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Posted January 17, 2017 by Zachary Clarke in Feature
 
 

Zach’s Nintendo Switch Hands-on Experience


I make this disclaimer a lot, but I feel it necessary in case anyone reading this article doesn’t know me, or hasn’t read my previous articles. I am a massive Nintendo fan. So naturally, having the opportunity to try out the brand-new Nintendo Switch this past weekend, there was a lot of hype and excitement. I believe I have managed to separate these extreme emotions from my opinions, but of course I am sure some of it will remain in the paragraphs below, so keep that in mind when reading my thoughts.

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Probably the easiest way to describe my experience with the Switch hardware is it is exactly what Nintendo has been selling it as. This may sound obvious, but I just want to highlight that the features that sound too good to be true, aren’t. And if something they have said seemed potentially disappointing to you – it probably will end up being so.

When I first held the system in its handheld mode I was immediately taken aback by a couple of things. Firstly, the screen looks exceptionally crisp, clear and vibrant. The fact that it is 720p does not prevent games from looking good – if not sometimes even better than the HDTVs that were being used to demo the games.

The other shocking factor was just how compact and light it was. Despite having sufficient specs to run games to a similar level as a PS4 or Xbox One, the system felt large enough to allow for console like experiences on a smaller screen, but still light enough that you can carry it around without it causing you to tire.

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The speakers on the console did a fantastic job at projecting the game’s sounds, even in the noisy environment around me at the Switch Demo event. While I feel I will mostly play with headphones when playing portably, it is good to know if I choose not to, I won’t have to experience games without sound effects and music.

Docking and undocking the system also provides an almost seamless transition between traditional console and portable gaming. And the “click” when you place the two Joy Cons on the system is incredibly satisfying.

The Joy Cons are perhaps some of the most versatile controllers a video game system has had. Throughout the day, I used these two tiny gamepads in a variety of ways, that at times were surprising. Whether attached to the console, the grip, being used like a NES controller or like a Wii Remote – they worked well. At some points, you could feel some of the compromises made to ensure they can be used in a variety of ways. For example, the right control stick feels a little awkward to use when in a traditional controller configuration (attached to the system or the grip) but not unusable. Also, if you use the Joy Cons in the NES-style horizontal fashion, the two buttons up the top (SR and SL) feel a bit too small and require you to move your index fingers into a less-than optimal position. However, if you attach the Joy Con wrist straps which add the larger SR and SL buttons, this problem immediately disappears. The big new features of the Joy Cons are of course the HD Rumble and updated motion sensors; however, I will go in to more detail about these features below when I discuss 1-2 Switch.

The Pro Controller – based on my very limited amount of time with it, may surpass the Gamecube controller as my all-time favourite video game controller. The heft, the ergonomic design, the feel of the buttons all combined with the gyroscopes and HD rumble all combine to make this a truly stunning piece of hardware. The final verdict may not come in until I have spent a few hundred hours using one of these to play some games, but it definitely made a positive first impression.

Now let’s move on to the games!

1-2 Switch

If you want to get a clear idea of what the HD Rumble can do, this is the game that to play. 1-2 Switch is a collection of 2-player mini games that involve each player taking one Joy Con and doesn’t require them to look at a screen – and in most cases, encourages you not to look at anything, but your opponent.

The first 1-2 Switch game I tried was Ball Count and it was the perfect introduction to what HD rumble means. You hold the Joy Con in the palm of your hand, and gently move it around, and you can feel virtual marbles bouncing around, like they were actually inside the controller. This demo really helped show off how accurate the HD rumble can be in replicating sensations of different objects, as evidenced by me being able to guess the number 2/3 times.

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The next demo I tried was Samurai Training, where the players take turns swinging invisible swords at each other, and the other person needs to clap their Joy Con to catch the sword in mid-air. This was a simple, but fun concept, however it reminded me a lot of games I used to play when I was in primary school waiting in line for the tuck shop (did anyone else play slaps?).

Similarly, Quick Draw provided a sense of tension as both players stare at each other, trying to psyche each other out waiting for the word “fire” to blast from the Switch’s speakers. It is fun but extremely simple.

The last game I got try is probably one of the weirdest gaming experiences I have ever had. Milk sees you trying to gently tease milk out of the udders of an invisible cow, by pulling the Joy Cons downwards, while slowly transitioning from the SR to SL buttons, while the HD rumble makes the Joy Con pulsate to replicate the sensation of the milk coming out. Due to just how weird it was (and how awkward you look playing it) it was definitely the most enjoyable mini game I tried, and was a good use of the HD rumble features.

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So, while I did enjoy my time with these handful of games, I still am baffled how this is not a pack in title for the Switch. It does a great job at showing off the systems features, but the games just seem too shallow to really justify an AU$69.95 price tag. Maybe the full package will feel a bit more complete, but for now, it is hard for me to recommend picking this up unless you want a title to show off what the HD rumble can do.

ARMS

Nintendo pitched ARMS as being a new fighting game that will be easy to pick up and play, but hard to master. From my limited time with it, I definitely feel the former is true, but I am not certain on the later.

Taking a Joy Con in each hand, players can move left and right by tilting left and right, dash by pressing L, block by tilting both controllers inwards and launch their flying fists at their opponents by punching forward. The angles at which you swing will affect the trajectory of your fist, alongside the weapon you put on your first, with items like boomerangs curving more than a standard boxing glove.

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The motion controls felt precise, though it is hard to tell if they will hold up without spending an extended period of time playing the game. The HD rumble also adds a lot to the experience, with your fist rumbling when it impacts on either the opponents body, allowing you to focus your vision on say the left side of your opponent, while you wait for your right fist to (hopefully) land a hit, then immediately switch back to the right once you feel the rumble.

It took me a while to really adjust to the character’s full suite of abilities, however once I started to get a hang of it the game is a ton of fun. I can see some really intense matches happening if a competitive scene develops around it, and I hope it does. However, it will really depend on how precise the controls really are, as it was hard to get a true sense of whether I was controlling the characters accurately using the motion.

Splatoon 2

From what I saw in the Splaoon 2 trailer, it is shaping up to be a proper sequel to the Wii U smash-hit. However, the demo I played did not convey the same message. The map they showed off, while new, did not feature any new elements and most of the weapons available where from the original, albeit with some tweaks. If anything, what this demo succeeded in doing was prove that Splatoon is going to make a smooth transition to the Switch, even without having the second screen that was a big part of the original games control scheme. And in many ways, that is enough to sell me on the game already. The game felt extremely polished and most importantly was a ton of fun to play.

Snipperclips

This game might seem like a small little eShop title (which technically it is) but do not overlook it. This co-op puzzler has you taking control of two arch shaped characters and together you have to work together to solve a variety of objectives from forming a love heart, to getting a pencil in to a pencil sharpener.

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The core mechanic revolves around each character’s ability to cut each other in to new shapes. Simply by walking over your partner, and pressing Y, you will cut out the common area that you both share (eg. If you both stand in such a way that half of each character’s body shares a common spot on the screen, and player 1 presses Y, then player 2 will be halve the shape they were previously). Combined with some more vanilla abilities like ducking, jumping and being able to rotate and reset your character’s bodies creates for some very clever puzzles.

Also, the artstyle is incredibly charming. The characters make the most adorable and hilarious facial expressions. While this may seem like a minor point, but I feel this is what really makes the game stand out beyond a more traditional puzzler.

 

I played a number of other titles, but I don’t have a ton to say on each of them, so let me just quickly rattle off my high-level thoughts:

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

This is literally the same game that was on the Wii U, but with a significantly improved battle mode, improved item system and some extra characters/items. Given I thought Mario Kart 8 already had the best racing mode in the franchise’s history, bringing the battle mode up to a similar level of quality is certainly a good thing and is likely to make this the definitive Mario Kart experience.

Super Bomberman R

Sadly, I only got to try out the traditional multiplayer, but to me that is still exciting. It is a polished, modernised classic Bomberman experience, which to me personally, is enough to sell me the game.

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Ultra Street Fighter 2

This is the definitive version is Street Fighter 2 you didn’t ask for, but you may want. The new hand-drawn HD art style looks gorgeous and the Street Fighter 2 mechanics really does withstand the test of time. Fighting games should definitely consider checking this out.

Sonic Mania

This is the true return to classic Sonic style gameplay that fans have been asking for, for years.  The game felt just like the Mega Drive original title, with just a few modern tweaks to make it more palatable for the gamers of today.

Disgaea 5

Played and felt like classic Disgaea. I can’t say whether this is worth double dipping on if you have already played through Disgaea 5, but it is a title that SRPG fans should consider checking out (maybe while you wait for a Fire Emblem game)

 

Oh, and you may be wondering why I am not talking about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Well, to be honest, I didn’t play it! Given I already tried the demo on Wii U at E3 (check out my preview here) I decided to focus on games I haven’t tried before. However, I will note it did look beautiful on the portable screen, so I don’t believe you will be playing a compromised version on the go.

 

So, as you can probably tell, I did enjoy my time with the Switch. The hardware delivers on offering that hybrid console-handheld experience in a way no other system has previously. If that is a concept that appeals to you, then this is definitely a machine you want to look in to picking up at some point.

Do you pick it up at launch? That is harder for me to recommend. There are good launch games, but there aren’t many. If you aren’t interested in Zelda, I don’t think it is worth picking up day one, and if you are a Wii U owner, you also have the added consideration of being able to play Zelda on your current system. I think once E3 rolls around, and we have a clearer idea of what is launching in the second half of 2017 and in 2018, it will be easier to justify a purchase. But for now, it may be best to just hold off and wait (unless you are a crazy Nintendo fan like me.. in which case you probably already pre-ordered one).

I would like to thank the Nintendo Switch Facebook Group for providing me the opportunity to attend the Switch preview event


Zachary Clarke

 
Zach is a unabashed Nintendo fanatic, however that doesn't mean he doesn't partake in the forbidden fruits of Playstation & Xbox consoles... he even plays on PC from time to time. Zach has dabbled in the video game industry in a number of ways over the past few years, from writting content for Gonintendo & Another Castle, to running the Society for Electronic Entertainment at the University of Melbourne. There is nothing more he loves than getting together, either online or offline with a bunch of fellow gamers, to yell at each other until we just want to punch one another in the throat while discussing video games.


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