While Skylanders is often my focus on this site, I’m an avid and loyal Nintendo fan. I also try to go to every gaming event that happens in Chicago. And as luck would have it, Chicago is one of four cities selected for a tour of the Nintendo Switch. Needless to say I was excited to try all of the new games. Well, almost all of them, anyway.
The preview event was held at an event space called Revel Fulton Market, which was also last year’s home to the annual Bit Bash. While the event started at 10, people started lining up hours before; the line was already around the corner when I lined up at 7. An hour later, gamers were allowed into the building in small groups, where we were issued wristbands to guarantee entry at a specific time. I missed the first group and ended up getting a wristband for 12:30. So, after a morning of walking across the city playing Pokémon Go with my boyfriend, I returned at 12:00 to find people already lined up. Inside were a ton of demo stations of all shapes and sizes. Mixed in with them were displays for Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, among other games. It was cleverly set up so that we could try each of the system’s control modes, which I endeavored to do.
After getting a quick lay of the land, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a number of non-launch games were available to play; it’s rare that your average gamer has a chance to try major games far from release without going to an expensive trade show. After learning that certain other options were unavailable (more on that soon), I decided to try out ARMS. I’d been intrigued with the game since it was announced. As I was at the event by myself, I was paired up with a random opponent and given two Joy-Con controllers. The controllers are fairly small and light, but once you figure out where all of the buttons are, they work pretty well. The game’s controls are pretty basic: you tilt the controllers left and right to move, and use motion controls to punch. After choosing our characters (I went with the game’s mascot, Spring Man), we chose a weapon for each hand and went to battle. It was a little bit difficult to get the controls right on the fly, but it was also an even match since neither of us had played the game before. As the trailer shows, you can tilt the controllers to send punches at an angle, but it was tough to get it just right. Still, the game was quite fun, and I actually managed to win the match. I will almost certainly get this game when it comes out, though I do hope some additional content is added before release. There are only a handful of characters, though the different weapon options for each of them do add more opportunities to choose your play style.
This was one of the most important games for me to try, as I have been debating whether to pick it up at launch. The game was set up in two demo stations set apart with transparent walls. I competed against someone working at the event, though unfortunately there were only three games available. The first was Quick Draw, which is pretty self-explanatory. The game does avoid cheating by making sure the controller is down by your side before starting. After that we tried Milk, which has you trying to milk a cow. I didn’t do very well, but I was somewhat impressed by the HD Rumble feature, which makes different actions feel like they should. This was the focus of the third game, Ball Count. It casts the Joy-Con as a box holding a certain number of marbles, and using the HD Rumble, you have to tilt the controller around and try to feel how many are “inside” of it. While the feeling wasn’t a perfect match, it was good enough that I was able to get the correct answer. During this part of the demo, the employees switched from TV mode to tabletop mode, and it really does change instantly. These three games aren’t enough to really judge the whole package, but while it wasn’t perfect, the HD Rumble was pretty cool. I don’t see a whole lot of other games, but it does allow for some interesting possibilities.
As you might already know, I loved the original Splatoon. It’s one of the few games I’m willing to play online, and I’m actually pretty decent at it. I tried the demo that allowed me to play in a local 4-on-4 match using the console in handheld mode. The controls definitely took some getting used to, especially since you no longer have a second screen to look at the map. Instead you have to press a button to toggle the map, and use the directional buttons to teleport. In general the controls were a bit confusing at first; the second joystick and the triggers aren’t exactly where they would be on the Wii U Gamepad or the New 3DS, so there was some learning curve, but I imagine one would get used to them quickly enough. The game itself felt pretty much the same as the first one; though there were some new weapons and maps to try, it otherwise didn’t add too much. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it was still a lot of fun, but it remains to be seen whether there’s enough new to revitalize interest in the game, and whether the new weapons are interesting enough to get veteran players like myself away from the things we’re more comfortable with. But to be honest, even if it doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the first game, there’s nothing wrong with more Splatoon, and it will definitely be a day one purchase for me.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
As I didn’t get a chance to try the new Battle Mode, my time with Mario Kart was mostly an opportunity to play as my favorite new character, Inkling Boy, and try out the console’s tabletop mode. The demos for this game were cleverly set up on the venue’s stage, with four mock locations to show how you’d use the system’s gameplay modes. There was a living room for TV play, a car for handheld play, and a restaurant and airplane for tabletop play. I was using the latter, with my opponent and me sitting in mock plane seats and the console set up on his tray table. To my dismay, I was given the right Joy-Con, which has the joystick in the middle. However, it actually wasn’t difficult to use at all. I was expecting hand cramps, but while it was a bit unusual, it wasn’t any trouble. I even managed to win, which almost never happens in Mario Kart. Like Splatoon 2, this one doesn’t add too much to the previous entry (it’s only billed as an update), but the capabilities of the console itself add a lot of possibilities. Since each player only needs one Joy-Con, you can play multiplayer Mario Kart nearly anywhere with just one console. And since I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person who doesn’t enjoy Mario Kart, I see this working out quite well.
There were many other games available to try out at the event, but I don’t have that much to say about most of them. Skylanders Imaginators was on display, of course, showing off a cool feature exclusive to the Switch version: you no longer need the Portal of Power, and can instead use the NFC reader built into the controllers. I’m actually surprised they didn’t do that for the Wii U. I gave Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers a try, but unsurprisingly got my butt kicked. That wasn’t the case with Super Bomberman R though, as this game adds to the classic formula an opportunity to get back into the game by blowing up your opponents from the sides of the play field. Finally, Fast RMX (the sequel to the Wii U’s Fast Racing Neo) is basically F-Zero with a different name, and that isn’t a bad thing.
But maybe by now you’ve noticed the elephant missing from the room. Yes, I wanted to try The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and almost a third of the event space was dedicated to this title. However, to get an opportunity to check that game out, I would need to wait in another line to get a ticket, just so I could wait in another line to try the game. And frankly, there was so much else to do that it didn’t seem worth my time.
The event was awesome, and if you get a chance, I highly recommend checking out the similar upcoming events in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Even if you don’t think you want to get the Switch at launch, it’s always cool to play upcoming games before release, and a lot of these are super fun. Plus, you’ll get a free pin and microfiber cloth with the Switch logo, which is always nice. And if you really wanted to get my opinion on Breath of the Wild, don’t worry; I’ll be reviewing that title (and the console itself) for the site as soon as I can get my hands on them.