Hands-On: Impressions of Nintendo Switch – Part One

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After the (very early) presentation for Nintendo Switch, several of us had the immense privilege of attending a hands-on with the new console in London hosted by Nintendo UK. After a painfully early coach we were on our way to Hammersmith, but what did we think of our time with Nintendo’s next bit of kit? And what did we think of other news that emerged?

REUBEN:

I must admit that I struggled to think of the best way to talk about this; I decided that dividing up what I wanted to say into sections, instead of a stream of consciousness, would be the best way to convey everything that I wanted to say. But I hasten to add that it’s not all positive.

The Console itself:
The Switch is an undeniably incredible piece of kit. Small, but perfectly formed and beautifully designed, it’s clear that a lot of time has gone into making the hardware look aesthetically pleasing. The console, when used as a handheld is reassuringly weighty … not too heavy but heavy enough to feel substantial, the screen is big and the images are crisp and clear. The JoyCons are a lot smaller than I expected but are not uncomfortable to hold in the slightest. My only concern with the JoyCons is that, without the wrist-strap attachment to increase their size, the shoulder buttons when using the cute little things individually are too hard to press. Luckily the wrist-straps come supplied with the console, but it’s not a great design decision to have not entirely viable buttons on a control pad. This being said, I adore the new Pro Controller design. It fits in the hand nicely and the partially transparent body gives me pleasing nostalgic throwbacks to the GameBoy.

The Games:
The games available to play were much more of a mixed bag, personally. There are games coming to Switch that I am very excited about, but I have to admit that none of the launch titles are them. I really enjoyed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and it was probably my favourite game I played, simply because of the subtle changes to the mechanics have brought about drastic changes in the actual strategy required to play it. However, I just wish the price point wasn’t so absurd, and this is a running theme with my thoughts on the Switch software. For instance, the flash-in-the-pan fun that is 1-2-Switch should not be a full retail release, especially not given the fact that it is essentially a glorified tech demo. Yes, it is tremendous fun, but doesn’t warrant such a high price point. Arms is fantastic, and a great spin on a concept in typical Nintendo style, my only concerns being the longevity of it as a gameplay experience, and the high price barrier (that word “price” again) of purchasing more JoyCons blocking many from getting the most out of it. That being said, Ultra Street Fighter II is brilliant, as is Splatoon 2, but neither of these are launch titles.

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Final Verdict:
I really enjoyed my experiences with Nintendo Switch, and am glad that I took to the plunge to pre-order it. However, I am far happier that my pre-order won’t be for launch as I will be able to wait until a game I really want is on the console. There’s a lot of great content lined up to come to Switch (including King of Fighters ’98, which I’m very excited to play on the move), but we will have to wait and see how that slew of content will change the, in my opinion, meagre feast that is the launch.

CONOR:

What a weekend of mixed emotions that was, from the highs of experiencing the Nintendo Switch games on Saturday, to the lows of… a lot of other things. Nintendo have made a few bizarre decisions with its sales prices, online service, and launch line-up, some of which are frankly delusional in my opinion.

However, I’ll talk about the few games I was able to try at the Switch event in London on Saturday. Sadly I didn’t make the best of my time by playing only four games, but what I did experience left a great impression. Once again Nintendo’s software is the most exciting part of the new system, so let’s focus on that.

The first title is Splatoon 2, which is easily my most anticipated game. Splatoon 2 simply builds on the first game, and it’s obviously similar in gameplay. The removal of a second touch screen means that the map and super-jump abilities are integrated into the main screen. At first bringing the map up during the game felt unnatural, but it didn’t take long for me to get used to it. I may end up preferring the single-screen experience, as it could be bothersome needing to look down at the Gamepad screen on the original game.

Splatoon 2 takes the rather daring move of introducing entirely new special weapons; none from Splatoon 1 are returning, although there are similarites between particular ones. The Splat Dualies – a new weapon type – are a lot of fun to use and come with their own unique dodge-roll mechanic. A player’s fire becomes more accurate and deadly immediately after dodging, but only until they move again. It will be interesting to see how well this weapon holds up once the game is live.

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I played Splatoon 2 using the Switch Pro Controller, which does feature gyro controls and feedback. I must say, this controller feels fantastic; it’s comfortable to hold, and the motion controls are very accurate. It will certainly be my preferred control method across most games I play.

I played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is of course just Mario Kart 8 with Battle Mode, item-stacking, and some new characters. However, I was using the Switch to play this while it was out of the dock, with the Joy-Cons attached either side. It’s very comfortable in the hands, and the small tablet screen looks fine. Having the Inklings in Mario Kart is an automatic winner for me too.

Elsewhere, there was ARMS, Nintendo’s newest IP that makes full use of the HD rumble and motion controls. Initial opinions on the game are mixed; I’m concerned about the detail and depth this game will have but this was a demo build, so the full release is guaranteed to have more. Holding the Joy-Con controllers felt a little awkward, as I kept pressing buttons accidentally thanks to my large hands. My character also kept using different attacks to what I was inputting, but for now I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt since I may have been doing inaccurate movements.

The final game is Snipperclips, a lovely little co-operative puzzle game where each player uses a single Joy-Con. Despite the Joy-Con’s small size, playing Snipperclips felt comfortable. It’s a very charming game with cute animation, and its sales potential is greatly helped by the lower price tag.

In summary I was highly impressed by the hardware, and a few of the games look exciting. The pricing and lack of launch games mean I’ll likely purchase the console closer to summer; it’s going to be very interesting to see how successful the Nintendo Switch becomes.

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Did you attend the Nintendo Switch Premiere; if so, what did you think? Wes’ and Matti’s thoughts are coming up tomorrow, so check back for more first impressions.

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