Nintendo Switch Hands-On: Keith's Impressions

Nintendo Switch Hands-On: Keith's Impressions

After Nintendo’s Switch presentation last week – which, can only be summed up as being very Nintendo – I was a little hesitant. The hardware looked neat, and the core idea of a system being both portable and static was cool. On the other hand, the launch line-up looked slim, and the price-point was a little hard to wrap my head around.

I was ready to be negative about the Switch when I stopped by Melbourne for a hands-on event. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this would be another Wii U – a system that was more novel than innovative.

I’m glad to say that I was wrong. Mostly.

While I still have some reservations about parts of the system (more on that later), the Switch is an impressive piece of kit. Because its modular nature is at the forefront – the ability to make it portable, or remove the Joy-Con controllers for two-player gaming – that stuff needs to be fast and easy, and it is. Joy-Cons slide into the sides of the tablet with a satisfying click, and docking the system seamlessly transfers the action between devices.

The build quality on individual pieces has improved. Gone are the plasticky, clacky controllers from Nintendo's previous offerings. Despite their reduced size, the Joy-Cons are also solid to hold, with a matte finish making them feel nice in the palm of your hand. The tablet – which houses a capacitive display – produces a sharp image, despite being locked at 720p. Unlike the Wii U tablet which displayed a video feed from the system, gameplay is rendered natively to the screen. That means no more nasty macroblocking.

“HD Rumble” is a jump in quality over what’s currently on the market, and the granular detail is noticable. It’s less-so in more kinectic titles, especially when you’re focused on multiplayer experience like ARMS. I’m interested to see how other developers create experiences for it, or to see if its incorporated into standard games in meaningful ways.

The system itself is pleasing to look at. It’s isn’t gaudy, nor does it draw too much attention. The design is understated, and could easily be confused for some other hardware peripheral instead of a gaming console. It also has a small footprint, meaning it shouldn’t take up too much space on your cabinet. None of the systems appeared to run too hot either, but I couldn’t identity fan exhaust-ports due to poor lighting at the venue. It’s likely that the system has few moving parts, so heat build-up might not be a huge issue.

There are some things I’m concerned about though.

  • Portability - While the system can be undocked, its battery life doesn’t sound too impressive, running from three to six hours depending on the game. Moreover, none of the titles I tried made use of the tablet’s capacitive display – raising some question marks around its inclusion. I can’t help but feel we’re going to see that hardware feature underutilised, because why would developers spend time making functionality for something that will only be used irregularly?
  • The second Joy-Con kinda sucks - I like the physical feeling of holding the Joy-Cons, as the materials are nice. But the placement of the analog stick on the second-player’s controller is annoying. It’s placed more towards the centre, meaning your left thumb has to stretch further to reach it, which in games like Mario Kart can be uncomfortable. I can see younger siblings the world over being relegated to the second Joy-Con, as their older brother or sister gets the player-one spot.
  • Speaker quality - Tabletop mode seems geared towards social gatherings; the idea that you’ll flip out the kickstand and play games at a party. All good in practice, but some games like 1-2-Switch require audio cues to work. The speakers embedded In the tablet may not be up to the task, especially during loud parties. When we previewed 1-2-Switch, it was sequestered away from the main floor in booths, and even then the volume wasn’t great.

But I am looking forward to the Switch – heck, I even pre-ordered one. Not just because I need it for my job, but because I’m curious. I’m curious about the system’s portability. I’m curious about its online functionality.

I’m curious about a Nintendo console – which is more than I could say about the launch of the Wii U.

Keith travelled to a press event in Melbourne, courtesy of Nintendo.

For Angus' thoughts on the Switch, head over here.

Keep it locked locked on for previews of specific Switch titles.


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Comments Comments (6)

Posted by Newsboy
On Wednesday 18 Jan 2017 3:39 PM
See you on Day 1, Keith!
Posted by ThatUndeadLegacy
On Wednesday 18 Jan 2017 3:41 PM
Hmm doubt i'll get it, what is it $400 + membership fees? big no no for me.
Posted by Savarius
On Wednesday 18 Jan 2017 4:15 PM
The comments on speaker quality are a good pick, I haven't seen anyone else mention that side of things anywhere else online yet. So it could be a major problem especially if your group of family or friends gets really loud when competing with each other.
Posted by citysoldier
On Wednesday 18 Jan 2017 6:38 PM
Yeah paying for multiplayer is a real downer. Just cause xbox and playstation do it, now nintendo have to get in on it. A possible purchase one day but multiplayer out the window I guess
Posted by ChieftaiNZ
On Thursday 19 Jan 2017 9:17 AM
18 January 2017, 06:38 PM Reply to citysoldier
Yeah paying for multiplayer is a real downer. Just cause xbox and playstation do it, now nintendo have to get in on it. A possible purchase one day but multiplayer out the window I guess
Considering how bad Nintendo online services have been in the past, I think everyone should be hesitant about paying for it now.
Posted by Nick2016NZ
On Thursday 19 Jan 2017 10:15 AM
Horizon Zero Dawn and Nier: Automata are both out in March, nobody is going to drop $600 plus on this Fisher Price toy for toddlers with no games. Fail.