Watching all the trailers, you’d be forgiven for thinking Nintendo’s next console will be much like its predecessors. Colourful plastic, low res screens, gimmicks… it certainly seems that way from a distance. But having played with the Nintendo Switch in person, thanks to the lads and lasses at RTX Sydney, I can tell you for a fact that this is unlike anything we’ve seen from the company before. It’s slick, stylish, comfortable and, more importantly, engaging in a way that was lost during the Wii U era.
The Switch itself is quality from top to bottom. The screen looks bright and sharp, elegantly housed within a tablet design that Samsung or Apple would be proud of. Though the devices I checked out were locked down, it still felt rather light to hold and, with the new controllers attached to each side, very comfortable to play. It feels more appropriately shaped for my hands than the 3DSXL, my current favourite, just to give you a rough comparison.
I didn’t get the chance to see anything touch screen related, but the screen itself was pixel perfect. Sure, they could have easily thrown in a full HD display if they really wanted to, but keeping it to 720P at this size means there’s more battery life to work with, and honestly I couldn’t tell the difference between playing Breath of the Wild on a TV compared to handheld mode. I can see myself playing on the portable screen more often than not, since within my household we normally have something else playing on the bigger screen anyway, so I’m rather happy with build as it is.
I’ll admit, the Joy-Cons didn’t grab me at first. The Switch design left me a tiny bit concerned with its control scheme too. Now that I’ve held two together, in various forms and in its add-on Grip formation, I completely understand what Nintendo were aiming for. It’s very much in keeping with the Wii’s motion controllers, but in a design that’s far more comfortable to the touch and better to hold. When attached to the Grip adapter, everything was in easy reach, the buttons responsive and the contruction light enough to hold for a long time, but not too light as to come across cheap or easy to break.
The Pro controller will no doubt be the go to for many gamers, but the Joy-Cons shouldn’t be discounted. This is the next logical step in Nintendo’s design philosophy, which took an awkward step to the right with the Wii U but seems to have come back in-line here. It will entirely depend on what you play as to the kind of experience you’ll get out of them, and that’s largely the appeal in the Switch, the fact that there are so many ways in which to interact.
1-2-Switch will be a major system seller, if only because it easily fits between that Wii Sports ‘sell our wares’ type of product with a party game that everyone can easily pick up and play. It’s also here that some of the neat little tricks, like HD Rumble, are shown off for the first time. It surprised me how accurate and detailed the rumble was when trying to guess how many balls were rolling around in a box. I could feel every movement, every collision with the edge of the box and between each ball. It’s a stroke of genius design (though I was terrible at guessing how many balls were inside), but now it’s a question of who will make the most of it. As a few people have suggested, this would bring a whole new level of interactivity to, say, VR.
One thing I did notice, and it’s something I’m glad to see, is Nintendo’s interest in bringing in new ideas from outside the company. We’ve talked about Snipperclips previously, it’s a fantastic product that has a lot to offer for those looking for a fun, family experience with a little more meat on the bones. I really do hope it proves successful, I really enjoyed my time with it.
All told, I’m impressed. The Switch has plenty to offer and in the brief moments I had with it, it sold me on its unique nature, its adaptive techniques and its fun content even at this early stage. Looking at the release schedule and going forward, there’s plenty of content coming across from Indie stables and formerly 3DS only franchises, some also from the now forgotten (at least in the West) PS Vita. Of the indies I talked to at RTX, many were considering the Switch for their own products, which is fantastic to see, some suggesting that the architecture was easy to port to, others just excited about the prospect of being amongst the first on Nintendo’s new console.
I could go on more about it, but to rap up for now, I’m sold all over again. I knew I would get over the little kinks or design choices I initially wasn’t sure of, as I always seem to with Nintendo products. They just have that habit of building something new, leaving us slightly confused, only to have us wrapped up in excitement and understanding by the time launch day comes around. Sure, they don’t always get it right, but it’s a positive step forward for a company that (let’s face it) we all want to stick around for some time to come.
I’ll be there from day one, lining up like many others who are just as keen to milk a cow or eat an imaginary hot dog as they are to explore a brand new Hyrule. I’m more confidant, too, that the support is there amongst the AAA producers and the Indies, now that they’ve had a chance to see it in action for themselves. It’ll be an interesting year going foward, but I’m more than happy to tag along for the ride. Are you?
Stay tuned too, I’ll have a more in-depth look at Zelda: Breath of the Wild coming up very shortly along with plenty of other indie game impressions.