After selling over 100 million units globally, Nintendo's Wii console, launched in 2006, was always going to be hard for even Nintendo themselves to build upon. It's eventual 2012 successor, the Wii U, found itself lacking both developed third party support to attract all sorts of dedicated gamers as well as the casual appeal the Wii garnered so much acclaim over. Consequently, with just 13 million units sold in the past four and half years, the Wii U can be dubbed a huge flop for sure even if it boasted acclaimed first party titles like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros.
October last year saw Nintendo finally unveil their next system - the Nintendo Switch, known as the NX throughout production. Building upon the companies' growing interest in mobile gaming and the Wii U's feature of transmitting the TV images to a tablet-esque controller for limited portability, the Switch has been dubbed a "hybrid console" by critics and even by Nintendo themselves. This time, the console finds itself as a small tablet computer with a 6.2 inch screen capable of displaying images in 720p HD resolution - it's accompanying dock and controllers, dubbed Joy-Cons, allow gamers to hook it up to their TV for a standard home console experience (with 1080p visuals) or play it on the go in a number of ways. Mixed reactions were of course present following the announcement of such an ambitious concept, but now that it's finally here, how does it hold up?
|From left to right, we have the main console, the dock, and the Joy-Con controllers attached to their grip.
The Switch can be played in many different ways: hooked up to the dock and played on a TV, removed and played with both Joy-Cons attached either side of the tablet, or placed on a flat surface, a built in stand able to prop the tablet up, and played with the Joy-Cons once again detached; consequently, they can either be used freely in either hand or connected to a bundled grip that matches a standard modern controller design. Said Joy-Cons can also be used as individual controllers among multiple people - turning them on their sides and equipping the bundled wrist straps allows them to essentially become mini game pads for use in a smaller games such as the launch title 1-2-Switch. They are also equipped with built in gyroscopes, once again allowing for motion controls, and so a wave of potential is created with this huge focus on flexibility. As for the handheld side of things, the system doesn't fail one bit, providing fully fledged HD experiences running beautifully in portable format, supported by a strong if sometimes inconsistent battery life.
|This is the main menu on upon turning on the Switch, with your available games easy to access and switch (sorry) between.
In terms of games, I have my hands on Breath of the Wild and Fast RMX for now - the latter being a downloadable racing title and an enhanced expansion, if you will, of the 2015 Wii U game Fast Racing Neo. I won't lie: the game is incredibly mixed in terms of difficulty, often feeling abruptly very hard even on the easiest modes - annoying as this can be, it does make for some rewarding results when you conquer the toughest courses and a wave of manic fun that makes up once again for a lack of a recent F-Zero title. Visually, it's absolutely gorgeous, showcasing the capability of the console in terms of rich lighting and textural detail, and running beautifully whether played on the TV or on the tablet itself. Breath of the Wild...well, you'll see more from me on that very soon...
|Fast is thrilling and looks amazing - though the difficulty spikes can be quite daunting.
My past week with the Switch has been great fun - we're still in the early stages so not a lot of stuff has really come to fruition, such as Nintendo's extended online service that requires paid subscriptions. The eShop is of course up and running from the get go with a selection of launch games, including the aforementioned Fast RMX, but sadly the same can't be said for the Virtual Console - however, it's coming soon Nintendo have assured us, and with so many hints that Gamecube games will be available on it, to say I'm keen is an understatement. The Switch has opened to great success, becoming Nintendo's fastest selling system globally, and reaching just over half a million units at present. If Nintendo smartly handle the introduction of new content and memorable games over time, this successful launch can hopefully precede a stream of steady sales - and then we'll finally have a redemption for the Wii U's commercial failure.
Thanks for reading!