Robert and I were finally able to get our hands on the Nintendo Switch at PAX South a couple weekends ago! Was it everything we hoped it would be? What surprised us about the console? Read on to find out.
First, I want to tell you how lucky we were to even BE at PAX and have the opportunity to check out everything the expo had to offer, including Nintendo Switch.
Robert and I had been talking about potentially going to PAX South, but due to our families schedules we would have only been able to go for one day of the show, and it would be difficult to make happen, as well as the financial cost of passes to the conference. We had to make the tough call to not attend the show. Fast forward to just three days before the conference and out of nowhere I receive an email from a coworker who, due to other obligations, is no longer able to go to PAX and has two 3-day passes to the show that he will just give to us since he doesn’t want them to go to waste.
It seemed fortuitous that we should stumble upon passes at the last minute, after we had decided not to attend, so we made arrangements and found a way to be there for just the last day of the conference, Sunday.
We drove down to San Antonio from Austin, and got there almost an hour before the show floor would open because we wanted to be early enough in line so that we would have a chance to play the Switch. While waiting in line to get into the expo, we were asking other people about how things were looking at the Nintendo booth and discovered that there were two separate lines to play the Switch, one for Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and one for literally everything else. This speaks to the huge amount of interest in the next Zelda title. I didn’t care if I had to wait in line all day to be able to play the Switch, I was going to make it happen. We were also told by our new friends that at a certain length, each line gets cut off and no more people are allowed in it anymore. We identified where Nintendo’s booth was on the show floor and when we were finally let in, we immediately bolted for the Zelda line.
I could see the line forming as we neared the Nintendo booth and I followed the people to the end, where it was ALREADY cut-off and full (less than one minute after the show floor opened). The Nintendo representative was incredibly nice and told us to hurry to the secondary line for all other titles. Unfortunately, as I approached the end of the second line, it too reached its limit and no more attendees were allowed in. We were heartbroken.
Our entire reason for being there was to experience the Switch and it wasn’t looking like we would be able to check it out. People weren’t even allowed to stand near the end of the line and hope for it to shuffle forward enough so you could slide into the end of it. This wasn’t Nintendo’s fault, but a necessary evil for PAX because there were so many people trying to move about the show floor, and large groups of people standing around waiting to sneak into a line causes a huge disruption to the flow of traffic. I was happy that Nintendo was, by far, the most desired gaming experience to have at PAX South, but was sad that it seemed, despite our best efforts, that we wouldn’t have a chance to check it out for ourselves.
Defeated, Robert and I decided to walk the rest of the show floor and see what else PAX South had to offer. We saw several promising looking indie games on display, new board games, lots of retro gaming merchants, and e-sport tournaments (primarily Hearthstone and Overwatch). I highly recommend going to PAX South in the future if you are fan of gaming in all of its forms. Rob and I met up with some mutual friends who were in attendance, talked about games, had lunch, and with renewed determination, Robert and I set out to play the Switch.
The Nintendo booth itself was featured prominently on the show floor, with a giant Nintendo logo near the ceiling. The front 3/4ths of the booth had rows and rows of televisions with different games set up to play. Zelda: Breath of the Wild, A.R.M.S., Splatoon 2, Snipperclips, and Super Bomberman R were all available to try out in this section of the booth. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was only available to play on the back 1/4th of the Nintendo booth.
We had been watching people play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that morning after finding out we weren’t going to get in either of the lines to play the Switch. Nintendo had this section of their booth set up as little mini-experiences showcasing all of the different ways and environments you could enjoy playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. They had a diner booth where the Switch was in handheld mode, a mock car for you to sit in seats and experience the game, a living room with a couch to sit on and use the system in portable mode with the Joycon Wheel attachment, as well as an airplane to experience how it feels to play the Switch while wildly cramped into a small space.
There was no distinct line for this section of the booth, just a large throng of people standing around watching everyone play Mario Kart in a variety of different situations. While I was standing and watching people play the game at the diner booth, I made small talk with the Nintendo representative there in charge of timing their gaming sessions. He had flown down from the Nintendo World Store located in New York City and was helping out with the Switch rolling roadshow going around the country. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Nintendo rep would just pick random people standing and watching to then be next to play. Robert and I were incredibly lucky and he chose us to play. I think it’s important that I post this picture of Robert immediately after we sat down and got to hold the Switch console in our hands for the first time:
The Switch was in handheld mode with the Joycons attached to either side. There was a metal clamp over the system that prevented someone from walking off with the console, but it also covered enough of the Joycons that you could not slide them off the system. My immediate first impression of the Switch was that it was incredibly thin. I’m used to the Wii U tablet, which feels bulky and clunky in comparison. The Switch is a sleek device and I find it hard to believe that a system that can be played as a handheld can have the graphical output while being so small. My next immediate observation was that the Switch was heavier than I expected. I’m guessing the metal clamp on the system was adding some significant weight, because if it wasn’t, then the system is fairly heavier than you will expect based on pictures.
My first move before starting our rounds of battle mode Mario Kart 8 was to try and remove the Joycons from the system. While I was able to push the release button on the Joycons on the back, they would not slide up due to the metal clamp attached to the system. Sad. I then clicked all of the buttons and played with the joystick on the Joycons. They feel great! The shoulder buttons have a satisfying click to them, and the joysticks feel far more fluid than the nub on the 3DS. I am worried about the Joycons being used as standalone controllers on their side because I imagine they will feel too small in the hand, but while connected to the Switch, they felt great.
We got to play two battle mode rounds on Mario Kart 8. I chose Dry Bones, because all other choices are irrelevant. I’ve missed him so much! We played the Splatoon and Luigi’s Mansion maps, which were both quite fun. Splatoon’s map in particular was well thought out, with tons of ramps and jumps that made it feel like a skate park, similar to actual Splatoon maps. I wasn’t really playing the game to win because I was trying to see how the system ‘felt’ while playing. The screen is incredibly sharp. Seeing a Nintendogame at 720p on a handheld screen was a sight to behold. It looks beautiful. Viewing angles on the screen were excellent, colors were vibrant, and the frame rate was flawless. I’m looking forward to playing the Switch in many diners, and cars, and living rooms, and planes, and bathrooms.
After our two rounds were up, it was time to break the system. There is a plus and minus icon, as well as a share button and home button, on the Joycons and I wanted to see if they did anything to the console. Unfortunately, after pressing all of them, it seemed that Nintendo had disabled all of those buttons for the demo booth, so there was no effect.
What little we got to experience with the Switch only made us that more interested in finally getting the system in our hands where we can fully explore all of its abilities and features when we bring home our consoles on March 3rd. While I watched several people play games, I did not personally get to experience the Pro Controller, the system in portable mode, the Joycon Wheel accessory, Joycons played on their side, Motion controls, HD Rumble, the Joycon Grip, or playing the Switch while docked on a TV. Knowing there is so many other ways to experience the console has me excited about the possibilities with the Switch.
I truly hope that this console is successful for Nintendo. While I’m a self-admitted fanboy of Nintendo, I’m not unaware of how many bizarre business decisions Nintendo makes on a regular basis. The Wii U was a jumbled up garbled mess from its inception in almost every way. The marketing of Switch has been spot on so far, and it seems that people at the very least are aware of the system and are interested in it. Whether this will translate into massive sales remains to be seen, but I think the value proposition for the system is enticing enough that it’s more likely third parties will be on board with the Switch this generation. If the Switch is another miss, I worry about the future of Nintendo. Their steadfast approach to creating new experiences for everyone is a stalwart part of gaming, and without them, several franchises as well as future innovations to gaming as whole would disappear. A video game industry without Nintendo in it is to the detriment of all gamers.
Are you on board with the Switch? Are you taking a wait-and-see approach with the new console? What do you love and hate about it? Let us know in the comments!