Today I was lucky enough to be invited to a special event in Melbourne that allowed me to have hands-on time with the brand new Nintendo Switch console. Coinciding with the event, Nintendo broadcast a press conference which confirmed the Switch’s release date to be March 3rd where it will be sold in Australia for an RRP of $469.95.
The launch version of the Switch is available in two options, both for the same price, only differing in colour. The standard version we’d all seen at this point, a dark, grey, almost black and the newly announced version in which the Joy-Con controllers will come in neon blue and red instead.
When you buy a Switch this coming March in the box you’ll receive the main console itself (duh!) one set of Joy-Con controllers (left & right), a Joy-Con grip (which you clip them into whilst in docked mode), a Nintendo Switch dock (which plugs into your TV via HDMI & charges/powers the console) and a couple of Joy-Con wrist straps people wont use and likely launch the controller through the TV by accident one day.
That’s great and all but is the Switch actually any good I hear you screaming! To which I reply… yaaaaaarrrsssss-maaaaaaaaybe? shrug
The console itself is impressive. Its ability to dock and un-dock into a handheld device works incredibly well. You can literally lift the Switch out of its dock at any point, slide in your left and right Joy-Con controllers to it and you’re picking up exactly where you left off. Transitioning back is just as easy and takes seconds in either direction.
The moving of the Joy-Con controllers is really the only awkward part. On the back of both the console and the Joy-Con grip are small buttons that release the Joy-Cons and allow them to slide off. They can be a pain to get to but I guess if you’re doing it enough you’d get used to it.
Interesting this is the same way you associate your controllers to a console. By sliding a new set onto the side of the console you’re pairing them to it. This was demonstrated to me a few times as some of the titles on display used four Joy-Cons and needed repairing with a blanket of wireless interference caused by having forty odd consoles in a room.
Sadly it’s this early on the technical side of the Switch beings to let it down. Transitioning maybe easy but your handheld experience is already weakened by the Switch’s 6.2″ screen that in handheld mode lowers its resolution down to 720p instead of it’s conventional docked output of 1080p.
Battery life has been something everyone’s been very keen to know more about and it’s something that will, it seems, forever remain a mystery somewhat. Whilst in handheld mode Nintendo have advised that it could last up to six full hours, however whilst playing more intensive titles this will lower due to a larger power draw on the system’s custom Nvidia Tegra brains. The new Zelda for instance is likely to run for a mere three hours whilst in handheld mode halving the estimated maximum.
Thankfully Nintendo have chosen to use the new USB-C connector on the Switch to allow the console to be charged whilst on the go meaning that it doesn’t always require its custom dock to do so. This is the first time that Nintendo has ever used a standard charging port on any of their consoles, handheld or otherwise.
The Joy-Con controllers feel surprisingly good. Obviously they’re better when in their Joy-Con dock their small version is fine when you’re using a game made specifically for them but they’re kind of ridiculous to use a a full controller alone. The one down side to them (whilst docked) in comparison to your DualShock controller is their triggers. They feel like more of a straight button rather than trigger and I’m not even sure if they have levels of depression like on a standard controller. They’re also very small and the L1/R1 buttons are tiny, so small I didn’t even realise they were there at all until I inspected the controller closely. Also for some strange reason instead of calling them L2 & R2 Nintendo are calling them ZL & ZR, I don’t know why, I didn’t ask and yes it’s dumb.
The Joy-Con controllers also have independent rumble features that are pretty remarkable for such small devices. Nintendo are saying the rumble or “advanced HD rumble” as they call it, is so advance you could “for example, feel the vibration of individual ice cubes colliding inside a glass”. Cool? The right Joy-Con also has an IR Motion Camera that can do fancy things like detect how far things are from it and potentially scan an object but we’ll just have to wait and see how used that feature is.
The Switch Pro Controller, which is a seperate purchase, feels much more like your traditional console controller. It’s buttons and sticks mimic the XB1 controller’s layout yet feel completely inferior in almost every way. I’m not sure I’d bother with buying it myself, perhaps if it meant I could leave the Joy-Con’s always attached to the console, even whilst docked and then use the Pro that way but for my mind the Joy-Con’s and their dock grip served the purpose well enough to not bother with what feels like a cheap aftermarket controller for your PS4.
The Switch will be the first Nintendo console to release without a Mario game. It’s big drawcard will be The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which was playable at the event. People have been waiting for this for a very, very long time now and I don’t think they’ll be disappointed once it’s finally in their hands! The game is gorgeous and has a very Studio Ghibli feel to it however I wonder if it’s aesthetic is still a result of the console’s limitations hardware wise and of course the games compatibility with Nintendo’s most recent failure the Wii-U.
The only other launch title is 1-2-Switch. Think Mario Party but way more boring. It’s like a collection of useless mini-games that feel more like a technical demo for the Joy-Con controllers than a real game.
They did have other titles on display at the event such as Splatoon 2, ARMS and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe but those will all be coming out later in the year. Of course the major absentee both from launch and being playable at the event is Super Mario Odyssey which was only shown as a trailer.
The Switch is an interesting move for Nintendo. It muddies their product waters a little in allowing their main console be completely portable yet has a battery life so low that it can’t compete against it’s portable DS brother. The Switch also continues to remain underpowered and technically inferior to major platform competitors like PlayStation and Xbox yet that has never bothered the Nintendo faithful before. It does lead them back to the same problem of 3rd party publishers ignoring their platform and despite having a Skyrim to come that means nothing if more don’t continue to follow. Something made more than difficult due to it’s specs and thus the vicious circle continues.
Not a Nintendo fan-boy there’s nothing compelling me to spend the money straight away at launch. I can hold off until later in the year when Mario appears and perhaps even until Christmas 2017 when the price will inevitably fall. We should also know by that time if anyone else is truly onboard and if the Switch can become more than a device that’s put away until Nintendo release their next first party title like both the Wii and the Wii-U became.