It's nearly two weeks since Nintendo hosted its Switch Presentation in Japan, and lots of opinions and details have been shared since. We also had teams go to both the London and New York press / public events after the broadcast, and we wrote up quite a few articles about the system and games as a result (linked further down). Now, having allowed a bit of time to pass, some of us have put together some broad thoughts with our impressions of the Switch, and what stood out through the various demos and showcases.
You can see these impressions below, in addition to links to all of our other hands-on impressions articles.
My colleagues below share more viewpoints on the system in terms of how it feels, standout games and so on, so I'll take a slightly different tack - how well I think the system will be received by varied kinds of gamers.
I've written previously about a few concerns, particularly at the steep asking price of the system, games and accessories at launch. Quite how permanent those prices will be is uncertain, as we've seen in the past (notably with 3DS) that a change in direction can come if the market doesn't respond well. That said, it's not impossible that the system will perform strongly at its existing prices; indeed some analysts seem relatively optimistic. I just hope the system sells well, as it could then have a snowball effect - good sales bring more support from third-parties of various types, and also give Nintendo confidence to go all-in with its own projects. Right now I have my fingers crossed.
All of that aside, I was relieved when I got to play around with the Switch in its various configurations. The 'HD Rumble' in the Joy-Cons is fantastic, and those little controllers feel surprisingly good; I suspect the big N put plenty of R & D resources into them. They look so small in concept videos, but in the hand they feel absolutely fine, it's almost like a trick of the eyes. Also importantly, the console itself is a higher build quality than we typically get from Nintendo. The big N's systems are mostly robust and reliable, but also typically feel like kids' toys. I'm a big defender of the Wii U and the GamePad, wishing the latter had been utilised more, but I've always rolled my eyes at the design of the chunky controller. Maybe it's because I'm getting on a bit (by modern standards), but I prefer controllers that don't look like a Fisher Price 'My First Tablet' toy. The Switch console / tablet, in that sense, is quite a change in approach.
It feels and looks rather slick, light and thin enough to justify its portable role, and with enough quality material and stylish design to be played without any self-consciousness on a train. That may sound petty, and it probably is, but the image and visual impact of a gadget does matter, and I think Nintendo now realises this. It still looks like a Nintendo system, with hints of a playful aesthetic, but it also looks like a modern piece of technology.
Beyond that, the broader console does seem to be well designed all around. The 'Switch' mechanic from TV to portable and back again is as neat as advertised, while the screen belies its 720p resolution limitation with a crisp image. I also love the Pro Controller - I felt the Wii U Pro Controller was a contender for most comfortable pad in this current generation, and the new one (despite shifting its right stick down) feels as good. Quality-wise it stands up, and the motion controls in something like Splatoon 2 are very impressive.
Having played various games in different configurations (TV, portable, tabletop) and with multiple controllers, I left the event feeling good about the system Nintendo is delivering. If the company can get it into the public's hands, particularly with solid sales momentum in the first few months, I think positive word of mouth could go a long way. It's classic Nintendo - innovative, fun and charming - but with a slightly more serious edge to its design, recognising that gamers above a certain age want slick technology, and younger gamers typically look to those older players to see what's 'cool'. Unlike the Wii U, it's a system that has a chance to impress on a superficial level, with plenty of tricks and features to then make its case through games and unique experiences.
After getting hands-on time with the Nintendo Switch any fears that it would be similar to the Wii U GamePad were quickly dismissed. While they both share a 6.2" screen, the 720p screen on the Switch looks extremely vibrant and the colours really pop. The device with Joy-Cons attached is weighted perfectly and its slim profile is very comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.
When detached the Joy-Cons are a joy to use (and that's not a con) — they feel very natural to hold and are so light you almost forget about them when playing motion controlled games. What impressed me most was the intricate nature of the HD Rumble feature; you really need to try it for yourself to get a feeling for how effectively it can - for example - give you the impression of rolling marbles around in a box resting on the palm of your hand. It's magical.
Without repeating everything that was recently revealed about the Switch, I'll just say I have no qualms with the hardware whatsoever. It's got a very premium feel about it and almost feels Apple-like in a sense. I have some slight concerns that the home console aspect of the Switch is being emphasised above its portable nature, the lack of a killer pack-in title and of course the higher-than-expected price — but these are all things which Nintendo can fix along the way. Fundamentally the hardware on offer here is really solid and shines with games such as Zelda BotW, Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe among others. I don't think anyone who buys a Nintendo Switch at launch will feel too disappointed with their purchase.
I've never loved the Wii U. I loved the Wii and I love the 3DS, but the Wii U never gave me the exciting, Nintendo-magical flutter of its brothers and sisters. Maybe it's because there weren't enough games released for it; maybe it's that Nintendo never quite optimized the software; maybe it's because the GamePad rattles and feels like a Fisher Price toy. I've put up with the inherently less compelling Wii U for years because I love Nintendo.
After some time with the Switch, I think a new love affair is about to be born.
Gone is the bulky, glossy GamePad; in its place is a slick, matte tablet that will look right at home with the other items in my entertainment centre. From what I can tell, the Wii U's long, slow loading appears to be fixed in the Switch. And most importantly, it's got a year of game releases planned out. I know that there's not much there in terms of quantity, but between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and ARMS, I'm set for the next several months. And with a massive new Mario game on track for the holidays, that Nintendo magic feels like it's coming back.
Obviously, it's too soon to tell if things will turn out better for the Switch than they did the Wii U. But from what I've seen and played, it's a safe bet that I'm going to have a lot more to look forward to than these past years. I'm ready to Switch - are you?
I was unreasonably hyped going into the Switch event, but after having spent some quality time with the console, I feel like it met my admittedly lofty expectations. Sure, the launch lineup could be stronger, and I'd love to have seen 1-2 Switch as a pack-in or Mario Kart 8 Deluxe available on day one, but what I saw impressed me greatly.
It's really hard to understate how incredible it is to see a game as beautiful as Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart, or even Splatoon, running on a device you're holding in your hands. On a TV it's still plenty gorgeous, but the awe didn't really kick in for me until I undocked the console and realized this relatively svelte gadget was powering games that look better than those on my comparatively huge Wii U.
One of the things that most impressed me, though, was just how realistic Nintendo's gimmicky-sounding HD Rumble works. When I had a chance to play 1-2 Switch, I tried a demo in which you had to guess how many marbles were rolling around inside a Joy-Con; it was such an impressive demo that everyone in the room passed the controller around to feel it. That moment made me realize that Nintendo may be onto something here, beyond just the initial concept of taking console games with you on the go, that is.
I'm really looking forward to my first year with the Switch. I think Nintendo is wisely spacing out releases and information to keep us talking about the console throughout the year. I'm worried about third-party support, which doesn't quite look strong enough yet, but I'm hoping it will fill out as more people buy the machine. For now, I'm counting down the days until I can play Zelda. Now if only I could successfully preorder a Pro Controller!
Narelle Ho Sang
I've never been much of a couch or multiplayer sort of person. Where others have had fond childhood Nintendo memories, those days passed me by. I didn't own a dedicated Nintendo console growing up but from my hands-on with the Nintendo Switch, I can already tell I'll be changing the way I think about and play games.
The first game I'll play on the Switch will be Breath of the Wild. I suspect I'll use the console primarily as my new portable. Having JRPGs on the go is something I've come to love thanks to the 3DS and Sony's PS Vita. What surprised me most from my time with the system, however, is how much fun Snipperclips was. The experience of co-op play in that game was delightful. The game is clever and very creative, and when I played it on the Switch the setup showcased the screen with its kickstand. With Joy-Cons in hand and a friend to play with it, it was simple and surprising at how easy it felt to just dive into the experience. I could see myself with family members and friends for a relaxed game night.
This was a completely different experience from what 1-2-Switch delivered, which really feels like a party game. Competitive play of that title was fun too but, for me, not nearly as entertaining as how personal the co-op felt in Snipperclips. The Switch offers a range on how to experience games, and while its portability may be the one feature I use most, I'm really excited to share experiences with friends and family one-on-one, as well.
Further Switch Impressions and Features
- The Big Nintendo Switch Presentation Summary
- A Breakdown of Confirmed Nintendo Switch Games and Release Dates
- First Impressions: We Take a Look at Eleven Nintendo Switch Games
- Hands On: Putting the Nintendo Switch Hardware Through Its Paces
- Talking Point: Considering the Paid Online Service for Nintendo Switch
- Ten Intriguing Third-Party Switch Games for Your Wishlist
- Nintendo Switch Parental Controls Beat Console Rivals to the Punch
- Talking Point: Important Features Yet to be Revealed for the Nintendo Switch
Let us know your current thoughts on the Nintendo Switch - are you optimistic and excited about the new system, or concerned and pessimistic? Sound off, as always, in the comments.