Nintendo Switch Hands On Preview
With the Switch launching in March, Nintendo were raring to show off their newest console at the Melbourne hands on event. The exhibition hall was lined with games, and more importantly Switch consoles in their many configurations, ready for curious hands to explore. I myself managed to get hands on with lots of different titles, but it really is the hardware of this latest experiment, that interests me the most.
The first thing I noticed about the switch, is that it makes my Wii U back at home feel more like a prototype for this device. The Nintendo Switch feels quite refined, and I don’t think I’d ever really thought of my Wii U gamepad as particularly clunky and inelegant until I held a Switch.
The screen is large and clear, and the Joy-cons are much more comfortable than what I was expecting. Being able to snap from TV to handheld play without much interruption, and then to table top play using the Switch’s own screen and kickstand all felt very natural. For everything Nintendo have advertised about the play styles of the Switch, it’s a very solid piece of hardware.
The kicker is of course that in spite of all this, in very typical Nintendo fashion, it just doesn’t feel next-gen. Some of the games on show probably didn’t help this with Mario Kart 8 literally being a revamped Wii U title, and Splatoon 2 looking and feeling almost exactly like it’s predecessor in the demo. Games don’t look new either, Nintendo have continued their legacy in not upgrading their consoles spec wise, and rather choosing to innovate with controls and play styles.
Even when playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the cell shaded graphics were noticeably dated and jagged and frame rate issues were apparent, despite the beautiful art style behind the game. If you’re expecting your next-gen console to blow you away with superior graphics and a faster engine, then the Nintendo Switch is going in a very different direction.
One of their biggest innovations in the new consoles are the Joy-cons. For those unfamiliar, they’re the little controllers that snap onto the side of the Switch’s screen for handheld play, to a dock for a full controller, or can be used separately for some games.
These boast a new kind of haptic feedback Nintendo have dubbed Rumble HD. Essentially it’s supposed to give you the ability to feel very particular sensations through the Joy-cons, those who have seen the demo video will remember the glass of ice. The tech demo come party game 1, 2 Switch tries to show this off by focussing it’s mechanics almost solely on the feel of these controllers. It was here I found myself rolling a Joy-con around in my hand, trying to determine how many ‘marbles’ were inside.
It was an uncanny feeling, and impressively it worked, but as far as utility in most games, I’m not too sure how it will be implemented effectively.
I think this about sums up the Switch the best, lots of very interesting ideas, with unclear implementation. A home console that can become portable is a fantastic idea, but with only around 3 hours of battery life has it missed the mark? Super sensitive controllers are also a very cool concept, but I’m going to want to do more than just milk cows with them.
$470 for brand new home and portable consoles isn’t so bad a price when you look at it as a two for one but with such a small spattering of games and their biggest launch title also coming to the Wii U, I can’t say I’ll be jumping aboard the launch hype train. The Switch has some very cool tricks up its sleeve, but it’s yet to show me how it can really use them.
Maybe in a year or so, Nintendo. Show me what you’ve got.