Nintendo Switch: Hands On Preview Of What’s Next For Nintendo

Photo by Daniel George
Photo by Daniel George /

As the Nintendo Switch rests in wait for its inevitable launch, I got to test out the console in a New York press event this past Friday. Here are my thoughts!

Nintendo is taking huge risks with their next console. As they have revealed during the Nintendo Switch Presentation in Japan, they are planning on taking the best parts of their last two consoles (Wii-style motion controls with the Joy-Con controllers, expanding on the Wii U tablet gameplay style) and mixing them together to create the ultimate home-and-go console.

While the jury will be out for a long time deliberating on whether that move is a great idea in the long run, Nintendo wants to turn people into believers. They invited App Trigger to a special preview event in New York City, where they gave us a hands-on opportunity to try out the Nintendo Switch for ourselves.

We had the chance to try out each of the various Nintendo Switch gameplay modes and controllers, in combination with various titles made available at the event. While we’re confident that Nintendo has created their most dynamic console yet, providing tons of creative options for developers, there are still some lingering doubts about when you should pick the console up.

Nintendo Switch Docked Red Blue Joy Con
Photo by Daniel George /

The Nintendo Switch, Docked

For those who won’t be spending the majority of their time gaming on a commute, the Nintendo Switch will fit their needs as a home console.

For the majority of titles, the Joy-Con Grip works as a standard, basic option for your controller needs that doesn’t feel like you’re sacrificing an optimum gameplay experience. Because the directional buttons on the Joy-Con L don’t run solidly like a traditional D-Pad, it may present issues for fighting game players on this scheme. It’s a bit more square than what Wii U Pro, DualShock 4, or Xbox One contoller users might be used to, but the concise button layout makes it work.

Importantly, the Joy-Con Grip feels lightweight, yet sturdy. With the basic controller setup, it’s clear that Nintendo wants to make the Nintendo Switch accessible to as many people as possible, including youngsters with smaller hands. Despite that focus, the controller adapts to its user just as easily if you have big hands, as your fingers will have enough coverage around its rounded contours.

Nintendo Switch titles tested with the Joy-Con Grip: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller amiibo
Nintendo /

The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller offers that reliable, long-lasting controller setup that multi-platform users will vie for. It has all your usual buttons in one familiar layout, similar to that of the Wii U Pro Controller. The only noticeable exceptions are that the device itself looks just a bit thinner than what Wii U users are used to.

If this Pro Controller lasts even half as long as the ~60-80 hour battery life of its Pro predecessor, Switch users are still likely in for the best, most traditional gameplay experience. The D-Pad will be the choice option for those games that need it most, including fighting games that may eventually make the platform. Those button presses are fairly responsive, sliding perfectly between rigid and slick.

Now that amiibo has evolved, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller has read/write NFC accessibility for use with amiibo figures to tap on the top. I saw some kids mess around with Skylanders: Imaginators, and the jump from amiibo into gameplay was fairly quick. I’m glad to see Nintendo stuck with this feature over another generation after so many hardware and accessory gimmicks that barely made it out of one generation.

Nintendo Switch titles tested with the Pro Controller: Ultimate Street Fighter II: The Final Challenges.

Nintendo Switch Tablet
Nintendo /

The Nintendo Switch, On The Go

Now for the most interesting aspect of the Nintendo Switch; its viability on the go. Detach the Joy-Con L + R from the base of the Grip and slide them into the sides of the Nintendo Switch; it’s as easy as that.

What I was shocked to find is just how quickly docked Nintendo Switch gameplay transitions from the television screen to the tablet. It took roughly a second to make that…Switch…over to the tablet mode, without an extra screen or menu to be seen. That shattered my expectations completely, solidifying the notion that Nintendo isn’t regarding this as a home console with portable benefits.

I became a believer in HD Rumble, hoping that developers take advantage of what Nintendo offers here.

I had the opportunity to try out 20 minutes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, half of which was on the tablet. While I was, admittedly, standing very close to the television screen in playing the docked version, the Nintendo Switch tablet version stayed visually crisp on its 720p screen. Furthermore, I could not perceive any notable difference in gameplay optimization regarding framerate, making for an equally enjoyable time playing the console on the go.

There are some downsides to the portable Nintendo Switch. I greatly appreciate the ability to play a Nintendo game on my commute with a screen resolution larger than 240p, something Nintendo has been unable to provide after decades of portable gaming. However, storage becomes a concern, as it won’t fit your pocket in the same way a Nintendo 3DS will. Its display screen is prone to dust, fingerprints, and damage in a way that a folded screen doesn’t.

Additionally, while I wasn’t able to play on one device for longer than 20 minutes, it’s clear that battery life will be an ongoing concern. 2.5-6 hours is too vague a window for proper planning, especially when you are nearing the end of a dungeon in an RPG and cannot save at that time.

Nintendo Switch titles tested with the console in portable mode: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildSplatoon 2.

Nintendo Switch 1-2-Switch Shootout
Nintendo /

The Joy-Con: For Home & Abroad

For use in the stationary dock, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con L + R setup seems to be the preferred use of the Joy-Con as controllers. I was going into the event fresh off the Nintendo Switch Presentation, where they touted the HD Rumble features by showing off “ice cube in a glass tech,” making me quite skeptical of its improvements over regular rumble.

Somehow, it took virtual balls hidden in a virtual block (represented by a Joy-Con controller) to understand just how exact, specific, and realistic this new rumble system can be.

Perfectly mixing the IR sensor with the HD Rumble, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controller mimics the movement of a ball in 3D space for a 1-2-Switch mini-game to an exactitude I could not comprehend. I was able to guess the correct number each round, to my absolute astonishment. It felt like you were actually holding a wooden box using rumble tech that you need to feel to believe. Instantly, I became a believer in HD Rumble, hoping that developers take advantage of what Nintendo offers here.

Your attention to the rumble’s precision becomes less focused than the punches flying towards you in ARMS, which also uses the Joy-Con on the docked Nintendo Switch. The IR sensors are critical to registering your movements, the realm of focus where precision is key. Flinging punches, blocking attacks, grabbing opponents, and curving your attacks are all performed with perfect fluidity, adding a layer of depth in mechanics that translates more physically than the controller version does.

Nintendo Switch Wheel
Nintendo /

Additionally, to my surprise, I got to try out Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on a Joy-Con Wheel, taking the Joy-Con L or R controllers and placing them in a wheel shell. This setup allows for smooth gyroscopic control mechanics, as well as an optional bit of familiarity for kart racers. It’s a great way for kids to play make believe alongside the action and doesn’t feel mandated in necessity.

Playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch playing with separate in portable kickstand mode, however, still feels a bit odd. The Joy-Con controllers are incredibly lighter and smaller than the Wiimote controllers of yesteryear, making it feel a little less sturdy in using the L and R separately from each other.

While kids may be right at home with playing the Nintendo Switch as an on-the-go tablet aided by Joy-Con controllers, even my medium-small adult hands are too big for the layout, which rotates depending on the title played. I do like how they include SL and SR buttons to reach almost full button availability even in use as one controller (instead of a pair), and they do work for motion games like the 1-2-Switch “Milk” minigame.

Nintendo Switch games tested using the Joy-Con L + R controllers: 1-2-Switch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS

Nintendo Switch New York Press Event
Photo by Daniel George /

Overall Nintendo Switch First Impressions

What’s clear as day is that the Nintendo Switch offers more opportunities than ever before. For developers, there are plenty of avenues you can take to develop games using the multiple control schemes. That may end up being a quality assurance nightmare for independent development teams, however, but that’s far beyond the level of worry at this stage.

For players, these controller options give you the freedom to play how you want to play. There are so many new gameplay experiences that are possible now because of the Nintendo Switch and its flexibility as a home console and portable hub of entertainment.

Based on the games I’ve played so far, however, I must issue a caution. As the Nintendo Switch brings us to the 9th console generation while Sony and Microsoft are still trying to hit the .5 level of the 8th generation, Nintendo has decidedly few options at launch.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an immensely interesting game with a huge scope, but Super Bomberman R and 1-2-Switch are not quite enough to carry a launch date. We’re looking at Snipperclips ($20 title), an I Am Setsuna port, Just Dance 2017, and Has Been Heroes as other games launching in March, competing against the giant releases of Persona 5 and Mass Effect: Andromeda, among others.

More app trigger: 50 Best Nintendo Games Right Now

The Nintendo Switch might have a strong Year 1. Hell, I know it likely will have a stronger Year 1 just by having a sandbox Mario game and Zelda game by March 2018. But so far, I’d recommend picking up this console only to those who need to have everything Nintendo as soon as possible. Otherwise, wait and see until you have the right amount of games that cater to your interests.

Third-party acceptance, a string of quality, varied first-party titles, and a patient fanbase are key to making the Nintendo Switch a success. Time will tell if this console will be the Wii U Plus or the Wii U 2.