Man it’s been a crazy week. First we had E3 running since Saturday last week with endless streams, conferences and game coverage. Then my wife gets a new job (WOO!). Then we need to go buy a car for this job. Then My sister in law has wedding events. Oh, and to top it all off, my Nintendo Switch arrived 3 days early and got it last Friday, instead of waiting the weekend until Monday. How the hell was I going to find time to do all this, especially the Nintendo Switch, since it’s clear I have all my priorities straight. Well I’m proud to say we did all these things and I still got some nice personal and multiplayer time with my Nintendo Switch and show it off to my family as they came over. Here are my early impressions on this impressive little beast.
Unboxing the Nintendo Switch was exciting. Last console I opened up brand new was the Wii U, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting. Buying into the Wii U, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed. I only snagged it because Indigo (A book store that sold game consoles for some reason), had a great deal selling it for a mere $200 Canadian for the Wind Waker HD bundle, but also because coming into it, I already knew the console was considered doomed. I still had fun with the console, as you can see in my post on the best of the Wii U here. But it was time to move on, hence my decision to get the Nintendo Switch. I was pretty sold on it, but was a little skeptical. Given the Wii U went without a Metroid game, a variation of the Mario games we all love, despite it being good, and several other odd decisions, it was not hard to feel this way. However once E3 came around and the Nintendo spotlight came and went, I was sold and doubled down on getting my order in. You can read all about my thoughts on the Nintendo E3 2017 spotlight here. For anyone who follows me on Twitter, I’m sure you already knew I was besides myself with some of the announcements, and complained about trying to overcome breathing problems after the Metroid Prime 4 announcement.
All my skepticism was washed away with the Nintendo Spotlight. They assured me that myself and all Nintendo fans would get what they want. It’s rare when we see Nintendo do things like this. What I mean is by giving fans what they want. We’ve come to know Nintendo as a company who makes questionable decisions and announcement much at their fans bewilderment. However, now things have done complete 180 turn. Nintendo is committing to release several games over this year and ending on a big note with key releases such as Super Mario Odyssey and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. They also double downed on the surprise announcement of a core Pokémon console game and Metroid Prime 4. It certainly gets my excited to continue being a Nintendo fan, and now a proud owner of the Nintendo Switch.
Anywho, enough of this rant, let’s get to what people want to know. What I think about my Nintendo Switch now that’s I’ve finally had it in my hands for a few days. I got to say, I love it. Infact, my wife who isn’t even a gamer loves it. I felt like she was almost as excited to get it as me. I conveniently had a work from home day on Friday, and then found out I was getting the Switch early. So of course, my wife brings the package. As I turn my back to do some work, I turn around and the consoles opened, powered on and she’s going through the setup process. I love seeing her just as excited about it as me.
Seeing the tablet and the joycons for the first time, I was impressed. The joycons neon red and blue color look way better than any photo can show off. It’s way more vibrant than I thought it would be, which is great because since getting the all black Wii U, and the all black new 3DS XL, I wanted something colourful for a change. I was amazed by how small everthing was. Although I’ve seen countless pictures of all the hardware, seeing how small it is in person and holding the unit in your hand is unreal. It’s tiny, not much bigger than some phones. It’s amazing to think this little thing plays Breath of the Wild with pretty much no hiccups.
What’s neat is that this being a console, for the first couple hours I hadn’t even hooked it up to the TV. I took the thing all over the house while leaving the dock, joycons grips, joycon cradle etc. all in the box in the basement. The hybrid console/handheld functionality really speaks for itself right away. Shortly after this, I found a nice little spot below my TV and plugged all the necessary pieces in, and witnessed the greatness of seeing the Switch video feed come to my TV finally.
Now a console is never good without any games, right? Well what better time than now to get onto the Switch eshop and get something? Being June 16th, I naturally thought ARMS would be a great fit. The game had me sold from the moment it was revealed, and hearing all the great things about the test punch events, I didn’t wait a single moment. Within minutes, the game was paid for and was downloading to my Switch, whether it was docked, or in handheld mode in standby. NICE! I love how seemless this all is, and I’ve yet to actually get into the game.
Fast forward however many minutes it was, ARMS was done and downloaded, I loaded her up and attached my joycon grips. Doing the tutorial, I got a sense for the motion controls. I liked them. Although I am playing with the standard controls now because it offers more refined controls, I don’t think the motion controls were bad. I see them having their place in a party situation. I played once through the single player Grand Prix using the motion controls, and couldn’t help but raise my hands in victory once I downed my foes. I think it speaks wonders that a game made me do this.
I’m sure other games will continue making use of motion controls. It is something I missed from the Wii days. Although people criticized games like Skyward Sword and Metroid Prime 3 for having them, I thought they worked well. Although I would like Nintendo to follow ARMS’s suite and continue providing multiple modes of control, allowing me to switch between motion controls and standard controls. This way we can avoid pissing off pretty much everyone and their mother for forcing badly setup motion controls down peoples throats in games like Star Fox Zero.
So I had a taste for the console in TV mode, and just so happens, my wife and I had to take a long road trip right after to pick up our car. About an hours drive (yep, the best deal we could get), but I of course, being the positive thinker I am, was super excited because I can take my Switch on the go. And so I did, playing ARMS in handheld mode bathing in the full brightness of the sun. I have to say, it’s handheld screen is awesome. Colors are vibrant, the image is crisp, and the screen is very bright. Just the other day, I tried playing my 3DS in the same situation, and on even on full brightness, I couldn’t see shit outside in the sun. It’s quite a letdown for something that’s revered for being portable can’t be used in a bit of sunlight. But I’m happy to report, the Switch excels at this, and I had no issues placing it directly in sunlight and still being able to make out everything that’s going on, even in a fast paced fighter like ARMS.
I’ve yet to get a good gauge of battery life, but it seems like about an hour of play seemed to indicate my battery would last roughly 3 hours of portable play, which aligns with all the reports I’ve seen on this. I’ve read and except other games like 2D indies will last much longer, as they won’t require as much horse power.
The game also runs super smooth and even though the screen is 720p, you couldn’t tell otherwise. The image looks super sharp. It’s unreal to think such an advanced and modern game like ARMS can run as smoothly as it does on this little piece of hardware. I think it’s really hard to push this point across in coverage of the console, because like I said earlier, seeing it in person is what really drove this point home for me. I really can’t wait to get my hands on Breath of the Wild to experience that again on the go. The thought of it just bends my mind in ways that can’t be explained.
With my time so far, my family had come over, and my dad claimed the TV for the U.S. Open (How exciting!). So I thought what a great opportunity to test drive the whole off screen multiplayer aspect that’s teased so much in those Nintendo Switch roof tops parties that seem so damn popular. Well, it worked, we did OK, however the small screen did force us to huddle in, and slouch over to make out what was happening when running on splitscreen mode. Things got small, but were far from unplayable I thought. We went through online modes and even a full grand prix this way and came out on top. I can’t see this working with more than 2 people however, but a neat option either way. For single player gaming or games that do not use splitscreen, this is a great option.
Onto controllers, the joycons are an interesting take on controllers. I had a paranoia that they would be uncomfortable to use based on what I have heard, but so far, I am liking them. I will admit, using the joycons separately in each hand feels a bit awkward. I find their small size makes things like reaching from the buttons to the 2nd analog stick, or from the main analog stick to the d pad forces you to adjust the way you are holding the grip itself to be able to do this. Attaching the grips however alleviates this problem.
Using the joycons in their cradle however brings a different experience. It feels much closer to a conventional controller than I thought it would. Playing ARMS this way felt second nature and I never felt that the setup was awkward or uncomfortable, and every buttons, analog stick and trigger was easy to reach. The handles that extend from the bottom of the grip really make this sit in my hands very well.
Attaching the joycons to the sides of the Switch and using them in handheld mode I find also works quite well. I never had to shift my hands around to properly press any buttons, and the weight of the unit doesn’t feel too heavy most of the time. Although playing in bed, I found resting the unit on my knees felt the best during a long session. Otherwise, playing in bed, the car, in the backyard, it was easy and I could still play ARMS perfectly fine.
Once aspect I’m finding a bit tough to use, but hopefully just takes some getting used to, is the d-pad. Being placed around as buttons apposed to one piece of plastic with it’s individual directions makes rolling our sliding your thumb to move from left to down or any direction a bit tough. I ended up using the analog stick on the demo of Master Blaster Zero, but want to keep giving the d-pad a go so see if it pans out better in the future. I don’t think it’s bad enough to make me drop money on a pro controller however.
My brother and I tried out some ARMS multiplayer madness using the individual joycons. I really thought this was going to be the one mode that would’ve been unplayable, but surprisingly, we did pretty good. The controller didn’t feel too awkward. Using the analog sticks, buttons and even the shoulder buttons without the joycon grips worked surprisingly very well. The only issue I found was the shoulder and trigger button. When using the joycon this way, these buttons are on the side of the controller, almost resting on your palm. I found I may have inadvertently been hitting the trigger several times, as my characters target kept changing. Although I never felt like I actually pressed it. I’m not sure if the game was changing my target for me, but more experimentation is yet to be seen. Otherwise, we did some 1 on 1’s, team grand prix, and even played online and was able to actually win some matches and pull of the same combos I would use any other control scheme. I look forward to using this in other games like Mariokart 8.
Moving on from the hardware, the whole Nintendo experience has really taken a step up from both the 3DS and Wii U. The 3DS had one defining feature for me, and that was the ability to close the lid for any game and put the system in stand by mode. Re-opening the lid resumed my game from exactly where I left off. This however left a few things to be desired. While putting a game in standby mode, I couldn’t do things like go into the eshop, or systems settings without closing my active game. This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s hard not to want it, given that our gaming consoles and handhelds keep gearing towards the ability to truly multi-task. The Wii U suffered from the exact same thing.
Both systems also made it painful to do simple things like take screenshots. For the 3DS, you were forced to connect to Miiverse and upload a screenshot to your album. On the Wii U, such a feature was not officially supported either, and you had to go into your browser, and go to supported sites that allowed you to upload images from your screen. You can imagine, having to load the same site over and over, especially on Nintendo’s iffy web browsers took a long time.
Well, all my complaints are settled with the Nintendo Switch. I can now take screenshots anytime with the click of a button on my left joycon. No more pausing the game and going to a website. It saves high quality screens directly on my system which I can review later and even post directly to Twitter from my Switch, how rad! Also, the stand by feature works wonders. I can put ARMS in stand by at any point (besides in online multiplayer), and browse through anything on the Switch menu. Whether it be the news section, eshop, system setting, screenshots, you name it. I can even put the entire system on stand by, remove it from it’s dock, and load up ARMS from where exactly I left off. It’s very impressive and seemless. What’s even better is in stand by mode, the battery is so efficient, it drains super slow.
Another awesome feature that I haven’t seen discussed yet, is the inclusion of HDMI CEC. For those who don’t know, this is a technology that when an event on your device is triggered, such as being powered on, it sends a signal through your HDMI feed to your TV, which powers your TV on. I absolutely love this, whether I dock my system, or I press the home button to wake the Switch, it automatically turns my TV on for me and even my receiver and sets it to the right channel. So it drives home the point of it being
The entire “snapiness” of the console is not something I typically expect from a Nintendo product, but it’s happened, and it’s very welcoming. The best part is, the OS is currently quite barebones, so things can only get better. Clearly the device has more than enough horse power to juggle keeping big games like Breath of the Wild and ARMS in stand by mode, while tending to other system functions with no issue. It will be exciting to see what else Nintendo rolls out to the system later down the road, such as a possible browser, or video apps like netflix or youtube.
Although being barebones now may seem like a negative, I do like that Nintendo has started off this way, since the focus is on the gaming experience first. As much as we all yearn for things like video apps, browsers and such as we have come accustomed to using not only older Nintendo hardware, but smartphones and other tablets, the Switch is a gaming machine first and foremost. I’m not saying that these extra features wouldn’t be welcome, but as long as it handles games without any trouble, this shows good signs for future things to come.
All in all, I’m loving my Switch already. Playing the 3DS with games like Monster Hunter, and even my PC games, I’ve always thought how cool it would be to play on my TV, and then switch over to a handheld variant and continue playing. I now have that at last with the Nintendo Switch. I love the hardware and it feels very high quality and that Nintendo really stepped up their game in giving us hardware that is up to the specs of modern times. Sure it may not be the most powerful thing out their, but man it’s still impressive what it can do, especially for it’s size. The screen looks great, the OS is fast and snappy, and taking games out on the go and putting them on stand by really add to the package and make this a truly portable wonder. The wealth of options for controllers is also welcoming, although some work better than others, it’s great that this console comes with two usable controllers for multiplayer games, and despite the lack of buttons, controls very good. As for the games, ARMS is great fun, and the selection of titles I see in the eshop currently has me in many dilemnas on what game I should tackle next. I’m looking to sell my Wii U copy of Breath of the Wild and pick it up for the Switch shortly after. Other than that, I have my eyes set on things like Thumper, Mario Kart 8, Kamiko, and several others. Oh boy… decisions, decisions, decisions.
Do you have the Switch? How are you liking it? Do you share the same enthusiasm that I do about this killer little beast? Let’s discuss in the comments section!