The Nintendo Switch: Australian Impressions

So we’ve had the Nintendo Switch around the office this week. We’ve had the chance to run around Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And we’ve had time to plug it in and out of the dock, play with the Joycons and mess around with the menu.

But has that changed anyone’s opinions on the Switch? I took it around the office to give everyone a test drive, and here’s what we thought.

Mark Serrels, Kotaku managing editor

When the Switch arrived in the office I was excited. I’m always excited for new consoles, but particularly new Nintendo consoles. It’s just the design, the feeling of turning them on for the first time — it’s all very unique and experiential.

The Switch is no exception. I got excited by how small the box was — not the console, the actual box it comes in.

It’s so strange, I’m used to console boxes being bigger.

It’s almost more like a handheld box, which really speaks to the function of this console — what it’s for and how we’ll use it. The Nintendo Switch itself, the screen and the controllers, is way smaller than I expected. This took a bit of getting used to, but now I like it. I worried it might be a little too clunky to take on public transport. I don’t have that worry any more.

I’m hyped about having premium Nintendo experiences on the move.

I’ll be buying a Switch day one. I’m looking forward to living with it, and having it be part of my daily routines. I have a feeling it’s going to transform a lot of my gaming habits for the better.

Alex Walker, Kotaku editor

There’s a huge difference between holding a Switch out of the box versus playing with one at a preview event, when it has a massive security latch bolted onto the back.

It’s a light piece of hardware. And it’s a small piece of hardware in the flesh. Until you have that in your hands after a few hours, lying in bed or on the couch, it doesn’t become entirely clear.

I don’t want to be playing Zelda on a big TV. I want to take it to the park while the sun goes down. I want it in the kitchen while a pot bubbles away on the stove. In the pub while I wait for a schnitty to come out.

With only Breath of the Wild to play before launch, it’s hard to say whether I prefer the Switch in tablet mode or on a big screen. Zelda certainly looks better on the tablet: shapes seem a little sharper, textures a little clearer. You still have all the standard issues to deal with – the odd texture popping in, occasional frame rate drops, low anti-aliasing – but it’s a prettier, more robust version of the game than what you’d get on the Wii U.

And let’s face it, it’s also a goddamn Zelda game. Which looks beautiful, by the way.

On a more practical level, the Switch OS is nice and snappy. The touchscreen feels responsive, although I would have preferred it if Nintendo shipped the switch with a protective film (the same way smartphones do). It’s a fingerprint magnet, and even after a day’s use the screen looks quite muddied. It’ll be interesting to see how it holds up over time. Screenshots capture real fast too; although it’d be nice if you could plug your Switch into the PC via USB-C and get them off the internal storage that way.

Having taken it out of the packaging, I’m also a little worried about build quality. There’s a quirk with the Joycons where they sound like they’ve latched in, but they’re actually not until you push them a fraction further. There’s also been queries raised over syncing issues with the Joycons, and the thumb sticks on both Joycons feel like they’ll wear out real fast.

I’m not fully comfortable with the way my right thumb hovers over the thumb stick and buttons on the right thumbstick. It’s weird having my thumb hover over, or be slightly touching, the stick while I’m trying to run or climb something in Zelda. And the kickstand seems fairly useless at this point – it doesn’t recline back near enough to be useful.

For now, I’m excited to be able to play Zelda in bed, Mario Kart on the train, and all the other indies along the way. But a real test of the Switch is yet to come: how effective the local multiplayer functionality is and how well the online infrastructure holds up. And let’s not talk about the Virtual Console stuff.

[referenced url=”” thumb=”” title=”Nintendo Switch Will Not Have Virtual Console At Launch” excerpt=”We all thought this might be coming, and now it’s official. The Virtual Console will not be live when the Switch launches next week, Nintendo said today.”]

Campbell Simpson, Gizmodo editor

I didn’t know what to expect when Alex handed me the Switch to try out. I’d really only seen front-on photos of it, or marketing shots. When I held it for the first time, I had these thoughts, in this order:

Huh, it’s wide. Huh, it’s thin. Huh, this screen is quite nice. The joysticks are weirdly placed. Why have the A and B buttons been switched? (To be fair, the A and B thing is just a hangover from not having played a Nintendo console since the Wii, having been seduced by the Xbox One S.)

It’s well put together, and the idea is very cool, but … in person, I still remain to be convinced of the utility of the Switch. I’m going to wait for some more games to be released before I consider committing hard-earned dollars to it. I don’t have a need for it personally, because I live on my PC or I’m actively travelling (driving) rather than passively (train or bus) or I’m at home in front of a console, so the extra value that the portable Switch has is lost on me a little.

Graphics and raw horsepower? More than enough; enough that it’s not a problem worth your attention. For a handheld, it’s gutsy. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the graphics in Breath of the Wild when I was playing the Switch as a handheld. When it was docked into the cradle — with the subsequent boost to processing power — it seemed to run a little smoother, although maybe that was the TV’s refresh rate at work.

Pulling the Switch out of its dock using the Joy-Cons? Very cool. Every other thing to do with the Joy-Cons? Not very cool. Clipping them into the Joy-Con grip was finicky, taking them off the Switch was finicky. Everything seems reasonably well built, but I’m confident someone will snap off that off-centre rear flip-out stand within a week of launch.

We’ve got a whole bunch of screenshots from the UI and Breath of the Wild to share, but the Switch needs a system update to support microSDXC cards (think 32GB and larger). And you can’t get the system update until tomorrow. We’ll keep you posted.

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