Search icon


13th Jan 2017

11 things we learned from the Nintendo Switch launch

We tried out the new Zelda, Mario Kart and of course, the Nintendo Switch itself.

Rich Cooper

Ever since that first trailer dropped, the hype for the Nintendo Switch has been massive.

After months of speculation and waiting, we finally got to get our hands on the most talked about console of the year (largely because it’s the only one coming out this year). Nevertheless, there was a lot of intrigue around Nintendo’s latest offering, with its blending of the lines between home and portable gaming.

We headed down to the Eventim Apollo in London’s glamorous Hammersmith to get our paws on the console that everyone’s talking about, and this is what we learned.

1. It is bloody freezing in January

Photo: Rich Cooper

OK, this has nothing to do with the Switch, but seriously, it was so cold this morning. It actually started snowing as we stood outside waiting to get in. We love you, Nintendo, but the temptation to bail and dive into the nearest building for warmth was nearly overwhelming.

Once we got inside the grumbling ceased, and we made a beeline for the number one attraction at the launch.


2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks excellent

Photo: Nintendo

We only got around 20 minutes to play through the opening of the game, but already this feels like a winner, which is good news for Nintendo as it’s the launch title. The game opens with Link rising from a 100-year sleep to find Hyrule ravaged by evil, which inevitably he must go and save. If it ain’t broke…

In Breath of the Wild, Hyrule is completely open-world and looks fantastic. Shifting to more of an RPG-style, Link collects items as he travels – food, weapons, useful bits and bobs to help him complete his quests. It’s a bit like Zelda-meets-Skyrim, which is also coming to Switch.

Combat in Breath of the Wild is excellent. Unlike previous Zelda games, you don’t have a primary weapon from the off. Instead, you have to scour the landscape for things to use as weapons – we started with a woodcutter’s axe, which after a good few swings broke, leaving us without arms. When you strike enemies, their bodies go flying, employing the game’s much-talked about rag doll physics.

Nintendo have staked a lot on Breath of the Wild, as it will be standing more or less alone on launch day, but when has Link ever let us down?


3. 1-2 Switch is the new Wii Sports and it’s a lot of fun, if a little disposable

Photo: Nintendo

Though the Wii U was one of Nintendo’s biggest failures, they’re not ready to leave the Wii legacy behind completely. Like Wii Sports, one of the Switch’s primary launch titles is a mini game package, called 1-2 Switch. A number of games were available to play at the launch, all using the Joy-Cons (the bits that slide on and off the tablet and form two mini controllers).

Well get into the actual minigames themselves later, but as a whole, the game is all about two players facing off in a number of different challenges, from cracking safes to guessing how many balls are rolling around inside the controller. “Balls inside the controller? What are you talking about?” you rightly say. Allow us to explain…


 4. The new HD Rumble feature is really quite amazing

Photo: Rich Cooper

Not content with merely inventing controller rumble, Nintendo have gone and reinvented it. The Joy-Con controllers have a special kind of rumble that is kind of hard to explain. Essentially it makes it feel as though there are things moving around inside the controller – like balls, for example.

In the 1-2 Switch minigame above, your objective is to get more milk from a cow’s udder than your opponent (yes, we know how mad that sounds, but it’s good fun). As you ‘squeeze the udder’ using buttons on the side and motioning downwards, the controller vibrates in such a way that it feels as though milk is actually passing through it.

Not only that, but you can actually feel how much milk is coming out, letting you know whether you’re doing well or not. You really have to experience it to understand how remarkable this is.


5. Nintendo wants to change the way we play together… again

Photo: Rich Cooper

A number of the 1-2 Switch minigames had an interesting and unexpected element to them: instead of looking at the screen, the game encourages you to look at the person you’re playing against. Three of the games we played required the players to face each other, which is surely the first time a game has demanded that you actually look away from it.

The game in the photo above, Quick Draw, had two players squaring off in a gun duel, with the first person to draw and accurately fire at their opponent winning. The lovely demonstrators were keen to emphasise that 1-2 Switch is meant to be a party game – unlike Wii Sports, there doesn’t seem to be much value in playing this alone.


6. We’ve still got motion control, but it’s cleverly implemented into the controllers

Photo: Rich Cooper

When that first Nintendo Switch video dropped, it looked as though they’d ditched the motion controls altogether. Little did we know, Nintendo has hidden them in each of the Joy-Cons (there’s so much clever stuff packed into these tiny little things).

So if you want to play a game like ARMS, a madcap boxing game that uses motion controls, you just slip the Joy-Cons off and go at it. Then if you want to flip back to Zelda, you slot them back on to the main controller and you’re away. No chunky Wii Remotes lying around and no need to buy an extra ‘normal’ controller.


7. Mario Kart is Mario Kart is Mario Kart

Photo: Rich Cooper

One of the biggest queues of the day was for the latest Mario Kart offering, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It’s a port of Mario Kart 8 from the Wii U, which is okay, we suppose. Maybe we’re wrong, but it feels like we’ve got to a point with Mario Kart where any changes are just faffing.

It’s still fun and will no doubt be a big seller, but it’s just more of the same. Luckily there’s another game, Fast RMX, a futuristic racer in the vein of Nintendo classic F-Zero, that looks much more interesting.


8. The Switch’s portable mode is super-light, comfortable and pretty decent looking

Photo: Rich Cooper

Whether people will actually use the Nintendo Switch in its portable mode is a big question – and potential problem – for Nintendo. Do people really want to play console games on the go when they have a high-tech gaming machine already in their pocket? And with a confirmed playtime of a mere three hours for games like Zelda, is there much point?

That will all be decided in the months after launch. What we can tell you is that when the Switch is in portable mode, it feels good. The tablet is super-light, which is amazing when you consider that it comprises the entire console. The screen displays at 720p, which falls short of the standard of a lot of mobiles, but if that’s the trade off that has to be made then so be it.

Unlike the Wii U, the Switch doesn’t feel big, plasticy and childish. It’s sleek, smart and functional without compromising comfort. But will anyone actually use it?


9. There was a noticeable lack of substance amongst the launch titles

Photo: Rich Cooper

Apart from Breath of the Wild, there were no big single player experiences to be had with the SwitchMultiplayer is the dominant format in gaming today, but with the shift towards online, multiplayer is kind of the new single player. From what we saw at the launch, Nintendo are focusing on in-the-room multiplayer.

This is great in principle, bringing people together, etc., but if all you want to do is get stuck into a big game, there doesn’t seem to be much available for you. For all the potential the technology provides, it was a little disheartening to see so much fluff on display.


10. No big third-party titles were available to play

Photo: Rich Cooper

Everyone was hoping that Nintendo would have tempted a few of the big game developers to get on board with the Switch and go some way to establishing themselves as a ‘serious’ gaming platform. Alas, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Ports of Skyrim, Minecraft and a FIFA game are some of the games that will be coming eventually, but apart from Zelda and the freshly-announced Super Mario Odyssey, there’s not much for gamers to really sink their teeth into.

We tried out Skylanders Imaginators after we were corralled into the gaming pen, and it was just so boring. ARMS is fun but a game in its own right? That’s a minigame at best. If the Switch is going to make full use of its potential, it needs to get some big, chunky games in.


11. Nintendo want to have their cake and eat it, but they’ve found their space in the market

Photo: Rich Cooper

Nintendo want to be all things to all people, or more specifically, most things to most people. They want to be in your home and with you on the go. They want to be for casual gamers and hardcore fans. They want to be leading innovators while conforming to the industry standard.

With the Switch, at least on a technological level, they seem to have pulled it off, but a great console is nothing without great games that people want to play. A new Zelda title is an easy win (in fact it’s probably a long and laborious win, but a win nevertheless), however it’s not a great sign that there weren’t more in-depth, engrossing titles to engage with.

Or maybe Nintendo doesn’t see itself going down that route. Maybe Nintendo knows exactly what it’s doing. Everyone laughed when the Wii was announced, and then bam, they were selling them faster than they could make them. Nintendo have cast themselves as the innovators, and with the Switch they’ve cemented it.

Their commitment to taking risks is commendable, but in some ways it feels like that’s all they can do now. Sony and Microsoft are playing in a totally different league, so Nintendo is left to do it’s own thing. They’ve got the concept and today we saw the proof, but it all hangs on the games and the gamers. Like the Switch, it’s in the player’s hands.