Thursday, October 20, 2016

Eight thoughts on the Nintendo Switch

Early this morning (in my neck of the woods, at least), Nintendo unveiled--via a three-minute video that can be viewed below--its "new home gaming console," called Switch.

Previously referred to as the NX, the Switch offers up a whole lot of gaming options in a surprisingly small package. The gist: it's a small tablet with detachable controllers that also can be connected to (and played on) a TV.

As with all things Nintendo, the Switch's reveal provoked reactions that ranged from amazed to aghast. How did I react to it? The rest of this write-up should give you a good idea.

The name is miles better than the Wii U--To be honest, when I first saw it appear in this morning's Nintendo Switch debut trailer, I wasn't all that impressed. As I continued to watch, though, it sunk in that the name's pretty darn fitting given what the system allows people to do. Plus, it ditches both the DS and Wii naming schemes Nintendo has relied on for the last two generations, which was a must. (Connecting this system to the Wii brand, especially, would've been suicide, in my opinion.) Plus, I really like the animated logo that was used throughout today's teaser and I think Nintendo can get a lot of mileage out of it if it plays its cards right.

I'm going to miss the clamshell design of the DS and 3DS--Now that I've seen what Nintendo wanted to accomplish with Switch, I understand why it had to leave the iconic clamshell design of its last two portable game systems in the dust. Still, I can't help but mourn the loss at least a bit, especially since that design helped protect DS and 3DS screens and buttons from scratches and other damage. Oh, well, that's nothing a soft pouch can't help with (in the case of Switch), right?

I'm also going to miss the DS' and 3DS' two screens--I'm having an easier time with this design decision than I am with the one above, as Nintendo effectively killed the most interesting aspects of two-screen gaming when it added 3D to the 3DS' top screen and also made it larger than the bottom one.

Do I have to mourn touch-screen gaming, too?--No part of this first Nintendo Switch video suggested the console's portable component features a touch screen. Still, I have a feeling we'll find out it does, in fact, sport one between now and then it finally hits store shelves next March. It only makes sense given the Switch's form factor and the rumors of Nintendo courting mobile-game developers to bring their wares to the system.

Its hybrid capabilities are even more interesting than I imagined--That the Switch was going to be a system you could play on the go or at home (while connected to a TV) has been a given for eons now. Even the detachable controller parts have been a known quantity for some time. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't shocked by some of what was shown off in this morning's teaser. In particular, I loved seeing that you can detach the above-mentioned parts and hold one in each hand, or you can stick them into an accessory that makes them look and act like a more traditional controller. And then there's the most controversial use of these "Joy-Con" peripherals (I love that name, by the way), which involves turning them sideways and holding them like they're tiny NES or SNES controllers. I can't see myself ever employing that method of play, but I like that it's an option all the same.

It's hard to tell how powerful the Switch is in a three-minute piece of PR fluff, but it looks capable enough to me--Of course, "capable enough to me" means on par with or a smidgen better than the Wii U. I sincerely doubt Nintendo's aiming for this system to be no more powerful than that failed console, though, so the final product should at least equal two Wii Us duct-taped together. (Please tell me you get the joke.) That would be beyond fine with me, especially since I passed on the Wii U and have yet to experience any of Nintendo's wonderful gaming franchises in honest-to-goodness high definition.

I love that Switch uses cartridges rather than discs--Some people find this baffling, I'm sure, but I'm not one of them. I mean, can you imagine a portable device like this having a disc slot? I can't. Plus, I simply prefer carts to CDs or DVDs when it comes to gaming. No disc drive means less noise, fewer loading screens and a smaller console--with the latter being especially important for an on-the-go system like Switch.

The list of third-party partners Nintendo has shown off is promising, but doesn't mean much at the moment--If you've followed Nintendo and its systems for any length of time, you know its relationships with third-party developers and publishers have been strained--to put it mildly--since the Nintendo 64 era. Has everyone kissed and made up thanks to Switch? I'll believe it when I see it. Hopefully, though, Switch will attract at least as much third-party software as the 3DS has, and far more than the Wii U ever did.

So, those are my initial thoughts and opinions on today's Nintendo Switch unveiling. What are yours?

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