First Looks// Nintendo Switch Hands-On: The Ups, The Downs, The Games

Posted 16 Jan 2017 16:48 by
Saturday was a different day.

I woke up to my son singing the Mario theme tune in his bedroom and took him into the front room to watch the Mario Odyssey trailer. He sat there wide-eyed throughout with a huge grin on his face, and maybe it sparked something inside me. This is why I love Nintendo. I didn't even need to look at the trailer to know that this game would be great. I knew I'd get a Switch eventually.

So it was off to London to go and try one out for myself. The UK Premier was being held in Hammersmith and I'd managed to get a couple of tickets to go and check it out.

Within moments of having a Joy Con in my hand I'd noticed that both myself and my +1 had smiles on our faces and my previous thoughts of wondering if Nintendo knew what gamers wanted dissipated.

We tried 1-2-Switch first, a selection of mini-games that focus on showing off the technology these dinky pads bring to the table. Some seem more like tech-demos than games themselves. Most notably the 'guess how many balls are inside the controller' game, which does an absolutely incredible job of showing you how cool HD Rumble is, but isn't something you'd spend more than a minute with.

Others, however, gabbed our imagination immediately. Quick Draw is a game that demands that you don't look at the TV while playing. Instead I was standing face to face with my mate waiting for the TV to bark "Fire" as we raised our Joy Cons toward each other and pulled the trigger. We both immediately looked at the TV to see an image of one person laying on the ground and the other still standing, following by a stat screen showing accuracy as well as speed.

We both walked away saying how fun that was and imagining scenarios in which we could play it. I'd not even thought at the time that you wouldn't even need to be in someone's front room. It's the sort of thing you could play on a whim. Out with your switch in you bag, sliding a Joy Con off of either side of the screen and settling an argument.

There's also a sword game in a similar vain. One player raises a sword above their head while the other tries to clap their hands together in order to catch the blade before in lunges into their head. The swordsman decides when to attack, the defender needs to judge when that's coming. Simple rules that allow the players to play around with tactics away from button pushing in order to win, and when I glanced at the TV while holding the sword above my head to pretend there was something strange on it, I chopped off the head of my opponent as they were distracted by trying to work out what I was looking at.

My only concern with 1-2-Switch is that the asking price can only be justified if there are 20+ of these very small games.

Next up was Arms, something Nintendo was clearly pushing at the event. They had screens everywhere showing off this thing. As someone who never enjoyed motion control gaming I certainly liked the games I had on it more than I thought I would.

Instead of trying to capture one to one movement, Arms manages to make gesturing a replacement for inputs rather than a representation of your body in a game. To move your character you hold both Joy Cons out like joysticks. To attack you punch, but due to your fists being on the end of extendible arms, you can curve your punch by twisting your wrist to attack around obstacles or catch someone as they dodge where you were initially punching.

It's fun enough but didn't do anything that made me think it's something worth spending a lot of time with, and ultimately I left wondering if a 1-1 fighting game based on simple attacks in which trying to outthink your opponent was the key to victory would have been just as good, if not better, with standard button-based controls.

Ironically, the game that convinced me that I definitely wanted a Switch was Mario Kart 8. This game was played in handheld mode, and showed off how good it feels to play a stunning-looking game in your hands. The screen is crisp, the colours pop. The Switch feels light in your hands and comfortable to hold. On top of that, being surround by others made me think of how nice it would be to meet up with my nerd mates and play a game this good in this way.

There weren't a vast amount of games to play at the event and most of them had queues that I didn't fancy standing in, but it didn't really bother me that much. By the time I'd left I'd come to terms with that fact that I wasn't going to buy one of these on day one and that this was more of a Christmas purchase. By that time it will home to a new Mario game, as well as a few others that should be worth picking up, and there's no doubt that my family will all be shooting each other while they digest their turkey.

The Switch is a big shame. It could have blown people away and properly shut up those that would never buy a Wii U but spend their time talking about how bad it is, but right now it isn't that machine. However, the Switch is also a piece of
technology that has a hell of a lot of promise, from the playing options it brings to the table to the incredible talent at Nintendo. And, as I was on the train home, I was almost regretting not hitting the pre-order button on Friday morning because what Nintendo does is so unique and so focused on fun that I'm convinced that those who are there for day one will still have a great time with the Switch.
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