Review: Console-level gaming on the go could make the Nintendo Switch a winner | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Review: Console-level gaming on the go could make the Nintendo Switch a winner

TORONTO - There's a fine line between gimmick and innovation, one that Nintendo has walked with varying degrees of success over its decades of making gaming devices.

The Game Boy was a revolution in portable gaming when it was released in 1989. Compare that to today's 3DS, an otherwise excellent handheld device with a 3D feature that does little more than serve as a battery drain.

The Wii's motion controls, gimmicky as they may appear, tapped into a casual market for consoles no one knew existed (even my parents own one) and sent sales over 101 million worldwide. Its successor, the Wii U, tried combining those controls with an unwieldy and underutilized tablet controller and was a commercial flop.

Nintendo's latest effort is a console/portable hybrid called the Switch, which is now available worldwide. The goal is to be able to enjoy console-quality games at home or on the go.

It's a concept that once again walks that dangerous line. But the Switch has the potential to be a game changer.

What struck me first about the Switch was the clean design. The core of the system is a tablet device with a 6.2-inch screen. What counts as the console is simply a plastic dock that charges the tablet and controllers and has an HDMI port. That's it. It takes up about as much room as an external hard drive.

It's impressive how seamlessly the transition from portable to console gaming is. As soon as the tablet is put in the dock, your game instantly switches to your TV. Remove it from the cradle and you are playing on the go, right where you left off on the console. It's surprising how effortless the switch is.

The controller that comes with the Switch, branded as the "Joy-Con," can be used in several different configurations based on how you are using your device. It's basically like the buttons of a game controller were put on two small strips that can slide onto the sides of the tablet for mobile gaming.

When back home in front of your TV, they can slide off the tablet and be inserted into a moulded grip shaped like a standard game controller. The tablet is also built with a retractable stand so you can use the controller with the portable device as well, ideal for plane or train trips.

The two halves can also be used individually as motion controllers for Wii-like party games.

Nintendo is also releasing its Pro Controller for those wanting a more traditional gamepad, but it's pricey at around $90.

Battery life for the tablet is about three hours when playing resource-intensive games like launch title "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild."

Of course, as a hybrid, you are not getting a portable device as compact as a 3DS or iPhone, nor are you getting a console as powerful as the Xbox One or PS4. Microsoft and Sony have both embraced 4K resolution in the latest versions of their consoles, while the Switch runs at 1080p on HD televisions and 720p portably.

The Switch does have the advantage of being able to play games with high production value anywhere. If Nintendo leverages this correctly, the Switch has the potential to be a winner.

But Nintendo still needs the software if gamers are going to buy in and this has been an issue for the company before.

Outside of a handful of great titles, the Wii U was all but abandoned by third-party developers. Even Nintendo was slow to capitalize on its impressive stable of intellectual properties, as the Wii U will go down as the only major Nintendo console without its own exclusive Zelda game.

Nintendo has said that third-party support for the Switch will be robust. Looking at the list of announced releases, a lot of these games appear to be ports of existing titles or indie games. There's been no announcement on big-ticket games like the upcoming "Mass Effect: Andromeda."

Somewhat underpowered compared to the competition, the Switch might not become the console of choice for blockbuster franchises like "Call of Duty." But does it have to be?

A Nintendo spokesperson told The Canadian Press that it intends to support the 3DS alongside the Switch for the time being. And yet it's not a stretch to think that third-party developers, who solidly support the 3DS, may want to harness the Switch's versatility and develop their handheld titles for Nintendo's new machine.

For that to happen, the Switch will need an adequate install base. While the library of games at launch is not overly impressive, a new "Zelda" game is a very powerful trump card. "Breath of the Wild" is getting universal acclaim from critics and is just the kind of system seller the Wii U didn't get until far too late in its life cycle.

The Switch is a better thought-out product than the Wii U or even the Wii, with well considered innovations that enhance the gameplay experience. Time will tell whether it's enough to get gamers and developers on board.

The Switch retails for around $400.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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