Nintendo have never been ones to let a good idea die just because it failed once. In the mid 90s, the legendary Japanese gaming giant, fresh from the success of their iconic Gameboy, decided to piggyback on the wave on enthusiasm surrounding virtual reality at the time by releasing the ill-fated Virtual Boy, which featured surprisingly effective 3D graphics, but also gave everyone who used it for more than 15 minutes a monumental headache. It was a great hulking mess that was sold as a portable system, but was about the size of a modern VR headset and couldn't be played without a table to rest it on. The console was a spectacular failure, but Nintendo couldn't leave the concept of a 3D gaming system alone. There was a rumoured add-on for the Gamecube that never materialised, but 16 years after the launch of the Virtual Boy, Nintendo finally made good on their promise of 3D gaming that wasn't a complete ball ache with the 3DS.
There's an element of that same dogged perseverance in the Nintendo Switch, which Nintendo is releasing this year just 5 years after the poorly received Wii U, and is built around a similar concept; a games console that's half portable and half stay-at-home with a separate screen that doubles as a controller. This time, however, you can take the portable unit on the road with you. This is basically the system the Wii U should have been from the get-go, and, by bridging their successful portable division and not-so-successful (at least recently) home console divisions, Nintendo have theoretically solved the problem that's been dogging them since the late 80s when the Gameboy was first released to an adoring public. The concept of being able to start a game at home and finish it on the bus was at the forefront of the system's announcement trailer late last year, but this morning's live stream event focused (wisely) more on the actual games and the specifics of the console itself. Needless to say, I was a little blown away and will now definitely be placing my pre-order. You can watch the full stream yourselves below, but if you don't have a spare hour, prefer to read your news (and value my opinions) or just want a quick overview of the stream's major announcements and best moments then read on!
After launching via a rather ostentatious countdown, Nintendo's took to the stage to recap the video that aired worldwide last October. It was honestly a pretty dry and humourless opening that lacked the sheer joy and enthusiasm of the sadly departed former President Satoru Iwata. After a rundown of the major facts, another bloke (sorry, it was late) was then wheeled out to give a rundown of how every previous Nintendo console acted as part of the DNA that now makes up the Switch. A series of sexy, close-up videos of the console itself and a rather basic explanation of its features then followed. It told us nothing we didn't already know. Much was then made of the various play styles the systems offers and the JoyCon controllers than slot into the unit.
Launch Date – March 3rd 2017 in Japan, the US, Canada and Europe
Suggested Retail Price – $299.99 (£279.99 in the UK. Blame Brexit).
Online Services – The online service, which will probably act in a similar manner to Xbox Live or Playstation Plus will be free at first but will become a paid service after an initial trial period. Anyone hoping for free online play probably wept a little at this announcement.
Region Locking – There is no region locking applied on the system or its games. A major plus considering Nintendo's inconsistent stance on region locking in the past.
- The console will operate in three modes. TV Mode, which is the conventional configuration hooked up to your TV, Tabletop Mode, where you can play portably with others using the console propped up with its included stand and Handheld Mode, where you play the console like a conventional handheld device.
Battery life will vary from 2 and a half hours to 6 hours depending on the game and you can use the system whilst it's charging.
The screen uses a capacitive touchscreen and will charge in the dock.
Up to 8 consoles can be connected for local wireless multiplayer gaming.
- An NFC reader is built into the JoyCon controllers for Amiibo support.
The controllers also include Wii Remote style straps and come in a variety of colour configuration.
The right JoyCon has a motion sensor that will presumably act in a similar manner to the Wii Remote as well as “HD Rumble,” which will supposedly make the controllers actually be able to feel lighter or heavier.
The Controllers include gyroscope support and both sides of the JoyCon can be used as individual controllers. They are VERY tiny though, so I have my reservations as to how comfortable it will feel. I DO have big hands after all.
A capture button is included on the controllers to instantly capture gaming screenshots and footage. This is a feature basically ripped right from the PS4.
The bundle you buy will include the system, joy con controllers, grip, HDMI cable and the dock. The “Pro Controller,” which is a more traditional joypad, will be sold separately.
First Party Games
There are over 80 games currently in development. The first party game obviously got the heaviest amount of coverage, but there was also a fair amount of third party support on display, which is very important, as this is an area in which Nintendo has been severely lacking in recent years.
Super Mario Odyssey – Wow. This is what we all wanted. It looks like the best parts of all the best Mario games put in an open world blender. I think it's kind of pointless to say anymore really. It's the first fully open world Mario game since Mario Galaxy 2. It'll be a masterpiece. The release date was set at “Holiday” (Christmas) 2017.
1-2 Switch – The presumed pack-in launch game for the Switch, which serves to show off its unique features in a similar manner to Wii Sports for the Wii, can apparently be played without even using a screen, as many of the mini-games included with the game use the HD Rumble feature to create unique party games. It looks like a pretty neat idea, but I'm not sold and very little solid information was actually given. For non-gamers though it could actually be a game changer.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – An unexpected one this, but a treat nonetheless. This expansive RPG looks incredibly expansive, though it appears to have a very difference art style to the first game in the series.
Fire Emblem Warriors – Nothing at all on this one besides a nice little trailer showing off a shield looking colourful, but we know it exists.
Arms – A pretty zany looking arena combat arena game that will probably be known by nerds of a certain age (like me ) as Stretch Armstrong: The Game. It also brings back memories of Wii Sports Boxing, as players use the JoyCon controllers as boxing gloves. It looks pretty limited to be honest, but it could be a decent time waster and would probably be great when drunk! It was at the point this game was unveiled that I began to realise exactly what Nintendo was doing here. They were trying to reignite the casual gamer baiting glory days of the original Wii. This is probably the most logical thing they could have done. The game was set for a rough launch date of Spring.
Splatoon 2 – An underrated Wii U game based around the concept of claiming territory via paintball that never quite achieved the following it deserved. A new Splatoon game was always an inevitability for the Switch. It looks more like a rehash of the first game to be honest, but considering barely anyone played the first game that's no bad thing at all. The game will launch this summer.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – This one wasn't actually announced during the stream, but was confirmed in a post-show roundup. It's essentially a repackaged version of the Wii U game from what I can tell so not that much to get excited about really.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – After a cunning game of hide the sausage between Shigeru Miyamoto and Reggie Fils-Aimé (President of Nintendo America), the whole shebang closed with the announcement that the new Zelda game will launch with the system on the 3rd of March. It looks exemplary. I have nothing more to say.
Third Party Games
Third party wise, DragonQuest 10, 11 and DragonQuest Heroes 1 and 2 were the first major third part game announcements. Project Octopath Traveler (a Shin Megami Tensei sequel) and another unnamed Square Enix RPG were also announced. A bloke from Bethesda also really hyped up Skyrim on the platform. Suda51, who is probably legitimately insane, also stepped up to claim that the star of the cult series No More Heroes would make an appearance on the system in a game “heavily influenced by pro wrestling.” I think the translator must have been asleep at the wheel or drunk. Possibly both. Watch the footage yourself and you'll see what I mean. A giant from EA was also on hand to tell us he named his son after Luigi (seriously) and then announced all the generic EA sports games would be coming to Switch. Including FIFA. Yay. Whilst Nintendo and Sega were once arch rivals, the latter is now one of the former's most loyal third party publishers and a spokesperson for the company actually stepped out onstage to pledge his company's support for the platform. No official game announcements, but Project Sonic, which was already announced last year, is probably still one of the best looking games for the system.
For those who can't wait, hands on events are being prepared across Europe in Paris, Frankfurt and London to give Europeans the chance to get hands on with the console before launch. Americans will also get a similar treatment. Personally though, I'm happy to wait until I get my hands on my very own Switch. In fact, as I write this it's 5:35am on Friday morning, I've been awake for almost 24 hours and I'm holding on until 7 so I can place my pre-order on Amazon. Yes. I'm a hopeless fanboy and I wouldn't have it any other way. Game on.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.