January 17, 2017
Hands On With Nintendo Switch
Nintendo are kicking off their Switch push with a lot of force, multiple events around the world, after a global livestream that detailed the console, ahead of a release on March 3rd, which is right now 44 days away, they are going in big, but is it enough?
Nintendo Australia were kind enough to invite me to an event over the weekend where I got to play a range of games on the Switch from ported classics like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to all new titles like ARMS, there was a good selection of games there, but more importantly, it was my chance to go hands on with the Switch in its range of play modes. The three that Nintendo are promoting are TV mode, Handheld mode and Tabletop mode, which all let you play the games as you want, depending on your personal set up.
TV mode is the one that will work with console players the easiest, as you simply drop the Switch into the dock and then the image switches to your connected screen. While the swap from TV to Switch screen is instant, there is a delay going back and that is purely based on the tv acquiring the signal, so your mileage will vary there. Once in TV mode however, the Switch just fades to the background and you can just kick back with the Pro Controller. Speaking of that controller, it is really comfy to hold and likely to be my preferred way to play games when playing on the Switch, it really blends the Wii U Pro Controller and the Xbox 360 controller together and it just fits right.
When you are not using the Switch in the dock, you can use it in Handheld mode, with the JoyCon attached to the side, which is how you might see it used a lot in promotional shots. This mode really sells you on the unit, it is light, not iPhone light as it does contain some serious tech inside, but it is still light. Across the top of the Switch you will notice a fan exhaust port, for the heat to be dispersed through and while it does make a little noise, enough to be heard in a busy hall, once the Switch was using the inbuilt speakers, I never noticed it, so that is a plus.
Tabletop mode is where you take the JoyCon off the Switch and flip out the kickstand and share the game with a friend, or maybe relax on a plane or such. My issue with this is not when playing solo, because the screen size works well for it still, but when you go split screen, you are cutting about half of your real estate out, and then standing shoulder to shoulder with someone else, to play a game. While I can see it being a quirky thing the Switch can do, I honestly doubt it will take off, I mean you can just leave the Switch in the dock and use your main TV for the same effect.
Sadly, the units at the show were all tethered to their respective stations with giant cables, for power and security, so its hard to judge how it will last long term, the battery life that is, but even at 5 hours, which is a nice number, the Switch should be able to survive your long gaming sessions. As I left the Switch event, my mind kept placing the Switch in various scenarios, I travel a bit, so flights will be more entertaining, at home placing the Switch in the dock and kicking back and enjoying whatever game I am playing will be a treat, but more than that, I think the appeal is that I won’t be tethered to any TV screen. Of course, Tabletop mode is the outlier right now, so we shall see how that works in the future.
Right now, the only thing impacting the potential of the Switch is Nintendo, that price point is not right, the lack of defined online features, virtual console support and overpriced accessories are making a steep uphill battle that could be avoided. For now though, we play the waiting game and we will see how Switch goes on March 3rd