Everything we know about Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch release date is set for March 3, 2017, and we’d be lying if we said we weren’t excited for the new hybrid console. With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild crowning the console’s list of launch games, hardcore Nintendo fans are eagerly anticipating the Switch’s arrival.

While the first month may seem a little lacking, Nintendo Switch has plenty of brilliant games waiting in the wings such as Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey and more.

Nintendo has provided more details on the Switch mobile app, which will be used for voice chat and other features in the future. In a recent press release the company described its usage in Splatoon 2.

“Splatoon 2 will be compatible with an upcoming Nintendo Switch app for smart devices that enhances online play,” Nintendo explained in the press release.

“This app will connect to the game and allow players to set play appointments with friends who have been added to their Nintendo Switch friend list or via their social media accounts.”

Having the option to arrange matches and invite friends through social media sounds super convenient, avoiding the need to swap usernames, too!

Nintendo Switch – The Console

I was completely sold on the Switch concept from day one. I think the ability to take home console-quality gaming on the go, and easily share that experience with others using the same controller I have in my hands, is the most insightful and well-conceived console not only from Nintendo, but by any company. I’m quickly growing tired of console creators chasing performance and pixels, and for the first time it felt like Nintendo was chasing ‘me’.

As someone with less and less time to play games outside of work, the Switch feels like a dream console.

I was immediately impressed by how well made the Switch is. Coming from the Wii U’s Tonka Toy plastic, the Switch feels like its come straight from an Apple store. The Switch itself – which is simply the small screen which games can be displayed on – is a solid unit with good weight. The 6.2-inch screen is a little on the small side, and its thick black bezel only serves to emphasize this. However, the display is beautiful, showing bright and vivid colors with great detail.

There were times when the Switch screen was sat a few feet away while playing a game, and this was an issue, particularly in the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I had to lean forward to see the detail and what was going on, particularly in Battle Mode. Being sat closer was fine playing solo or in two-player, but I imagine four player could be a little snug, perhaps requiring two Switch consoles for ad-hoc play.

The display’s 720p resolution was a concern, but getting a chance to play it, it’s really not a problem. If you’re the type of player that obsesses over the difference between 900p and 1080p, then you’ll likely notice the transition. But as someone who takes gameplay and framerate over resolution, the Switch handles everything fine.

However, one issue is that major Switch games (Splatoon 2 and Zelda in particular) had pretty aggressive jaggies, which became even more noticeable on the big screen. It doesn’t break the experience, but it is definitely something that is very noticeable, and takes some getting used to. The likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and, from the looks of things, Super Mario Odyssey do not suffer with this.

As more info about the console’s tech specs comes to light, it’s clear there’s more going on with the tech than meets the eye, so there’ll be plenty more to discover once we get our own console for review.

Another slight issue I noticed is that the Joy-Con controllers slide from the top down onto the console itself. Now I’m not one to doubt Nintendo’s design, but over the months and years of constantly sliding those things in and out of the Switch, I’d be slightly worried that the grip would begin to wear, and that the Switch could fall completely out of the bottom, leaving me holding nothing but the controller on the train. It makes me wonder why the Joy-Cons don’t slide on from the bottom-up.

Unfortunately, the dock which the Switch slots into to display onto the TV was often housed behind glass so I didn’t get much chance to have a look at the thing, but I did get to see games transition from the big screen to the console while playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the whole thing is seamless. There’s maybe a second or two delay between the TV display disappearing and the image popping up on the Switch, or vice versa. The game will ask you to press shoulder buttons to confirm the display transition, so don’t worry about being killed and losing progress in the switch.

Some of the console’s features, such as battery life, multi-touch and user interface were not available for testing at this event, so we’ll have to wait to get the console ourselves to find out about these. However, with the USB-C charging port housed at the bottom of the console, it means the unit cannot be charged while stood on its kickstand, which is a tad frustrating, but not a deal breaker.
Nintendo Switch – Controllers

The Joy-Con and their various accoutrements are the best controllers Nintendo has ever produced from both a design and technological perspective.

Together they can be used like any traditional controller, with Joy-Con L and R offering dual analogue sticks, home and share buttons (welcome to 2017, Nintendo), and two sets of face buttons as well as four shoulder buttons for all the inputs any game could ever need. There’s also bespoke technologies unique to the Switch, like the new “HD rumble” which is apparently now so intricate that players will be able to detect the likes of how many ice cubes are dropped into a glass, as was shown during the console’s presentation. Only one game – 1-2-Switch – really took advantage of this in my time with the console, which we’ll come to later.

When the controllers are docked in their charging station pad, they still feel great. Playing Breath of the Wild with them felt fine. The smaller size of the analogue sticks never caused me to lose control, and the rounded shape of the rear grips of the dock fit perfectly in my hands. It’s a really well-made pad.

Of course, the real beauty of these controllers is the ability to split them in two, thus creating local multiplayer within the same controller. The Joy-Cons have ‘SL’ and ‘SR’ buttons on the inner seam so they can be held sideways, and both feel incredibly comfortable in my hands. You do lose an analogue stick and two shoulder buttons in the split, so some games won’t work, but for the ones that do, it’s an excellent feature.

Nintendo Switch – Games

At launch the Nintendo Switch software line-up is pretty stale. There’s of course the behemoth that is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but other than that you have just Super Bomberman R, 1-2-Switch, Just Dance 2017 and Skylanders Imaginators. That’s it.

There are of course more games coming soon after launch, with the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe coming April 28, as well as ARMS arriving in spring and Splatoon 2 in summer, but there’s very few titles for players to sink their teeth into, and no real hook for mainstream fans to pick this console up day one.

Nintendo Switch First Impressions

Overall, I really love the Nintendo Switch. It’s a well made piece of kit and, for me, the best hardware Nintendo has ever produced from a technical standpoint. The Joy-Con controllers are packed with tech and feel great in the hands, as does the console, it’s whole philosophy immediately clicks, especially when sat with others playing a game of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Super Bomberman R.

However, outside of Breath of the Wild, there is nothing to lead anybody beyond hardcore fans to rush to stores on March 3 to buy a Switch. Even then Breath of the Wild isn’t the game to show of what Nintendo’s new console can do.

The whole idea of the Switch – aside from being able to take your gaming experience on the go – is to share that experience with other players. The console has two controllers built into the Joy-Con, and being able to break it in half and share with a friend, partner or child is genius design. But at launch there’s very little to exploit this, and that’s bizarre.

It seems that Nintendo is playing into every one of its own stereotypes – incredible hardware with very little software to show why the console is worth buying. Third party support is once again thin, and the depth of technology in the controllers is likely to be overlooked by 95% of the games that will appear over the Switch’s life cycle.

Everyone I speak to is very excited by the idea of the Switch and the convenience it offers. However, I have nothing to show off the social aspect of it as things stand. Nintendo needs to do much more.

There are still so many questions left unanswered: user interface, digital store, online. And with Nintendo now charging for multiplayer, it needs to drastically improve on what the company has ever offered before.

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