A few weeks ago I entered some competitions to win a chance to play the Nintendo Switch, the new home/handheld hybrid console coming out in March this year. I was lucky enough to win a double pass through Vooks (I actually won another one later through EB Games but had to decline it so they could redraw it), so today my friend (The Casual Geek, or TCG) and I went off to the city to get our hands on the Switch and some of the upcoming games.
While we were waiting to be let in, we wandered around in the foyer, where Nintendo had a timeline of their previous consoles set up in some display cases.
As we headed into the actual event room, there were a few more display cabinets set up with the Switch inside. This room was dark, so apologies for the somewhat dull/blurred photos.
Soon we entered the holy mecca, where we could play with the Switch and some of its games six weeks before everyone else does! By far the game we wanted to play most was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, so we lined up outside the booth set up with the game. Each play session went for 20 minutes, with ten players able to go in at a time, so we had a bit of a wait; in the meantime, we took some photos of the Master Sword (or, more accurately, the Sword of Resurrection).
Finally, it was the moment we’d been waiting for. Each of us got to sit in front of a console and play the opening 20 minutes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch. I also managed to get a Game Over by jumping off the tower instead of climbing down it, because I’m an idiot. I spent most of my turn playing it on TV mode, and though I’d thought it looked gorgeous when I watched the trailers on my computer, seeing it on the big screen blew me away.
Eventually one of the Nintendo employees suggested I try it in handheld mode, and since this is a big selling point of the console, I did just that. It didn’t compare to TV mode but it still looked damn nice, with crystal-clear graphics on the handheld screen (not that you can tell from my potato-quality phone camera photos).
The section we got to play has mostly been shown in the trailers that we’ve already seen, so I can’t say anything new about the game in that regard. However I will say that having the chance to play what promises to be a stunning and epic game has only increased my hype for the game when it and the console launch on March 3 this year.
I was pleasantly surprised by how natural the controls felt to hold, both in their puppy-dog form and when attached to the console itself for use in handheld mode. With the controllers attached, the console is about the same dimensions as the Wii U’s GamePad (although slimmer), and though I think it’s slightly heavier, it’s still more comfortable to play with. I had some concerns that it would be slightly too big to be comfortably used as a handheld, but it’s not much bigger than the 3DS XL and feels more streamlined. It’s also really easy to detach the Joy-Cons from the console or the puppy controller and attach them to the other. Not just that, but even the dock is really slim and compact.
Once we got booted off Zelda, we wandered around to see what else was on offer. After getting our photo taken with Mario…
… We went and checked out ARMS, one of the games that is being pushed heavily to take advantage of the motion controls in the Switch’s Joy-Cons. I did feel a bit uncoordinated playing this as I have played very few motion controlled games in the past. Each of us held a pair of Joy-Cons and punched by moving our hands and arms like boxers, using buttons to dash, dodge and unleash punching flurries. You could choose different characters with different attributes (eg. some are harder hitters but move slower) but we only played a few rounds, so we didn’t get to discover much about it that isn’t already known.
I did wonder if there was a way to play without the motion controls, because I know that some people a) just really hate motion controls or b) can’t use motion controls because of injury or disability. Most games I’ve played in the past that had motion controls also had the option to change to a completely button/thumbstick-based control scheme, so I would assume (and hope) that Switch games will offer the same choice. That being said, the experience did remove my concerns about the individual Joy-Cons being too small and fiddly to hold comfortably; though they are small, I still didn’t have any issues pressing the right buttons. Then again, I have smallish hands, so those with bigger hands may not find it as easy.
While it was fun to play with briefly, I wouldn’t necessarily go out and buy the game. It seems to me like something I’d play at a birthday party full of drunks, and even though I enjoyed playing it at the event, I also felt that I’ve now more or less played all I want to of that game. Maybe once you get deeper into it you can unlock more fighting styles, characters or attacks and so on, but as it stands now, it just doesn’t grab me. It would also be an expensive game if you don’t already have two sets of Joy-Cons, since each player needs a pair of them.
After ARMS, we went and played Splatoon 2. I love the first Splatoon game on Wii U but TCG had never played it (for those of you who haven’t played it, it’s essentially a shooter in which you play as part of a team of four Inklings against another team of four and each team competes to see which can cover the most terrain with their coloured ink, using a variety of paint-slinging weapons). Again, we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the game (each round goes for 3 minutes and we played two rounds) but from what I can see, it’s shaping up to be just as good – if not better – than the first game in the series. For Splatoon 2 we used the Switch Pro controllers, which feel very similar to most traditional controllers. Unfortunately our team was annihilated both times (I’ll blame it on TCG’s lack of experience with the game and the fact I haven’t played it myself for more than a year).
Next, we decided we should check out more motion control games, so we wandered over to the 1-2 Switch booth. They had four or five of the mini-games set up, so we basically just went into the first one that opened up, which happened to be Quick Draw (I also wanted to play Samurai Training but we didn’t get time; the event only ran for 2 hours).
While ARMS requires each player to have a pair of Joy-Cons, 1-2 Switch is played with each person only having one Joy-Con. As the title suggests, Quick Draw required us to hold our Joy-Cons down at our sides and see who could draw the fastest and ‘shoot’ the other player. Apparently some of the other 1-2 Switch games were great for showcasing the haptic aspect of the Joy-Cons, but Quick Draw almost just felt like we were using a smaller Wii Mote. And, as with ARMS, it felt like another game that you’d bust out at a party once everyone was drunk enough, but would otherwise sit in the gaming cabinet gathering dust. It kind of seems like the Switch’s version of Nintendoland.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, though I wasn’t too fussed about this since I already own the non-deluxe version on Wii U. Time was running short once we left the 1-2 Switch booth, so TCG dragged me over for a round of Just Dance. As I was wandering over to see if I could have a go at Super Bomberman R, the announcers called time for the event and it was time for us all to go home.
Sadly we didn’t get a Switch cookie like the media people who went to yesterday’s event, but we did get a pretty nice bag of Nintendo Switch goodies as we were heading out, including a hat, thermos, writing journal, pen and lanyard. I’ll have to hide it from Dad so he can’t steal it; he loves hats.
Overall, the Nintendo Switch Hands-On Event for Melbourne was a great day out. I have to admit that I was on the fence about buying the Switch on launch day because aside from Zelda: BOTW, there aren’t really any games for it that I want on launch, and there aren’t a huge number of games I want coming out until later this year or next year (now, I’m sure someone will start whining “You can’t expect the Switch to compete with existing consoles on launch!” Well, no, I don’t, but I DO generally expect there will be more than one game I want when I buy the console.). But after playing Zelda and getting a sense of the scale of that game, I think that game alone will be enough to keep me busy for a while, and I don’t want to wait a second longer than I have to before I can play it again. Later this year we have (among other things) Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey, and in the future we’ll be getting Fire Emblem Warriors, Skyrim (I know this is out on PC but I prefer console gaming and I only have a Wii U) and Xenoblade 2, along with other games we’ll probably find out closer to release. I am still worried the lackluster launch lineup will make the console struggle to sell for the first few months, but I think once we get more games out later this year, it should be a worthy console.
So, come March 3, I’ll be lining up outside the shops with all the other nerds, waiting for my Nintendo Switch console and new Zelda game 🙂