Early Impressions Of My Very Own Nintendo Switch

Early Impressions Of My Very Own Nintendo Switch

I carry the thing around in a big wool sock and finally had the nerve to play it on the beleaguered C train this morning, fearful someone would try to snatch it.

This is Nintendo’s new console, the Switch, and I’ve had it since Tuesday evening. Not much time, really, so what can I say?

I can say that it’s small. Small enough to fit into a large wool sock that now serves as the console’s carrying case and screen protector.

The Switch is the tiniest console I’ve had, skinnier than a Wii, the previous lightweight leader. But this tiny console enables me to play the most advanced-looking Zelda game ever made on the C train and also as I lay on my bed while my newborns are asleep in another room (I play with headphones, and we’ve got a night nurse, so no child neglect there).

It’s a marvel, this little machine, though I already feel ridiculous tossing it and my 3DS in my bag. Nintendo swears the Switch isn’t going to replace the 3DS. I’m sceptical. I can’t justify hauling around two Nintendo portables, even if I’m someone who wants to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright. I’m a madman and an outlier, I know.

I’ve barely hooked the Switch up to the TV, but doing so is the system’s best magic trick so far. It impressed my wife and maybe the night nurse when I showed them. The babies were less enamoured, but they’re not even eight weeks old.

The transfer show went over better in the office, where experienced Kotaku editors could properly assess that, yes indeed, that is damn impressive that you can pull the Switch from its TV holder and immediately have the game running on the screen that is now in your hands. The signal transfer is faster when you go from TV to portable mode, as you’ll see.

You can detach the handles-the Joy-Con controllers — on a Switch to use them as handheld controllers. You can clip them onto a grip so that they feel, bolted to the grip, like a single traditional game controller. I’ve not done these things much, though, because I’ve been playing in what they call handheld mode.

My colleagues Jason and Kirk have used the controllers detached and they report a problem: the left Joy-Con sometimes fails to perfectly track their movements in the Zelda game. It seems to lose sync. We’ve asked Nintendo what’s up. Maybe they can fix it in a patch. Maybe Jason and Kirk got bum units. Maybe, I helpfully suggested the other day, having reliable left Joy-Con syncing is available as part of Zelda‘s season pass.

I’ve now mentioned playing the Switch on a subway, in my bedroom and in an office, which is the big point about this thing: console-style gaming anywhere. Well, make that Nintendo-made console-style gaming anywhere, or even more specifically at the moment, make that This-One-Zelda-Game-Style-Gaming anywhere, because Nintendo hasn’t even sent 1 2 Switch over yet. Just Zelda.

Without 1 2 Switch, there’s a lot I can’t test yet. Can’t test the rumble in the controllers that well. Can’t hand one of the Joy-Cons to another person to use one Switch for two-player local multiplayer. Can’t try out the sensor in one of the Joy-Cons that can somehow distinguish the shape of things at which it is pointed. Can’t dust off my junior farmer skills from my youth and have a go at virtually milking a cow. Can’t play the “Baby/” mini-game that turns the Switch into a crying infant that you must place in a crib while contemplating featuring your own progeny in a comparison video.

Because it is a modern gaming product, the Nintendo Switch needs a day one update. Without it, I can’t get online, can’t get to the eshop, can’t even… well, this is weird:

According to the above screen, I can’t yet distribute software updates over local wireless to other users. Was anyone even expecting to be able to do this? I believe it tells us something about how much Nintendo expects Switch players to be meeting up with others to play games together, and it’s forward-thinking of them to anticipate that this hypothetical group of players might not all have the latest updates and might not be near a WiFi signal to snatch it. At least, I think that’s how this works. This is all an educated guess given that the feature isn’t live yet.

Back in 2012, shortly after getting a Wii U, I was invited to attend a dinner of top Nintendo of America executives. I’d tried the Wii U out at home, and while I enjoyed Nintendo Land and appreciated, among other things, its tease for an F-Zero game that was surely to come, I was shocked at how slowly the system booted and how sluggish the operating system was. I brought this up and got blank looks. Oh, they knew. I’m sure of it. Soon enough, Nintendo would be promising patches to speed things up, but it left me wondering: have the good people at Nintendo lost their way in terms of making home consoles if they can’t even get their new system to run smoothly?

I chose this Smash Bros. character as my user icon.

I chose this Smash Bros. character as my user icon.

It’s now early 2017 and the Switch boots quickly and changes menu screens with finger-tapping rapidity. That’s great. I’m encouraged, and they haven’t even patched the system. Could they make it even faster? Impossible!

But… because I am impossible to please, I look at the Switch and I’m wondering: where’s the fun in this operating system? Sony can get away with making the PlayStation feel like an appliance, but I expect something more playful from Nintendo. This is the company that packed a little face-shooting augmented reality game into the 3DS along with a small role-playing game that used Miis you collect from nearby 3DSes. The Wii U didn’t have any pack-in games but it had a plaza full of tiny Miis that run around and chatter as you browse the operating system. Both systems tracked the minutes and hours you played of a game. I’ve not seen anything like that here. The Switch feels more like an appliance, but maybe the day one patch will add some fun? I hope so, but am not betting on it. Most people probably didn’t play Face Raiders or Find Mii and the Wii U Mii plaza might be part of what slowed that console to a chug. Better off without, perhaps.

There’s not much more to share yet. I was only sent one game. That will freak people out, but launches are like that. This stuff barely comes together in time and then early adopters crawl from one gaming oasis to the next. For now, I’m awaiting the day one patch and playing more Zelda. And I’m waiting for someone on the C train to react. No one did this morning. Give them time. No one’s ever seen a game console like this before.

Tomorrow: I will provide preview impressions of every game I have for the Switch.


      • 9 at current count? Nintendo are making too many mistakes on this launch for me to be interested now. I am more likely to repurchase a New 3DS at this point.

        • I generally only play one game at a time so 9 would last quite a while 😛

          That said I’m still not locked in for grabbing a Switch on launch, the only thing swaying me in its favour is the Splatoon 2 testfire a month from now. Otherwise will be giving Zelda a bash on Wii U.

  • I was only sent one game
    Nintendo hasn’t even sent 1 2 Switch over yet. Just Zelda.
    Tomorrow: I will provide preview impressions of every game I have for the Switch.
    So..just Zelda then

  • Tell me, would the following be possible:

    A base unit could be set up at a retail store, and push out required updates when users bring in their units?

    Would that go some way to negating the need for day one firmware updates for game software?

    EDIT: I’d obviously be in the store in the first place to buy whatever game I am there for, I suppose I should mention that. The clerk can/should mention the update needed, I then pop the cart in then and there, and boom. Game updated to the latest version before I leave the store.

  • How does playing an open world style game as intricate as Zelda translate to a handheld?
    I have some serious concerns about that screensize and playing such a detailed game.
    Unless I’m booting it up to do some farming of mats for cooking in a few spare moments I can’t see the handheld option being anywhere near replicating the immersion of a large TV?
    Tell me I’m wrong Stephen please!

    • It’ll be fascinating to see how Nintendo goes at managing this.
      Traditionally, they’ve been the absolute masters of working out what does and doesn’t work on a handheld, I’m certain it’s what has made their handhelds more successful that the PSPs and their “console in your pocket” ambitions.

      BUT, now they’re making games for two markets…. And that makes this different straight away.

      Like you said it’s one thing to be doing mindless task while you’re on the train, but do you REALLY want to be playing a high-fidelity, high intensity game in a less-than-ideal environment?

      I can see myself happy to stroll around Hyrule field doing mindless side quests on the train, but I don’t think I’ll want to be fighting bosses- and Zelda isn’t exactly a fast moving game. I can’t imagine playing a shooter, racer more complex than Mario Kart, fighter ect in an environment like that.

      • Apparently we’ll get his impressions of Zelda tomorrow, but from what we know of the game so far doesn’t what you describe make this Zelda perfect for the Switch?
        Exactly as you said: do some mindless task (farming loot, etc) on the train and save the big boss fights for when you get home and play on the TV.

        I think we’ll mostly see experiences focused at either end of the portable/casual – TV/hardcore spectrum, but then there’ll be games like Zelda in between that can have both.

        • This is Nintendo we’re talking about. If you think you’ll be getting a smorgasbord of games covering both extremes id prepare to be disappointed.

          That said, the potential for well targeted games is definitely there. I can imagine something like a Diablo style RPG that could be played on the go could steal your life.

      • but do you REALLY want to be playing a high-fidelity, high intensity game in a less-than-ideal environment?

        Yes. Yes I do.
        I have three hours on a train a day.
        It’s pretty much the only gaming time I have currently.
        Playing a proper modern game in that time would be fantastic.

  • I chose this Smash Bros. character as my user icon.

    Thats a troll right? for s start it’s Samus, and she didn’t start in Smash Bros. do you know shes a girl?

  • I can’t justify hauling around two Nintendo portables

    In my backpack today I have two OG Vitas, an LCD Vita, a 2DS and a New 3DS XL.

    In short, you can justify anything if you try hard enough 🙂

  • According to the above screen, I can’t yet distribute software updates over local wireless to other users. Was anyone even expecting to be able to do this? Distributed updates weren’t ever an expectation but it does remind me that the DS had the ability to copy a game client to other machines so you only needed one copy of a game for multiplayer. It never took off though. Maybe they decided to resurrect it again seeing as they were throwing everything else from every other system into the mix.

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