We’ve had an early hands-on with the Nintendo Switch – is this the versatile, adaptable console you’ve been looking for? We dive in!
Versatility isn’t a word we often to describe a gaming console. Traditionally, gaming consoles have more or less stuck to one specific purpose; operating as hand-held portables or lounge-bound behemoths. With the Nintendo Switch, that looks set to change; could this be the most versatile piece of hardware yet that can satisfy your gaming needs?
While the Switch is scheduled to ship worldwide on the 3rd of March, we’ve had an early preview of the console at an exclusive pre-launch event held by Core Gaming Systems in Johannesburg. What’s immediately clear is that the Switch is a console with a vision, but can it truly accomplish all of its dreams?
Dressed to thrill
Let’s not beat around the bush. If there’s an immediate positive to the Switch, it’s the fact that it looks, lives, and breathes like a smashing piece of hardware.
Where the Wii staked its claim around motion control and the Wii U cemented itself for, well, not selling well at all, the Switch only has one idea; ‘take me wherever you go and play some damn games’.
That’s a bold mission statement, and, unfortunately, it’s one that involves many moving parts. Look-and-feel wise, there are two very different experiences here.
Firstly, we’d be remiss to say that we weren’t immediately smitten with the console; the device looks stunning in whatever guise it takes – television, portable, or tabletop mode – and that special red and blue configuration of the Joy-Con controllers is striking.
In portable mode, the Switch evokes some of our fonder memories with handheld consoles such as the early PS Vita or later successors, while as a tabletop unit the display shines in simple glory. The dock, furthermore, is an attractive piece of tech that you’ll probably want to plop down on your plasma TV unit the second you get your hands on it.
A jack of all trades…
Inevitably, we have to deal with the feel of the console, and this is perhaps one of the most tricky aspects of the setup to deal with. The fact of the matter is you’ll either love and run with the Switch and all of its modes in-between, or you’ll be frustrated as to how the console somehow does just well enough to justify itself, but never reaches its A-game.
Here’s a case in point. Let’s consider that the Switch has three modes to deal with, unlike most traditional game consoles, and then the fact that there are multiple games which utilize the controller setup in a different way. The end result is a console that you’re unlikely to use the same way twice, and that’s both a liberating and very frustrating experience.
For parity, let’s consider the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One; there’s one premise to deal with, and sure – a controller setup might differ between games, but there’s generally one or two accepted ways to hold a remote and subsequently learn the controls of a game.
With the Switch, there’s no such analogue. Titles make use of Joy-Con controllers in every way, and while the experience is at all times novel, we found ourselves struggling to cement an acceptable way of holding and using the Joy-Con controller between titles. To compound that problem, there’s the issue that Joy-Con controllers come with either special adaptations or are used in different ways to satisfy portable, tabletop, or television modes.
Build quality is generally good, though one might suffer with the tiny buttons each Joy-Con controller employs. In portable mode this is generally comfortable, but in tabletop or television mode these can feel so small as to be stifling.
Other modes of control include either the Switch’s touchscreen display – which, refreshingly, is as responsive and vibrant as smartphone analogues – as well as the optional Pro Controller (sold separately) which removes some of the frustration the Joy-Con controllers bring.
What titles can we expect?
The Switch comes armed with a slim selection of launch titles, which is spearheaded by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with the recommended retail price of R999 ZAR. Beyond that, at present, there’s a slim catalogue of titles which might make the Switch an unappealing option at launch.
There are, of course, Nintendo staples such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Super Bomberman R which will satisfy demographics that grew up alongside Nintendo’s games and consoles, while other Switch-specific titles make better use as tech demoes than the kind of games you’d probably find yourself playing all weekend long.
For example, in 1-2 Switch, one can use the Switch to milk a virtual cow in competitive fashion with a friend (no, we’re not kidding) while Quick Draw puts you in a Western-style shootout with a buddy that’s surprisingly tricky to master. There’s another title called Feeling Balls (get your mind out of the gutter) which lets you maneuver your Joy-Con controller (this isn’t helping) to determine how many balls are hidden in a closed box (we’re sorry.)
Is the Nintendo Switch the controller you’ve been waiting for? It’s difficult to tell. While this is one of Nintendo’s stronger efforts in the console market, it’s also one of its weirdest. The young and young at heart will undoubtedly fall in love with Nintendo’s latest effort, while those with more ardent interests might be put off by the console’s slim launch roster and jack-of-all-trades approach.
Will the Nintendo Switch succeed? It’s difficult to say. While the imminent arrival of titles such as FIFA (you heard it here first) might help sway a greater audience, it remains to be seen if the Switch can carve out a territory to form a semblance of rivalry to Microsoft and Sony.
Have your say!
What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s latest console? Do you have any burning questions? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!