Editor’s Note: Hey, Arthur Damian here! What follows is a guest blog from my bestie, Dominick Festagallo, who invited me to the Switch event with him. Enjoy!
Hello! My name is Dominick and it is my pleasure and honor to be writing a guest post for ThatVideoGameBlog. The Executive Editor and I went to the Nintendo Switch event in New York City so you don’t have to! Arthur is writing his impression of the games we played, and I’m here to relate our impressions of the Nintendo Switch hardware and the event itself.
First, I’d like to say a little on what we knew about the Switch going in. We knew that Nintendo was merging their home and portable consoles into a single device which could be played on your TV (through use of a dock) or on the go. We knew that the console was the tablet-looking device, and that everything else enabled games to be played on it. There are three (main) modes of playing games – TV Mode, Handheld Mode, and Tabletop Mode, with controllers that can be used in a variety of ways based on the game’s needs. We know about its battery life and that the Switch’s screen can display in 720p, with the ability to output 1080p on a television. We also know a bit about Nintendo’s philosophy in creating the Switch.
The Nintendo Switch is a social console. I like to think of it as a social media platform manifested physically with the ability to play videogames. A share button might seem a small addition – one that other consoles have already incorporated – but that’s just part of a much larger picture. Nintendo wants you to bring your Switch to parties. They want it to reside with your board games. They want it to become part of your hangouts and gatherings. They want your videogaming moments to be shared to any and all social media platforms you use on a daily basis. Nintendo wants the Switch to redefine how you play with your friends.
Best of buds
The games on display presented different ways of using the Switch to achieve optimal fun. Some of them I liked more than others, but it was always obvious how each highlights an aspect of the myriad different experiences that the system has to offer. ARMS is a two player vs. game with (incredibly accurate) motion controls. Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe build off the multiplayer the Wii U is so good at. Just Dance 2017 gets players to move their whole bodies. Games like Sonic Mania, Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, and Super Bomberman R utilize three different control schemes for classic gaming experiences.
The 1-2-Switch demo goes above all that and had five minigames featuring different aspects of the Joy-Con controllers. The whole idea behind it is that you never need to look at the screen to play, and only need one pair of Joy-Cons to have fun with your friends. Most of the games in this title feature impressively accurate motion controls to simulate activities such as quick draw, milking a cow, and ping pong (I can’t overstate how good the wireless motion controls are. Movement is fluid and I detected absolutely no latency whatsoever in any of the demos). However, the feature that impressed me the most was the HD Rumble. The haptic feedback needs to be felt to be believed. We were given a minigame where we shook the Joy-Con to guess how many marbles were in a box, and it literally felt like the controller had become a wooden box filled with glass marbles. It remains to be seen whether developers will utilize this feature, but if they do then the surprisingly high cost of the controllers will be absolutely worth it.
The Nintendo Switch console is an impressive piece of hardware. It’s smaller than I had been expecting. An iPad is larger than the console, with the buttons being a bit tinier than I’m used to. There’s no control scheme that feels cramped though, and for those of us with larger mitts, there’s always the Pro Controller. This is presented alongside a few games at the event, and even Splatoon 2 has it as an option. The Joy-Cons, on the other hand, are a completely viable control option, despite their size. They don’t feel tiny when you have them in your hands – only slightly smaller than a NES controller. We played Sonic Mania with them in this manner, and it felt completely natural. The grips also help, adding actual buttons to what becomes the top. I was admittedly worried about the portability of the system, but that was pushed away as soon as I saw it in person.
Both of these things are pocket sized
One thing I was dying to find out about was the transition from TV Mode to Handheld Mode. I discovered that it takes a bit of practice to remove and place the Joy-Cons smoothly. The first few times I tried it was a bit fiddly, though after repeated uses I’m sure it becomes easier. I was amused that when you remove the Switch from the dock, the television loses its entire video feed. After all, the dock has nothing of its own to display and the TV shows something along the lines of “HDMI 1 No Signal Detected.”
I am curious as to whether or not the Switch console can be used like a tablet, utilizing no physical buttons and relying on the touch screen. This could open up a whole world of ports from mobile gaming. Another lingering question is whether Switch consoles can connect to each other. The operator at the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe booth informed us that local multiplayer for that game is done over Wi-Fi, but I couldn’t find out if two systems could go head to head via a local connection, as the Nintendo DS/3DS family does. I’m sure many of you want more technical stats too, but I couldn’t find anyone who could tell us that kind of information. That being said, everyone we interacted with spoke like a human being. There was no mention of “stay tuned” or “no comment.” When the Brand Ambassadors and other officials from Nintendo couldn’t tell us information or didn’t know the answer to a question, they were very cool and straightforward about it. We’ll just have to wait on more information.
The Nintendo Switch event was easily the best experience I’ve had at an engagement like this. From 3:30 to 7:00, about 250 people were allowed to play as much as they wanted. There was the exact right amount of terminals for each game, and no one had to wait more than ten minutes to play anything. Some major releases were also given their own special areas. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had tables covered in plastic ivy and floors covered in astroturf. 1-2-Switch was played in large glass booths so that audiences could watch players flail about in silly outfits, but players could concentrate on the audio cues. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was played in a diner booth, complete with napkin dispensers and Nintendo Switch branded ketchup bottles.
I dig the fake foliage, but not literally
I have no doubt in my mind that any person there could have played all 15 demos on display if they wanted to. However, every single staff member was inviting and knowledgeable, so we spent a lot of time asking questions, chatting with representatives from different areas of Nintendo, and playing some games over and over. I have honestly never been to a convention, press junket, or any other event that went off as smoothly as the one Nintendo held today.
And of course, there was swag! It was all Nintendo Switch branded stuff, but it’s always nice to come home with more than you left with. Sadly, I was unable to abscond with a Switch console, or even a single Joy-Con. The cookie was very tasty though.
Stuff and things
The Nintendo Switch has a lot of heart. It’s clear that there’s a lot of creativity and technical wizardry going on under the hood, but whether it sells well or not will come down to the games. The launch window has some gems in it, and with a heavy push towards multiplayer gaming, even the games I wouldn’t personally buy will certainly find homes. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Disgaea 5, and Sonic Mania were among the titles shown off today that prove that the Switch can provide incredible single player experiences too. And of course, with a new open world Super Mario coming down the warp pipe by the end of this year, it’s a good time to be a Nintendo fan.
Oh, and if you really want to try out the Switch for yourself, Nintendo is opening these events to the public in cities all around the world. The schedule for the Americas is here: http://www.nintendo.com/switch/events/ and there will be events in London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Tokyo.
Thank you for reading!
Dominick Festagallo wears many hats, but he wore a giant plastic Mario cap with googly eyes, just for you. His interests include videogames, archaeology, photographing gravestones, classical and modern animation, and poorly explaining postmodern theory.