Nintendo Switch first impressions
I’ve owned every Nintendo gaming console going way back to the NES days, and without a doubt Nintendo Switch is the company’s most impressive hardware ever made. Holding the Nintendo Switch in my hands for the first time was a magic moment, as the device feels just right. It’s sturdy, it’s comfortable, and the 6.2-inch screen produces beautiful rich images. But that’s not even why I was so excited.
The most compelling aspect of Nintendo Switch is its versatility. Nintendo sent me a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to test out the system with, and when I inserted the cartridge that’s when it sunk in—I can play this game everywhere. On a plane, on a train, on a bus, or at home on my big screen TV. Take nothing away from the amazing Zelda games I’ve played on Nintendo DS and 3DS, but Breath of the Wild is a full-blown home console experience. And that experience is in the palm of my hands.
Packed with Nintendo innovations
Like many of you, I watched the Nintendo Switch press conference the company held in mid-January. In it, they discussed how Nintendo Switch fuses many of their greatest innovations all into one system. The console has a touch screen, like Nintendo DS. It has motion controls, like Wii. It has shoulder buttons, like SNES. It has NFC and amiibo support, like Wii U. It has analog controls, like N64.
Having spent a week with Nintendo Switch now, it really does feel like it’s the culmination of everything Nintendo has learned in the past 34 years of gaming. Moreover, that Nintendo was able to pack such an impressive suite of features into such a compact console is truly an impressive feat. There’s no compromise too, all aspects of the hardware screams quality and has the DNA of Nintendo written all over it.
Different ways to play
Nintendo is banking on its core message of “play anywhere” to drive interest in Nintendo Switch, and rightfully so: it’s a huge, exclusive feature. My first day with the console looked like this: played a couple hours of Zelda at home on my TV, continued exactly where I left off during my subway commute to/from downtown, got home and played some more using the console’s kickstand while reclining on my couch. Three different play styles, one console. The flexibility was amazing.
What I love most about the console’s multiple configuration options is that I can play the way I want, when I want, and where I want. This flexibility is also good news for families—if you’re in the middle of your favourite game and someone wants to use the TV, you can simply take the console out of the dock and continue playing. Best of all, the transition between the play styles is virtually seamless. Switching from TV mode to handheld mode is near-instantaneous, and the reverse is just as fast. Snapping the Left and Right Joy-Con controllers on or off is also super easy, and they can detect what mode you’re using with flawless precision.
Nintendo Switch games lineup
Great hardware is one thing, but we all know it’s software that makes or breaks a games console. With this being Nintendo’s next big console, the launch lineup is curiously thin. It does, however, include one huge marquee title, namely The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Other games I’m looking forward to at launch include Super Bomberman R, and the Nintendo eShop titles Snipperclips, I Am Setsuna, and Fast RMX.
Zelda easily is the must-have title and will likely keep you very busy until more Nintendo Switch games arrive. On the horizon there are tons of exciting games coming out, like ARMS, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Sonic Mania, and Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers. It’s great to see strong third-party support right out of the gate. However, like virtually all Nintendo consoles before it, the best reason to get Nintendo Switch will be for the Nintendo games. Take this holiday for example, Nintendo will be giving us a little game you might have heard of called Super Mario Odyssey.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers and Joy-Con Grip
Now that I’ve spent a week using the Joy-Con controllers, it’s hard to go back to regular controllers. They are extremely comfortable, and I love that I can hold one in each hand. Instead of your hands being close together for hours (like with standard controllers), you hold yours arms at your side in a natural position. Having the ability to kick back and sit in any position I choose was very liberating.
If you prefer a traditional controller setup, you can use the included Joy-Con Grip. It’s essentially a plastic casing that allows you to slot in the Left and Right Joy-Con controllers. There are strong, sturdy round grips to hold the controller with, and overall the Joy-Con Grip had a nice look and feel.
On the Joy-Con controllers themselves, it’s amazing how many buttons and technologies are baked in. The Left Joy-Con possesses a Capture Button to take gameplay screen shots, and I could view my pics at any time by visiting the system’s home menu. The Right Joy-Con has an IR Motion Camera, and it could detect my body movements while playing 1-2-Switch. An NFC reader/writer is also inside the Right controller, and this let me scan amiibo to receive helpful in-game items in Zelda.
My favourite feature of all though is the Joy-Con’s HD rumble. It’s one of those features you don’t know you want until you experience it. HD rumble produces immersive vibrations that lets you accurately feel what’s happening on-screen. In 1-2-Switch, there’s a minigame where you have to count how many balls are inside your Joy-Con controller. The HD rumble is so realistic you will actually feel like there are marbles rolling around.
You can also feel a big difference between light and strong attacks in The Legend of Zelda. If any enemy strikes you with a soft blow, the Joy-Con will create subtle vibrations. Getting hit with a more powerful attack will produce a greater rumbling sensation. The improved haptic feedback produces a better game experience, and I can’t wait to see how the tech is used in future games.
Nintendo Switch interface
I found the interface of Nintendo Switch to be clean and intuitive. It reminds me a lot of PS4 with its tiled presentation that displays all your downloaded games and apps. By default, the background is a crisp white, though you can change to a black theme is you so desire.
To unlock the system from Sleep Mode, all you need to do is press the same button three times. This keeps your console locked as you move around, and makes it simple to open when you want. Nintendo Switch also includes robust parental controls to define how the system can be used. You can restrict features, set play time limits, or receive activity notifications.
The online components of Nintendo Switch just rolled out midday yesterday, including access to the Nintendo eShop, ability to share images, and online multiplayer. The eShop has a tiled presentation much like the home screen and just as easy to navigate. Image sharing is a snap, you just tap on a photo and link the console to either Facebook or Twitter. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any multiplayer titles in time for this review. I got my hands on Super Bomberman R today though, so be on the lookout for multiplayer impressions in my review soon.
After one week with Nintendo Switch, I’m thoroughly impressed and excited about its potential. This is Nintendo’s best console ever. The build quality is top-notch, the features are robust, and the interface is slick. I’ve had a blast with the games I’ve played so far, but Nintendo needs to focus on getting more software out fast. Fortunately, the showcase title is Zelda, and it is one of the greatest games ever created (review soon!)
The real show-stealer is Nintendo Switch’s portability. Being able to take home console-quality games anywhere you go is a huge game-changer. Whenever you leave you home, now your console games can come right along with you. The days of saving your consoles games and returning to them later are officially over, and as a gamer I couldn’t be happier.