On Saturday 14th January it was the Nintendo Switch UK Premiere, now being the only UK resident on the team I was lucky enough to win a competition to attend the event. I had the chance to be one of the very first to play the Nintendo Switch a couple of months before it’s launch date and I’d like to share my first impressions with you lovely gamers.
The premiere was being held in London, at the Eventim Apollo, so I started my day stupidly early and set off to catch my train at around 6:40am. It was wet and miserable but my excitement and general nerdyness over anything Nintendo related kept me chipper for the early start. When I arrived at the venue it was about 8:50am and they seemed to be running a little late with letting people in, of course there was a mass load of people but no orderly queue as such. I did what us British folks love to do and stood in a huddle with everyone else trying to keep warm whilst waiting to get to the doors, slowly but surely after about 30 minutes or so I was let loose inside!
I’ll talk about each of the games on show that I managed to get around to playing and then the ones I just didn’t have enough time for, the session I went to was over by 1:30pm but with the amount of journalists, press and general folk who’d also won the competition it was a very busy morning and the longest I waited to play was nearly an hour. They also ran a special promotion where you got a stamp on this piece of card for each game you played, if you got all of them then there was a special pin badge waiting for you. However, as hard as I tried, my intention to not miss out on Zelda meant I didn’t get around to getting every stamp even though I did leave the best till last!
So 1-2-Switch was one of the titles, when shown at the presentation, I wasn’t that fond of because it looked like a lot of fun in group play and something I think should be bundled in with the console but it didn’t look like it had a lot of depth to keep you playing for long periods of time. A lot like Wii Sports was upon the Wii’s release it looks to serve like an “introduction to the Switch” so to speak. I played four of the mini-games on offer as in the centre of the room there were multiple booths all showcasing a different mini-game and they were all 2 player, it’s very similar to WarioWare in that they’re short and snappy.
The first one was using the HD rumble feature on the Joycon controllers in a very interesting way indeed, I wasn’t really convinced when I heard the words “HD rumble” as I wasn’t really sure what it meant. The idea of the game was to guess how many balls were in a box using just the Joy-Con controller, and I can’t stress enough how realistic it was. All you had to do was tilt it and it genuinely felt like you were holding a little rectangular box with however many balls rolling around inside, it is the strangest and most surreal sensation when you first try especially when you know you’re just holding this tiny controller. Once you think you know the answer you just input the answer pressing one button to increase your guess and then put the controller down, once both players have had a guess you find out who was the closest or spot on!
The second mini-game had you cracking open a safe; in order to get the gold you had to twist the Joy-Con controller around using just your wrist and feel for the slight ‘click’ when you were over the right spot. The operative word there being ‘slight’ as this game I found incredibly difficult, it was such a subtle difference to when you were rotating the dial it definitely takes some practice but I think they were going for the realism side here as much as they could. Once you’d found that sweet spot you had to hold the dial in the right place for a few seconds and it would click, do that three times and the game is yours.
The third mini-game was a type of samurai showdown, you took it in turns to try and chop your opponent and you really didn’t need the a screen for this one at all really. One person started by holding their metaphorical sword above their head and then your opponent had to catch the sword by clapping, it was fun to see your opponent try and anticipate when you’d swing and you kept going until someone missed the catch and you were taken down.
The last one I did was the one that was showcased in the film reel at the Switch presentation, two players duke it out to be the first one to fire at the other and you have to be quite clever with this as you start by holding both hands down by your side staring at your opponent. When the man with no name shouts “FIRE!” you swing your arms up and press the shoulder button, it all feels pretty natural and if you shoot too early you’ll end up shooting in the dirt. It shows your reaction time afterwards as well which is nice little touch.
Overall I felt given I’d only played 4 of the games on offer in the package, they are quite short and sweet but they actually provided a lot more fun than I anticipated! Nintendo seem to be great at shooting themselves in the foot with titles like this, try and explain to people and it sounds like the most boring and un-interesting game ever but put a Joy-Con controller in your hand and I guarantee you’ll finish grinning from ear to ear. These types of games are definitely best played rather than explained.
I had so much fun playing ARMS, it was the game I waited the longest to play (2nd in line to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) and boy am I glad I did. I thought this was purely just a boxing clone when I saw the trailer at the Switch presentation, it looked very much like it could have been included in a Wii Sports package yet again. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all, the game has great depth and is a lot of fun to play. It’s not just a case of swinging your arms around to punch your opponent, it’s also been revealed the motion controls are optional which I’m sure will please more traditionalist gamers and will help to reach a broader audience. So there were 5 characters to choose from, each with their own unique battle traits such as teleportation, heavy hitter, all-rounder etc. I would think come launch day the character line up will be larger and if not will be added to in the future, I played a training round first and the idea is to basically knock your opponent down until their energy depletes. The battles are surprisingly lengthy and can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2-3 minutes and given it’s the best of three it’s a real mixed bag!
At the start of each round you can pick your arms, this means your boxing gloves basically, they don’t even have to match and you have a choice of three for each character each providing different strengths and weaknesses. I found the ninja type dude to be very easy to master and his teleportation technique comes in handy a lot. The controls were great, the only thing I found a little tricky was activating my special move. You hold the two Joy-Con controller’s with the buttons facing inwards and to trigger it you had to press the side shoulder buttons but I found myself fumbling to find them! I think that’s more to do with the fact I’m not used to the Joy-Con just yet though rather than a recurring theme. If you punched out both arms you perform a grab move and pointing the Joy-Con controllers inwards performed a block.
The stage I played was set on some stone steps, which the guy who was kind of hosting that booth pointed out, if you are up on higher ground it’s a lot easier to get the upper hand on your opponent. The training stage was like a generic square ring with bumpers on the side which bounced you back in should you go flying from a grab or a punch.
ARMS was a lot more fun than I expected much like 1-2-Switch but in a VERY different way, I can see it selling as well as Splatoon should people give it the chance for growth and if Nintendo utilise the online aspect it could get very competitive!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
For those who haven’t read any of my previous articles, Zelda is one of my favourite gaming franchises so for me…this was the game I was coming here for. If I didn’t play Breath of the Wild I may have just had a mini meltdown. It has quickly become one of the most talked about titles for 2017 and I’m sure like me, March can’t come soon enough.
There was a lovely section at the back of the room dedicated to the new Zelda title for the Wii U and Switch, it also featured a mechanically moving tree! For some silly reason, I decided to leave this one until last and thus got about 15 minutes of actual gameplay time. The demo there was only 20 minutes long but I spent the entirety of my time running around Hyrule seeing what I could find, the first thing I noticed when stepping out of the cave from which you wake up in was the sheer scope of the land. They’ve said how large the world is but I really couldn’t believe it when I saw it, this is going to be the biggest Hyrule yet and you really can climb just about anything.
I encountered some bokoblins and found a fair few items whilst roaming the land, the controls are typically “Zelda-esque” and very easy to get to grips with, there’s a lot more of a menu system than in previous titles and options given the fact there’s more customisability. Link is no longer just bound to a sword. You can even use a stick; granted it doesn’t last long though. I loved every minute and the music sounded beautiful, it’s the first new console Zelda game since 2011’s Skyward Sword and I can tell just from those short moments with the game this is going to be a very special title. It’s a huge leap away from the usual things most Zelda fans are used to and I am ready to embrace the change!
The ones that got away…
…So there was a couple of games I didn’t get to play, Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe were on show as were a lot of third party titles such as Skylanders, Just Dance 2017, Has Been Heroes, Bomberman R and a few others. Overall I had a great morning and afternoon there and I also came away with a nice pin badge as a souvenir. I’m not sure if these were the ones they were planning on giving to people if they filled in their stamp books anyway but I have been wearing it proudly ever since. I feel positive the Nintendo Switch can be a step in the right direction and I’ve already got mine waiting for release day, hurry up March 3rd!
P.s. I thought I’d leave you all with a nice picture of me jumping into Hyrule…