Waiting outside in a very cold London street, I was greeted by hundreds of other Nintendo fans eager to try out a console that had been fully revealed to the world only a day before. I was there for day one for the Wii U launch. I’ll be there for its last breath. But ultimately Nintendo has a very tough job to do – to get our attention back and to get us to jump back on ship for its brand new console, the Nintendo Switch. And this day was their perfect opportunity.
What struck me first and foremost was its sleek, matte design. When docked, it’s surprisingly minuscule in comparison to Sony or Microsoft home consoles. With the screen’s bezel slightly on show, it’s a welcome invitation to pull the tablet out and play. Holding the Switch is a far cry from the Wii U’s ‘plasticky’ exterior where the shiny casing has been swapped for a much more premium finish that doesn’t show up fingerprints quite so easily while grasping it. The Switch in handheld mode is very thin but the compact build and vibrant, crisp, multi-touch screen display makes for an accessible and enticing experience. The Switch is a tidy and comfortable set up that’s sturdy enough when docked – even in a busy exhibition space.
For me the JoyCons stole the show. Each Joy-Con slots into one side of the Switch and can easily be unclipped. The experience of doing so is easy and although it’s probably a novelty for now, it’s pretty fun. The colours of the Joy-Con are great. They’re bold, bright and strikingly attractive. When using only one for yourself it’s worth noting that they’re painfully small, meaning that folks with larger hands may have to re-adjust constantly to ensure comfort. When playing some of the 1-2-Switch mini-games, I found myself gripping the Joy-Con and inadvertently pressing other buttons – thankfully most of the games on offer with 1-2-Switch rely on motion controls, so I didn’t run into any major game-hindering problems. Adding on the Joy-Con Grip does add some muscle to the controller that made it easier to grasp.
Since the Joy-Cons can slide into a shell exterior, regular gamers have the choice to play with a more traditional controller. I played 15 minutes of Zelda: Breath of The Wild and it worked a treat. The case adds a good degree of added weight to the Joy-Cons; using the gyro to pin point a place on the map through a scope view was straightforward, accurate and precise. This may seem insignificant but it’s a feature that worked and worked well. Nowhere on the screen did it prompt me to do so – I found myself doing it naturally.
Nearly every Nintendo Rep at the Premier couldn’t keep quiet about the ‘HD Rumble’ feature of the Joy-Con. And to be fair, I can see why. Each controller houses multiple rumble mechanisms and its fine-tuned vibrations offer something miles apart from what we currently game with. 1-2-Switch showcases HD Rumble brilliantly. Whether it be by rattling some marbles in an on-screen box by twisting and tilting your Joy-Con to feel each and every tiny bump, to clicking through a metal safe’s dial and paying attention to a very slightly different ‘click’. It’s ingenious and a feature that could create some intuitive experiences. Imagine climbing up a mountain face in Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and feeling a more ‘gritty’ rumble than if you were jumping in a body of water in Super Mario Odyssey; feeling a silkier vibration as you glide your way down to a treasure chest.
Nintendo’s answer to Wii Sports and Nintendo Land, 1-2-Switch offers up a range of mini-games that forces each player to look at each other and not the screen. Milking a cow by holding the Joy-Con was a hilarious and an equally awkward experience. You hold your Joy-Con in one hand and act out awkward gestures, while simultaneously pressing the controllers’ shoulder buttons to milk an udder. Whoever is faster, wins. Copy Dance saw us taking it in turns to act out a dance pose for the other player to imitate. Quick Draw was a classic game of who-shoots-first and Samurai Training was a test of quick reaction; slicing a sword down towards my sister as she clapped her hands together to try to grab the blade. Ultimately, it was a lot of fun and I’m intrigued as to what the final product offers but – for the time being – there simply isn’t enough substance there to keep me entertained.
Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!
A new IP from Nintendo which plays wonderfully on the Switch while it’s resting up on its kick stand; Snipperclips is all about working together with the other player to cut out bits of your characters’ body while overlapping each other – solving puzzle stages to progress. It’s adorably cute but deceptively challenging. One of the levels I played gives you the chance to cut out your friend’s paper body, jump on their head, and balance a pencil together to transport it into a sharpener. Thankfully, the controls are surprisingly easy to pick up. Holding your Joy-Con horizontally, using the shoulder buttons on the grip to rotate your character while barking orders at the other player is worthwhile to feel the achievement of solving puzzles together as a team. The game looks great with its paper aesthetics, the same goes to the characters facial expressions as you bump around on the level, which were a real joy to watch. Plus, there were some authentic laugh-out-loud moments. Snipperclips was quite the hidden gem and one to watch out for.
Mario Kart Deluxe
I was sceptical at what the Switch version of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could offer me. Battle-mode is back, new characters too, and some new items make an appearance but unfortunately that’s it. I got to play with seven other people on Baby Park’s course with each of us looking down on the Switch’s screen using Joy-Con’s attached. This game really does look incredible; the colours pop and the framerate is steady and smooth. The Wii U suffered with drops of FPS in multiplayer but it isn’t an issue here – as long as your fellow racers play on a separate Switch console. Battle-mode is a welcome addition and one that plays as well as I remembered on previous Mario Kart titles. The Pro-Controller is out-rightly going to be my choice of controller when this game lands but that’s mostly due to my large hands and clumsy button pressing.
Arms puts two fighters against each other in an arena where you have to punch your way to victory. Each player faces the TV whilst manoeuvring and out-smarting your opponent by performing a wealth of different button combinations and synchronised wrist twists. I’ll openly admit that it was tough to grasp as it gets hectic very quickly and, when the other fighter gains their special move, it can be game over in a flash. Skill is needed along with a remarkable level of precision, otherwise you’ll just dawdle around the ring flailing your springy arms whilst your friend batters the life out of your poor virtual boxer. With online play promised, Arms has a plausible prospect of being a title that could do very well indeed.
Zelda Breath Of The Wild
First things first, this game is simply stunning. The expansiveness of the Great Plateau to the enormous and daunting cliff faces, Zelda: Breath Of The Wild didn’t disappoint in my 15-minute play. I’ve yearned for a Zelda title that finally grants us freedom – and this certainly does, but at an expense. The draw distance wasn’t up to scratch and certainly didn’t mirror what we saw in the very first E3 trailer; a real shame as I saw Bokoblins popping up out of thin air. I’m crossing my fingers for a smoother, less choppy Zelda experience at launch. That being said, I am certainly a big fan of the direction in which Zelda is taking. The battle system is very simple to grasp, the cooking mechanic makes gathering plants and food fun and the rolling landscape of Hyrule is even more inviting than it first was in Ocarina of Time.
With some cautious optimism, I came away impressed. The Nintendo Switch is an attractive piece of kit that does exactly what Nintendo has set out for it to do. Pulling the machine out of the dock is an awesome thing but will I need to do this? The prospect of playing split-screen multiplayer with my brother on a plane with controllers that are smarter and more intuitive than the Wiimote? Probably more likely.
The games I played were good but will they be good enough for the masses to come crawling back to the Nintendo way of gaming? Third party support, a strong launch that isn’t hindered by abysmal stock shortages and a tantalising year ahead of rich, fun content will be the key to success.