Nintendo is releasing a new console next week, the console/handheld hybrid called Switch. We’ve played around with it, so here’s our first impressions.
21-02-2017 - by Thijs Kaagman
Nintendo has always been about doing something different. They introduced a three-pronged controller with the Nintendo 64. Then they went with a completely square console with a handle. Next there was the Wii, which required gamers to get off their ass and swing their controller around. Finally they tried to bring the dual-screened experience of the DS to the home console with the Wii U.
Now, they’re trying to break the barriers between home consoles and handheld gaming, with a hybrid console called the Switch. You can take apart the controller, attach it to a screen and continue your adventures in Zelda or Mario on the road. It’s new and honestly a little bit weird.
But I got to play around with it last week and I was immediately charmed by Nintendo’s latest effort. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s small. It was only about two-thirds of the size I had imagined it would be, judging by the trailers and photo’s online. But like the Gameboy Micro (Nintendo’s greatest handheld in my opinion), you can’t help but fall in love with it the moment you lay your hands on one.
Whether you use them attached to the Switch in handheld mode, attached to the Grip in console mode or detached as two separate controllers, the Joy-Cons fit snugly into the palm of your hand. Joined together in the Joy-Con Grip or attached to the sides of the screen, they work as a full-fledged controller. But used separately as two controllers on their own, you’re really only missing a second analog stick, which is pretty amazing.
The HD Rumble pack deserves its own mention as well. Nintendo announced the feature by comparing it to a glass with ice cubes. You should be able to feel the difference between one, two or three ice cubes, the company explained. I was sceptical, so 1-2-Switch’s Ball Count was the first game I tried during my hands-on session. In it, you hold one of your Joy-Cons horizontally and gently tilt it around to feel how many marbles are “inside” the controller. And it actually works! It really feels like there’s marbles rolling around in your controller and you can quite distinctly tell the difference between 3, 4 or 5 marbles.
Lastly, the Switch’s screen is awesome. Again, it’s slightly smaller than you’d expect, but it’s great for handheld gaming. I was not at all bothered by the screen’s lower resolution output, as the images are crisp and colourful. Playing Mario Kart on it was an absolute joy, although I can’t imagine playing any split-screen stuff on it in tabletop mode.
My short hands-on session didn’t take away all of my worries though. I’m still very curious to see how long the battery will last in tabletop/handheld mode. The fact you can’t charge the Joy-Cons in the default Grip (you need a 30€ Charging Grip) is ridiculous and so is the 32GB internal storage. There’s already games announced (Dragon Quest Heroes I & II) that won’t fit on the default storage; you’ll have to buy a new micro-SD card if you want to buy these games digitally. Lastly, 1-2-Switch is an awesome tech demo with some pretty cool partygames, but it should have been installed on the Switch by default.
Those worries kind of faded into the background though, as soon as I heard the soft ‘clicks’ of the Joy-Cons sliding onto the sides of the screen. Knowing I’ll have one of these nifty little gadgets at home soon and knowing I can immediately play the amazing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on it, fills me with absolute joy. And that’s probably the most important part of a new console.