We played the Nintendo Switch, and here are our hands-on impressions
by on January 18, 2017

Several of our staff members attended hands-on Nintendo Switch events this past weekend in London, Melbourne, and Tokyo. After trying out the Switch itself along with the various software titles on display, we shared our first impressions and opinions about Nintendo’s latest console.

Cameron Crowhurst

@CameronLeeCrow, News & Media Team – London Event

Nintendo Switch is a portable home-console, an oxymoron. Its high-concept design boasts beautiful, subtly ergonomic hardware that feels strangely soft. This year’s first-party titles are lacking in quantity, but not necessarily quality. The design and engineering behind this is incredible. Nintendo have carved out a new niche in the market that will be hard to ignore: a portable console with two detachable controllers for multiplayer on the same screen. This fact alone may just carry the Switch to success.

Breath of the Wild felt buttery smooth on both the Pro Controller and the Joy-Cons with the Switch undocked. Its controls are largely familiar with a few big changes. Having a dedicated button for the bow is a welcome addition. It’s comfortable and light, so coming from the beefy Wii U GamePad takes a bit of getting used to. I didn’t try the Grip, but, from what other people told me, it’s a lot more comfortable than expected. If that turns out to be true, considering the price of the Pro Controller, I’ll most likely stick with the Joy-Cons that come in the box.

Sw21Splatoon 2 can be played with a Pro Controller, with motion controls on both, unless you opt for the inferior analog controls. It felt very natural and the game in general feels a little more polished, which was unexpected considering the first game is extremely satisfying to play. I was really bad at ARMS and couldn’t get the hang of it – it felt sort of like Wii Boxing, but my Wii Sports boxing habits crept in and that didn’t seem to work in this game. It’s a lot more strategical; the rep described it as a back-and-forth game of fast-paced rock-paper-scissors.

1-2 Switch is a very simple collection of mini-games that asks you to look away from the screen. It’s about using all your senses to play whilst the screen takes the sidelines. My favorites are the ones, such as Quick Draw, that are about reactions whilst staring into the eyes of your opponent. Milk showed how this can be used to make it feel like you’re performing the in-game action. This’ll be a nice way to demonstrate the Switch to your buddies… oh but wait, it’s not bundled in with the Switch and will cost the full retail price of $50. Never mind. The price of low-tier games and hardware accessories is staggering; however they have pulled off quite a feat when you consider the mystical HD rumble and motion technology that lives inside.

Connor Cochrane

News Team – London Event

I’m excited about the Switch less for myself but more for its potential for Nintendo. It’s more than just a tablet screen with clip on buttons. When using the Grip it left my mind that the controller was a little Frankenstein device, and I just got lost in Breath of the Wild. However, playing Mario Kart 8 in the handheld configuration didn’t feel perfect. The right face buttons and triggers felt so little and bunched up together that my hand felt a bit unnatural. I got used to it, but I suspect that it wouldn’t be comfortable for me after long durations of play. Using a single Joy-Con, on the other hand, is actually a lot more comfortable than I expected, and is nicer to hold than a side-on Wiimote. I think they will get people playing games in a new way that isn’t contrived.

The Switch and its games are good, but Nintendo need to outdo themselves with the software in order to show that this isn’t another Wii U.

Even though I think Nintendo have the right hardware this time, they still really need to knock it out of the park with the games, especially with their early-adopter audience who bought their last console probably feeling quite burned right now. People who were never convinced by the Wii U could now get a Switch to catch up on definitive versions of the games they missed, but fans who buy every Nintendo console will be unimpressed with too many enhanced ports. Nintendo combining their home-console and handheld pillars means potentially double the games for a single system, and though Pokémon games usually take some time, having a mainline Pokémon game and a big 3D Mario platformer on one console would have been a powerful statement.

ARMS was really enjoyable and smashed my expectations, but it needs to convince people without them necessarily getting hands on. Beyond the core audience, there’s potential for the system to reclaim a mainstream audience like the Wii did. 1-2-Switch is fun, but it is more of a Wii Play than a Wii Sports. It’s a party app rather than a game that will sell systems. The Switch and its games are good, but they need to outdo themselves with the software in order to show that this isn’t another Wii U. I don’t want to see Nintendo fail, but they cannot afford to fail their fans this time, because fanboys and girls don’t always stay fans forever.

David Johnson

@themisssinglink, Features Editor – Melbourne Event

DSC_0317The Nintendo Switch is an intriguing device, and only time will tell if it’s going to be the success that Nintendo needs. The Switch is a remarkably capable device, and Nintendo isn’t lying when it says there’s a lot of good technology hiding within. Everything they showed off works to perfection: the video screen, the HD rumble, the IR camera, you name it. It’s a beautiful system, and I am looking forward to March 3! Of the four games I tried out, three of them I either loved or liked well enough. Thankfully, all of them are either coming out in March or spring, so that means there’ll be plenty to enjoy in the short term. Snipperclips is a day-one purchase for me, and ARMS is fun enough and might earn my money as well. There’s also this game called Breath of the Wild I might buy, but you probably haven’t heard of it. As far as 1-2-Switch goes, by and large I don’t see the point. At US$50, it tries to punch in the same weight class as Wii Sports or Nintendo Land but fails to really capture the magic, even if it does show off what those Joy-Cons can do.

Slightly unfortunately, the launch lineup beyond that is, well, admittedly dry. There are games coming, but I can’t help but feel like this is the third verse (same as the first) in the Wii U and 3DS song; the games are coming, but it’ll take time. I’m a little surprised and disappointed too; the last year saw a dearth of Wii U games, and everyone speculated that resources had been reallocated to the Switch. But it’s anyone’s guess when the fruits of those labors will actually come out. But in a more positive sense, Nintendo continues to be Nintendo in every sense; they remain the undeniably quirky and creative company that makes the gaming industry better just by existing.

Drew Sherratt

@sherratt00, Columnist – London Event

I’d been keen to get my hands on the Nintendo Switch and see if it could live up to the considerable hype being generated by the home/handheld hybrid. I was excited by the prospect but uncertain whether certain ideas would come off; following my experience at the Hammersmith Apollo, I have to say, I’m impressed with the hardware. The Joy-Cons handled well in the Grip to give the familiar feel of a traditional controller with the addition of some nicely tuned motion controls. I found myself a little confused by the asymmetrical button configuration at first. I was also concerned that the Joy-Cons would be too small to be used comfortably, and in truth I’m still leaning a little in that direction.

Sw12

To the games and firstly, the elephant in the room — yes, Breath of the Wild looks absolutely stunning. Whilst we’re only talking about a small portion of the game, first impressions leave you with the feeling that this is going to be the adventure game dreamed up by Shigeru Miyamoto all those years ago — expansive, dramatic and utterly engaging. I didn’t have my heart set on picking up a Switch on release, but, having sat down and walked Link out onto the Great Plateau on the Switch, I now just can’t see any other option.

The lineup on show was a little underwhelming, Zelda aside. Whilst I found ARMS thoroughly more fun than I expected, I’m skeptical at how far Nintendo can push a beat-em-up IP. There’s some real fun in the robo-boxing affair, but I wonder how long it will keep players interested. 1-2-Switch was disappointing, feeling more like a glorified expo exhibit than a game I’d pay for let alone pay full price for. The third-party games on offer look to be solid additions but not exactly titles that drag you out to buy the console. Splatoon 2 will be a huge draw to returning fans — the graphics are razor sharp, with colors that leap off the screen in both TV and handheld modes.

So, all in all, it’s a mixed bag; the console offers great potential but suffers with a launch lineup that drops off significantly beyond Breath of the Wild. That said, the new Zelda offering looks to be something truly special, and one not to be missed and one that has me itching for March 3rd.

Kaushal Odedra

@kaushalodedra, Columnist – London Event

My impressions of the brand new Nintendo Switch console were a little bit more hit and miss than my colleagues. The first game I played at the event was Breath of the Wild. The Breath of the Wild demo was the same one showed at E3, but this time running on the Nintendo Switch. I’ve analysed a lot of the E3 footage and noticed that it runs a lot better on the Switch. The framerates are considerably better, and there’s also a lot more effects and particles and less culling. I will say this though: If your monitor or television has a dynamic mode, then please turn it on. On the topic of displays, one of my issues with the Switch is the large bezel around the display, which is roughly 2 cm thick. The bezel could’ve been reduced to give us more real estate for that beautiful display.

I personally think that 1-2-Switch is just a tech demo and way too gimmicky for a game worth $50 (£40), but if you’re an aspiring farmer then I guess a cow-milking simulator might be just what you need. The HD Rumble didn’t feel that HD to me, and felt exactly the same as my old N64 Rumble Pak. The motion controls were accurate, however, and felt really precise, at least on 1-2-Switch. They did not feel good on Splatoon 2, where aiming was controlled by the motion controls and ended up with me getting slaughtered every five seconds as I fired aimlessly around. Thankfully, the motion controls can be turned off in the Splatoon 2 settings. ARMS was another title that got it right, and one that I really enjoyed. Like my colleagues, it reminded me of a more strategic Wii Sports’ Boxing, which I loved.

My impressions of the brand new Nintendo Switch console were a little bit more hit and miss than my colleagues.

Looking at the Nintendo Switch as a whole, it is an intriguing system. But it is a very confusing system at the same time. The whole idea pitched by Nintendo is that it is a system that you can play great games comfortably at home using a controller and then continue playing those same games while on the go. For me, the portability of the “console” is fairly cumbersome. It’s too big to fit in any of my pockets; it also has to compete against my phone for my attention. For various reasons, I won’t be one of the Nintendo fans that are going to buy the Switch on launch day. There’s just not enough games and experiences on it that warrant the purchase of the console. When several experiences that can be played with the console at home in the future happen, I’ll make the switch.

Phil Myth

@philmyth, News Team – London Event

At the London event, we walked down a corridor with all of Nintendo’s previous systems in glass boxes on top of pedestals (I had no idea Game & Watches were that small!) before entering the main room with the gameplay booths and the Switch, complete with various Joy-Con configurations and docks and whatnot, in a big glass case of its own. I was immediately struck with how small the Joy-Cons look and filled with fear that they were going to be really uncomfortable to play with. I needn’t have worried though; Nintendo have obviously gotten their hands on some sort of Tardis-like technology because although they look small, they feel really, really good. The “sad puppy” Grip, despite its bulky appearance in the promotional shots, was incredibly comfortable, too. So much so that I might even forgo a Pro Controller at launch given that the Grip comes packaged with the system. The Pro Controller itself also felt good, although everything did seem a little tightly packed when I first picked it up.

The system itself looks and feels great. Nintendo has a history of making toy-like consoles, but this definitely feels like a more grown-up bit of tech. The screen, though only 720p, is hugely impressive. Breath of the Wild looked absolutely stunning on it, and if anything Splatoon 2 looked even better. The colors really popped and everything ran silkily smooth. Clearly, for the size of it, 720p is more than enough.

All the games I tried were great. ARMS has a lot more depth, given the variety in the fighters, than first appears. Super Bomberman R was tons of fun and will be a day-one pick-up alongside Zelda given it’s 50-stage campaign and 8-player online. Splatoon 2 picks up brilliantly where the first one left off, and the visual upgrade in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is nice; that second item slot is a godsend for those of us that are constantly bombarded with shells at the front of the pack. Ultra Street Fighter II looks great in HD mode and plays as well as it always has, though I do hope we get a Joy-Con with a proper D-Pad as 2D fighters are a nightmare with an analog stick. 1-2-Switch was fun, and it will be great with some friends and a few beverages but it definitely should’ve been a pack-in. I can’t see it shifting many units at full price. We only got 15 minutes with Breath of the Wild, but it was enough to have me grinning like the Happy Mask Salesman the entire time. It looks absolutely gorgeous on the Switch and I can’t wait to get properly stuck in. I’ve had it pre-ordered since the October trailer, and having gone hands on, I’m even more excited. Roll on March 3.

Reece Heather

@ReeceH92, News Editor – London event

Upon holding the Nintendo Switch controller for the first time, my first thought was, “Huh, this is a bit small, isn’t it?” That may not sound like the most positive first impression, but then it hit me; it’s just that all of the unnecessary bulk of the GamePad has been carefully cut away, leaving us with a very sleek, stylish piece of kit. The Switch feels expensive, like you’re gripping onto a top-tier product.

At this point, as someone who has invested countless hours into Breath of the Wild coverage for Zelda Universe, I have seen Link wake up from his slumber more times than I care to count. Despite how much of this demo you may have watched, however, nothing can quite prepare you for seeing Breath of the Wild running on the screen in front of you. It’s nothing short of beautiful, and for years to come I can see Switch players looking back on playing Zelda on the console for the first time as one of their fondest memories for the system. While I’m disappointed that the launch lineup for the Nintendo Switch is smaller than I would like, Breath of the Wild’s expansive world should keep me busy until more software for the system drops.

20170114_140553

The Switch feels expensive, like you’re gripping onto a top-tier product.

I had a blast playing 1-2-Switch, the insane WarioWare-style mini-game collection in the Switch’s launch line-up. It’s certainly the most I laughed during the presentation, and I can see it being the perfect way to introduce friends and family members to your new console. It’s a huge shame that this won’t be a free pack-in companion though a la Wii Sports and Nintendo Land, and the steep asking price may unfortunately (yet understandably) put people off. Still, milking cows, catching katanas, and cracking safes was a quirky highlight of the event and an impressive demonstration of the Joy-Con’s HD rumble abilities.

Has-Been Heroes was a very complex but intriguing strategy game, testing my decision-making skills carefully as I rampaged through hordes of enemies. After many new and unique experiences, Splatoon 2 welcomed me home with its competitive ink-splatting gameplay as frantic as ever, possibly more so. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers might have you rolling your eyes, but I promise the game is worth a look based on the visuals alone. I’m surprised to say I’m quite tempted to drop money for the fighting classic once again. You win, Capcom.

Shona Johnson

@ShonaAdventures, Special Projects and Operations – Tokyo Event

After trying out the Nintendo Switch, I don’t regret putting in a pre-order for day one. It’s a solid piece of hardware with a ton of capabilities. I was worried that the Joy-Con controllers would feel a little flimsy, however they actually seem really sturdy and well made. Being able to use them in either the Joy-Con grip, on the Switch console itself, or on their own felt incredibly natural. As a frequent traveler, and someone who commutes to and from work, the portable aspect is going to be amazing. The fact that you can use the stand in addition to using it as a handheld device gives extra flexibility that I appreciate. Switching between modes is easy and seamless.

It’s a shame that the launch title lineup isn’t super strong, but Breath of the Wild alone is going to consume many, many hours of my life when it comes out. It is glorious in TV mode on the Switch. I think that 1-2-Switch has the potential to be a good party game, but it should be bundled with the console itself à la Wii Sports and Nintendo Land. I understand that the games on display this weekend were there to show off the capability of the hardware, but I can’t see some of them having long-term appeal (Milk is pretty weird!). Still, there are enough games that I’m excited about, including Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and Snipperclips, that have me feeling confident that I’m going to have a lot of fun with the Switch this year.

IMG_20170114_113017

Shona Johnson
Shona is one of Zelda Universe's webmasters and has been running Zelda fan sites since 2001. She's an aspiring fantasy author, an avid reader and gamer, and loves bringing her favorite characters to life through cosplay.
  • Thomas Clauwaert

    It’s nice to see
    that you all agree that BotW is visually stunning on handled mode AND tv mode, THANK YOU, I’m sick of all people saying the game
    is ugly “because too much aliasing, not 60fps, PS4/One does better, blabla….” after playing 20mn in an event where they are glued on the screen (which is obviously a too short distance to appreciate graphics…).

    • Reece Heather

      Absolutely, I think we’re all of the opinion here at ZU that when it comes to graphics, style always trumps technical horsepower. Tone and technique in your game’s art is much more important than how many frames you can cram into it. Thanks for reading!

  • Dan0709

    Price is more than fine to me, with all that tech it has, i’m surprised it isn’t more expensive honestly. So i’m thankfull about the price, yes. I just wish i could freaking pre-order it, lol

  • Sebastian Vix

    Nice to know you’re more objective than too many ninty fans out there. I really would love if the Switch had a 1080p resolution but well, you can’t always get what you want…

  • Andrew Defty

    All my questions have been answered. For that I thank you all.
    Now it is without a doubt, a Switch purchase for me.

    And touching on another post here:- It is a welcome thing that you all have un-biased opinions on the software. Your honesty has indeed prevailed, and as such the reviews have been put together in lay-mans terms, which is most welcomed!

    I have had doubts regarding this new (weird almost) console of Nintendo’s, but after watching the reveal footage and countless trailers and vids, I am now quite happy to pay the £280 (estimated price for the UK). Solid build, the amount of tech stuffed onto the Joy-Cons and the Tablet its self, BotW (looking fantastic on both TV and H-Held mode), Splatoon 2, and also Rime coming quite soon after…

    I may not buy or even play some launch games, but in time when the prices drop… I will pick them up… Have fun and hope that between BotW and Rime, there are many games which 3rd parties decide to reveal also. If not, then I guess the games I get will obviously last long enough until others are released.

    One question I do have though is just this:- There is a Pure White horse in BotW, so when you find it (as I plan to), What will you call it once you have tamed it?

    Me, I’m going for Shadowfax! Now let the hunt begin! 🙂