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Preview | Nintendo Switch Preview Event

by on February 27, 2017
 

In less than a week, Nintendo will be releasing their brand new console to the public. The Nintendo Switch has gained quite a positive response ever since it was officially revealed in October last year. In January, they announced more details like the price, release date, and some of the launch titles. Since then, they’ve been touring the Switch around to build up hype for their console, getting as many impressions as they possibly can. I was invited to try the Switch ahead of its release this Friday, and I managed to try a good amount of games in my short time with the console.

Before we get to the games, I want to give my impressions of the hardware itself. Having played with the console in all of its modes, TV mode, tabletop mode, and handheld mode, I must say it’s a rather sleek design. It isn’t without flaws, but the feeling of clicking the joy-cons onto the joy-con grip or the screen feels rather seamless. While attaching the controllers to other devices feels smooth, detaching feels a little more complicated, as there are tiny buttons that have to be held down to detach the controllers. It makes it a bit difficult to find the proper grip and position to hold things from and it feels like it could have been made simpler. It’s a minor issue, but it felt most frustrating with the joy-con strap pieces, as removing them seemed to require some extra force.

The various controllers and their play modes are surprisingly comfortable as well. The joy-cons, while small, fit well in the hands and even offer pretty smart button placement. Some of the games I tried did well to find the best way to position the controllers for the game. Even when holding one joy-con as a controller, it doesn’t seem uncomfortable and works for the games that support the option. The HD rumble works very well too, but more on that later. While holding the system in handheld mode, it has a nice light feeling, but still manages to have enough weight to feel like I have something to play in my hands.

The joy-con controller grip that is included with the system also works well, feeling a bit like a smaller Dreamcast controller. It also feels rather light, almost like an extension to the joy-cons themselves. As a huge contrast, the Switch pro controller has a bit more weight to it than most of the other devices, but feels incredibly good to hold. Even the design with a slightly translucent cover plate brings back the nostalgia of the older translucent Nintendo hardware. Despite being a bit heavier, it wasn’t too heavy for gameplay and after finally trying one out, I’m sold on it. The accessory pricing is a bit on the high side, but it does make sense when one considers all the features of the controllers. Now that we’ve talked about the controllers and how the system feels, let’s get to the games.

Super Bomberman R

As one of the Switch launch titles, it was an obvious choice to give this one a try. This is the first Bomberman game to release since Konami bought and absorbed the franchise from Hudson Soft in 2012, and the first game in general since 2010. This is one of the games that actually works rather well when using one joy-con, but all the other controller options are available as well. Story mode seems simple enough, as one or two players will work together to reach goals of various arenas. Friendly fire is definitely on, so make sure not to blow up your partner as you try to make your way through the battlefield. In just a couple demo levels, I managed to see at least one cool feature, as there was a magnet that would bring bombs closer to them, locking any enemies between the two and preventing an escape. Enemies themselves in the early stages seem rather simple, though touching them will automatically count as a death. The story missions seem easy enough, though with three difficulty modes, there is likely enough challenge for those seeking a single-player experience.

Getting to the battle mode, this seems to be the main draw to the game, as up to eight players can duke it out in classic arenas are new ones. All the popular power-ups and rule options are available, from using revenge carts to take out opponents after death to activating sudden death in the final moments. It is worth noting that while this mode is fun with friends, there are some design flaws. The map is shown at an angle sometimes and the camera moves overhead with the action, which keeps things active but can be distracting. The timer clock is also a problem, as there will be times that it will be over the top portion of the map, and it’s even possible to run behind the clock, obscuring the character (and any bombs). Aside from the design, it is still classic Bomberman fun, though it’s also worth mentioning the loose feeling of the controls. Actions feel a bit delayed and movement itself seems to lack fluidity, making it easy to get caught on obstacles or accidentally get hit by a blast.

Despite the flaws, the game still has a surprisingly charming presentation. Each of the different Bomberman “brothers” display a unique personality, and it not only shows on the character select screen, but in battle as well. The Red Bomber has an overconfident look in his eyes, posing heroically to seek attention. The Black Bomber considers himself to be perfect in every way, but also acts like a ninja as he runs with his arms behind him. The Blue Bomber acts almost the complete opposite, having a lazy personality that shows as he slouches while he moves about. Even one of the sisters, the Pink Bomber, shows her girlish charm as she moves about. It’s a nice touch and helps make the game feel more inviting. It still might be hard to swallow the $50 price tag, but it would still be a great game for parties, and hopefully it does well enough to keep the brand alive.

1-2 Switch: Milk

While at the event, I was able to try just one minigame from the upcoming launch title, 1-2 Switch. Milk is a minigame that has been viewed by many to be quite strange, but it really is a lot of fun. Using the joy-con in one hand, players have to move their fingers along the SL and SR buttons on the side of the controller. They will also move the controller downward while playing, causing milk to squirt from an imaginary cow teat. Even though the game challenges the players not to look at the screen, it really becomes tempting as players may want to see how they’re doing.

When up against my opponent, I seemed to have gotten the motion down, though I did fairly slow. With each squeeze, it seemed that I got a lot of milk, ending up with nine glasses by the end of the game. While I beat my opponent, I noticed another player getting 11 glasses filled, as he did the same motion as me, but much faster. It’s impressive that the game is able to determine the speed of motion as well as the rhythm of motion when playing such a simple game.

Even though this was just one of 28 minigames, 1-2 Switch feels like a spiritual successor to the WarioWare series. Even using pictures of actors that feel like stock photos, it feels so absurd that it adds to the fun. Despite the fun that can be had, this really should have been a game included with the system. It would give adopters of the system a game to get a true sense of how the controllers can be used, and it would increase the value of both the console and the game. $50 for the game alone is a little steep, but like Super Bomberman R, the game feels right at home for a social gathering.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

We’ve covered the Wii U version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild from E3 last year, but we couldn’t turn down trying the Switch version. The demo was the exact same one as the story demo from E3, and since I knew what to do, I tried to utilize my 20 minutes wisely. Skipping many cutscenes and monitoring my stamina gauge, I dashed, climbed, and made my way through all the story segments. My main focus here was to not only get further than my previous demo, but also to test out the game on the Switch. With that in mind, I started my demo in TV mode, playing with the joy-cons attached to the joy-con grip.

Working through the Shrine of Resurrection, I made my way to the cliff at the start of the game where Link takes in the view of the Great Plateau. Using this moment, I instantly took the joy-cons off and attached them to the Switch console and played in handheld mode for a bit. The game ran pretty smoothly and looked excellent on the display, making it clear that handheld mode would be perfect for exploring this land. After speaking to the old man and visiting the temple of time, I tested out using the Shiekah Slate while in handheld mode, which allowed me to move the whole console with motion control. I didn’t do much with the slate, as it was merely to confirm that motion controls still worked.

Making my way to my next objective and raising the Resurrection Tower, I decided to quickly try TV mode again, but this time with the joy-cons free from the joy-con grip. It reminded me of playing the Zelda games on the Wii, able to use the motion controls to aim your bow, among other things. It felt really cool, and it added to the immersion when I felt the rumble through both hands individually. Entering Shrine Oman Au, the one I had reached at the end of my previous demo, I was granted the magnetic rune. Using this rune, I was able to pick up metallic objects, and while it took me a little bit to realize what I was looking for, I figured it out, delving further into the shrine and trying interesting things with the rune.

The game gives a lot of options when it comes to combat, as I decided to think outside the box and use the magnetic rune to fight off a miniature guardian. Instead of jumping out of the way and fighting head-on, I used a metal cube to create space between me and my opponent, watching as it desperately tried to get around to attack me. My main goal was to push it off the platform into the water, but I ended up just controlling the cube to become a bludgeoning weapon as I slammed it into the enemy until it was destroyed. After defeating the enemy, the magnetic rune made itself useful throughout the rest of the shrine, creating bridges and opening giant doors to reveal a mysterious old man that would grant me with the treasure of the shrine. Once obtained, I was transported outside of the shrine, only for my demo to end.

The game still feels and looks great, and feels even more colorful on the Switch version. I’m happy to see that there are several options to play the game with, and what’s more impressive is that they all work well and feel great. While it was more or less the same content, it was still a blast to play, and I look forward to playing more when it releases on Friday. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to get a review out until a little after launch, but judging from the early impressions of the final game, it sounds like it will be a great launch title for Nintendo’s new platform.

Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers

Never would I have guessed that in 2017, I would be playing a new iteration of Street Fighter II. Regardless, it still happened, and it feels surprisingly great. Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers takes the old school graphics as well as the Super Street Fighter II: Turbo HD Remix graphics, and adds even more content. The main addition that is advertised here is the so-called “final challengers”, as Evil Ryu and Violent Ken are added to the roster. There are a couple other additions, including a first person mini-game and a sprite color editor, but unfortunately, they were not available in the demo.

Keeping things brief, I tried out both of the new characters, getting used to the way they moved and getting a grasp for their moves. Violent Ken seems to be a powerful new addition that feels great for newcomers. His attacks are easy to learn and he has excellent mobility with his Rasetsu Kyaku dash and air Tatsumaki Senpukyaku. His attacks are pretty devastating as they add extra hits to the combos, which can stun the opponent faster. I managed to take down a Zangief player using Violent Ken for my first time, and my opponent definitely didn’t go down without a fight.

Trying out Evil Ryu, I fought against a Blanka player that seemed a bit more unpredictable than the Zangief player previously. Evil Ryu seemed a bit less mobile than Violent Ken, despite having the Ashura Senku dash (made famous by Akuma). I had a bit more trouble this time, trying to get used to the slight variances in Evil Ryu’s moveset. I still managed to pull off a win with a desperate Shun Goku Satsu, pulling off a flashy display as expected from the devastating move. The game felt great to play with the pro controller, which was unfortunately the only option given during the demo. It’s my understanding that the game can be played with the single joy-con controller, but I can’t see that being an ideal option. Being a Switch exclusive, hopefully it does well, as it would be great to see more Capcom fighting game support on the Nintendo Switch.

Arms

Though not a launch title, Arms is expected to release sometime this Spring for Nintendo’s new platform. A colorful fighter with a seemingly silly concept actually has more going for it than others might think.The roster of characters have spring-like arms that can be extended and curved while punching towards their opponent. Even though the demo offered only motion controls, we’ve heard that there will be a traditional control scheme as well, but where’s the fun in that?

The demo at the event had five playable characters and a handful of arenas to battle in, but it was still enough to get a decent sample of the game. Using the left and right joy-con in each hand, it wasn’t exactly a 1:1 motion experience like some might expect with the motion controls. The controllers have to be held a specific way with a sort of “thumbs-up” grip, the shoulder buttons being underneath the player’s thumbs. It feels a bit different when you realize the joysticks are on the opposite side of your palms, and you still end up using them for selecting different types of arms for your character. Regardless, it still worked fairly well for a game that didn’t really need a lot of button inputs.

Players will punch forward to extend their “arms”, tilting the joy-cons left or right to curve the punch. Tilting both joy-cons left or right will move the player around, with one of the shoulder buttons working as a jump. This allows players to move around and dodge incoming attacks. Tilting both joy-cons inward will block incoming attacks, but players have to be careful as the opponent can punch both controllers forward to launch a grab that will break a block. It really feels like a fighting game when these features are considered, and it adds to the depth of the gameplay. In addition to these mechanics, there is also the flurry attack, where players can activate a sort of revenge meter and deliver even more powerful punches.

For my first match, I picked Master Mummy as my fighter, who seemed to be the most brawny of the fighters. Each fighter has three arm types to select from, with different speeds, effects, and strengths. Master Mummy had the slow but powerful Big Punch, the target seeking Homie, or the multiple hit Revolver, each one offering different techniques. Picking different weapons gives players different strategies to fight with, and using the mechanics of the gameplay, it adds even more depth to the combat. On top of that, each fighter has unique skills, like Master Mummy with his super armor and ability to heal when he blocks an attack.

Using Master Mummy, I managed to emerge victorious using powerful punches and effective grabs. The fighting feels well done despite not being a 1:1 motion controlled game, and it really adds tension when punches get stopped midway by your opponent’s own attack. Going into a second match, I chose Ninjara, who has a sort of disappearing evasion trick, giving him some invincibility frames. Ninjara had the electric weapon Sparky, the weak but wide-spread Trident, as well as the tricky Chakram type arm. Playing with a faster and more mobile character felt refreshing, and it made it even tougher since I was battling another Ninjara. The player I fought was a bit more experienced as well, so I had a tougher fight and overall I was defeated.

Arms is a lot of fun, and despite the simple looking concept, it has a ton of depth in the mechanics. It feels polished and the game actually looks really good in motion. The art style is cartoonish but it works well with the way the game plays, and the overall presentation seems well done. Hopefully Nintendo can reveal more about the overall content soon, as the current content seems a bit shallow for a full priced game. I can see this being a great new IP for Nintendo, easily gaining the casual crowd as well as someone looking for a different kind of competitive game.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Even though I have played the original Mario Kart 8 pretty extensively on the Wii U, I still had to try out the Switch update. Unfortunately, the demo was only one course at 50cc, so it was pretty easy, but it still gave me a good idea of the updated content. The course that was selected was one of the downloadable courses from the previous version, Dragon Driftway, which is actually one of my favorites from the game. Playing in handheld mode, the game played great, maintaining a smooth 60fps and still looking fantastic while doing it. I was told by one of the representatives that the tabletop mode works well for the game too so that your hands can be in more of a resting position instead of holding the console up, but it feels light enough for decent periods of play in handheld mode.

On the character select screen, I could see all the new characters, including Dry Bones, King Boo, and the crossover characters, the Splatoon Inklings. I still feel like it’s a a crime that Diddy Kong is still not in the game, despite his stronger presence in other Mario spinoff titles, but I suppose it can’t be helped. Playing as an Inkling Boy, I went with a Splatoon themed kart and started the race. Being no stranger to Mario Kart, I was able to boost ahead of the pack from the start, and being 50cc, I wasn’t expecting any competition.

Racing around the track, I made a few observations like the addition of double item blocks placed in rows of single item blocks, much like Mario Kart: Double Dash. For players that aren’t aware, one of the new features of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the ability to hold onto two items at once, a returning feature from the previously mentioned game. It works well, though unlike Double Dash, it appears that items cannot be switched around. It’s unlikely that this feature will change, since the game comes out in two months and it seems pretty much done, but it’s always possible.

Even though there were new items added, being in first place the majority of the race made it difficult for me to get any of them. I did manage to get a super horn stolen from me by another racer using the added Boo item, which was cool to see from the receiving end. Winning first place in the race, my demo was over, and unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try the revamped battle mode. I have seen enough of it to get an idea of how it will be, which I look forward to playing when the game launches in April.

Splatoon 2

It’s great to see that Splatoon is considered a successful franchise for Nintendo, as we gave the original a favorable review when it released almost two years ago. Hearing that Splatoon 2 looks to add more content while maintaining the fun gameplay makes for exciting potential. Trying it out, I realized just how much I missed the unique shooting mechanics. It was cool to see that the developers still managed to find a way to maintain the Wii U gamepad functionality. Even if players can get a live view of the map on a separate screen, they can still pull up the map at any time, perform super jumps to their allies, and even use the joy-cons to do motion control aiming.

Trying my first match, I went to my old tried and true weapon, the splat roller. Even though the sub-weapon and special ability were different than what I was used to, it still controlled great and the game still maintains that sense of style that encourages fun. The splat roller is apparently getting two speed modes, though I only played with the normal one in the demo, as I rolled my ink around the map, trying to help my team. I wasn’t doing very well, as I was apparently very out of practice as I continued to get splatted left and right by the opposing team, who was spawn-camping pretty effectively.

The graphics looked only slightly upgraded from the original Wii U title, being slightly smoother on models and a bit better lighting, but the original game looked good already with the style choice. The music maintains that unique energy and the the Inklings have new style choices as well, adding a bit more personality for fans of the series. Having turned motion control aiming off in the original game, I was already used to using the right analog stick for aiming. It was a  bit different with the motion control on while still using the right stick to aim, and I believe the demo was preset for the options, so I couldn’t change them.

Trying out the new Dual Splatters, it was rather fun to use the new dash roll, which helped get me out of dangerous situations. The range and firing speed was pretty effective and I managed to do much better with this weapon, even getting a couple chances to try the new Inkjet. The Inkjet is a special ability where you can use a jetpack and hover around, firing single shots off at players. The Inkjet also uses ink to propel it in the air, so moving around covers areas and opposing players in the ink as well. It adds a new sense of air superiority that the game didn’t have before, but it also singles the player out for others to aim at. We’ll see how much these new abilities add when the game launches this Summer.

Sonic Mania

Sonic Mania is a sort of return to form for the classic 90’s mascot, as Headcannon and PagodaWest Games seek to revive the classic Sega Genesis style. Taking things back to the classic era of the blue Hedgehog, the developers tried to keep things nostalgic, meanwhile utilizing new techniques that would’ve been difficult or even impossible to do on the Sega Genesis. This was the last stop on my preview run, and unfortunately I only had a couple minutes to play it, so this will be a brief preview.

The demo only gave a couple stages for options, so I went with a classic: Green Hill Zone. Even though it starts out looking familiar, it becomes pretty clear that this isn’t the same stage from the original game. The level design opens up to be much larger, the paths become more complex, and new items are hidden around the stage. Playing the game with a single joy-con, it felt pretty comfortable for a game with simple inputs like this. Since I didn’t have a lot of time, I unfortunately couldn’t figure out how to do Sonic’s new “Drop Dash” move, but I still explored as much as I could.

The stage turns some of the classic level design on its head, with moments where players will go in the opposite direction. It threw me off at first because I thought I had hit a dead end and that I had to go a different direction, but I soon found a tunnel that lead me on the right path. I found an electric shield, first introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, as it adds the extra double jump that made it easy for me to gain new heights. It’s incredible how much stuff can be found high in the skies of the level despite it being easy to completely miss.

Reaching the end of the stage, I fought a new boss, with two large orb-like objects that spin like a wheel, or move like a pendulum. They turn red and grow out spikes one at a time, making the other one vulnerable to attacks. It feels a little bit more difficult but still not impossible to defeat, especially given a healthy amount of rings. Destroying one of the orbs makes the boss change up its attack pattern, making it go into a more offensive strike as it tries to slam into the ground, spikes out as it bounces to the side. Upon defeating the boss, the classic goal sign from Sonic the Hedgehog 3 drops down, allowing the player to try and keep it up in the air for as long as possible.

Sonic Mania truly feels like classic Sonic with fresh elements, and it feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch. It’s currently slated for a Spring release, though a recent Amazon leak may suggest an April 25th release date. We’ll known soon enough as it won’t be too long. Hopefully we find out more information on the new Sonic game that will also release on the Switch later this year.

There were more games at the event, but like any event with this many games, it’s nearly impossible to get to them all. Even though there are many other games I wish to try in the future, like Super Mario Odyssey, this event just further sold me on the Nintendo Switch. Hopefully it maintains a positive vibe from consumers because this is a console that deserves to succeed. We will try to get as many of these games reviewed as soon as possible around the launch, so keep your eyes on GotGame for more in the future.

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