Nintendo Switch First Impressions: The Console Hybrid That Finally Clicks

The Nintendo Switch has finally been officially revealed and with only 6 weeks until the official worldwide launch it is time to be the first to test their new hardware and launch window lineup.

During my time at the Nintendo Switch premiere event, I made it my focus to try as many of the different games and control options as possible, especially the latter. Whether it was in handheld mode or using the official Joycon wheel peripheral, it felt important to garner an impression of all of the control options and how the function across each of Nintendo’s titles. Fortunately for Nintendo, despite offering a varied number of ways to play, the switch manages offer its  versatility without compromising the user experience.

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Console/Handheld Hybrid

The Nintendo Switch is small, sleek and sharp. It’s ergonomic at the same time offers an elegant design, which without a doubt it will fit cleanly into any modern entertainment system. Of course, the switch comes in two forms, both docked and handheld, and watching the “switch” in person changing from television to handheld during my time with The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild was seamless and moment of magic. The transition between home console and portable system is almost instantaneous, winning me over to the idea of a hybrid system that actually works fluidly and efficiently. Supporting this transition between small and big screen, the display on the Nintendo Switch system is very sharp and will do your games justice from a visual standpoint when taking them on the go.

Price

By far the worst aspect of the Nintendo Switch’s launch is its pricepoint. Whether it be the expense of the console itself, the recommended retail price of its software or its add-ons such as additional controllers, it’s all quite expensive and beyond the price point of the more powerful home consoles offered by its competitors. With the Nintendo Switch coming in at £280, new software ranging from £40 – £60 and additional first party controllers ranging from £60 – £95 it is going to get very expensive very quickly. It’s obvious that for many this will be difficult, and parents looking to purchase the system for children and whatnot may need think twice before shelling out the initial £280.

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Controller Options

As we’ve come to expect with modern Nintendo Systems, there are plenty of control options to choose from. The standard control options are the Handheld mode for off TV play or the Joycon in grip for on docked play.

Handheld mode: The Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode was the showcased way to play. On the whole, the device is very ergonomic, lightweight and sleek. The thumbsticks are much better than the circle pad on 3DS making handheld play a lot more comfortable. Using this control setup to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe felt fantastic, bringing the console experience to the palm of your hand and ultimately made the experience much more engaging than previous handheld offerings in the same series. However, while playing Breath of the Wild, I found the right sticks placement felt slightly in the way, meaning that when I was moving my thumb quickly between the buttons and the stick it caused me to accidentally influence the camera during more intense combat encounters. 

Joycons: Despite its compact size, holding the Joy Con controllers is surprisingly comfortable. Whether holding them vertically on games like Arms, where you can comfortably grasp the controllers or horizontally for as in titles such as Snipperclips and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, this sense of comfort remains intact. While holding the Joycons on their on side I found it was a lot more comfortable when the wrist strap attachment was connected to the controller as it heightens and widens the shoulder buttons. Unfortunately without this attachment these these buttons are extremely small and difficult to push, during my time with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s Battle Mode I found pushing these buttons was very uncomfortable due to their constant use as the only drift and item usage button.

An interesting feature that the Joycon incorporates is a HD rumble, a dynamic rumble what moves throughout the controller that can simulate weight moving around inside the controller, and is very well showcased in 1-2-Switch where in certain minigames such as the ball counting game you can feel virtual balls moving around inside the controller or the cow milking game where you can feel the milk moving through the controller. It’s quite a novel feature, and it will be interesting to see how Nintendo utilities this unique aspect of the controller in future titles.

Pro controller: For the most comfortable and familiar controller layout, the Pro controller is the one to choose. Perfect for long play sessions and for more action oriented games in the home. It is worth noting that the Pro controller is the only controller with a dedicated Directional Pad, meaning this controller would be the only option for players that wanted to use a D-pad for competitive fighting games, such as Ultra Street Fighter 2. Other control options substitute this d-pad with, separated face buttons which don’t quite allow you to transition as comfortably between the various directional inputs, especially when seeking to press a diagonal. Overall, the PRO controller is of a good build quality, and it immediately felt comfortable when playing titles such as Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2 which showcased its ergonomic design as well as with the controller’s gyro based motion controls. Although the majority of the Switch control layouts are comfortable and have interesting features, none of these options incorporate analogue triggers meaning that simulation racing games and possibly shooting games might have trouble finding a place on the Nintendo Switch.

First Party Software

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The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild – Within minutes of sitting down with Breath of the Wild, it became very clear to me that this is the step forward The Legend of Zelda has needed to make in quite some time. As always, controls felt very intuitive and responsive and the world is a joy to explore. Voice acting is well performed and the visual style pops with its lush colour pallet. Not only has the aesthetic been carefully realized but the the way you are encouraged to explore the world and gather resources has changed too. As I delved into the environment I quickly discovered that the title has steep difficulty spikes that can lead to exciting and dangerous combat encounters. During my time with Breath of the Wild I was determined to explore as much as physically possible, which ended in a climatic battle with a broken angry Guardian; after accidentally provoking the creature I ran and attacked for my life but before I could blink one mistake lead me to being incinerated, concluding my experience with the demo. While I did experience minor performance issues looking over wide pastures filled with foliage and wildlife, needless to say the experience as a whole was an absolute joy and definite recommendation as a day one purchase on the Nintendo Switch.

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Splatoon 2 – Although I felt underwhelmed with the original Splatoon at launch with the Wii U, Nintendo has polished and refined the core gameplay of the Wii U title. By tightening the experience, raining ink to control your turf has never been more satisfying. Now refining both the motion and standard controls Splatoon 2 has a much better game feel than its predecessor. As someone that dislikes the focus on motion controls from the previous title, it was very comfortable, responsive and intuitive, with no need to recalibrate the gyroscope at any point. Going by my gameplay experience with the new gun class named the Splat Dualies, a dual pistols loadout with a jetpack, along with the addition of 8 player local multiplayer, this title will be very fun to play and one to watch when it launches this summer.

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Mario Kart 8 DeluxeMario Kart 8 on Wii U was my favourite game on the system, a wonderful racing game that boasts beautiful graphics that oozed personality, features tight controls and a fantastic soundtrack to boot. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe includes all of the previously available content on the Wii U version in a definitive package on the Nintendo Switch. It is exactly what you would expect, plays and runs just as well as the Wii U version. The Nintendo Switch in both handheld mode and with the new Joycon wheels play like a dream. This and battle mode making a welcome return in all its glory Mario Kart 8 Deluxe adds nothing innovative or game changing. If you didn’t like Mario Kart 8 before, nothing here is going to change your mind, but having a portable Mario Kart 8 experience coupled with the new addition of double items makes this title worth double dipping for if you’re a Mario Kart fan.

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ArmsArms was one title I was intrigued about, as someone who enjoyed the boxing on Wii Sports I was optimistic for this quirky boxing title. The gameplay is simplistic, utilizing motion controls and the 4 shoulder buttons on the Joycon controllers. While moving your elasticated avatar felt a little unresponsive, throwing controlled punches was very satisfying. The character diversity was good and the arena designs were fun and unique, I do however hope this title has more to it than just battles with friends or AI, especially at a £40 price tag.

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SnipperclipsSnipperclips went under the radar during the presentation event. This interesting, co-operative puzzle game could be a real winner with this unique physics based platforming puzzling. Players are able to manipulate the shape of their player character by literally cutting parts away form one another to best fit she shape required, and solve the puzzle. With the short time I had with it, I soon realized that it has a lot of gameplay can also easily be played on an undocked Nintendo Switch with 2 Joycons on their side with a friend. If you are a fan of interesting and unique co-operative puzzle games this might be is one to watch.

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1-2-Switch – When I saw this title during the Nintendo Switch presentation, I wasn’t convinced. 1-2-Switch exists as what is essentially a collection of microgames, intent on demonstrating the capability of the Joycon controllers with a focus on the HD rumble technology. The closest example from other platforms is Sony’s The Playroom on PS4, a free download that demonstrates the features of the Dualshock 4 including the gyro and HD rumble. Although 1-2-Switch has a couple of unique and unusual games, for instance instance one where you partake in a western gun duel, or another where acts as a cow udder, 1-2-Switch sadly does not feel like the system seller. It’s not Wii Sports, and lacks that implicit appeal and accessibility that games like Wii Sports used to attract the casual market. 1-2-Switch ultimately underwhelms, a premium price for a sub-premium product, a simple demonstration of the HD rumble that ideally, shouldn’t come with a cost.

Concluding Thoughts

While I have fears that the software and accessory line up for Nintendo Switch has too steep of a price tag, the quality of software that will become available over the coming months, as well as the build quality and applicability of the device makes the Nintendo Switch a unique and expressive piece of technology. Overall the Nintendo Switch is an inspired and innovative video game system, packed with utility and accessibility. It delivers on Nintendo’s quirky design philosophy with spades of character and innovation. In our session the Switch proved an absolute joy to use, and a worthy amalgamation of Nintendo’s creative hardware and software talent.

Author: Abbie Willett

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