Last Thursday, Nintendo finally unveiled new details of their new home-console “Nintendo Switch” in their presentation. Since the launch is pretty soon, Nintendo is offering Hands-On Events around the globe. Brando already wrote his impressions from the Nintendo Switch, but we got an invitation from Nintendo of Germany to attend the Switch Hands-On Event in Munich, Germany. Usually, I don’t write articles for Source Gaming and I am pretty happy to be “just” the graphic-guy, but this was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss. So I hurried to Munich and spent my day to try out Nintendo’s new system in great detail.
Let’s get straight to the meat: the console and controllers itself.
Nintendo Switch Console
As we know, Nintendo will offer a 6.2” screen with a dock. This enables the comfortable privilege to play HD-games on the go AND at home on the TV-screen. So the question is: Are there going to be performance-issues on the Switch-Screen? How long does it take to switch from TV-Play to Handheld-mode?
My first game was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and from what I have seen, the handheld-mode offers everything the TV-Mode does. No game was “downscaled” in terms of graphics and handheld-mode shares the exact same frame rate and special-effects as the TV-mode. This was also later confirmed by one of the Nintendo-representatives when I asked. The only aspect that gets downscaled is the resolution: While TV-mode can output games in 1080p, the screen only can please your eyes with 720p.
But that’s not too bad, since the quality of the screen is gorgeous. Colors are bright, there’s no blur when objects move and HD-artworks are looking really good there. I was quite impressed by the quality of the screen and I would even say that it’s comparable to today’s smartphone-screens. This also applies to the touchscreen, because the surface was quite hard. Nothing compared to the Wii U-Touchscreen. However, I can’t comment on how well the Switch’s touchscreen works, since there were no games available which used a TS interface. But at least I can say that the screen is not premium quality, but still of a very high standard. I also can answer the question about the kickstand of the screen: Yes, it is detachable! A Nintendo representative told me that they know it can break very easily with careless usage. So before they try to fix it, they made it detachable so it can be replaced very easy.
But what if you want to switch to TV-Play, do you have to wait long? I would say it depends. From TV to Handheld-mode is very quick. I didn’t notice any long loading times. But Handheld-mode to TV takes ca. 3-4 seconds. It’s not known why but one explanation might be that it depends on your TV and how fast it can process the TV signal from the Switch.
The other “Gimmick” of the Switch is its detachable controllers called Joy-Con. Put 2 of them on the screen and you’ll get a handheld. If you’re home, you can put them in a special case to have a standard controller. And in case you’re invited to a party and want to play some Mario Kart there without a TV, 2 players can use each Joy-Con as separate controller. And it’s not Nintendo if it doesn’t have another new feature: HD-Rumble. So how does each controller feel like?
First, my favorite way of playing Nintendo Switch: I really enjoyed the TV-Off feature from the Wii U, so I was looking forward to this option. And I’m happy to tell you that the Switch in Handheld-mode feels great. It feels and weighs pretty much like a PSVita. It has some weight, but it’s still light enough. And every button is easily accessible without any issues. Also, as soon as you’re holding the Switch in Handheld-mode, you feel there’s “value” in your hand. It might sound confusing but the Wii U-Pad feels bulky and like “cheap plastic” but with a good ergonomic shape so it’s comfortable. Switch feel like a contrast to the Wii U and despite the lack of an ergonomic shape, it still fits perfectly in your hands and maintains the same amount of comfortably like the Wii U GamePad. The Gyro sensor is also as accurate as the one from the Wii U Gamepad and it worked perfectly with Splatoon 2. Unfortunately, we were not able to try out attaching the Joy-Cons on the screens by ourselves, so we can’t comment on this aspect.
But overall, I’m very pleased with how the Handheld-Mode turned out.
Also feels quite good in your hands, and I expected this kind of feel. Feels very similar to the Handheld Mode, but more with an ergonomic touch. Hands never get tired and it feels quite comfortable. The JoyCon Grip will be included when you buy a Nintendo Switch and, personally, I think you’re good with it. It’s the only peripheral included in the package that comes the closest to a Standard Gaming Controller and I never had a feeling that I was playing with an inferior controller option. The big downside to this controller is that it doesn’t recharge the battery of the JoyCons, but that is a minor issue and actually has nothing to do with the feel of the controller. Nintendo still did a good job designing the JoyCon Grip.
Joy-Con in Table Top Mode:
And this is where I was the most nervous and skeptical about. With so many comparisons with the GameBoy Micro and the fact that I have quite big hands, I feared that a single JoyCon would be way too uncomfortable for me. So with a very negative mindset, I tried out the JoyCon in Table Top Mode and…I have to applaud Nintendo. They actually managed to make a tiny control option comfortable for big hands. The L and R-buttons were easy to access and I never once had a cramp in my hands. My thumbs were in a good resting position and I had full control of everything. And I played it with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which is a pretty fast-paced game where every movement is important. So I can say that this was my biggest positive surprise and I could even imagine playing Super Smash Bros. with this controller option. It’s much more comfortable than the Wiimote sideways despite being much smaller. It’s not my first controller-option at all, but it’s still remarkable how Nintendo managed to fulfill a miracle. Now I can see all the situations shown in the first Nintendo Switch trailer to be not that far away from reality.
Buttons, Layout and HD-Rumble:
At first, I didn’t believe I’d have that much to write about the buttons since after awhile, I pretty much accepted the controls fast and quick. But since I have a very fair advantage with 8 hours of playing with Nintendo Switch, I still feel I need to comment on certain things. First, the buttons and to make it short: Almost every button is “clickable” and it felt like a 3DS, especially the ABXY-buttons. This also refers to the triggers which means they’re digital, and not analog. I’m personally not a guy who really needs analog triggers but I know that many people miss them very much and it’s kinda sad that Nintendo still refuses to adopt the industry standard. Speaking of industry-standard, I really miss the D-Pad in any controller options described above. I can understand that Nintendo wanted to create symmetrical controllers so they can be used standalone. But some games requires precise control like fighting games, so it would have been nice if Nintendo would have somehow looked into a solution for the D-Pad. Luckily, thanks to the clickable feel of the Arrow-Buttons under the left analog stick, you can “simulate” the feeling of a D-Pad. But it’s just not the same…
And while we’re at it, I can say at least that the Analog-sticks feel really good, no matter in which mode you are playing. I actually think they improved it compared to the Analog-stick from the Wii U. But they were also kinda similar to the analog-stick of the PSVita, since those sticks are quite small. But I never felt I was losing grip and they always gave me perfect control.
Now to the HD Rumble Feature from the Joy Con…Ooph. I’m really not sure how to begin this or even describe it but despite the enthusiasm from many journalists of the new technology, I must admit: It didn’t click with me. Yes, the technology is working and you feel that the position of the rumble changes. But I really had a hard time feeling the real rumble and I had to pay attention to all the rumble effects, because they felt at first exactly the same. And even after I thought I figured out how to “enjoy” the HD-Rumble, I still was under the impression that it “just rumbles a little bit different”. Never had a feeling that I was counting balls and never really thought that I was opening a safe. It was never a “definite feeling” for me. After the great praise, I really wasn’t sure if the issue was me. So the only thing I can comment on is, that I was not really convinced or impressed. And since 1, 2 Switch is the only game which emphasizes this feature in some minigames, I don’t think it will be a game changing mechanic. But I still want to emphasize that it does improve the rumble-feature and even though I’m not as “blown away” as expected, it still provides a very great feeling you might enjoy. But if you plan to purchase the Nintendo Switch just to experience the HD Rumble, I think you’re going to be very disappointed.
Other control options:
We also tested out the Switch Pro Controller. But there’s not much to say about since it’s pretty much the Wii U Pro-controller with the (almost) exact same button-layout and feeling. But this is your only way to play Switch-game with a D-Pad.
The Switch Wheel was also available to try out, but since I actually never played Mario Kart with a Wii Wheel, it rather felt at first to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with motion controls. But it still felt very comfortable in my hand, so fans of the Wii Wheel might enjoy this as well.
Overall, I’m quite impressed with what Nintendo has to offer with their new hardware. The quality of the screen is really nice and the variety of controller-options is quite good. If it was Handheld Mode, the Table Top Mode with single JoyCons or the JoyCon Grips feels really good. The main appeal of the Nintendo Switch is not only to play your home console games anywhere on the go, but also to play your games anywhere WITH someone. And I think this could actually turn out to be one of the strongest selling points of the Switch. HD Rumble is for my personal preferences a bit lacking and I necessarily don’t share the excitement like many people, who could attend the Switch Hands On Event. But luckily, Nintendo is not focusing on this feature and it tries to deliver a strong “social” message: Play it like you want. Play it where you want. Play it with anyone where you want it. And so far, Nintendo is on a good way.
But what is a console without games? I will look into the games I was able to play and give you my impressions and opinion to each game in Part 2, so better stayed tuned on Source Gaming!
Thanks to Nintendo of Germany for inviting us to the Switch Hands-On Event in Munich, Germany.
Also Thank you to PushDustIn and Cart Boy for the tweaks in this article!