Nintendo is giving the Canadian public a sneak peek at Nintendo Switch on Sunday, January 29th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Journalists were invited to see the Japanese game giant’s new console in advance of the public event, so I packed up my wife and daughter and drove down to see if the hybrid device was as enticing in person as it appeared to be at earlier events held in the U.S.
It’s delightfully small – just as portable as we might have hoped when removed from the charging base. And we played some truly fun games – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2, and Super Bomberman R, to name just a few – that, dare I say, could actually justify taking a risk on the surprisingly expensive hardware. (Canadians will be paying $400 for the console, and more for some pricey but desirable peripherals, including the Pro Controller, additional Joy-Cons, and the Joy-Con Charging Grip.)
Driving home to Kitchener late Friday night, my kid and I discussed what we liked and didn’t like about Switch. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: Let’s talk first impressions. I’ll go first. The Switch is tiny. Much smaller than I thought it would be. I love that for all sorts of reasons – portability, shelf space, style – except one: Controls. When you pop the Joy-Cons off and use them individually they feel almost miniscule. One of them could completely disappear inside a large man’s hand. And some of the buttons are pretty small and oddly located. Still surprisingly usable, just not ideal. Thoughts?
Daughter: I love that you can take Switch anywhere you go. I love playing games with real controller controls, not touch screen. So Switch would be my first choice – over iPad – for playing games in the car. And – I just thought of this – right now, if you want to play a game like Splatoon in the same room with a friend, you need have two TVs and two Wii Us. With Switch, you can have lots of friends playing together. You just need Wi-Fi to be able to play a game like Splatoon anywhere.
As for the size of the Joy-Cons, I liked it. They won’t get lost in my hands, because I have little hands. All kids have little hands. And Nintendo is mostly about kids, so most people playing won’t have any problems.
All I know is that I’m going to be buying one of the Nintendo Switch Pro controllers – which feel terrific, like a standard gamepad, with the thumbsticks located exactly where your thumbs naturally rest – on day one. Even though they’ll likely cost close to $100 in Canada. Even using the Joy-Cons with the Charging Grip peripheral (also sold separately, for about $40) didn’t feel quite right due to the slightly off thumbstick locations.
You’re just old. I’m a kid. We get used to things, and then they’re just normal. You’re an old dog. You can’t learn new tricks.
I don’t want to admit you might be right. If I do I might be out of a job. Anyway. What did you think of Switch’s screen when playing in portable mode?
The screen is way better than the 3DS screen. It’s not quite as good as a phone, but it’s close.
I thought it was very good, too. Bright, colourful, and very crisp. And big, like a large phablet. The back did seem to grow pretty warm when I was playing Zelda, though. Speaking of games, we tried around six or seven of them. Which were your favourite?
I loved Splatoon 2. The first Splatoon is one of my all-time favourite games. I love the idea of using ink instead of real guns and bullets. In this one they’ve added weapons – like the Splat Duellies, which let you shoot from two barrels, and come with a special ability that lets you fly in the air on an ink-powered jetpack – and new arenas. And new hairstyles, too. I’ve seen at least a hundred people playing Splatoon on Wii U say they wanted to be able to give their inklings different hairstyles.
And I really loved ARMS. It’s like a boxing match, but instead of having to go right next to the person to punch them you can be across the ring because their arms are like springs and they shoot out a really long way. And it’s like you’re really punching, because you have to punch the air while holding the Joy-Cons. If you punch with both arms you can grab the other guy – or girl, because they have girl fighters, too – and pull him in close for a serious beat down. I beat you both times. One round you didn’t even touch me. It made me happy in my heart.
Yeah, I’m not really a fan of fighters. And I enjoy motion controls only occasionally. I think you’ll be playing that one with your friends instead of me. I did like Splatoon 2, though. It felt like the original – which was great – just with a few new additions, like dodge-rolling. And it was prettier, too. Switch games definitely provide a subtle but noticeable step up in graphics over Wii U. It was most obvious to me while playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, my favourite of all the games we tried. We got to play through the first 20 minutes, and it looks to be exactly what I wanted and expected. Classic Zelda mechanics and concepts transferred to a vast, gorgeous open world. Like merging Zelda with Skyrim. Just saying that makes me want to weep tears of joy. What did you think of it?
What I really liked is that it’s an open world straight from the beginning. You can do anything you want. Follow the story, or just run around and explore. That means you can get used to how everything works before it gets too tough. But I doubt I’ll ever finish it. It’s too big. The guy told me while we were playing that the part of the map I was exploring was only two per cent of the world. That’s too much for me. But I know it’s exactly what you like.
Anything else you liked a lot?
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is fantastic. It’s basically the same game, but it looks better, has some new courses, new kart sets, and new characters – like inkling girls and boys. And I also noticed that sometimes you can go through stacked item boxes, which will give you two items to use instead of one.
Snipperclips is great, too. I love games where we get to cooperate, like Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. This is kind of like that, but without combat. We just had to work together to solve puzzles by cutting each other’s little paper characters into pieces that would make us the right shape to work with balls or pencils or buttons or balloons or whatever we needed to do.
Yeah, I’ll play Snipperclips all day long with you. Great cooperative action. And I’ll play Puyo Puyo Tetris with your mom. She was super annoyed that I beat her at the event. That’s her jam. But I think that game’s existence speaks to Nintendo’s intent to really cover all markets with Switch. Based on what we saw there’s going to be something for everyone, including serious and casual players, young and old, individuals and groups, cooperative and competitive. There’s even some unexpected stuff, like Has-Been Heroes, a complex lane-based fantasy strategy game that seemed right up my alley. And there are some big games in the pipeline, like Super Mario Odyssey, which was only shown in video presentation.
There really is going to be something for everyone. Even mom, who I’ve only played two video games with ever. She actually said that she would play Puyo Puyo Tetris with us. For me, that was the biggest shock of the whole night.
What we didn’t see much of – and I’ve heard little about elsewhere – is substantial third-party support. Lots of older games are being ported to Switch, but aside from a handful of Japanese titles that likely won’t have massive audiences in the West – like Xenoblade Chronicles X, from Monolith Soft – the Switch looks like it’s going to depend largely on stuff made by Nintendo and its closest partners. Do you see what I’m getting at?
I’m not dumb dad. Obviously it would be better if Nintendo could get more games for Switch. But, personally, I don’t really care. Because the games Nintendo makes are almost always my favourite. Give me Splatoon, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., and Pokemon and I’m a happy girl.
Fair enough. Bottom line for me is that I’m pretty excited by Switch. Zelda at launch alone is enough to guarantee that you probably won’t be able to find one of these things on store shelves in March if you don’t pre-order it now.
I know I want one. More for Splatoon 2 than Zelda, but I did like Zelda. Really, for all of the games we played tonight. I think I’m a Nintendo fangirl. That’s okay, right?