Hands on with the Nintendo Switch

Alex Calvin
Hands on with the Nintendo Switch

The first thing I noticed when I picked up the Switch is that it simply does not feel like a Nintendo console.

Gone is the toy-like and plastic feel of the Wii U – and to a lesser degree the 3DS family – replaced with a premium, ‘modern’, svelte and industrial design you are more likely to see from a Sony product. In fact, it does feel surprisingly like that company’s Vita handheld, albeit with a larger screen and form factor.

Despite naysayers online complaining about the machine’s 720p screen resolution, the display is crisp and bright and – honestly – it doesn’t feel like you are playing on a handheld. The transition between playing on a TV to playing on the handheld screen is very quick and almost seamless – so what you saw in that October reveal trailer is an entirely accurate representation of how this works. The transition from the handheld screen to a TV, however, is slightly slower, but hardly a deal breaker.

During today’s hands-on event, we had a chance to try every one of the Switch’s control configuration, and we’re happy to report that they all feel very functional and fun to use. I played Zelda: Breath of the Wild with a Pro Controller, before transitioning to using the Joy-Cons on the side of the screen. That was before I tried Arms, an all-new IP about crazy boxing-style arena fights, using the just the Joy-Cons (pictured, below). You hold one in each hand to play, with your actions registering on the screen as accurate – and over-the-top – punches and dodges.

Using the Joy-Cons on the regular controller, too, is enjoyable. They feel solid and less like a toy. Overall, the controllers appear versatile, and there’s certainly a lot of potential for new and different experiences - much like when Nintendo launched the Wii back in 2006.

I spoke to many members of the industry at today’s event, and despite the resounding praise they had for the hardware and games present, positive remarks about the console generally ended with ‘but….’.

There's not denying that some issues exist with what Nintendo announced today. For starters, many feel that the price point Nintendo has gone for – £280 in the UK – is too high, with many expecting that Nintendo would aim to undercut the £250 and £259 RRPs of the slim PlayStation 4 SKU and Xbox One S.

Then there’s the battery life. When on the go, the machine can last anywhere between two-and-a-half and six hours on a single charge, depending on the title. For example, something like Zelda: Breath of the Wild is said to drain the battery in just three hours. Much like PlayStation Vita, surely users will be able to extend this by lowering the brightness and maybe turning off resources such as wifi, but even still, this battery life certainly hampers the machine’s portable proposition.

And finally there’s the question of launch line-up. On Day One there is just one – a singular – exclusive first-party title for the console, the admittedly very enjoyable 1-2-Switch. The game does a great job of demonstrating what the machine and its controllers can do, much like Wii Play did for the Wii and Nintendo Land did for the Wii U.

The other Day One Nintendo published release is the long-awaited Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which of course is also coming to Nintendo’s Wii U, that alone may give some Nintendo fans pause for thought.

There are other games available on launch – or shortly after – from third-parties for the machine but a huge number of these are titles you have played before, such as Acivision's Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance 2017 from Ubisoft. The only third-party exclusive on release is Konami's Super Bomberman R. 

However, Nintendo has outlined a strong line-up of content for the rest of the year. Shortly after launch the aforementioned Arms is hitting shelves, with a Deluxe version of Mario Kart 8 coming out in April. That’s before a follow-up to 2015’s colourful shooter Splatoon is released in the summer. Then there’s the big one, the megaton – Super Mario Odyssey, set for a Holiday 2017 release (that’s Christmas to us UK folk). That's on-top of the likes of Ubisoft, EA and Bethesda pledging support for the machine. 

A strong pipeline of content has been an issue for the Wii U, and more recently the 3DS, in part due to a lack of third-party support, so it’s reassuring to see the platform holder have a steady line-up of sizeable releases throughout the year. While there aren’t many reasons to go out and buy a Switch on Day One, the games that are present at launch are of a very high quality.

That's not all – there's a 32GB limit on internal storage (for game installs) and the fact that Switch's peripherals are rather pricey

All the above concerns are very valid. But what I took away from today’s event was the reaction to people trying out Nintendo’s vision for its new machine. They were smiling. Nearly all of them, enamoured with the joy of playing something new and – more importantly – different.

It actually really reminded me of people’s reactions to their first time playing the Wii. But Nintendo needs to ensure there's a strong, and diverse, line-up of software to help drive sales in the coming years.

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