On Jan. 16, 2017, I was fortunate enough to be invited to play the Nintendo Switch in New York City. Considering the hardware’s release date of March 3, getting the opportunity to play the system early was a delightful treat. Having been invited with a friend of mine to play the console for three hours, I was able to play a multitude of games in various scenarios. This passage is a quick overview of the hardware itself and includes hands-on impressions of the games we played.
The Nintendo Switch
Acting as the successor for the Wii U, the Nintendo Switch is the next line of Nintendo consoles. Instead of being a traditional home console, the Switch acts as a hybrid system, featuring a tablet that rests in a dock that also acts as a port to a television. Removing the tablet from the dock is effortless and the image that transfers from the television to the tablet is virtually instantaneous. Putting the tablet back into the dock to resume television mode is a slightly slower process, as the image takes slightly longer to project onto the television. However, the entire process was as fast and satisfying as their marketing would suggest. The quality that shined the most using the hardware was the vast amount of agency that players would have over their control options, which is unsurprising considering their past few consoles. The Switch’s Joy-Con controllers act as detachable parts of a gaming tablet that workt as mini Wii Remotes with motion control, and their flexibility is astounding. From being used on the tablet itself, attached to a grip to form a traditional controller, using both a “Wii Remote and nunchuck "style,” or using a single one independently, the options right out of the box are wonderful. For every game played, the proper controller configuration will be noted.
Release date: Spring 2017
The first game we played was Arms, which was also the game we were most excited to try out. Unlike every other game on the list, Arms’ appeal was the most un-intuitive, which convinced us to try to play it first. Being given two Joy-Con controllers each, we were asked to box with cartoon characters that had disproportionately large arms. After going through a brief tutorial and selecting our characters, we fought in a manner reminiscent of Wii Sports Boxing, which I enjoyed in the past. What stood out about Arms was its focus on its unique characters and emphasis on character customization, which led to interesting combinations and scenarios. The motion controls felt natural and the two environments that we played in fostered a sense of spatial awareness that Wii Sports Boxing lacked. The main problems I had with my time playing Arms were that both the gameplay and visual design were unremarkable and I felt like I had enough from my sessions with it. Also there were no uppercuts, which was frankly a deal-breaker.
Release date: Summer 2017
After not being particularly enthused by the original Splatoon, spending time with its sequel did little to entice me to play more. Its initial utilitarian and clever concept of paintball that fosters fluid movement options remains unchanged. The core gameplay felt identical to the point where its lack of innovation in its gameloop frustrated me. However, playing it on an undocked Switch in handheld mode was a fascinating experience, especially considering that the control scheme had to be changed to incorporate a wildly different control scheme. While its map function felt slightly worse to control, it felt as natural as the original. Finally, the new ground pound special for the paint roller was definitely pretty cool. While I didn’t end up using the new dual wielding pistol, my friend did and he enjoyed it but found the lack of aiming individual reticles in the demo off-putting.
Just Dance 2017
Release date: March 3, 2017
My friend and I were roped into playing Just Dance by a rep and I had a great time dancing along to “Lean On” by Major Lazer with a single Joy-Con in hand. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the motion controls weren’t as fluid and well implemented as Harmonix’s excellent Dance Central franchise.
Release date: Spring 2017
After waiting in line to play the latest 2D Sonic the Hedgehog game, I was disappointed to find out that there was not a single iota of the game which I found remotely positive. Sonic Mania had the worst control scheme of the night, being the only game that made me conscious of how small and unpleasant a single Joy-Con could be. The gameplay was infuriating and the multiplayer experience was horrifically imbalanced with the level design. To put it frankly, the game was unpleasant to its very core and by far the worst experience of the night.
Puyo Puyo Tetris
Release date: Spring 2017
Puyo Puyo Tetris was by far the best game of the evening. The game boasted excellent puzzle game modes that fuse traditional Tetris with the eccentric Puyo Puyo type gameplay in ways that foster strategy made for a compelling experience. The standout gameplay mode had players scrambling strategically between the two styles in a stamina battle that was ingenious. Having a smaller puzzle game be so exciting to play was a breath of fresh air, and I highly recommend trying it out.
Release date: March 3rd, 2017
1-2-Switch is the Switch’s flagship mini-game collection that releases on launch date that makes full use of the motion controls that are built into the Joy-Cons. Every game is designed to encourage face to face interactions instead of looking at the screen, and all three games we played fostered that sentiment. We played Quick Draw (a quick but insubstantial “Wild West” shooting game), Milk (a poorly designed, if hysterical work of ironic art where you milk cows aimed at the other player) and Ball Count (which ingeniously uses the rumble feature to act as a guessing game for nonexistent ball counting). The games were fast paced, but lacked any ambition to want to ever try them again.
Release date: March 2017
Snipperclips was an adorable, if brutally challenging, co-op puzzle game that demanded perfect communication between players. Playing the Switch in its tabletop mode with a Joy-Con each, each player was instructed to control a shape that could cut the other player in order to solve cooperative puzzles. The game is extraordinarily charming, but its difficulty is so subtle that neither of us could solve the puzzles we were confronted with.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Release date: April 28, 2017
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is simply more Mario Kart 8 with a Battle Mode that matches the older modes of the same name. Playing it in portable mode and split-screen with a single Joy-Con in tabletop mode was a fascinating, if familiar experience.
Having the opportunity to play the Nintendo Switch early was a wonderful opportunity that personally showed off the capability of the device. Its ambition and flexibility is astounding and as a piece of new technology, it was electrifying. I look forward to many years of memories of the Nintendo Switch and hopefully many wonderful games to come.
The Nintendo Switch releases on March 3, 2017.