While today marks the day that the general public can get their hands on the Nintendo Switch before its March 3rd release, Nintendo of Canada was kind enough to allow the media (and some guests) the opportunity to do so just a couple of days prior.
From start to finish, it was quite the experience, and while there are still questions left unanswered in the month and some change we have left before the product goes on sale, it was nonetheless enlightening in other ways. Following are the impressions of what games I was able to check out at the event. Plus, I got to play the games in a variety of different ways, thanks to the Switch’s various control schemes, so I’ll talk about those as I go, too,
(Plus, if you’re not familiar with some of these titles, most have trailers you can view by clicking on the respective header.)
This was my first stop as soon as I went through the doors. It almost felt like some sort of blasphemy to make a beeline straight for a SEGA game as the first title I’d play on Nintendo’s newest system, but my inability to do so in the six months’ worth of events since the game’s announcement was no doubt a major contributor — I’ve already had the special edition on pre-order for months.
Anyway, it was good, and felt just like classic Sonic to me. Maybe there’s a slight difference that someone more dedicated can point out, but compared to all of SEGA’s previous efforts to go back to the Blue Blur’s roots, this unquestionably comes the closest.
Unfortunately, the demo available here was the earlier one, so no Mirage Saloon or Knuckles gameplay to enjoy. Still, it was fun to play through a revamped Green Hill and the new Studiopolis Zone, and try to figure out the new Drop Dash, which is probably the trickiest standard move Sonic’s ever had.
For this title, I was given the right Joy-Con controller, which is an aspect of the Switch I’ve been wary of since it was first teased late last year. My worry stemmed from the fact that the analog stick is set so far in on the controller that I feared it would be uncomfortable to use, thus making it the “loser’s” controller in any battles of who-uses-what when getting ready to play — sort of like the junky third-party controller no one wants to use.
I’m happy to say my fears were completely unfounded! I suppose it owes to the small size of the Joy-Cons in general, but it wasn’t problematic for me at all. I imagine it’s going to vary depending not only on the size of the hands the person using it has, but perhaps also on the game, since I didn’t really need to use any of the shoulder buttons either. Still, for a test run, I found myself quite pleased (and relieved).
And here we have another old friend. As The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had a queue (complete with tickets handed out for what time to come back in order to play), I had to find some other way to occupy my time — at least until my plus-ones Ian and Aleah finished their turns on Zelda. So why not see what the World Warriors are up to?
This is pretty much Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, with two “new characters” added: Evil Ryu and Violent Ken, who are less new characters and more recolors with some added moves (Ken has some sort of teleport, I think?). Much as I’m fine with them stopping there, part of me wants to see “Cranky Dan” step up at some point in the series.
I was at a disadvantage here, as I typically remap my controller in these games to have my Light/Quick moves on the shoulders, but I was still able to hold my own quite well (not that I’m a pro or anything). Basically, it felt just like Street Fighter II should, and you can even change the visuals from the UDON-rendered high-definition graphics to the vintage pixel art.
While it’s a shame that Nintendo isn’t getting something fresher — which can’t be helped in the case of Street Fighter V, what with Sony helping fund that one — I’m nonetheless glad to see this one arrive back in the family of consoles which helped make it big. I got the Xbox 360 version years ago, but found it nigh-unplayable due to that controller’s Dpad.
Speaking of which…
While I’m pretty sure that you can technically play the game with the Joy-Cons, that’s not likely going to cut it for any serious player of the genre. Fortunately, for this one, they had the Switch Pro Controller on hand.
Let me tell you, using this controller was an absolute joy, and makes me all the more disappointed they weren’t available for pre-order when I went to put money down on the system. While it shares the name and general shape of the Wii U Pro controller, I’ll be honest: Try as I might, I could never quite get completely comfortable with that one. Something about it was just a bit off to me, particularly when it came to games better played with the Dpad.
This, however, was a joy to hold and worked flawlessly — at least, for all intents and purposes of playing Street Fighter. The Xbox One controller has been my favorite for this generation, but the Switch Pro Controller felt just as good to me — maybe even a little better (I may have to conduct a more direct comparison sometime).
Let’s just hope these aren’t as hard to come by as the controllers for the NES Classic Edition — I still haven’t been able to find one (in fact, one store told me that while they got more of the systems in since launch, they never got any more of the controllers — damn).
After regrouping with Ian and Aleah, we decided to get in (the much shorter than Zelda‘s) line for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Four stations were set up, each featuring a different game mode and a different way to play the Switch. The combination of a need for multiplayer, a new Battle Mode to check out, none of us having played the Switch in “handheld” mode yet, and a diner scenario that was right up my alley all came together perfectly in one quadrant.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe takes the best game in the series in quite some time and adds even more characters (though unfortunately, still no return of R.O.B. from Mario Kart DS), more items (the return of the Super Feather!), Double Dash!!‘s ability to carry two items at once, and best of all, the return of the traditional Battle Mode with new and returning arenas!
There were four of us playing (someone else joining the three of us), and while I’m not sure which stage they picked, I lucked out in the roulette and we played a remake of one of the courses from Super Mario Kart, aka “the best Battle Mode in the series” in my opinion. Realistic looking balloons were strapped to our karts and we raced around, trying to destroy each other and eight computer-controlled competitors. I came in second place, beaten out only by Aleah.
It felt like coming home… albeit a bit more crowded. I hope that there’s a way to play in smaller groups with just your friends and no computers.
The way we played, as mentioned, was in the Switch’s handheld mode — no dock connecting it to a television, and the Joy-Cons fastened to the side.
To be honest, this probably ended up my least favorite way to play. The combined Switch just didn’t feel as good in my hands as the larger Wii U GamePad, probably hewing a little closer to the XL versions of the Nintendo 3DS, only not. It’s kind of hard to explain, but I think supporting the weight of the full unit and the small size of the Joy-Cons just didn’t rest comfortably in my hands; I think the lower corners were mildly digging into my palms, and I don’t have particularly large hands.
I don’t know that it will be particularly detrimental for me in the long run, though; I have a tendency to rest a Nintendo 3DS against my chest when I play (usually when sitting back or laying down), a luxury I didn’t really have here. I have a feeling it will feel just right for me then, but until I can try it like that, it remains a mystery — though one that will be solved in about 36 days.
That said, the ability to play as it sits separate from the Joy-Cons on its little kickstand should help as well.
The time on my ticket arrived, and I finally got to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the first time. I didn’t get to make it out to the Electronic Entertainment Expo last year, and while Nintendo of Canada normally brings some of that fun up here for us to try out, that didn’t happen last year.
In the interim, Breath of the Wild has been occupying this weird sort of space in my mind, a limbo where I didn’t really associate it as a Wii U title (what with all the buzz that it would be available on the then-titled NX), but without knowing what the NX was until recently, not forming a strong association there, either. It’s just been an island unto itself in my mind.
That said, playing it here has certainly helped it take root in my mind as a Switch title. I only got to play for 20 minutes, and while they encouraged us to speed through the story bits, they still managed to take up a chunk of time nonetheless. Still, I did alright, I think, by raising some towers from one destination before things reset.
Exploring the world reminded me a bit of Xenoblade Chronicles X, which I largely enjoyed despite the combat not quite fully clicking with me. Fortunately, that’s not an issue here, as the more familiar Zelda-styled controls brought everything together. I feel like this might just be the Zelda game that I’ve been waiting so many years for, but only time will tell if that’s the case for sure.
Still, if they’re using the original Nintendo Entertainment System classic as a source of inspiration? I think I’m going to be in for a really good time.
For this title, I got to use the Joy-Con grip to start. I think it’s a little lighter than the Pro Controller, and it felt just as good. Of course, I wasn’t using the Dpad except to help toggle a few menus, if I remember right, so it’s a very different scenario. I was quite pleased, and if you can’t find a Pro Controller right away, there’s no need to immediately panic, as the games that it’s best for aren’t slated to be available at launch anyway. But that aside, they feel quite similar.
Midway through the demo, I was allowed to snap the Joy-Cons into the Switch and go to handheld mode, which I was willing to give a second chance… except they had us wearing headphones to hear the sound, and however they were hooked up, it wasn’t coming through in handheld mode. Couple that with the distraction of an enthusiastic MC up on stage, and I returned to the television.
However, in doing so, I opted to keep the Joy-Cons unplugged and go at it Wii-style, like in Twilight Princess. It felt pretty good — better, even, given the greater number of buttons to take advantage of and no cord to worry about, allowing for a more relaxed posture with the separate halves. Even so, I can see why some people might still prefer to use the Joy-Con grip to play, but it’s still a nice option to have available.
Ah, Splatoon… now that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time.
Okay, that’s a total lie: I’ve heard it quite a bit since its release, especially with Aleah’s affinity for it, but I’ve unfortunately not had much time to play since then. As rusty as I was, in the two rounds I got to play, I opted for familiar weapons I did okay with before: The Splat Roller in the first round, and the Splat Charger in the second. The Roller also had a new secondary weapon, a sort of curling puck that spreads ink and bounces around off of walls and such, but drains your reserves pretty quickly.
A new weapon featured was a twin pair of pistols, which I understand are for more “aggressive” play. Part of me wonders if I should have tried those out. Either way, I got one loss and one win, but sadly, I think I was the lowest score for both rounds. At least I took a few of the other guys with me.
Tilt controls for high and low aiming return, which I found fairly handy — while I was resistant at first, I’m probably better with those than twin-sticks. Unfortunately, there is no more second screen, and while you can still pull up and map and leap to different points on the map, doing so now leaves you vulnerable, so best to be quick about it.
Incidentally, I forget which controller I used here — I think it was either the Pro or the Joy-Con Grip, so either way, see above. It worked well here.
Now how could a coupla former NC boys resist a game that has you milking cows and slapping leather in a quick-draw contest? Ian and I waited in line to try 1-2-Switch, and were joined by a third gentleman in the closed-off booth for the demonstration. Ian had a little trouble with the foam cowboy hats, but fortunately for me, I brought my own.
The first round had us both squeezing two of the buttons on the shoulders of a single Joy-Con as we made steady pulling motions downwards to milk a cow. When the controller stopped vibrating, we’d release the buttons, raise it up, and repeat the process until one of us had squeezed out more milk — all while staring the other in the eye, as per the spirit of the game, if not the rules.
For the second contest, Ian tagged out to the other gent, and we had to move our respective Joy-Con like a box with balls inside, trying to guess how many are in there. I was the victor, albeit with one off, though that was my fault — I felt the extra sensation of the ball hitting the side, but the delay made me think it might be something else.
That said, this and the milking game made me a believer in the high-definition rumble Nintendo spoke of when they went over the Switch’s features. I don’t know if many developers would use it to its fullest potential, but I was nonetheless impressed by how vividly and — for lack of a better term — accurate (I’ve never actually milked a cow; never even touched an udder) things felt. As rumble goes, it’s basically like the difference between digital controls and analog.
Finally, the time came for Ian and I to kill each other by seeing who could draw their gun — i.e. the Joy-Con — the quickest and firing when the command was given.
First time out, I lost, though I maintain it’s because the wrist strap covering wasn’t properly secured. I wanted another go, and got one as Ian tagged out. While I feel that the reason I believe I lost before was validated by taking the other guy out in less than a second (he shot the ground, apparently; the game even measures the angle at which you fire), I still hope for a rematch with Mad Dog Flynn.
Next up, Ian and I checked out the ARMS arena. We got to choose our characters (I went with the girl in power armor seen above), we chose how to equip each arm (one option I went with was a boomerang fist), took in a quick tutorial, and we were off!
While there are some obvious comparisons to be drawn to the likes of Punch-Out!! or Wii Sports Boxing, this is a very different game. For one thing, I don’t know that dashing, jumping, and grabbing have any place in Little Mac’s world (then again, some of those other challengers do play dirty), and the motion controls feel overall more precise than in Wii Sports‘ offering.
The game was a lot of fun, and the overall aesthetic reminds me a bit of Splatoon in some ways, not the least of which being the bright colors and characters. There’s a lot more movement involved than in Punch-Out!! — you basically have the run of the entire arena — and it just feels involved in an altogether different way, as the types of moves you perform with the two Joy-Con feel more varied.
Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!
When I first heard about this game, my interest was minimal, and so was Ian’s. As it happens, though, I caught what the game was all about on Nintendo’s Treehouse at the Switch unveiling earlier this month, and I just had to try it. After a bit of persuasion, he joined me at a table where the Switch was resting on its kickstand as we each took a Joy-Con and got ourselves situated.
Basically, you’re provided with a series of challenges and have to use teamwork in order to solve each puzzle. This ranges from filling in a dotted line silhouette to getting a pencil to a pencil sharpener, putting a basketball through a hoop, moving a wheel along a rail to a race car, and popping all the balloons in the room. To do this, you need to twist your characters the right way and work together to achieve your goal.
For instance, the characters’ bodies don’t have arms and are relatively flat, so to be able to hold the basketball, one character can snip away at part of the other to form a cup-like curve that can better hold the ball. With the balloons, one trims the other’s body until there’s a point capable of bursting them, and so on.
We solved the five or so puzzles put before us, and while I’m still a believer, I think Ian might be, too. It’s a game I look forward to seeing more of, for sure.
Also worth noting is that this time, I got to take up the left Joy-Con, and to my surprise… I think I prefer the right one more! It wasn’t bad or anything, but before using any of them, I thought this would be vastly preferable to using the right one, and to me, it’s not.
Another game Ian and I tried was Super Bomberman R, the long-awaited return of a classic franchise, provided that the guys running it down don’t muck it up with microtransactions as so many across the internet currently fear.
Unfortunately, neither of us have much in the way of experience with Bomberman, and we were put into a four-player battle against two computer opponents. We were pretty soundly throttled, which led to us having to sit on the sidelines, throwing bombs at the computer until someone lost or we successfully blew up one of them, which allowed us back in (but only briefly, because we both suck at this).
The stage didn’t help matters, either, as there were these covered areas that you can’t see into very well. Probably great for veteran Bomberfans to plot strategies with, but not so much for newcomers, perhaps. On top of all that, I think they went around six to eight rounds before things were done.
It’s good to see Bomberman back, but I feel like I need some training — maybe in single-player — before taking that on again.
I’ve never been much of a Puyo Puyo player, but I’ve always enjoyed Tetris. Fortunately, for this game, you don’t have to be a fan of both to have a good time! I can’t speak for Puyo Puyo, but if it’s like the Tetris portion, then it’s just like what you’ve always known (well, sort of — Tetris has the modern rules in place, of course, such as quick-drop and holding pieces).
The most fascinating part of what I got to play, however, was that two players going head-to-head can play different games. So while I was playing Tetris, my opponent was playing Puyo Puyo — no switching around (ha) or anything. But if one of us scored well, such as my getting a double, triple, or Tetris, then extra blocks would rise from the bottom of his playing field, and vice-versa.
It’s a neat way of bringing the two different games together, and should make for some interesting challenges.
And that was the last game I got to try (though I did take one more run at Sonic Mania before leaving). While there are still questions to be answered about Nintendo’s latest platform, I can at least say that I now sit here before you with confidence in what we have seen.
Finally, to close out, here are some pics from the event:
You can find more pictures from the event at Nintendo of Canada’s Facebook page (and they’ll probably have more from the public event later today soon as well).
Also, if you’re interested in the impressions Mr. Ian Flynn was left with after some time with the console, keep an eye on BumbleKing.com for the games, and the BumbleKast for his thoughts on the hardware itself. (And anything he says about not swapping insurance info after the kart incident is a lie; he just needs to learn how to take better care of Bob-ombs is all.)
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.