Nintendo Switch preview: Great console but needs BETTER games

SHOULD you buy a Nintendo Switch?

The upcoming games machine is due out in under two months, but will set you back £279.99.

Should you fork out? We’ve got the answers.

Nintendo Switch design: Does the handheld/console hybrid actually work?

Unlike more traditional consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch is more like a 3DS or even an iPad or tablet.

The main section of the Nintendo Switch is a tablet, with a 6.2-inch touchscreen outputting games at a slightly sub-par 720p HD. That size makes it slightly dinkier than an iPad Mini, but for a gaming machine having something that’s smaller than that, but bigger than Nintendo’s own 3DS XL feels right.

That’s especially true when you consider the Switch is bookended by two small gamepads known as the Joy-Con controllers.

These can either come in a matching grey hue, or a more colourful version where the right controller, or Joy-Con R, is neon red and the Joy-Con L is neon blue. That might sound a bit garish, but in reality the colours pop and are a great symbol of the playfulness of Nintendo’s new console.

In practice, the Nintendo Switch’s slightly odd proposition of the portability of a handheld but the power and abilities of a home console actually works remarkably well.

It’s a fantastically robust console, with even the little Joy-Con controllers enduring many a beating while playing some of the mini-games found in launch game, 1-2 Switch. But what’s more important, is that it’s versatile.

The Switch can actually be played three ways. There’s the classic tablet mode, with the controllers attached; a table mode that utilises the Switch’s built-in kickstand to allow you to play wherever you are with the controllers separated, especially for multiplayer; or there’s the docked TV mode.

Here’s the Nintendo Switch in the dock that projects the game onto your TV

The dock is the bit of kit that allows you to play your Nintendo Switch games on your TV, ramping up the graphics from 720p to full 1080p HD for that extra crispness on the bigger screen.

Even though you’re not looking at full HD resolutions on the tablet, you wouldn’t know. The graphics and visuals are a massive step up from both the 3Ds and the Wii U, especially when compared to the Wii U’s gamepad.

It’s incredibly easy and fast to switch between tablet mode and TV mode, with the dock automatically switching from one to the other as soon as the Switch is connected or removed. And no matter how wonkily you slide the Switch into the dock, it always centres itself and clicks happily into place.

The controllers are incredibly responsive too. The rumble feedback is nuanced and detailed, the buttons are all well spaced despite the small size of the Joy-Con pads and work well when one is passed to a mate for some immediate multiplayer sessions. It’s so refreshing to get two controllers straight out of the box.

However, when playing games that require you to hold the Joy-Con pads in a portrait position individually, for example with new title Arms, their slimness can become a bit of an issue, particularly for those with large hands.

The shoulder buttons and triggers are very close together and can become quite tricky to press without smooshing the other accidentally. Of course, this may well be to do with unfamiliarity to the pads, or our abnormally large hands.

Overall though, it’s easy to be quickly impressed by the Nintendo Switch’s innovative design.

Nintendo Switch games: What are the biggest and best titles?

But then you look at the games. It’s fair enough that Nintendo has an impressive console, but no-one is going to care if there’s nothing to play on it.

During the special Nintendo Switch presentation, the Japenese gaming giant revealed that there are over 80 games in the works for the console, including the incredibly exciting Splatoon 2.

Splatoon 2 is great on the Nintendo Switch, whichever way you play

However, on day one there are only four confirmed launch games, only two of which are brand new: Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2 Switch are both new, but they’re balanced with Skylanders Imaginators and Just Dance 2017, both of which are incredibly family-orientated and released last year.

That’s not to say that the new Zelda doesn’t look incredible on the Nintendo Switch, it does. It’s an incredible step up visually from the same gameplay slice we played on the Wii U.

But one game alone cannot sell a console.

The fact that Nintendo is making potential Switch customers wait until December for the brand new Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey is a potentially massive risk for the company.

Nintendo would have done better to get Super Mario and Zelda out on day one, with 1-2 Switch packaged in as some free fun – as it did with Nintendo Land for the Wii U.

After all, it’s a collection of great five-minute wonder mini-games that will get players playing cowboy quick draw, milking cows, cracking safes and more, but when you’re paying £40 for the collection, such activities will wear thin incredibly fast.

Thankfully, there are plenty of great Switch games on the horizon, but with such a thin spread for anyone pre-ordering Nintendo’s latest console, the company is in risk of switching potential customers off.

What we have played on the Nintendo Switch all work incredibly well too, which makes the launch line-up even more disappointing.

Fantasy fighting game, Arms, where you box using characters with extending arms via the Joy-Con controllers’ motion controls, is hilarious fun. The graphics are zany, controls easy to master yet tricky to perfect and there’s just enough frustration involved to keep you coming back for just one more round.

The Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition, with its new tracks and characters, translates incredibly well to the Switch’s tablet-style design. It’s even better when you connect multiple Switch consoles together for some multiplayer madness too.

Splatoon 2 was clearly designed specificially for the Switch, making the most of the brilliance of the original but feeling far from a port with some added features. It’s even more exciting and colourful than before (if that’s possible) and will really bring the online functionality of the Switch to life when it launches some time in the spring.

First impressions

Nintendo’s clearly got a winner on its hands with the Switch. It fixes the issues people had with the Wii U, from a lack of third party developer support from the likes of EA, Activision and Bethesda, and it’s a much easier console concept to get on board with.

The only risk the new console runs is having a games library that fills up far too slowly, not appealing to a wide enough market and missing out on collecting enough gamers to keep the company’s head above the financial waters.

Nintendo Switch release date: March 3, 2017

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