So I’m gonna do something that everyone else is doing: analyzing Nintendo’s newest console which was revealed a few hours ago. The only difference is that I have a piece of information that the big outlets don’t seem to have picked up on yet. But I’ll save that for last(And by the time I post this they may have picked it up and put an article out on it.).
First things first, we have to take a look at the console itself and its base accessories. Seen in the picture above are the three primary parts of the Switch: The Joy-Con control sticks attached to a controller hub, TV docking station, and the Switch device itself inserted into the dock. These three things are the core of the Switch ecosystem. You can play at home on your television or you can take it on the go for handheld play. When at home, you can use Joy-Con controller or you can use a new version of the Pro controller:
As noted by Kotaku already, the new pro controller has a layout reminiscent of both the GameCube controller and the Xbox controller with its diagonal analog sticks and diamond arranged face buttons. So if you don’t want to use the Joy-Con controller for at home play, this controller is for you. It’s also familiar for gamers used to other systems.
The Joy-Con controllers can be detached from their hub and slipped onto the Switch handheld device for when you’re on the go. However, they serve even more functions than that. The Switch handheld device has a kickstand so you can set it on a stable surface and play hands free. Though, when I say hands free what I mean is that you don’t have to hold the device, you only need to detach the controllers and either a) reinsert them into the hub to make a controller, or B) Hand one stick to a friend and play multiplayer on the device, sort of like back in the days of the NES and SNES when controllers were just small bars with a few buttons. And while it wasn’t show in the trailer, rumors stated that these Joy-Con controllers also function as motion controllers like the Wiimote and Nunchuk. That remains nothing more than a rumor, but something tells me that Nintendo wouldn’t be so quick to abandon motion controls even if the primary control input is now standard controls.
Now, no system would complete without games, and Nintendo seems to have lined up quite the third party backing in addition to their first party efforts. We have the obvious Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario titles coming to the Switch, and Splatoon and Mario Kart were also seen in the trailer, though whether they’re ports or entirely new titles remains to be seen. As far as third parties are concerned, we already have Just Dance, Sonic, and Dragon Quest confirmed for the Switch, and the trailer showed off Skyrim(More on that in a bit.) which means Nintendo is now more open to serious, mature experiences than they were before(Here’s to hoping their bad localization practices stop.). That’s a plus because their audience will expand beyond small children, young teens, and families in general. Now they can capture that hardcore audience that wants to play Nintendo games, but doesn’t see much of a reason to invest in another system just for Nintendo titles that don’t always peak their interest enough.
Platinum Games(Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising, Vanquish), Square Enix(Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, Deus Ex, Tomb Raider, Hitman), Spike Chunsoft(Danganronpa), From Software(Dark Souls, Armored Core), Activision(Call of Duty, Destiny), Warner Bros.(Mortal Kombat, Injustice), Atlus(Shin Megami Tensei, Persona, Etrian Odyssey), Bandai Namco(Gundam, Naruto, etc.), all of these big names mean great things for the Switch if they’re all on board this early. Hopefully that support will continue well into the consoles life cycle rather than dropping hard like it did for the Wii U.
This will be a briefer section considering what it’s about. The Switch utilizes cartridges like you would find on the 3DS, though likely with a much larger storage capacity. The Switch, whether it’s the handheld device or the docking station, does not appears to have a disc drive which means that it will not be backwards compatible with the Wii U physically. Obviously digital is another thing entirely, but for right now it looks like it is only backwards compatible with 3DS(possibly, don’t quote me on that.). This was likely a necessary move as the Switch is part handheld and the games need to be able to fit into the device and they need to be easy to take with you on the go. I don’t think I need to tell you how clunky carrying around a backpack full of discs would be. Cartridges mean smaller cases and, if you forego their regular cases in favor of a little pack that can hold multiple cartridges, you can take a ton of them with you without using up a massive amount of space.
And now we get to that little nugget of information I was telling you about. Nvidia, following the reveal of the Switch this morning, has announced their involvement in the development of the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is powered by a custom Tegra processor based on the Pascal architecture.
The processor itself wasn’t given a name, just that it was a custom version based on their latest tech, which is Pascal. Of course, that only speaks to techs efficiency, it doesn’t say anything about just how powerful it is. However, the fact that so many third parties are supporting it, and the fact that the version of Skyrim running on the Switch could only be Special Edition, the remaster that releases next week for Xbox One and PS4, I’m led to believe that the Switch is more powerful than many think it is. Bethesda has stated that they would support the Switch if it were at least as powerful as the Xbox One. Sure, a lot of people will say that the version of Skyrim it was running was based on the original 2011 release, albeit with all the DLC more than likely. However, that is a 5 year old game. Bethesda wouldn’t waste valuable time and resources porting a 5 year old game to the Switch. Special Edition is the latest release and having that version on the Switch makes sense. As of right now, that’s about the only gauge we have regarding how powerful the Switch could be. However, with NVIDIA behind the processing power of the Switch, I have faith that they were able to squeeze every possible ounce of juice out of it while still retaining a decent battery life. Odds are the Switchs portable screen is somewhere between 720p and 1080p with dynamic resolution applied to maintain the framerate, graphics, and battery life while on the go, and then outputting at full when docked.
And that wraps it up for what I have. I’d comment on the pricing rumors and multiple SKU rumors, but I’ve done that already and we’ll likely know soon enough how much the device will cost and how many SKU’s it’ll have.
So this is something I completely overlooked while writing this, but I did want to make it clear just what this system is capable of. No matter what, the Switch is at least as powerful as the Wii U, and Nintendo’s handheld division has been merged with their home console division. This means that all Nintendo IP’s are now under one console roof. That means Pokemon, Shin Megami Tensei, Fire Emblem, Kid Icarus, etc. are all now on what is technically a home console(It is being advertised as primarily a home device and a handheld second.). A device with far more power than those developers are used to having. The potential for the next generation of those franchises is immense to say the least. Now, we’ve seen what a home console Fire Emblem can look like thanks to Tokyo Mirage Sessions. The graphics typically seen only in the cutscenes of Awakening and Fates were brought(mostly.) into the normal gameplay and it was gorgeous to say the least. As for Pokemon, we haven’t seen a proper console adventure since Colosseum and XD: Gale of Darkness on the GameCube, but even those were trimmed down from what their handheld counterparts offered, though they were better looking thanks to the GameCubes hardware. Now we can get the best of both worlds. Game Freak can craft a vast world scaled normally with the best graphics they can manage on the Switch. I don’t think it would be photo-realistic like the above shot of course. I expect a hybrid art style that combines the detail of photo-realism with the vibrancy the handheld games already have. Though I wouldn’t mind if the game looked like Pokken Tournament. Seeing Lucario’s fur blew me away.
Regardless of how developers ultimately use that power, experiences on the Switch will be vastly different than they were on the 3DS or the Wii U and that is an exciting prospect. And now no one has to choose whether to buy the handheld or the home console. You get a two for one deal now.