This past weekend was the last stop of the Nintendo Switch Preview Tour. From Toronto to San Francisco, and finally down to L.A., fans of the Big N have been able to preview the new system all winter before its release. Of course, the Switch launched on March 3, as well as early Game of the Year candidate for any gaming publication, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Link’s new adventure has garnered universal acclaim from those who have played it. It would be a shock to see if critics didn’t like enjoy the game, but it’s nonetheless comforting to know Nintendo has scored big out of the gate.
The preview tour, at Raleigh Studios on Melrose Avenue, included 20 minutes of Zelda gameplay available to fans, but the expo itself was more about showing off the versatility of the system itself while previewing 14 other games set to be released in the coming months. Different booths and sets — at times it felt like I was on a production stage — featured the Switch in different scenarios; Zelda was played on a big screen TV. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could be played in a diner setting on the tablet; it could also be played in an airplane setting. Some demos showed off the ability of the joy cons, while others utilized the pro controller (which, yes, costs $70 to buy separately. Oh well).
Here are my impression of some of the games I was able to play, as well as what I thought of the different control schemes.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Not that it needs to said, but this is a must-own for anyone looking to pick up the Switch, whenever that may be. In my 20 minutes, I was able to obtain Link’s clothes, earn some weapons –including an ax — and kill some goblins, Z-targeting style, while running afoot around sunny Hyrule Kingdom. My friend Isiah, who won the tickets to the show, remarked how slippery Link controlled. I have to agree with him; but that will be no deterrent for us when we have the money to fork over for this game. Exploring Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was the most immersed I had ever been in a video game. Botw will surely top the experience soon enough.
We were able to play Green Hill Zone — no need to explain that one, and Studiopolis, a mixture of Sonic 2‘s Casino level and Sonic 3‘s Carnival Level. Sonic can’t burn through Studiopolis as quickly as he wants, but these kinds of levels have enough creativity to keep your need for speed desire to a minimum and focus on quality platforming. Sonic Mania is a return to 16-bit heaven, and thank god the physics of those Genesis games (my biggest concern when playing any new Sonic game) are back.
Sonic Mania releases this spring. Yes, please.
Do you have a reliable friend or family member whom you enjoy competing against on a regular basis? If you do, then ARMS will be worth the money. It may seem like a glorified Wii Sports game at first, but I found myself having more fun battling my friend in those 10 minutes than I did playing Wii tennis or Wii bowling a decade ago. There will be lasting appeal here because the visuals pop, and the controls are comfortable and fun to execute. Use the joy cons, and punch and twist toward the screen to knock your opponent’s block off. The characters are all futuristic; robot-like, with body parts and weapons that fly at your opponent with comic hilarity. Executing a special move by holding the L and R shoulder buttons while quickly jabbing at the screen looks and feels great. ARMS will be a fantastic party game, for friends and family gatherings.
If, however, you don’t have that kind of social life, and you’d much rather sit than stand while playing, this won’t be for you. It seems like this would be a bundle game, but no — it’s a full-priced purchase. ARMS is the kind of game that could have boosted the Wii U’s sagging popularity. Despite eschewing the Wii brand, Nintendo is bringing back the feel-goodvibes from the era of that slick little white machine.
With only 10 to 15 minutes of playing time with this one, this is still one game I’d definitely considering buying. I never played the original, although I know of its dark horse popularity, and I can see why. Utterly confusing at first, Splatoon 2 reeled me in with its quirkiness, and the satisfaction of firing off paint in all directions, something I never thought would be exciting. Activating Squid Mode, which allowed my character to swim in paint like a sea creature to refill my weapon, was oddly addictive. Sure, I was “killed” in action a bunch, but SP2 harkens back to the days of Goldeneye 64, where friends can come over, kill some time with small talk, then finally, say, “Hey, you wanna battle in Splatoon?”
The pro controller was used for this demo. The controller itself isn’t on par with the Gamecube controller, but it’ll get the job done. The one problem I had — and maybe it’s just me — was that raising and lowering the controller effected the camera. Playing with the Wii nun-chuck was easy; I knew inherently the stick was to be held up at all times because that was part of the Wii experience. Here, I kept forgetting about the motion sensor, and it was irritating.
Practice makes perfect, though.
Snipperclips: Cut it out, together!
As Barney Stinson might say, this was De–wait for it … lightful: Delightful!
Using the joy cons — only one needed per player — strapped to our wrists, we played this little gem in tablet mode, set on a table. We were only able to go through the introduction of controls, and the first two stages, but this game had me grinning from ear to ear. Snipperclips is a 2D co-op game where players work together to solve puzzles/obstacles. The characters are shaped like rectangles with curved bottoms, and they make all sorts of cute faces depending on how you move them, or what buttons you press. This might turn away the gamer who considers themselves too macho, but its inventiveness shines through the cutesy aesthetic.
Some puzzles require each character to take bites of out one another to fit predetermined trace lines. It was all too fun to forgo the real mission and take bites out of my partner just for the hell of it.
Again, like ARMS, Snipperclips will require you to have a reliable friend around for consistent fun. Play Zelda for the epic, single-player experience; grab this one if you want to smile and laugh with someone for a night.
Snipperclips is available now.
A futuristic racer reminiscent of the F-Zero franchise. Beautiful graphics, slick a frame rate and a thrilling sense of speed, I nonetheless would probably skip over it as a purchase. The lack of personalities for the drivers doesn’t lend itself to the warmth of other racers, like Mario Kart or F-Zero, and the dearth of colors makes for a somewhat bland viewing experience, despite the graphical quality overall. There are hot spots on the tracks, and you can press X to change your racer from blue to orange to correspond with those boosters. It takes a quick eye to make the match, though you might be going too fast to see it anyway. The blue and orange color contrast, as mentioned, can become tiresome as the races go on.
Early Verdict: Sony and Microsoft fans would have been disappointed with this exhibit. Most of the games tended toward titles that recall what made the Wii a mega hit in 2006. For Nintendo fans, that shouldn’t be a worry. The combination of spectacular first party games (Zelda, and the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey) and family-like co-op titles are going to make the Switch a success. It would seem like showcasing the multifaceted Swtich would be problematic, but it looks like Nintendo has done a better job this time out than in 2012 with the Wii U. Distancing itself from the Wii name was the best choice the company made. What’s in name? If you’re Nintendo, everything. Now it’s time to play the games.