Nintendo Switch Impressions

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Despite my affinity for attending various Cons and the inevitable hours of waiting to do, well, anything (this includes but is not limited to: getting food, going to the restroom, playing games, shopping, etc.), whenever I’m at a convention that ISN’T SDCC, I cannot stand waiting in line. However, at PAX South 2017 there was one thing I knew I’d wait for, and even though it took over an hour (a lifetime when you’re impatient, but in actuality not that bad of a wait when you’ve got the internet and your Bros with you) I finally got some hands on time with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch.

As a lifelong Legend of Zelda fan, I vehemently believe initial impressions of the title should be reserved for a separate post. Like most gamers, when Nintendo presented the Switch I raised my eyebrow doing my best impression of The Rock and the People’s Eyebrow I could muster. While everything sounded splendid in theory, by no means does that necessarily mean it would translate well in execution. While the allure of hands-on time with a new Zelda title was certainly immense, never before had I been more focused on the physical component of actually playing a game. My initial skepticism of the console-apart from the seamless switching between handheld and docked modes-was primarily concentrated on both the size of the console and the accompanying controllers. Both the large size of the tablet and seemingly-tiny controllers struck me as a recipe for discomfort waiting to happen.

My hands-on time with the Nintendo Switch began with the console in docked mode, and mere seconds after picking up the Joy-con controller combined with a grip I felt as if the controller was too small for my hands. The individual Joy-con controllers themselves felt too small, and although I wish I’d been able to play with one in each hand for the sake of this article, I can surmise they would’ve felt lost in my palm. For reference, I personally believe the Xbox One S wireless controller is the most comfortable gaming controller I’ve ever used. While I’ve no qualms with the PS4 controller (and nor do I believe I’ve exceptionally large hands), I personally prefer the ergonomic feel of the Xbox One controller. That being said, I didn’t feel as if I could get the Nintendo Switch Joy-con controller with a grip to sit comfortably in my hand-it was too easy to reach all of the buttons, if that makes sense. While this was hardly noticeable during my approximate 15 minute demo of Breath of the Wild, I could easily see this becoming annoying on longer play-throughs/Twitch streams.

That being said, Nintendo does offer a Switch Pro controller which more closely resembles a traditional Xbox One remote. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any hands on time with this particular peripheral, although all reports point to it being comfortable and efficient. However, this lauded piece of equipment is sold separately and costs a cool $70, so if you’re in the market for a more traditional controller, have big hands or simply find the Joy-con controller with grip mildly annoying (as I and the other three Bros in my part did), you’re going to be dropping a hefty chunk of change in order to pick up what appears to be a must-have item.  

While the standard Joy-con controllers left something to be desired, the graphics displayed on both the full-screen and the portable tablet of the Switch were positively stellar. The transition between docked and tablet is as seamless as was advertised-only a second or two as if switching between HDMI inputs. Additionally, there was no visible loss of framerate, nor did the appearance of the large, open world expanse my Link was exploring seem to be visibly impacted after switching to portable mode. Undoubtedly, the beautiful cel-shaded world of Breath of the Wild looks better on full-screen mode, however I’d attribute this solely to the fact it’s easier to take in the size and scope of it on a larger screen. The title looked positively marvelous on the Switch tablet screen, and I’d reckon it’s the best looking mobile gaming device screen I’ve ever seen.

One element I did not get to adequately test was the audio on the tablet. For the purposes of the demo, players were given headphones when playing the console docked, however we were only allowed to use the external speakers on mobile. Given the volume of the PAX South show floor, this made any audible sounds difficult to discern. I primarily use my 3DS whenever I’m on a plane, on a long car ride or on a bus-one of my only peeves with the console is I feel as if I can never get the game-sound to a comfortable level. I’m always playing with the noise-cancelling headphones I use every time I stream, yet it’s still difficult to hear-at least for me. I was hoping this issue (which admittedly, may only be impacting me) would be rectified with the Nintendo Switch.

As far as physically holding the Switch, the tablet itself did strike me as a little too big-as if I were holding and gaming on a small iPad (or a larger Game Gear-THROWBACK CONSOLE REFERENCE!), which I never do as I find it to be uncomfortable (and I can tell you right now, I play a ton of games on my iPhone 6s Plus). Unlike when gaming on a tablet, due to the need to hold the Joy-con controllers when gaming, the Switch cannot be set down on your lap or propped up in any way when playing. Admittedly, I found the Joy-con controllers to be much more comfortable when gaming in mobile form. Whereas they felt all-around too small when docked, given the large size of the Switch tablet, they felt incredibly comfortable while mobile.

Due to the large size of the tablet, I did feel as if I were craning my neck after only a few minutes-a sensation I’ve never experienced with my 3DS. I will add each of the other three members of my party reported a experiencing a similar discomfort. That being said, I’d imagine if I were sitting on a plane and not standing at the Nintendo booth, I’d be able to adjust into a much more comfortable position. Still, the large size of the tablet-while making for an absolutely gorgeous mobile gaming experience-did strike me as a bit large for a mobile gaming device. The Switch will have to be stored in a backpack/carrying case, due to both cost and size considerations. Your mileage may vary on how practical this is for a mobile-gaming console, however I personally have no apprehension with this caveat.

All in all, the Nintendo Switch was one of the most interesting physical gaming sessions I’ve experienced. The transition between docked and mobile gameplay was practically seamless, and the graphics on both methods were as crisp as one would expect of the cel-shaded look which has become a signature Nintendo aesthetic in recent years. I feel comfortable saying in my decidedly (non-) professional opinion, the Switch offers the most gorgeous mobile gaming experience in history.

While I found the standard Joy-con controller to be too small, I’d assume the Pro controller, will deliver a gaming experience of similar comfort those accustomed to the Xbox One controller would expect. Also, the Joy-con controllers were extremely comfortable on mobile, although I did experience discomfort in my neck when using the Switch in mobile while standing in the show floor. Needless to say, I’m excited for gamers to get their hands on the Switch, as I think it’s one of the most inventive consoles to ever hit the market. Until next time, Bros!

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