, the only thing I care about are games. I believe the Wii U had some of the best video games ever made and if the Switch has the same quality, I’m happy with the console. I can’t wait until 3rd March.
The Nintendo Switch event was a lucky draw. I was not paid in any way for my comments, nor did I attend as a member of press.