While Declan was filling you in with all the info from the Live Switch Presentation, I was flying off to attend the event in London. While I was there, I got to see some games I’d been looking forward to, as well as some I’d never seen before (I missed the Nintendo Treehouse due to traveling). Most importantly, I got my hands on the beast itself and a chance to try out the games Nintendo Switch has to offer.
A lot of the games on offer, you’ll already be familiar with, so I’ll start by focusing on the more tactile experiences.
Up until yesterday I hadn’t really thought of how many different playstyles the Switch provides. I’m so used to the Wiimote/Nunchuk controls by now that I think nothing of having half a controller in each hand. Yet, out of the box, the Switch provides a lot of different ways to play. No two games I played yesterday used the same controller configuration. Well, two of them did, but I was using the Pro Controller for one, and the Switch/Joy-con configuration or the other. Let’s go through some of the pros and (Joy)cons of each.
For anyone wondering about size estimates, I should mention that I have fairly large man hands.
Switch Pro Controller
The Switch Pro Controller is Nintendo’s ‘This is what you think of when you think Game Controller’ option. It is sold separately from the core Switch unit, as was the WiiU Pro controller before it. Comparing the two, the Switch Pro Controller is the superior model. While I always thought the WiiU Pro Controller was perfectly comfortable to hold, the button placement needed some work. Specifically the Right Analog Stick placement.
The Switch Pro Controller corrects this by going for a similar layout to the Xbox 360. On top of that, there are some minor refinements to the design. The grips are slightly curved, to rest more ergonomically in your hand, as well as finished with a slightly textured material. Comparing this to other standard controllers on the market, I’d place it below the Dualshock 4 and just slightly above the Xbox 360 controller.
The biggest issue with the Pro Controller is the price. NintendoStore UK lists it at £60, while most retailers stock the Dualshock 4 for £40-£45. When I get a controller with that kind of price tag, I’m expecting a more premium experience; Buttons that feel above the bar, rubberized grips, etc. The Switch Pro Controller simply isn’t up there. Hopefully there’ll be a price drop before too long or we’ll get a confirmation on the Hori Pro Controller. Apart from that, I’m not a fan of the transparent shell, but that’s just a personal thing for me, I’d prefer a solid colour.
The Joy-Cons are the little side bits that you’ll have seen snapped into the sides of the core Switch screen. They’re aptly named, because they’re quite simply a joy to handle. They’re very nicely shaped with a bit of a curve on the shoulder for the trigger, rather than the purely flat shape I initially thought they had. Holding one in each hand, you’ll forget that they’re even there. The face buttons are comparable to the 3DS XL in terms of size and depth, but extremely responsive. The bumpers are similarly small, but mighty.
The rumble and motion sensing in each Joy-Con is extremely impressive. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the tech in each little container. The HD Rumble is able to produce a lot of interesting sensations. The tech demo showing how it can mimic the feel of ice in a glass is quite accurate. Nintendo’s 1, 2, Switch showed off this feature very well, using very slight variations in rumble to indicate finding a tumbler in a safe, or to give the feel of resistance when lifting the weight of a cow’s udder. The improved motion sensitivity was key to Arms. Almost every action in this game is dependent on small movements or tilts between the two controllers.
The only issue I can see with the Joy-Con is when using a single one with two hands. I didn’t play any games with this setup, just held one sideways for a while. It felt fine, but I had to wonder how holding something like that would feel if you had to do it for a long session. Not only that, but because of the slight layout differences between the right and left unit, I feel anyone holding the left Joy-Con will have a slight ergonomic advantage.
The Joy-Con grip was an extremely pleasant surprise once I got hold of it. Seeing images of it online, it looked incredibly small in terms of horizontal spacing, with some jarring vertical spacing between the grips and the Joy-Con. I was pretty apprehensive about how it would perform as the standard Switch controller. After using it to play Breath of the Wild, I can safely say all my fears are alleviated.
Everything here feels and looks lovely. The finish on the grips is excellent, as is the shape. Mentally, I was comparing it to the Gamecube controller, which is still my favourite controller in terms of button layout. This will for sure be my main way to play in the future. It’s a good thing too, since this is the core controller included with the Switch. One major thing I’m still not sure of, is whether the central portion also acts as a trackpad. It certainly feels nice to run your fingers over, but I wasn’t able to take the unit apart and see if there was any sort of power running from the Joy-Cons to the central Grip, nor was I playing anything that gave a response when I thought to try it.
My only critique is that the D-Pad was a little low for my thumb. It’s not at all something that will become an issue for most games. I wouldn’t even spare it a second though for games where the D-Pad is only used for quick-swapping items or tabbing through other features. However, it’s not at all something I’d like if I were a fighting game player who preferred D-Pad inputs. Again, hopefully we’ll see a price drop on the Pro Controller for that, or hear more on Third Party support from the likes of Hori.
Snapping the Joy-Con onto the side of the Switch screen is what I imagine a shot of heroin feels like. As soon as I’d snapped it in place once, I asked the demonstrator if I could do it again. It is so damned satisfying. If you’ve had a stressful day and need some gaming to cool off, this is where the catharsis begins. I can tell that Nintendo paid attention to this design point because they knew we’d have to do it a lot. Worth it.
I suppose the bigger question at this point isn’t how the Joy-Cons feel in your hand, but rather how the entire handheld Switch unit feels as a whole. The answer is extremely comfortable. The D-Pad issue of the Grip is negated by holding the Joy-Con directly. Despite being made of three separate sections, it’s extremely sturdy and holds together without budging even slightly at the joints. Finally, the controller is surprisingly light for something with a screen in it. Certainly lighter than I expected weight. Maybe a little more than the WiiU Gamepad, though it’s hard for me to say exactly.
If you’re like me and have a habit of tightening and flexing your grip on a controller during more frustrating moments, you might wonder how well such a long, skinny sheet with a glass screen over it holds up. Well, I gave it a bit of a shot, just a little tug and a twist. It held up nicely under what I’m going to refer to as ‘above average frustration tension’. I’m sure it would snap if I tried, but at the same time, I’d just as easily wishbone a DS4.
Games Seen But Not Played
I totally missed the Nintendo Treehouse Presentation so I had no clue what I was looking at when I stumbled upon it. Snipperclips is cute as hell. It’s a co-op puzzle game that will definitely appeal to lovers of Crayon Physics and games of that ilk. You and a friend each control a small thumb shaped character and need to overlap and cut each other into new shapes in order to solve puzzles. Definitely something I’ll pick up when it comes out. The low price point of $20 doesn’t hurt either.
I really, really, really wanted to take a shot at this, but the lines were way too long and time was limited. Not only that, but most of the gameplay was on the Switch Controller so it was tough to see what was going on. What I did see, I was pleased by. It’s good old Bomberman fun, with a few new dynamic map features. For more details out can check out the Treehouse footage.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 but with added Battle Mode! I’ve played a lot of MK8 so I wasn’t too jazzed about trying this with so much new stuff on offer, I did keep an eye on it from afar though. Battle Mode looks like great fun and was something I missed in the original MK8. Chances are I’ll pick it up for that alone, but I’ll be pretty bitter about paying full price for a game I already feel I’ve spent so much on.
Has Been Heroes
Not really sure what was going on here, but based on the queue it was pretty damned popular. From what I did see, it looked like a constant string of JRPG-esque battles, with different characters assigned to different buttons. When I checked it out after getting home, I found it out was a type of roguelike from the makers of Trine. It’s also multi-platform, coming out on all home consoles and PC.
Another title I was hoping to take a swing at but was held back from by lines. I loved Splatoon and this looks like more of the same. I’m left wondering though, is it too much more of the same? I didn’t see any huge differences to really warrant a ‘2’ in the title. This felt more like ‘Splatoon Deluxe’ along the same lines as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, rather than a proper jump forward for the series. Perhaps we’ll see more differences as the release draws closer.
There was a seated area playing the trailer and maybe a little extra footage on loop. Not much to say that you haven’t already seen. I just really need to talk about how freaky the humans look. It’s not in the visuals, and more in the robotic animations. I really hope they take time to either improve the Uncanny Valley movements, or better yet just replace them with Miis before the December release.
Games Played With My Own Unworthy Hands
Ultra Street Fighter II
Street Fighter II on the SNES was one of the first games I can remember playing. I’ve also been playing a lot of Street Fighter V recently, so I’ve been hyped to try out this new edition. At first I thought the new artstyle was a bit off, akin to the remaster of Final Fantasy VI that everyone took offence to, but after playing for a while I got past it. I later learned that there’s an option to play with the original pixelated sprites and was happy with that. It’s a lot speedier than the original, for sure, but I can’t say how that compares to other recent editions since I’ve been out of the loop for so long. If it’s on Virtual Console and the price is right, I’ll be checking it out some more.
1, 2, Switch!
The Wii Sports equivalent for the Switch. A series of short, quickfire games that’re fun and will make you feel ridiculous. Cowboy shoot-outs, dance offs, sword catching and cow milking are among the activities on offer. Took me a few sessions to really get into this, a lot of that hinging on looking stupid in a crowd, but once I got into it, it was an excellent experience. This is gonna be the go-to game when you have friends over for a few tins.
Unfortunately, I can’t help thinking that the Switch should have 1, 2, Switch included in the base package, as Wii Sports was for the Wii. Not only did Wii Sports serve as a fun party game at launch, it also acted as a tech demo for everything the Wii could do. This is something I feel the Switch could benefit from.
A game that I was underwhelmed by when it was announced. The trailers didn’t make it seem like there was much more to it than Wii Boxing, a game that was free two generations ago. Playing it totally spun my opinion on its head. This was the most manic fun I had of all the games on offer. The combat mechanics are surprisingly tight and controlling everything with a Joy-Con in each fist is extremely intuitive. This may be the first motion controlled game that I could see having a future on the competitive circuit. I do question the amount of content though. The version at the event featured 5 different characters, each with three weapons. I’d like to see a bit more on the table before committing to buy a full priced game. Hopefully there’ll be more uncovered in the coming weeks outside of the playable demo.
The Waiting Game
By far the least fun event of the day, this involved standing in line for over 2 hours and felt like one long loading screen. The lighting effects were awful, resulting in very few pictures being of any sort of viewable quality. Otherwise, the visuals were fairly pretty, with screens aplenty all around displaying all the games mentioned previously. The one good thing about it is that on completion, I was reward with a chance to play…
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Just give me a moment to collect myself.
Okay, okay, I’m good, I’m good. Let’s do this!
Breath of the Wild is the newest entry in the Legend of Zelda series. First unveiled at E3 in 2014, this will be the first new instalment of the series on a home console since 2011. You all know that already though, you’ve all seen the expansive map and heard of the new features and the supposed freedom on offer. What you want to know if how does it play? In my brief experience I was very happy with what I saw.
The setup for the demo involved a small snippet of storyline, and a playable shrine with a magnetic puzzle. I’d seen a lot of it during previous presentations, as well ass on-screen while waiting in line. I decided instead to pick a direction and run with it, seeing how far I could get. The 20-30 minute demo ended before I found anything to impede my progress. I was able to run, jump, swim and climb, but nothing ever walled off my travels. The closest I came to a locked off area was a tall tower that I didn’t (yet) have enough stamina to climb to the top of. Apart from traveling, I was able to fight with a few different crude weapons, murder some Bokoblins with a giant rock and chop down way more trees than should’ve been fun before rolling their trunks around.
The map is absolutely huge. Even as my time came to an end, I could still see so much in the distance. I hadn’t even covered a fraction of that tiny straight line. This may well have the potential to knock The Wind Waker off the top spot of my own personal Zelda chart. The game looks glorious, the few characters I met were wonderfully expressive. The landscape is littered with flora and fauna so even in its vastness it never feels barren and lonely. Hylian Squirrels. Yes. And all of this at a buttery smooth 60 fps. Admittedly, while standing in line, I’m pretty sure I spotted a few drop offs, though personally I never experienced anything like that myself.
7 more weeks until I play it again. I can do it. It’ll be fine. Just 7 short weeks.
Yeah. It’s pretty good.
I know there’s some trepidation about the number of titles available at launch, but, in my experience, every console has had a crap selection at launch. Quality will always trump quantity. I mean, one of the best launch selections ever only had one top quality game available at launch.
Oh, oh, and as a final addition, the switchover from TV to Switch is instantaneous. The switchback takes about 2 seconds, so enough time for you to put it in the dock, then move back to your seat without noticing.
Now, roll on March 3rd!