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Post PAX South 2017 Editorial: My thoughts on on the Nintendo Switch

 

So it has been about two weeks since the Nintendo Switch made its first major show/convention debut at PAX South 2017. Since then there has been tons of new information that has been released about the system, such as more details about its online infrastructure, LAN capabilities, the GPU in the system and much more. While I will talk more about all of that information as more comes out and the release date gets closer, right now I want to focus on my interaction with the Switch, the Joy Con and Pro Controller and my overall thoughts about the system.

First off the Switch is smaller than it looked from the various images and videos that were released. The system is made of of the Joy-Cons, the tablet unit, and the docking port. The docking port serves as a charging base for the tablet and a pass through to the TV when docked.

Nintendo Switch at PAX South 2017

 

One of the first games that I managed to try out was ARMS. This was the game that Nintendo heavily used to feature the new Joy-Cons and their functionalities. Holding them for the first time was a bit jarring as they too were pretty smaller than I expected, at least compared to my hands.

 

Joy-Cons at PAX South 2017

 

While there were small, they did fit snugly in my hands as soon as I started to play. After a while I had gotten used to holding them. As for the motion controls, the Joy-Cons are a huge step up from the Wii-motes as the motions were 1:1. As someone who is advocates for intuitive uses for motion controls, I can see many ways that developers can use the Joy-Cons to help enhance gameplay. However it must make sense within the games design and not shoehorned in. If the controls are forced in and do not make sense, there will be a backlash much like in the previous generations that tried to shoehorn in motion controls. But to be fair, if motion controls weren’t shoehorned in, then maybe we would have never gotten the Wii Classic Controller and the Wii U Pro Controller. And speaking of Pro Controllers, the Switch will also be getting a Pro Controller. I think this will be the preferred method of playing games regardless if in TV or Tabletop modes (more on Tabletop mode in a bit).

 

Switch Pro Controller at PAX South 2017

 

The Switch Pro Controller is about the size of an Xbox One S controller, but a bit smaller. It fits very comfortably in my hands and playing games such as Ultra Street Fighter II The Final Challengers was natural (though an arcade stick would have been better but that’s a different story). I say that this controller, which is wireless, will be the better option for playing games actually leads into the second mode that I was able to try out, tabletop mode.

 

Switch Tabletop mode at PAX South 2017

Portability and being able continue and take your game out with you is one of the main selling points of the Switch. It achieves this with two different modes: Tabletop and Handheld. In several trailers for the system, Tabletop mode is shown in various situations, from friends playing Mario Kart at a party to friends playing NBA 2K17 after playing a pick up game of basketball. These not only show how games can be taken out of the home and into the world, but they also show how most games can instantly become two player games when sharing the other Joy-Con. Now I understand that some people might not want to carry around the Joy-Con dock or the Pro Controller and just want to be able to jump right into a two player game with friends, but using the the Joy-Con on its side feels too cramped. I understand the concept, but I feel people are better off using either the Joy-Cons attached to the control dock or the Pro controller. Now as for the third mode and the second main selling point, Handheld mode, I have some mix feelings with it.

Switch Handheld mode at PAX South 2017

 

The Switch’s Handheld mode is probably the most practical way to play games while out and about if you plan on playing single player games or multiplayer if you didn’t bring a Pro Controller along and don’t want to use the Joy-Cons in each hand. The lay out of this mode is pretty simple: the Joy-Cons slide to each side of the Switch tablet and boom…..you’re ready to play on the go. As for comfort when playing in Handheld more, its about the same as playing on the Wii U tablet.

Switch Handheld mode in action at PAX South 2017

 

When the Joy-Cons are attached to the sides of the Switch tablet, its about the length of the the Wii U tablet. As I mentioned before, holding the Switch in Handheld mode feels pretty comfortable, much like the Wii U tablet. The only problem I do have with it is that the max battery life for the Switch will be between 3 to 6 hours, depending on the game, in both Tabletop and Handheld modes. Sure a power adapter will be provided so players can power/charge their system, but let’s be realistic: unless you have a portable power bank, where will you find access to a power outlet if people use the Switch the way Nintendo advertises in their trailers?

 

Overall and despite some of the previous hang ups I have with the system when it was first announced, the Switch is one of Nintendo’s most innovative consoles in all their years of developing consoles. The system has a very simple and elegant design. It bridges the gap between home and portable consoles with Tabletop and Handheld modes. They Joy-Cons, though  a bit on the small side, push motion control innovation and when paired with the right game are a “joy” to use. As I mentioned before, at the time when this article will go up there has been a ton of information about the Switch that has been revealed. And while I will discuss more about the new info in other articles, this one covers my experience with the system during PAX South 2017. After getting hands on time with the system, it change my perspective on it and made me into a believer. I’ll probably get one after launch, but that’s due to all retail stores selling out within a day or so. I am excited for Nintendo’s new venture with a new system and can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.

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