I was recently had the opportunity to attend the Nintendo Switch premiere event in London, which offered a number of fans the chance to get their hands on Nintendo’s latest console and a sampling of the first and third-party software it has to offer.
The day not only provided a great opportunity to learn more about what the Nintendo Switch can do, as well as the games that make use of its unique hardware features, but to see the first-hand response of fans from across the UK to the system in the run-up to its fast approaching release date of March 3rd.
I’ve compiled some fairly comprehensive impressions based on the console itself, as well as each of the games I had the chance to spend some time with. If you’d like to share your own opinions on the Switch and its announced games, feel free to get in touch via Twitter or leave a comment below. Otherwise, please enjoy!
First thing’s first, the machine itself. The Nintendo Switch’s main draw is the ability to instantaneously switch between home and portable gaming with relative ease, and I’m pleased to say that this feature is executed almost as smoothly as the system’s trailers would suggest. Bar the requirement of a simple button press after removing the Switch from its dock, I found that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild transitioned between screens as quickly as I was hoping, and it was pretty sharp-looking to boot. The game ran well, with no stuttering or slowdown that I noticed throughout my twenty minute demo. With this new hardware, a console-quality experience can seemingly be had anytime or anywhere, and that’s just plain impressive.
My time with the Nintendo Switch hardware begun with the Pro Controller, a fairly pricey peripheral that offers a button layout and physical shape more traditional to what you’d expect from a game controller. If you’ve ever used the Wii U’s Pro Controller, you should know what to expect, although the addition of a gyroscope and NFC functionality contribute to making the Switch equivalent a beefier control option, both physically and in its technological capabilities. The whole package felt sturdy, with the face buttons firm and the control sticks offering a generous amount of resistance – the variation in their placement, however, will likely be something that causes discomfort on first use after a generation of symmetrical sticks from Nintendo.
Next came the Joy-Con, small handheld controllers that can be used individually, as well as attached to the Switch’s screen or in a separate grip for a traditional control style not unlike that offered by the Pro Controller. Generally speaking the control sticks and buttons felt the same as on the Pro Controller, with the stick placement a little jarring at first but soon becoming second nature after 10 minutes of Zelda.
However, it was when I got the separated Joy-Con controllers in my hands to play ARMS that the console’s unique controllers option began to shine – responsive and comfortable, especially with the additional wrist-strap that slightly increases their size, and not to mention sporting features such as HD rumble and a motion-tracking IR camera that can simply be described as amazing, it made me realise that perhaps we’d been sleeping on one of the Switch’s best features all along.
There’s no denying that portability will be the Switch’s most appealing ‘gimmick’ to many, but having spent some time with some truly original methods of control, I strongly advise you – don’t sleep on the Joy-Con. There’s the potential for some truly incredible things packed inside of those little things, something that’s perhaps better to understand when taking a look at some of the games that use them.
I want to start with ARMS because ARMS is the bomb.
I’ve already talked a little about ARMS on Twitter, because out of all the games I played at the premiere, it was the one that I most wanted to go to people with and say “you need to play this”. It’s a brand new first-party IP described by Nintendo as a mixture of punching and shooting (although I’d probably lean more towards the former), and seems to be another foray for Nintendo into the alternative fighting game genre, which is always exciting to see.
One of the most satisfying things I found about ARMS was that as soon as I had the Joy-Con in my hands, I felt like I knew exactly what to do. This may sound obvious, considering it’s a motion-controlled game about punching, but the controls for both attacking and moving around each arena felt intuitive, responsive and wholly satisfying. It’s a game that almost anyone could pick up and enjoy, but I can feel there’s a level of depth to its mechanics that will be interesting to explore – I like to think that with a solid roster of characters and the right amount of balancing, this would make for a highly competitive game that would be as fun to watch as to play.
My hands-on time was spent playing as both poster boy all-rounder Ribbon Man and robot-piloting Mechanica, who excels in aerial mobility. I personally found that the two characters played quite similarly, aside from aspects such as speed and the types of arm weapons available in each round, but found fighting different opponents to be a more varied experience that required an awareness of each character’s unique traits. The game’s visual style as a whole was particularly appealing – attack animations looked and felt satisfying, whilst the bold, colourful character designs, which have drawn understandable comparisons to the likes of Splatoon and The Wonderful 101, were excellent in motion.
ARMS feels like a strong showcase of two of the Switch’s apparent fortes – offering fun multiplayer experiences and inventive controls. Many might groan at the idea of more motion-controlled games from Nintendo (although it should be added that ARMS has been confirmed to support a more traditional control scheme alongside motion), but I think the quality of motion controls in games should be judged on their context and execution as opposed to the concept as a whole – in ARMS‘s case, clearly Nintendo have succeeded. I’m excited for the potential of motion control on the Switch when the possibility is put in the right hands.
In short: A lively, imaginative and intuitive game that feels and looks great. Has the potential to be a great pick-up-and-play multiplayer title, as well as a fiercely competitive one. With the right amount of content, Nintendo could have another Splatoon on their hands.
Two things appeared to surprise people upon the unveiling of 1-2-Switch, a mini-game collection created to showcase the power of the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. The first thing was the concept for said mini-games – the only word with which I can think to describe them is ‘surreal’. This is in no way a bad thing and I can guarantee that it’ll generate a fair few laughs, as I found with friends and strangers alike. If you’ve never milked a virtual cow before, it’s as awkward and hilarious as you’d imagine.
This is a title that seems difficult to get across in a trailer – I recommend watching the segment of Treehouse Live that covered the game to get a better impression of what it actually is – and this is in part due to a focus on physical space and controls as opposed to watching a screen. Six of the revealed mini-games were available to play and I personally tried four of them.
Milk has been the game that has clearly drawn the most attention online and for good reason – it basically just looks very dodgy. It’s certain to be a source of laughs, but unfortunately this is where the idea seems to expire. The motions it has you perform do little to demonstrate the Joy-Con’s features, and as the game encourages to look your opponent in the eye, you’ll find yourself relying on the commentary of any spectators present to give you an idea of what you’re actually doing. Debatably the mini-game with the highest potential to be funny out of the bunch, but also the one most lacking in substance. Copy Dance offered a more sophisticated, albeit similarly simplistic demonstration of the Joy-Con’s motion capabilities, tasking players to pull outrageous poses that their opponents must copy with precise accuracy. This one doesn’t really put forward anything new, but it’s undeniable that the concept and execution were amusing at the very least.
Ball Count and Safe Crack showcased the Joy-Con’s HD rumble, with the former offering a greater challenge than the latter by tasking players to guess the amount of balls in a box based on the sensations the rumble provides. This is a simple yet effective game for making people realise that HD rumble is something they should be paying attention to and serves as an interesting introduction to the feature as a technological concept.
1-2-Switch‘s second big surprise, and one that has seemingly got a the most people talking, is the price. The game is being sold and marketed as a full retail title, £39.99 in the UK at present (which is slightly cheaper than the likes of Zelda and Splatoon 2). I’m going to be forward and say that whilst I don’t doubt the quality and concept, nor the excellent display of some impressive technology that the game offers, I struggle to see 1-2-Switch succeeding at this price.
A friend attending the premiere with me drew an unexpected comparison to the PS Vita’s Welcome Park, a pre-loaded software app that demonstrates the console’s unique features. I began to wonder if this was a game suited not to being a physical pack-in like many online have suggested, but a pre-loaded application in the vein of the 3DS’s Face Raiders.
The games are genuinely fun for what they are, but the fun is brought about through the interactions you have with your opponent in each game. It’s clear that 1-2-Switch is a smartly designed game in this aspect and is very social in its nature, so it’ll work better for some people than others. One of my biggest qualms about the price is that I really feel this could be a game that sells the technology of the Switch to a casual audience, but the financial bar of entry may mean it falls to the wayside launching next to Breath of the Wild.
In short: Some interesting ideas do a good job showing off the impressive tech packed into the Joy-Con. 1-2-Switch would be ideal for parties, but unless there’s a significant amount of content we’ve yet to see, it might be hard to justify splashing a fairly hefty amount of cash on what came across as more of a tech demo than a full retail game.
At first glance, to describe any version of the stellar Mario Kart 8 as a disappointment would seem like utter madness. The Wii U version of the game, which released in 2014, was widely considered one of the finest entry in the series to date in everything bar its playable character roster and absence of a traditional Battle Mode. As an enhanced port featuring extra content, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe aims to alleviate these two issues in particular, as well as offering some minor improvements in the visuals department that are welcome, despite the game already looking very good on the Wii U.
I had the chance to race as one of the game’s new characters, Splatoon‘s Inkling Boy (both Inkling genders, along with a small selection of alternative colour schemes, were available) and was pleased to see the same level of attention and detail had been put into their animations and presentation as previous cameo characters on the roster. Unfortunately I was unable to try the highly anticipated Battle Mode, but watching other people play made it clear that it appears to be a solid adaption of the Mario Kart staple – it’ll no doubt be popular online.
So what makes Mario Kart 8: Deluxe a disappointment? Perhaps I’m approaching this from the perspective who got their money’s worth out of the Wii U version of Mario Kart 8, but I ultimately felt unmoved by this new version. There’s no denying that both the new control methods and ability to play on the go are appealing features and I look forward to seeing the multiplayer possibilities they bring to the picture. However, after being spoilt with two excellent DLC packs and a generally very high standard of track design, it’s a little disheartening to see that we won’t be getting any more this time around.
Ultimately, as long as the new Battle Mode courses have more of those fantastic arrangements of classic Mario Kart tunes played by an actual band, I’ll probably be satisfied!
In short: If you’re excited by the idea of one of the best console Mario Kart games on the go, or are a die-hard Battle Mode fan who was left feeling lost by the series’s Wii U outing, this is a must-have. However, with it currently looking like new Grand Prix content is going to be minimal, you may want to think twice before making a second investment if extra places to race is what you were hoping for.
It was brilliant to see one of Nintendo’s newest IP Splatoon blossom into a success (and in its native Japan, something of a cultural phenomenon) even amidst the Wii U’s install base issues. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand the excitement surrounding the announcement of a sequel that looks to pick up where the first game left off.
From the get-go, it quickly became apparent that one of the main ideas behind Splatoon 2 was to offer more of the same ink-shooting action featured in its 2015 predecessor. This is in no way a bad thing, however, and it’s important to consider that Splatoon‘s gameplay formula is still a relatively young one, something that perhaps gives it the edge over other Switch titles that started life on the Wii U such as Mario Kart 8: Deluxe. Whilst only time and the eventual unveiling of new content will tell as to how much of a sequel this really is going to be, new control schemes and the ability to take your Turf War battles on the go will no doubt be a strong incentive for many to come back for more – although I’d be reluctant to describe picking this one up as ‘double dipping’.
Building on the original game’s very solid structure with new features and improvements will make this an excellent jumping-on point for those curious about the concept or who missed out on playing the first game, whilst fans who have stuck by Splatoon throughout its lifespan or who play to win will likely find most of their enjoyment in the introduction of new weapons and maps, as well as the ways in which they’ll influence the strategic side of the game Nintendo seem keen to push as a potential eSport.
I don’t know if there are many other players out there like myself, who treat Splatoon as a streetwear dress-up simulator, but new clothing and hairstyle options will no doubt cater to them too, especially with the game looking particularly sharp on running on the Switch hardware.
In short: More of the same, and in this case, more is definitely good. The added benefits of the Switch hardware in conjunction with fresh in-game content will please new kids and dedicated squids alike.
The long overdue new console Zelda is without a doubt one of the most anticipated titles in the Switch’s line-up, and arguably in Nintendo’s recent library of releases as a whole. It was no surprise to find that it was the premiere’s most popular game, boasting the biggest queue from the very start of the afternoon session.
At this point, offering a definitive opinion on Breath of the Wild is difficult. The game has been lauded for its seemingly endless world – something which was as visually breathtaking as the drip-fed promotional output fans have received would suggest – and as a result, fifteen minutes of relatively unguided exploration offered little to comment on in terms of this latest adventure’s overall substance. Only time will tell what will fill its vast environments, but based on my brief glance at a fraction of the new Hyrule, it seems that this is a game you’ll truly be able to get lost in and play at your own pace. It’s an approach that does a solid job at capturing the feelings and intention behind the original The Legend of Zelda on the NES, whilst clearly taking the franchise to a place original and fresh.
My biggest surprise in terms of the gameplay, discovered whilst scaling steep rock faces and taking on a handful of Bokoblin enemies, was that Link felt a lot heavier than I was initially expecting. This may simply be a result of new control sticks that offer greater resistance than their predecessors, or a simple lack of awareness on my part of the new mobility options on offer. Again, I really feel like it’s difficult to give decisive feedback on many aspects of a title of this scale without taking more time to examine each gameplay element in more depth, but a glance at the game’s menu screens, as well as a brief brush-up with new food and weapon-related systems suggest that a lot of attention has gone into accommodating a wide variety of play styles, something that will undoubtedly make this a very different Zelda experience to what we are used to – but only if you choose to make it so.
In short: It’s almost impossible to make a worthwhile comment on a game of Breath of the Wild‘s size and scope after only twenty minutes of playtime, but perhaps the fact that those twenty minutes in its grandiose world incited me to want to invest more of my time in exploring everything it has to offer is a positive takeaway in itself. I think it’s unlikely that this long-awaited Zelda will disappoint, but it’ll take more time for me to be willing to give a firm testament to its quality.
The sole third-party game I tried at the premiere, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers feels like something of an anomaly, especially from the perspective of a long-time Street Fighter fan. When the name first surfaced online mere hours before its unveiling, it was easy to scoff at the concept, surely one too outlandish to possibly be real? Well now I’ve thrown out a few fireballs as Violent Ken, I can safely say that it’s as real as they come, contrary to a some people’s perceived ‘necessity’ for a game of its nature to exist.
If you’ve played Super Street Fighter II: Turbo HD Remix, then you’ve essentially dabbled in this updated take on 1991’s Street Fighter II. UDON’s original artwork for the game put a lot of people off this remake first time around – I’m willing to admit that I was included in this number – but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the hand-drawn style looked very sharp in this latest version, something that, in conjunction with newly recorded voice clips for the entire roster, makes the overall presentation a lot more appealing. Purists will be pleased to know that the option to use Street Fighter II‘s classic 16-bit style will also be available, although this wasn’t on show at the premiere.
Despite being infamous for the excessive number of sequels, re-releases and ports it has received, the name of this newest version of Street Fighter II implies that this is the last time it’ll receive any incremental upgrades. Whilst only time will tell if this turns out to be the truth, it’s a little disappointing to consider that the titular ‘Final Challengers’ are simply edits of existing members of the roster, namely ‘Evil’ Ryu and ‘Violent’ Ken. Fellow appreciators of the Street Fighter universe’s rather unstructured lore may get a kick out of these additions, but for most players, especially casual fans of fighting games, it will be extras such as a ‘Dramatic Battle’-style co-op mode that’ll serve as the biggest incentive for buying Street Fighter II for what could possibly be a ninth time.
In short: An unexpected upgrade of an upgrade that seems at a glance to bring little new to the table. Competitive fighters may find some appeal in new fighters and a re-balanced metagame, whilst casual fans will get more enjoyment from the multiplayer potential of a new co-op mode and the Switch’s tabletop two-player functionality.
To be able to try new Nintendo hardware so close to both its reveal and its release is certainly a first for many, myself included. Having the console in my hands for the first time did a great deal to put to rest many of the personal apprehensions that had arisen during a period of intense build-up and hype before its full unveiling in Tokyo last week.
I found that overall, the Switch’s software line-up mostly met the expectations I had formed from my initial first look at the trailers put out a few days prior, with a few very pleasant surprises coming in the form of younger IP such as ARMS and Splatoon‘s second outing. However, it’s easy to see why some would consider waiting for bigger titles like Super Mario Odyssey to hit shelves before investing in a new Nintendo machine, as the current launch titles leave a lot to be desired if big-name games are what you’re looking for from the get-go.
When talking solely about what I experienced at the premiere event, it feels apparent that Nintendo have learned from many (but certainly not all) of the hardware-related mistakes made with the Wii U. The console feels like a piece of modern technology, displaying impressive and original functionality that makes its price tag seem far more appropriate.
A lot is resting on the Nintendo Switch. Expectations are at an all-time high and I believe that with the right amount of quality software that makes appropriate use of the console’s noteworthy hardware features, as well as a concise marketing approach that promotes the aspects the Switch can offer that people may not realise they would appreciate from a home gaming console, there’s a lot of potential for success.