Nintendo Switch: Hands-On Impressions

Nintendo Switch: Hands-On Impressions

With so many control options and a weight that conveys a solid build, it feels good to fondle the Switch.

The Wii U and the Nintendo Switch stem from the same pedigree, but when you hold the two devices they feel worlds apart. The Wii U tablet, though lightweight, feels plastic and a little cheap. The Switch, however, is a solid piece of hardware with a pleasing heft.

I got the chance to roll all the parts of the Switch around in my hands. When it's fully assembled, the Switch is a little smaller and heavier than an iPad. The thumbsticks and buttons all feel comfortable and intuitive. The on-screen image is sharp, and text is easy to read: The Wii U's second screen seems muddy by comparison.

I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Switch tablet as well as on an HDTV with the assembled Joy-Con controller (aka the Joy-Con grip, aka the "pupper controller"). Though the Switch's buttons are small, I rarely found myself having to look down to assure myself of a button's position. The ZL and ZR triggers gave me problems on occasion, though: They feel a bit buried compared to the other buttons.

I also got the chance to slide the Joy-Con out of the grip and apply them to the tablet. Unfortunately, Tatsumi Kimishima didn't appear and snap his fingers in my ear, but there was still a satisfying "click" when I slid the pieces into the tablet. When you lift the Switch tablet out of its dock, the game you're playing seamlessly jumps to the tablet. There's no extended pause or wait.

The gyroscopes built into the Joy-Cons offer sophisticated rumble as well as 1:1 movement: I played Arms and quickly discovered you can't waggle your way to victory. You need to use precise movements or risk getting turned into meat toothpaste.

If the Switch finds itself in trouble for any of its control-related aspects, it'll be for how tiny the Joy-Cons are when they're held on their side like a traditional NES-style controller. Holding the Joy-Cons upright and tapping the top-mounted triggers feels great, but people with big hands are going to have big problems using the sideways Joy-Con for games like, say, Sonic Mania. I did get used to the sideways controller I was handed for Sonic Mania, but it took some getting used to – especially because the left thumbstick positions the analogue controller smack-dab in the middle of the dongle. I got used to it quite quickly – but I also have small hands.

The Switch carries a satisfying weight, but it won't make your arms fall off. Its sideways Joy-Cons are worryingly small, but they work well in every other configuration. I enjoyed my time with the system and wished I could take it home, but the Switch isn't ready to be fondled by the public yet.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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