Nintendo Switch Preview Tour comes to Toronto
Ever since the Nintendo Switch was announced last fall, I’ve been eagerly awaiting my first chance to try out Nintendo’s innovative new gaming console that offers multiple different ways to play. This past weekend, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, I got that opportunity at Nintendo of Canada’s Switch Preview Tour. It was an impressive set-up inside the Convention Centre, spanning 10,000 square feet, and resembling the kind of extravagant atmosphere normally reserved for major industry events like E3. Not only did Nintendo have several interactive areas where you could explore the many unique features of the Nintendo Switch hardware, but there were more than a dozen stations for hands-on testing with games expected to release later this year.
Nintendo Switch hardware
Before trying out the games, I made a beeline over to the Nintendo Switch hardware area to have my first opportunity to hold and inspect the new console. I was immediately impressed with how sleek the design of the Nintendo Switch is, and particularly loved its gorgeous 6.2-inch capacitive multi-touch screen. With a resolution of 1280 x 720, the Nintendo Switch is capable of displaying even more pixels than PS Vita, and its screen is bigger too.
To demonstrate the many ways in which you can use Nintendo Switch, different stations were built on the main stage showing off Tabletop mode, TV mode, and Handheld mode.
Tabletop mode – This area simulated what it would be like to play Nintendo Switch on an airplane or train. For this demo, I participated in a two-player Mario Kart 8 Deluxe race with a partner, using the kickstand on the back of the Nintendo Switch console to position the screen upright. We were each given a Joy-Con controller to hold horizontally in our hands, exactly the way you would position an NES or SNES controller. I did feel the Joy-Con was a tad small, but it was comfortable to hold over the fifteen minute racing session, and the buttons were intuitively laid out. For even more control over your game, I preferred attaching the Joy-Con Wrist Strap, which adds another centimetre of thickness to the controller for a better grip, and gives you large, raised shoulder buttons that are easier to press.
TV mode – Next, I walked over to the TV area and got to play two more races of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in a traditional living room setting, complete with two comfy chairs and a wall-mounted flat screen. Here I was able to test the Joy-Con Wheel accessory, which is essentially a plastic wheel that lets you insert a Joy-Con controller and steer using motion controls. If you’ve ever used the official Nintendo Wii Wheel, you’ll immediately feel at home using the Joy-Con Wheel, as both these devices function nearly the same. The only differences are that the Joy-Con Wheel is black (instead of white), and the form factor is noticeably smaller to accommodate the diminutive Joy-Con controller. Normally I’m not a big fan of motion controls in racing games, as I find analog sticks to be more precise; however, I was impressed with how accurately the Joy-Con controller was able to detect my steering motions and reflect them in-game.
Handheld mode – The last station, highlighting the Nintendo Switch’s handheld mode, was divided into two sections: one depicting a bus or car ride, and the second a Mario-themed café. Here I was able to hold the Nintendo Switch in my hand and participate in a four-player match of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe‘s new Battle Mode. As a handheld device, the Nintendo Switch felt very light, though it was hard to tell the exact weight since the unit had a wire lock attached it to that added bulk. Graphically, the game looked really vivid on the 720p screen, and it ran super smooth (a Nintendo rep said it was 60 frames per second gameplay.) It really did feel like having a home console-quality Mario Kart game in the palm of my hands, which is certainly an impressive feat.
Nintendo Switch games
The rest of the floor space was dedicated to Nintendo Switch games that are expected to release this year. It was a dazzling display, giving us everything from a wilderness-themed area for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, to glass enclosures to play the launch game 1-2 Switch, to a training area for Nintendo’s new fighting game ARMS, to a multiplayer competitive space for 4-vs-4 Splatoon 2 matches. Each game and area highlighted interesting features of Nintendo Switch, such as:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – During the 20-minute demo (which covered the same ground as my E3 demo on Wii U), I was told at any time it was okay to switch from TV mode to Handheld mode by simply lifting the Nintendo Switch out of its dock. It was a magic moment to say the least—instantly I could switch between the two modes with virtually no lag time between. Getting to experience a home console-quality Zelda game that you can pick up and take with you anywhere you go was a very exciting moment.
1-2 Switch – This Nintendo Switch launch title is all about player interaction and showcasing the many features of the Joy-Con controller. It features silly mini-games you can play with family and friends, such as one where I went head-to-head against my wife to see who can squeeze the most milk from a cow. The most interesting mini-game of the six I played was Ball Count, which uses the Joy-Con controller’s HD rumble feature to simulate balls rolling around in an empty box. Your job is to rotate the Joy-Con and try and guess how many balls there are. It sounds strange, but the HD rumble effects are so realistic you can actually get a good sense of how many balls there are by simply focusing on the vibrations of the controller.
ARMS – Nintendo new fighting game ARMS was the surprise hit of the show for me. I didn’t know what to expect going into it, but after playing several rounds I was hooked. The concept is really simple: an eclectic cast of cartoon characters with extendable arms battle it out in fast-paced arena-style boxing matches. To control your character, you grip two Joy-Con controllers on their vertical edge and perform rhythmic maraca motions to send your fists flying. Leaning your hands left or right will make your character move in that direction, and holding the Joy-Cons up will initiate a block. The controls were so simple to learn, by the second match I was already learning how to effectively dodge, counterattack, and even pummel my opponent with lightning-fast super moves. Of all the game I played at the event, ARMS was the most fun.
Splatoon 2 – The original Splatoon is my all-time favourite Wii U game, so I was really excited to see what’s new in Splatoon 2. At this booth I was able to try out the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, which is an optional accessory for those who prefer a more traditional controller feel and layout. As someone who uses the Wii U Pro Controller when playing the original Splatoon, I found it very easy to get accustomed to the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. Many of the features of the Joy-Con, including HD rumble, motion control, and built-in amiibo functionality are also included in the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. During my 4-vs-4 competitive match, the motion controls were turned on by default, enabling me to tilt the controller up or down for precision aiming. It took a minute or two to adjust to this type of control, but once I did, my accuracy improved significantly. Following the match, I sat down for another 4-vs-4 Turf War match, this time holding the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode. Once again, I was extremely impressed with the visual quality, and the game ran smoothly without any hitches.
There were so many more games I tried at the Nintendo Switch Preview Tour, including Sonic Mania, Just Dance 2017, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Super Bomberman R, and others. Overall, it was a fantastic event that showcased not only the impressive design features of Nintendo Switch, but also a superb line-up of games available this year. Keep your eye on the Plug-In Blog for more coverage as we get closer to the launch of Nintendo Switch!