I was lucky enough to be invited by Nintendo to try their newest system, the Nintendo Switch, early from its release on March 3. Naturally, there were many questions that popped in my mind since its presentation. My overall general impression I had at the 3-hour event is this; This system is literally going places.
First, let’s start about how the hardware feels and the Joy-Con itself before we head into the games. The first game I played is naturally The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Compared to the Wii U game pad, it felt fairly snug to my hands. The grooves on the shoulders buttons help with this and almost felt natural in my hands with the display screen. Though I can see the usual problem of not enough grip in the back, which may cause cramps from long periods of play time. To me, the Joy-Con with display felt like a good weight. Not bulky as the Wii u game pad, but not light enough to think that it can break. That being said, you should still always be careful regardless of your surroundings!
During the last few minutes with Zelda, I tried the transition between TV mode and Handheld mode and vice-versa. I can say the transition to Handheld mode is quite smooth. Almost less than a second I guess and you are able to play Zelda on the go. Even on the handheld to 720p, Zelda still manages to look quite stunning. To TV mode, it took about 1-2 seconds to transition before everything was back up and running, but nothing too noticeable to criticize.
Of course, there is the usual Pro controller, which obviously is the default for many players. As expected, it’s your usual controller with good grips in the back and rumble features. A nice feature they are bringing back is the see-through controller like they did back during the N64. Not much needs to be said with this. If you want to stick with the classic control scheme, the option is there. The Joy-Con Grip controller is the next best thing. Similar to the Pro Controller, it has grips in the ease the hands. The Grip controller holds the two Joy Cons on the sides and keeps a charge for both Joy Cons. Quite easy to snap it into place and overall handy(no pun intended with the photos).
As for the individual Joy Cons itself, it’s best to describe it with the launch game of 1,2, Switch. (Warning: Innuendos ahead) There is a wrist strap attachment to the Joy Con for the games such as my favorite mini-game: Quick Draw. Naturally, you want to have your wrist strap on for this. There are two buttons on the side of that comes with the attachment to help with the grip and to press the buttons that reside inside the Joy-con, the SL, and SR Buttons. Many thought that it would be small, but trying it out, it really isn’t. It’s a good size just enough for most hand sizes when played vertically, though if you are going to play it horizontally like Mario 8 Deluxe or Street Fighter, then it may be a problem when using two hands on a single Joy-Con.
With Quick Draw, it’s exactly what it is. As soon as the announcer says fire, bring your controller as horizontal as you can and fire. By far the best mini-game of the bunch. At the end, you get your stats at where you shot and how fast your reaction was. What I like is that it encourage social interaction. When I was looking dead in the eye of my opponent, all I felt was the psychological mind games and the anticipation of the signal to draw.
The next mini-game I tried is the milking game. Yes, the Joy Con is the cow udder and you need to actually do it thoroughly to get the most of each squeeze. This is where the HD Rumble comes to light. I was surprised how there were clear dimensions in how it feels when you hold it. It will react accordingly and rumble with a depth of how long, hard, and far of each squeeze. I lost at this mini-game 8 to 11 cups of milk.
Lastly, there is the Ball Count min-game. It’s as the title says, you guess how many marble balls are inside a box in your hand. This also helps demonstrate the HD rumble further as you can really feel the balls in your hand. I was shaking, rolling, and tilting the Joy-Con around and it really felt that it has dimensions to it. Needless to say, the Joy-Con packs a lot of power in such a little thing. Possibly even justifies the high price point. Again is not about the tool, its how you use it. Shout out to one of the staff as she was also laughing at the innuendos made as the mini-games was being demonstrated to us. (End of Innuendos) Overall, the hardware of the handheld and Joy-Cons are comfortable given the right conditions. Naturally, it will depend on how big your hands are and what your preferences/play styles are. But there are options offered from Nintendo to help you ease you in.
Alright! Enough main hardware talk. There will be more hardware impressions as I discuss it with the games I played at the event. Note that there are some that some I didn’t manage to play, like Sonic Mania or Puyo Puyo Tetris.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The demo is the same as the Wii U version as I played back at Nintendo NY, which you can read my first impressions here. This time, I will generally describe the differences I notice between the two versions. First off, the color and visuals are much sharper and rich than the Wii U as reported previously. I did notice however there were some frame drops when I was trekking around the main area. I believe its to be expected from an open world game, or open air game as Shigeru Miyamoto calls it.
Everything else is the same in regarding its content. Playing it on Handheld mode, it still keeps the crisp color as mentioned earlier and, I believe, felt smoother. Again, the transition between handheld mode and TV mode is quick without much lag. Simply, but if you are going to the Switch, then Zelda is a launch title you simply need to have.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
This is where a lot of the new play configuration and Joy-Con controls come to play. But first, let’s get the elephant out of the way. THANK GOD for the revamped Battle mode. Now it’s back to its arena roots and no longer a race track. Also trying out is the local multiplier with four Switch units. There was no lag between the four of us and it was chaotic as battle should have been.
Back to the series are double items, so now you are able to hold two items instead of one. As shown in its trailer, there is a new battle arena based on Splatoon and you are able to play both Inkings Squid Kids. Overall, if you were burned out by the original version, you may want to this a chance again. The only reason you may not pick it up is if you already have the Wii U version already. Scheduled for release in April 2017.
Super Bomberman R
When Hudson Soft was shut down back in 2012, it was unsure if we would ever see another Bomberman game. But in a class act, Konami is releasing Super Bomberman R. If you played any entry in the series, you know what the game is. Plant bombs, collect power-ups, and outsmart your opponents as you try to blow them up. The formula has not changed and it doesn’t need to. There is customization of you bomber for your preference. Game visuals itself looks well and maintains a stellar performance. Super Bomberman R is scheduled to for a Spring 2017 release.
It was to be expected, but still amazing to see it confirmed. Splatoon 2 is coming to the Nintendo Switch. I was able to play with a regular Pro and with the Handheld unit. Note that the gyroscope aiming is back if that is your preference. There is a gripe I need to bring up. I was very comfortable with the Wii U game pad, especially with the right stick’s location which controls the cameras. When playing in Handheld With the right Joy-Con, the camera stick was in the middle. This threw me off a bit with aiming and to see with the map. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t adapt to it, but it may throw some purist off with this new control.
Now gameplay, it is as you remember but with couple of new additions and controls. The main differences is the new specials. I went with the usual Splatershot with burst bombs, but the special was the rocket barrage strike. This special locks on to enemies and sends rockets above, similar to the ink strike, but not as a big area effect. Another weapon set I tried is the Ink Roller, but with a curling bomb which can bounce off walls and the Special Splash Down. Think of this special as the big defensive bomb for yourself which you can trigger when enemies are too close or super jump to a teammate and become a nuke for them. Like Halo’s Armor Lock ability. Lastly, the new weapon was shown at the presentation: the Dualies or dual pistols. What is unique is that this weapon you are able to combat roll twice, confusing your enemies or as a defensive tactic. The special is the jet pack which allows hover while shooting one shot kills , though this leaves you exposed. At the end of the special, you super jump back to the spot you activate it. I can see this in creative ways in competitive play. Overall, if you love Splatoon, you will love Splatoon 2 , which will be released this Summer.
Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers
Completely unexpected, Yoshinori Ono made a special appearance to the event to discuss Super Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers. The main messages that Ono presented was that he wanted this title as the entry point for all audience to enter the fighting game genre. As I was born in the 90’s, I can sympathize with this statement as the original Street Fighter 2 on the SNES and arcade was the point that many players and Pro players started with.
As for the controls and how it feels, I can understand the concern when playing with only the Joy-Con. As with Mario Kart 8, there is a chance that hands can cramp up when playing. Another complaint is the lack of D-pad on the Joy-Con. Many players are used to having the D-pad for combo inputs and a joy stick really isn’t a good substitute for it. Plus the SR and SL buttons may be tricky for some. While it gets the job done, many will most likely use a Pro controller.
As with the game, it runs smooth as you would expect it. As shown in the presentation you can play like the retro days, or play in the upgraded visuals. Though I did not play as them, the new characters: Evil Ryu and Violent Ken are unique and slightly adds variation to the game. If you played the original or previous HD versions of Street Fighter 2, then you know what you are getting yourself into.
Arms is a very interesting title. Think of it as Wii Boxing with Punch Out but with a Splatoon paint. Trying it out, it was definitely daunting at first. Punches will travel accordingly to how you twist your wrist or straight your punch. There is a bit of the same psychological mindset as in with fighting games in general. Will he dodge? Where’s the punch going? Should I guard? That was what I was thinking when fighting. As for the feeling of holding two Joy-Cons, it’s just like the Wii-mote Nun-chuck scheme. I was throwing punches, but you need to know when and you want to throw. As with Wii Boxing, you will get a workout out of this, so wear some light clothing with this game. As with the jump and dash button, the L and R buttons on top of the Joy-Cons, it was very easy to pick up. There are some controls that took time to get use to, like point to the left, right or forward to move around. But overall the best part is the trigger button to unleash your special of furry punches. Yes, it’s time channel you inner Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Arms will be released this Spring.
Fast Racing Neo Remix (Fast RMX)
If your remember our review of the original Fast Racing Neo, we loved how it gets the F-Zero feel while being its own identity. This will help tied you over a bit while waiting for the next F-Zero game, whenever it should be announced. I never had the fortune to play the original, but trying Fast RMX, I can see the appeal and the elements of F-Zero and Wipeout. Obviously a tribute to the genre, but look quite superb on the Switch. I asked if there was any local couch multiplayer with up to 4 people. One of the team said that in this current build they do not, but will be adding that feature in the near future. So you are able to play with 3 of your buddies at the same time. Fast RMX is being developed currently for the Switch with release date to be determined.
As my time at the event drew to a close, I want briefly mention two more titles that I tried my hands on. Yes, Sonic Mania, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Skylanders was at the event, but I didn’t had the time to get to them. One game that is being ported to the Switch is Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea 5, originally on PS4. Aside from the original Disgaea that was ported to the Nintendo DS, Disgaea has never had a numbered entry on a Nintendo console. Seeing the game again on the Nintendo Switch, it maintains the high definition sprites and animations that it is famously known for. As an added bonus, all of the DLC released will be added to the game for free. If you love SRPG’s, and haven’t tried Disgaea, you now have another chance to do so. You can also now preorder the limited edition of the game at NIS online store, which includes soundtrack, art book and a mystery item which you can use link here. Disgaea 5 Complete is scheduled to be released in the Spring.
The last game I played is Has Been Heroes. Let it be known now that this is a thinking’s man game. The staff described it as Strategic Action with rogue-like elements. This was new for me and I felt completely overwhelmed with what I was suppose to do. Thankfully my guide helped me in what this game is about. Basically you command your band of adventurers (Knight, Rouge, Wizard) in three lines. Each character has their own stamina gauge and how much it takes to break an enemies guard. The thing is that the battle is active real time, so there are cool downs between attacks and enemies will come whether you’re ready or not. There is a ability to stop time so you can plan your attacks, so it becomes turn based and you’re not being pressed in battle. There is a lot to consider with each battle, as some enemies are able to block 2 attacks and resistant to certain elements. For example, you want the wizard to take out enemies that is able to block two, as magic takes two stamina blocks away, then you want buff you Knight via Rouge and switch to Knight to finish him off. Here another thing to remember, the three lines that you are able to control, you are able to switch your hero at any time provided they haven’t taken actions yet. Last thing to mention is the magic, which it can compliment each other, like if you use ice and thunder magic, it will have an area of effect and hit multiple enemies at once or push delay them. To sum it up, if you like action strategy and random rouge-like generated dungeons, then this game is for you.
So to wrap this entire experience up, Nintendo wanted to show the theme that Nintendo Switch is a mobile system that you can take anywhere with power to boot. I can actually see myself bringing the system to the Airport, restaurant or even my work place to play. Nintendo wants to make it’s system a social point for anyone to pick up and join. Wii U failed in regards to it’s communication to it’s audience, but with the Switch, the message is clear. If someone next to you is curious, you can give them a Joy-Con and they can jump right in with you. 1,2, Switch is a game that can do this really well, but can be done with any game in general.
I must give credit to the staff at the event, as they asked feedback constantly and how the games and hardware feels. Now I can empathize with the view that the launch is quite lacking and that Zelda itself cannot push a system solely. I will acknowledge this but with the line up that is not too far off after its launch, especially with a fair amount of quality titles, it should be enough to at least make a good impression. As with price, I’m in the party that it is justified. While I wish that it did came packed with a game like 1,2, Switch, once you experience the Joy-Con itself, you will see while it is priced that way. As I said , this system is literally going places both physically and economically. Will it be successful or another Wii u situation? It’s hard to say. I would like to think that it has a chance. This is not the first time Nintendo had the odds against them and come back from it. If Nintendo plays their cards right, they can switch things up with the Nintendo Switch.
Update: We recorded a recap video regarding the entire event. You can check the entire recap here below.