Hands On with the Nintendo Switch at Toronto's Nintendo Event

Your questions answered, and an inside look at Nintendo's Switch Preview Event in Toronto.

Today was the last day of the Nintendo Switch Preview Tour in Toronto for ticket holders before the public showing on Jan. 29, and crowds were excited to finally get their hands on the newest, and elusive, Nintendo console for a test run. Many games were showcased during the event, the most popular among them being The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildARMSSplatoon 2, and Sonic Mania.

But it wasn't just fun and games for me. To make the most of the event, I turned to the community to find out what you guys wanted to know about the Nintendo Switch. Here's what I was able to find out!

Your major questions answered!

How well do the Joy-Cons stick to the screen?

One of the main concerns about the Nintendo Switch was about how well the controllers stuck to the main console. Thankfully, this wasn't too difficult to answer as representatives made a point of showing fans that there is actually a button-release on the back of the Joy-Con controllers that locks them into place. The rails are also fairly simple to slide on and off once the button is pressed, and they only release once the button is firmly pressed.

How do the buttons feel?

My main concern walking into the event was that the Joy-Con controller buttons were very shallow looking. As such, I was worried that it would be difficult to press them or differentiate between the L1/R1 and L2/R2 buttons. This concern was quickly dismissed as they are both visibly and tactilely separated. This meant that I was able to comfortably hold the controller in all modes (docked, in the grip, or separately) without having to look down at all.

It might be slightly uncomfortable for people who like to go full "double claw" on the controller. This is simply because the buttons are thin, so there isn't really any space to hold both R and L buttons at the same time. However, they certainly don't feel cheap, and are very responsive.

As for the analog sticks, I felt as though the Joy-Con R's stick got in the way of the face buttons at first. This was primarily due to user error since this was my first chance handling the Nintendo Switch, but I was quickly able to correct my hand positioning and everything was smooth afterwards. The sticks themselves felt a bit light, but they did their job well.

How heavy does the console feel? Can you hold it for long periods?

The console is remarkably light considering the power it outputs. In fact, the console actually feels about the same weight as Nintendo's Wii U Gamepad while in use. It didn't particularly bother me since I'm the sort of person who prefers heavier rackets in tennis and badminton, so make what you will of that.

Somewhat related to this note: the Nintendo Switch is very efficient at cooling itself down. While playing the Breath of the Wild demo, I noticed the console was fairly warm when I took it out of the dock. As soon as I was playing it in handheld mode, the temperature dropped in quite literally seconds.

How is the transition from TV to Handheld mode?

Making the switch from TV mode to handheld is instantaneous, happening in about the same time as my eyes could move from the blackened TV to the handheld screen. As for handheld to TV mode, it took about 2-3 seconds for video to appear on the screen; however, I have to say that it might speak more to the TV set's ability to register the incoming signal than it does of the Switch itself.

It doesn't take a lot of force to remove it from the dock, either. Every time switched between modes, the transition was actually quite effortless - both inserting and removing. It's also worth noting that the bottom of the console actually has some guiding holes to ensure the USB-C connector lines up properly.

How is the OS?

There's not really much to say about the Nintendo Switch's operating system and main menu other than the fact that it looks like the PS4 and a 3DS had a baby. Make of that what you will.

Is there backwards compatibility?

The Nintendo Switch is unfortunately the first Nintendo console since the Wii to not feature any form of backwards compatibility due to the system using a unique high-capacity cartridge system. There will Virtual Console support, and according to the representative on the floor we can expect to see Virtual Console news shortly after release - if not earlier.

What about eShop titles?

Sadly, the same goes for news on how eShop titles will be treated. According to the representative, we can expect news on how NNID linked titles will be handled sometime after the Switch's release on March 3rd. They were able to reassure me, however, that games will be linked to the NNID instead of the console like how it was handled on the 3DS.

Is a Pro Controller worth the price tag, or is the Joy-Con Grip good enough?

If you don't want to spend the extra money on the Pro Controller, there is no way I can convince you to choose it over the Joy-Con Grip, aside from practicality reasons. The Joy-Con Grip is fairly comfortable -- at least in my opinion. On the other hand, my brother who also attended the event and is more accustomed to PlayStation 4 controllers had a contrasting opinion that the grip "felt like a square with two pipes jutting out of it."

As for the Pro Controller itself, it was very comfortable and felt as though careful consideration had been put into both its design, as well as its weighting. The controller actually felt uncannily like the GameCube controllers in terms of weight and proportions, as well as shared a design that quite honestly reminded me a bit of the clear controllers from the N64 days.

All in all, I would advise the following: give the Joy-Con Grip a go if you don't want to spend the money right away. If you don't like it, the Pro Controller feels like a $70 controller despite how it looks in online images. It's certainly much better than the Wii U's own Pro Controller in terms of design and functionality, but I might wait until the HORI ones come out to test that as well.

Other Observations

Breath of the Wild: Switch vs Wii U

While playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I noticed a few things during gameplay compared to what I experienced with the Wii U demo.

First of all, the frame rate on the Nintendo Switch is only marginally better than the Wii U version. I imagine that this is in part due to the game having a larger field of view, among other graphical enhancements. The frame rate was not jarring, but it did slow down in heavily dense areas of grass and trees to about the 20 frames-per-second mark.

Second, the frame rate in the handheld mode held up much better than the console mode. I'm unsure why the frame rate is steadier, but unless my eyes deceived me, I think it might have actually been due to grass not being rendered nearly as much on handheld mode than on the console mode. This might suggest that the Nintendo Switch is actually capable of changing a multitude of graphical settings at will.

In the end, Breath of the Wild -- or at least it's demo build - makes it apparent that this is a Wii U port, especially when compared graphically to any of the other exclusive games shown on the floor.

ARMS is a hidden gem, Has-Been Heroes was surprisingly fun

Having covered the Nintendo Switch Presentation just a few weeks ago, I have to say: I was not sold on ARMS. While it looked interesting in concept, I didn't think it had the punch to really sell me on the premise.

I could never have been more wrong. The game really threw me for a loop as its motion controls genuinely felt like I was playing in a dual-joystick arcade cabinet. The controls were tight, and there was a surprising level of complexity to the game thanks to the customizable arms, character abilities, and more. The fact that the game will add more characters to the roster upon release only sold this game to me harder. It's no console seller by any means, but certainly a title that I would recommend at least trying out.

Has-Been Heroes similarly surprised me as a roguelike title since they generally aren't the kinds of games I play. The representative assured me that there was actually going to be multiple heroes to choose from on release - and as evident by the "heroes" option on the title screen, so it might actually make a good travel title on the Switch.

While I feel like I should talk about Splatoon 2Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, and Sonic Mania a bit more, there's not really much to report. 

Splatoon 2 was good fun, and having the ability to play with people directly across from you certainly adds to it. Other than that, the new weapons, maps, and so on don't really change much of the core gameplay. It really feels like this is simply Nintendo abandoning the Wii U and loading the Switch with great titles as soon as possible, and the same can be said about Mario Kart 8: Deluxe. This is not to say that the games weren't great or they played poorly, only that it felt like a bittersweet goodbye to the Wii U.

As for Sonic Mania, there's nothing I can say that others haven't said a million times before: it feels like classic Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay.

That's all for now!

While I knew that Nintendo was onto something great after their presentation, I can only now safely say that I'm sold on the Nintendo Switch. The console has some truly amazing titles coming out during its launch window, and I can really see this becoming a household device.

Time will tell if Nintendo will be able to keep this up over the console's lifespan, but if they stay as strong as they are right now, the Nintendo Switch might just be the game changer the company needs.

What other questions do you have about the Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the comments below! 

Published Jan. 28th 2017

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