With the launch of the Nintendo Switch looming ever closer, Nintendo Australia contacted Progress Bar and asked if we would like to check out the latest and greatest Nintendo has to offer. Darcy jumped at the chance to swing Joy Con’s, wrestle beasties and dive into Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Here are his thoughts on the event and his impressions from having his first hands-on.
The first game I tried on the Nintendo Switch was Snipperclips, the co-op puzzle game developed in-house at Nintendo, sporting a scrapbook, stick-figure aesthetic. The Switch screen was set up on the bench in front of us (myself and the Nintendo rep), kickstand deployed. The Joy Cons had the wrist strap components attached, these not only provide a strap to stop you flinging solid plastic at TVs and the like, they also make the tiny shoulder buttons a little easier to use. In Snipperclips you have to solve puzzles by cutting and getting cut into specific shapes. If one level requires you to hit a switch, cut your team mate into a narrow, long shape and let them do the work. If you have to carry a basketball and get it into a hoop, hollow out a nice bowl shape. It’s a simple concept but lining up properly with your teammate in order to perfect the required shape took more coordination than I first thought. The Nintendo rep and I were soon gleefully screaming advice and demands at one another, with varying levels of success. Later on, I heard a ruckus developing and knew immediately which game it would be coming from. It seems Snipperclips will be one of those multiplayer games that makes or breaks relationships. I certainly had a blast with this charming little game, and I can’t wait to see the chaos increase exponentially with four players.
Next up for me was Splatoon 2. It was 4v4 Turf Wars on a map that I’m fairly sure is in the Wii U version of the game. We played two rounds, and our team (pink) absolutely dominated. The new special weapons and the dual-wield pistols featured in the announcement trailer are all great fun to use. One special weapon sends your inkling up into the air, only to crash back down in a huge explosion of ink, taking out any enemy inklings in the vicinity. Very satisfying to pull off, and it actually felt like I was using an ultimate in DOTA (Echo Slam, to be specific). The new music is on point and in-line with the tone of the original OST. The Switch Pro Controller is quite similar to the Wii U one, but where it comes out on top is with the addition of gyro aiming, ala the Wii U Gamepad. It actually felt great to aim like this which I was surprised at. It’s been ages since I played Splatoon and I got back into it in no time at all. Two rounds on an old map isn’t enough to get a good idea of how the final game will pan out, there was no singleplayer demo (the first Splatoon’s campaign was actually great), and no way to check out the hub world or character customisation. I have faith in Nintendo and their commitment to their fresh new franchise, but what I played of Splatoon 2 definitely felt like more of an expansion than a fully-fledged sequel.
Speaking of expansions, let’s move onto Mario Kart 8: Deluxe. This one is at least a little more up front about being more or less a port of the Wii U version, however, there are a number of changes and additions included with this release. Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl from Splatoon join the roster, alongside King Boo, Dry Bones and Bowser Junior. They’ve also revamped battle mode, adding actual arena levels this time and two separate modes: Balloon Battle and Bob-omb blast. I only got to try out the former. You start with five balloons, scoring a point for every enemy balloon you take out. I played with three other people and a bunch of bots, it was fun but a little chaotic, I’d like to try it out with only human players (if possible). Battle mode I played using the Switch in handheld mode, which felt much the same as playing the Wii U version in the off-tv mode.
The Switch screen itself is very nice to look at though, and Mario Kart 8 could never disappoint in the visuals department. I also played a traditional race using the Switch in tabletop mode, with each of us controlling with a Joy Con each. They were surprisingly easy to use. Having two people hunched over the handheld screen playing split screen Mario Kart obviously isn’t the ideal way to play, but the potential for playing out and about, on holiday or in transit is pretty exciting. I scoffed alongside everyone else when watching the section of the first Switch trailer with the two guys playing in the back of their van, but now I’m a believer. Once concern I had was that the Joy Con had motion controls and stick control activated at same time, I’m hoping you can choose one or the other. Again it’s hard to get too excited about a game I’ve already played to death on my Wii U, but at least it all works and feels as good as ever.
ARMS looks gorgeous in action and is a neat concept, but it’ll need to do a lot more between now and it’s launch in the Autumn of 2017 to justify a purchase. It kinda reminded me of For Honor, the core combat is centered around 1v1 stand offs, it’s heavily skill-based and demands that you be constantly aware of your enemy. I feel like it needs some balancing, it was a little too easy to spam attacks or get grabbed and stunned (perhaps I was just bad), but beyond that, it just seemed to lack depth. I definitely think it’s something I’d try for a bit, get my arse thoroughly kicked, put it down and never touch it again. You’ll also need four Joy Cons total to play local multiplayer, and it remains to be seen if it’ll have any single player component. All in all: lackluster.
1 2 Switch is a compilation of mini-games that are silly, fun and showcase some great tech, but again they’re all quite simple and shallow. One sees you play the role of duelling cowboys. You hold the Joy Con down by your waist, staring at your opponent in the eyes (in this case a Nintendo rep in cowboy costume, quite awkward), after a tense pause the game will shout “DRAW!” and you have to level the Joy Con and pull the trigger. The screen then shows the angle of your shot and the time it took for you to pull the trigger. Another one is just table tennis but without a ball or table. It’s rhythm-based and you essentially have to time your shots by using the noise of the ball hitting a bat, then the table. The most impressive one I tried is also the hardest to describe. Basically, on the screen is a wood rectangular box with several metal balls inside it, you hold the Joy Con flat in your hand, tilt it to and fro and the rumble allows you to feel the metal balls rolling around as if you were holding the wooden box. With me so far? It really is one of those things you have to try to fully appreciate, but one thing’s for certain, that ice cubes in the glass thing from the Japanese Livestream on Friday? Totally legit. 1 2 Switch is being pitched as the first Nintendo game where players compete staring into each other’s eyes instead of at the screen. This may be true, but is it worth the $69.95 asking price? No, it should be bundled in for free with every Switch, is my confident and immediate answer.
Finally, we have Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’ve been very keen to check out the Switch version of this game to see if some of the issues of the Wii U version I played at the EB Games Expo had been ironed out. So how does it fare? Well, it definitely looks and runs better but unfortunately it’s hard to say if this is thanks to the more modern specs of the Switch or just because it’s a newer build than what I played back in September. The frame-rate appeared to be a reasonably consistent 30fps, with a few dips here and there. I fought the Stone Talus, a monster in an area that performed really poorly on the Wii U, and was pleased to find it remained at 30fps this time around. Other new things I noticed: a lot more birds flying around, squirrels and frogs, lava streams on Death Mountain and a forest in the distance behind the castle. I could also see the palm tree area featured in the footage from the Game Awards (to the south over the long bridge) and a handful of the horse-head shaped structures which I now know to be a set of stables. Other than that, the demo was still set on the plateau area so nothing much else to report in terms of content. I played using the Switch Pro Controller which was fine to use, and again the gyro aiming for things like throwing weapons and shooting arrows worked a treat. I also undocked the Switch and played it in handheld mode. Compared to sitting right up close to a TV, the game looked fantastic running on the 720p handheld screen and again appeared locked confidently at 30fps. I guess I’ll have to wait until the game is officially released to see how it’ll look on a decent TV, from a reasonable distance.
So there you have it, there were a handful of smaller titles I didn’t get a chance to play, like Sonic Mania, Ultra Street Fighter 2, Disgaea 5, Skylanders and Just Dance 2017 but as far as heavy hitters go the above pretty much covers it. As I left the conference room I could already feel the disappointment settling in. While there were some incredibly exciting games announced for the Switch at Nintendo’s Livestream on Friday, and I did have a blast with Snipperclips and Splatoon 2, it’s an unavoidable fact that the Switch’s lineup for launch is rather pathetic. I feel the price, while definitely steep, is justified once you get your hands on the impressive tech. But for the casual gamer, the parents and the grandparents buying this stuff for their kids? They’re going to be hard to win over at $469.99 AUD. Nintendo still has time to announce further launch games, and it’ll be a difficult decision as a die hard Zelda fan not to buy the Switch just to ensure I get the superior version of that one game, but after watching their live stream and attending their hands-on event I’m still not 100% sure I’m going to buy a Nintendo Switch at launch. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly what Nintendo want their biggest fans feeling.