For better or for worse, Nintendo has always prioritised innovation and distinction over power and graphics. The Wii and the 3DS are but two examples of this. Their next console is no exception – step forward the Nintendo Switch. The first ever hybrid between a home and a handheld console. Complete with a built-in screen and the nifty little joy-con controllers. But would this be just another of Nintendo’s gimmicks or a new innovative experience to the video-game industry.
The first word that comes to mind when viewing the Switch is small. At roughly 23x10cm, the Switch is a welcome change from bulkiness of the Wii U. However, what was truly mind-blowing was the size of the joy-cons. Barely bigger than the size of my palm, yet capable of so much. Personally however I found that the joy-cons were extremely comfortable. This was despite the various angles and positions in which I was required to hold them for different games. This comfort applied to the Switch in both the Joy-Con grip and screen forms, transforming the feel either from a more standard controller configuration to a slightly weighty tablet.
It was the joy-cons that really were the most impressively innovative aspect of the Switch. Feeling like an extremely lightweight Wii controller, the joy-cons packed in a remarkable amount of features and uses. The return of motion control was showcased in vibrant boxing simulator Arms. The buttons were made almost redundant as both punching and movement were accurately controlled by motion. Furthermore, the HD rumble was shown-off in a 1-2 Switch mini game. This involved using the joy-con’s vibrations to guess the number of marbles supposedly hidden inside. Impressively this resulted in numerous correct answers. 1-2 Switch easily best showed off the features of the joy-con. Throughout my time I used these features to crack locks, swing swords and even, bizarrely, to milk cows. However, this game also showed off some of the negatives. Frantic waving of the controller could easily lead to the wrong button being easily pressed.
While other games available to play didn’t quite make as much extensive use of the joy-cons controllers, they were still a joy to play. The stand out game was easily The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A stunningly rendered, open-world Zelda title that doesn’t lose any of its beauty when switching to handheld mode. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was an enhanced version of the already excellent Mario Kart 8, adding new characters, full DLC and the return of long-awaited balloon battle, improving an already excellent game. Splatoon 2 also made good use of the joy-con’s motion controls. However, the demo provided seemed to offer little new to distinguish itself from the original. Along with fun third party games such as Fast RMX and Sonic Mania, the Switch has an impressive, if limited game line up.
All of the games, while they did not challenge the graphical capability of the more powerful rivals the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, nevertheless looked bright, vibrant and detailed while displayed on a TV. However, the real test came down to whether the in-built screen could match this picture quality, and it passed with flying colours. While only presented in 720p rather than TV mode’s 1080p, the 6.2inch screen popped with bright colours, impressive detail and even a tad more sharpness than the Switch’s TV output. Nintendo’s promise of a home console experience while travelling to work, visiting friends or even while on the toilet, has been kept. This is limited by a battery life of 2.5-6 hours, depending on the game. But this is a nevertheless a reasonable and better than expected length.
I can safely say that whatever mode you play in, the Nintendo Switch is a joy to play. But the Switch does have its drawbacks. The recently revealed RRP of £279.99 was considered high. Especially if you consider the cheaper prices in the USA and the predicted price range of £200-250. Second of all are the launch titles. Come March 3rd only a paltry five will be available. While Breath of the Wild is a fantastic and indeed a strong launch game, it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to bring in sales until other key titles start to trickle in.
While it does have its downsides, the Nintendo Switch is undoubtedly impressive. The concept is fantastic and has been implemented almost flawlessly. The first hybrid handheld/home console has a lot of potential. So long as the Switch gets more first-party games and that crucial third-party support to improve upon the limited early offerings, we could indeed be looking at a resurgence for Nintendo.