Today I killed two goblins with a boulder, I painted a whole arena pink, I partook in a kart race, I was challenged to a western quick draw, and I milked a virtual cow. All these weird and wonderful things I did at the Nintendo Switch Pre-Launch event in Sandton, South Africa. And while some of these activities might sound strange, the most important thing is that I enjoyed taking part in each and every one them.
Now let me be honest, although the Nintendo Switch had me truly excited, I still found a tiny part of me being sceptical. After all, many have called Nintendo’s next console a gimmick which over time will be forgotten. So when I entered the venue where the pre-launch event was held, I had my reservations about the console and its future.
As expected, the venue was draped in red and punctuated by various bright posters featuring some familiar faces (look it’s Mario). I was immediately intrigued by the number of stands, which each featured a different game for me to try out.
Of course, never having played Splatoon before (I truly feel ashamed), I gravitated to the area where a multiplayer game was setup. The first thing that struck me was how responsive and smooth the multiplayer experience was, even if it was being played over the system’s wi-fi. The second thing was how fun it was to play on the on the 6.2-inch Switch screen, with the Joy-Con controllers slotted in on the sides. And after losing a few times, due to my own lack of experience, I was surprised at how natural it felt to hold the unit in my hands. My concern initially was that the unit might feel heavy after prolonged use, but this was not the case.
After some multiplayer fun, I was immediately drawn to the game that will probably be the reason why so many people will be buying the console: Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I opted to play using the Joy-con grip. It took a few moments to get used to the buttons being so close to each other and the button layout, but soon I was slaying goblins and setting forests on fire quite easily. The open world in Zelda: Breath of the Wild is gorgeous, and filled with loads of mysteries and possibilities. During my limited playtime, I climbed trees, cooked food, set stuff on fire, and killed a few goblins. It’s quite amazing to see how far the Zelda franchise has come and, if Breath of the Wild is any indication, it is heading in the right direction.
Of course, most Nintendo consoles are famous for their array of mini-games and the Switch is no exception. I got to try out 1-2-Switch, a collection of mini-games that are not just loads of fun but shows off the potential of the Switch and it’s various capabilities (much like Wii Sports did for the Wii). The first of these mini-games I got to try out was called Ball Count, where both players each hold one of the Joy-con controllers in their hand as it simulates balls rolling inside. Players then have to guess how many balls there are. Now, this might sound like a simple game, but what impressed me most about it was just how realistic the HD rumble feels. It truly felt as if it was a container that was filled with balls. Next up was Milk, and yes it’s a game where you use the Joy-con to simulate milking a cow. As weird as it sounds, I actually kicked ass in it and left undefeated (I’m not sure why. I’ve never milked a cow before). The last mini-game I tried was Quick Draw. It has you facing an opponent and using the Joy-con as a revolver. Quickest draw wins. The slowest is dead.
Just before I left the event I was able to try out one last game called Arms. Basically, it’s a motion controlled boxing game, but with one big difference – your characters have spring loaded arms that you can direct using the Joy-con controller. It’s fast paced and surprisingly strategic. You try to out manoeuvre, out punch and outthink your opponent.
I left the pre-launch event more convinced that I might need a Switch in my life. The hardware’s build quality is solid, the controls are responsive and there seems to be quite a few unique titles available at launch. In the end, the Nintendo Switch surprised me with its capabilities and mobility.
The Nintendo Switch launches on the 3rd of March 2017