Gamechanger? Details on Nintendo Switch

Depending on your interests, you may or may not have heard of Nintendo Switch, the soon-to-be-released successor to the Wi U, which was released in 2012. Announced late 2017, more complete details were presented on the system just last week. An innovative little machine, the Switch brings a new form-factor to the home consoles, along with some very Nintendo oddities.

March 3rd, $469.95 AUD

mar3

Most importantly, the Switch is set to be released on March 3rd, 2017, and has been priced locally at $469.95 AUD (29980 JPY and $299.99 USD). It will be available in two bundles – one with grey Joy-Con controllers, and one with one blue and one red Joy-Con controller.

There has been some backlash to this pricing announcement, partially due to the large discrepancy between the USD/JPY pricing and the AUD, and partly because – at $470 – the Switch will be more expensive than both the entry-level PS4 (at $440) and the entry-level Xbox One (at $400), while at the same time being less powerful than both…

The argument regarding power is somewhat subjective (it doesn’t bother me for reasons I’ll clarify further down), but the pricing is definitely a concern – why should anyone fork out more for the Nintendo Switch when there are two perfectly good competitors (with existing large libraries of perfectly-good games) for less money overall? In fact, the prices I’ve listed above are for bundles that include at least 2 games – whereas the Switch is for the console on its own.

What is it?

switch

The console itself is a home/handheld hybrid. The actual machine takes the form factor of a small tablet – far more sleek and robust in terms of design as compared to the Wii U gamepad. On the two sides of the tablet are slim controllers which can be removed when the tablet is placed into the docking station to connect to a TV. As a result, Nintendo has explained that the system can be played in one of three modes:

TV mode

In this mode, the Switch is docked and connected to both power, and HDMI. As a result of added power and TV output, images are displayed at 1080p High Definition, and can be played on the two removable “Joy-Con” controllers or by use of the Switch Pro Controller. The Joy-Con controllers can also themselves be docked into the Joy-Con Grip, which allows players to utilise the two controllers in a similar fashion to the existing popular controller form factor.

Tabletop mode

In this mode, the tablet is undocked, and a kickstand on the rear of the machine is used to prop up the screen. Players can then use the Joy-Con controllers to play titles (either one in each hand  a la Wii U Remote and Nunchuk accessory), or in the Joy-Con Grip. Alternatively, two players can play using a single Joy-Con controller held horizontally (as the tiny controllers each have a number of features that make them essentially a fully featured controller). There is also a wrist-strap accessory that helps to increase the size of the Joy-Con controllers so that they fit the hand better.

Handheld mode

In this mode, the Joy-Con controllers are docked to the side of the tablet, and games can be played on the go, in a similar fashion to the PlayStation Vita.

All of this sounds absolutely wonderful in theory, and based on the demos available online (as well as several hands-on previews that can be tracked down), also seems to be very functional in practice, which is very promising. I for one would love a console that I can grab and take to my bedroom when the TV is in use, or on long trips, or whatever the case may be… Note, though, that when the tablet is removed from the docking station, the touchscreen on the device only displays at 720p (which shouldn’t be an issue for a small screen, but may be noticable when compared to other High-Def tablets).

Features

To be honest, the presentation was very light on features, and this was a big concern of mine. Missing was information regarding the fate of the Virtual Console. Missing was information as to how Nintendo will present its Internet Services (the old Friend Code system is outdated and impersonal, but was still used for recent games including the mobile title Miitomo). The online service WAS mentioned, but details were scarce – apparently, “smart devices” (here, I’m assuming smart phones and tablets) can connect to the online service to provide various services, including scheduling and voice chat… Which suggests voice chat is handled by a smart phone as opposed to the device itself, which is a strange decision if you ask me. Further, it was announced that the services (whatever they may be) will be free until “Spring 2017” (Fall 2017 in the Northern Hemisphere), after which the service will be paid only… with details on pricing to be discussed at a later date. It was later announced that the monthly service would include access to one NES or SNES game to be downloaded and played – for that month only (unless purchased). This seems like a crappy service, but the proof is in the pudding. We can only hope more details will be announced soon that make this all worthwhile (for al we know, the service may be really cheap, or be bursting with unannounced features).

With the “bad” news out of the way (although it’s only really bad if our fears are confirmed, and they may well be completely wrong), it was also announced that the system will be region free – a first for a Nintendo home console. This means you can buy a Switch from anywhere in the world, and games from anywhere in the world, and they’ll work, no need to worry about compatibility. This is FANTASTIC. No further comments.

Battery power will last from 2.5-6.5 hours (strangely specific), depending on the game being played. This seems fair, given the system can be charged via USB-C, and can be charged while playing. While it is limited, Nintendo is adamant that the primary use case for the system is in TV mode. I guess we’ll wait and see how it all unfolds.

There will be a capacitive touchscreen (which essentially means it will be similar to a modern smart phone), as well as wifi built in to the tablet (naturally). The wireless technology will also allow for local multiplayer in that Switch devices can be connected directly to each other. This means the system will allow for local single-player, local splitscreen, online multiplayer, and local multiplayer, which is pretty awesome, but unless you have a bunch of rich friends, it may never be used.

What’s in the box?

switch-contents

The picture speaks for itself, but the box includes:

  • Dock
  • Switch console
  • Hdmi cable
  • AC Adapter
  • Joy-Con Grip
  • 1x Joy-Con L and 1x Joy-Con R
  • 2x Joy-Con wrist straps

The Joy-Con controllers

joy-con-anatomy
Each Joy-Con controller has the following:

  • an analogue stick – which can be pressed like a button
  • a built-in accelerometer
    SL and SR buttons on top
  • new form of rumble – called “HD rumble”
  • Joy-Con R – has the traditional Nintendo A B X Y buttons, plus a home button
    • NFC reader/writer
    • Infra-red sensor
  • Joy-Con L – up, down, left, and right buttons, which correspond to A B X Y
    • a square button, which is the capture button for screenshot capture (and video in the future)
  • each is a fully functioning controller, and can be used on their own to play almost any title
  • colour variations will be available
  • wrist straps (Joy-Con strap) make the controller and SL/SR buttons slightly bigger

A small concern I have is that the controllers don’t seem to have an audio jack (there is one on the tablet, though). This suggests to me that when playing in TV mode, it may be difficult to play using headphones.

Games

This is, I guess, the important bit. I’ve included an image below, which outlines the games that will be available in the first year of release (while there aren’t many, there are enough titles there for me to make a purchase within the first 3-6 months, but not on day one).

release

Apparently there are 80 games in development for the system, with titles including Fire Emblem Warriors, Dragon Quest X, Dragon Quest XI, Dragon Quest Heroes I & II (I’m not sure if both titles will be released in a single package, but that is how they were announced), a new Shin Megami Tensei, something from Sega’s Toshihiro Nagoshi (who makes the Yakuza games that I love so much), a new title from Suda51 (yawn) in the No More Heroes franchise, FIFA, and many more (I’ve included the sizzle reel at the very end of this article).

Below, I’ve listed what I feel are the most interesting forthcoming titles, along with their initial trailer.

1-2 Switch

Similar to the Warioware titles, this looks to include lots of minigames for 2 players, including a gunfighter shootout, and cow milking (not kidding). The main gimmick here is that 1-2 Switch is designed to be a 2-player game that can be played anywhere – without necessarily requiring a TV. This will release alongside the console on March 3rd. I might sit this one out.

Arms

Arms is a weird-looking boxing game with… go-go-gadget arms, for want of a better descirption. It’s played with joy-con controllers (one in each hand), and utilises motion controls for play (but I understand can also be played without motion controls). It looks kinda fun, and has it’s own style. There are several different characters, each with their own moveset. Arms can be played single-player, split-screen, local multiplayer via mutiple switches, and via online battles, so it’s likely to be quite competitive. Coming sometime in Autumn (Spring in the Northern Hemisphere). I’ll keep an eye on this title, but I’m not sure it’s worth my hard-earned cash just yet.

Splatoon 2

The sequel to the very popular Splatoon, released in 2015. It looks much the same as the original – but with new characters, new maps, and new weapons. This is not a bad thing, as the original was extremely popular (if it ain’t broke…) – it can still be played using motion controls, or on a standard controller (which would be my preference – I’m not a big fan of motion controls). Given the competitive nature of the title, Splatoon 2 can be played single-player, local multiplayer via mutiple switches, and via online battles. It is launching this Winter (Summer in the Northern Hemisphere). I wasn’t a huge fan of the original, so my decision to buy this will be entirely based on how much I like the Switch itself, and how many of my friends purchase the game.

Super Mario Odyssey

Wow – Mario in the city??? Say. No. More. This is a new 3D Mario title, in the same vein as Super Mario 64, and god I want it right now. Mario’s cap is considered a character itself, and can be used in different ways to navigate levels. Here, Mario takes a “journey to an unknown world” – similar to real-world setting, and it just looks amazing. Expected this Xmas sometime. Bring it.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

If you’ve played Mario Kart 8, you’d know it’s one of the best in the series. This Deluxe version will be coming with some new characters, and an improved Battle Mode, along with all the DLC of the original. With a release date of April 28, it’s likely I’ll be getting a Switch in April or May.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Launching on release day, March 3, this looks pretty amazeballs. There’s not much more I need to say apart from the fact that this is a system seller on its own.

Super Bomberman R

Huge fan of the Bomberman series here – and while this looks a little too much like the (not great) Bomberman Live title (released in 2010 on Xbox Live Arcade), it also looks much closer to the original. Launching alongside the Switch on March 3rd, this is unexpectedly a must-have for me.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers

It’s the 30th Anniversary for the Street Fighter series, so what better way to celebrate than to release a new version of Street Fighter II? This new title includes two new characters (Evil Ryu and Violent Ken), as well as a couple of new modes (a co-operative 2-on-1 mode, and a simplified one-hit knockout mode, whatever that means (well, the meaning is probably pretty clear, but… one hit? Will that be any fun?). The game is expected to release sometime this year, and I’m sure I’ll buy it like the fighting game chump that I am.

Sonic Mania

I was a Sega kid, so I’ve been looking forward to Sonic Mania for some time. Rather than trying to reinvent Sonic, Sonic Mania has gone back to its roots – in fact, some of the original zones have been lovingly recreated, and it looks just like the Sonic I remember. Expected some time in 2017, I’m thinking the Switch would be the best place for me to be playing Sonic Mania.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

This is a JRPG sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, which was released on Wii U in 2011. It looks great (graphics look similar to the original, which isn’t an issue) – huge environments, huge monsters, high fantasy setting.

… and the rest!

There are plenty of other titles in the pipeline – while this video shows a lot of what we’ve already gone over, there are snippets of Skyrim, Has Been Heroes, a Lego title, a Rayman title, Dragonball Z, Just Dance 2017, FIFA, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Minecraft, Redout, and Snipperclips, among others.

For me, the Switch looks like an absolutely brilliant concept, and I’m loking forward to learning more about it as time goes by. The system is arguably not as powerful as the PS4 or Xbox One, but it’s also something very different – neither the PS4 nor the Xbox One can be played on the go, for example – and the simple fact of its difference means that, to me at least, this discrepancy just doesn’t matter. I’m really keen to see what it can do. However, I’m concerned at the apparent limited functionality (I mean – can we use it to watch Netflix, for example, or browse the Internet?) – not to mention the limited games library – and I’d really like to hear more about the Virtual Console and what we can expect. Until then, I’m going to wait and hear what the early adopters have to say. Yep – this is the first console release I’m going to miss in a long, long time. The price is too high for me to justify purchase without a lot more information, unfortunately.

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