Though the Nintendo Switch was only announced days ago, the amount of info revealed was enough to give players a solid glimpse of what they’ll be experiencing this coming March.
For those who some how missed the internet-breaking unveiling this last Thursday, the Switch is a home console that also works on the go. This is achieved by some slick removable controller units called “Joy-Cons” that can be slid on to the system’s docked tablet. You can play on your TV or your tablet screen. But not both. Which leads to the first advantage the Switch appears to have over Nintendo’s current console, the Wii U.
No More Downward Glances
Much like the original DS, Nintendo created many of its titles for the Wii U with touch controls in mind. Even when games didn’t make screen tapping essential the Wii U was promoted with its second screen as a selling point. The issue with this was that taking the focus off the big screen was a very jarring in many gaming situations. It forced players to shift focus at times when focus was the an important factor. In some rare cases, certain games, like Kirby and the Rainbow Cruse, even made it impossible for players to look up to the main TV screen.
The Switch, while featuring another screen, does not allow players to use both at the same time. You’re either looking at the TV or your handheld, but never both. No more will players need to look own at their second screen to gather useful information or access their inventory. Players can choose between big or small, but everything they’ll need to see with be focused in one glorious screen.
This also means Nintendo and any third party publishers will have to develop their games with just one screen in mind. While this may seem somewhat trivial, it also means that titles developed for the average single-screen gaming machine (aka pretty much all of them) can more easily be adapted for the Switch. No longer will third party big wigs feel the pressure of adding an additional (and many times unnecessary) second plain of engagement.
A Better Second Screen
While two screens may have been too many (at least when so far apart) the Wii U’s greatest feature was simply being able to use the Gamepad on its own. Wife watching Netflix? Gamepad. Big game on TV? Gamepad. Chilling in bed? Gamepad. It’s what made playing games on the Wii U so accessible and effortless.
The Switch brings this ability back and even manages to improve on it by making every single title compatible with the system’s mini screen. Players will likely be able to do anything on the portable version of the Switch that would normally be confined to the 65" black mirror on their living room wall.
Though it hasn’t been proven, it also seems the Switch’s built-in screen will feature multi-touch abilities. Something the DS, 3DS and Wii U were all sorely lacking during their lifetime. Hopefully this will lead to some intuitive new menu set-ups and puzzle solving techniques. Though it will be interesting to see if much thought is put into touch screen details, as most games will not have this feature on the big screen.
The Wii U’s second screen may have been a godsend when it came to gaming at ones leisure, but it came with two invisible tethers that forced players to stick close to an outlet. The first being the Gamepad’s dependency on the Wii U’s console base. Not letting folks move outside of the decently small radius that Nintendo had programmed into the system’s hardware proved to be somewhat problematic. If you were playing in bed chances are your Wii U was in the same room, if not nearby.
The second hurdle came in the form of the Gamepad’s atrocious battery life. After a mere two or three hours of gameplay the Gamepad would begin to blink frantically, begging to be juiced up once more. It’s the reason many players prefer to keep their Gamepad plugged in at all times. It just isn’t worth the constant struggle to keep ones controller alive while playing Smash Bros and Mario Kart for hours on end .
We don’t yet know the specs on the Switch’s battery life when its screen has been undocked, but we do know that it can work anywhere and everywhere. While the Gamepad was the Wii U’s controller, the Switch’s new screen is both the console and controller, making it far more useful for those out and about.
Only Time Will Tell
Obviously we don’t yet have all the facts on Nintendo’s newest home console. What we have seen is promising. Which is honestly not something many Nintendo fans and critics were saying about the Wii U when it was revealed back in 2012. The Wii U feels like a necessary stepping stone to something that truly has the potential to be unique and effective in the gaming market.
The Switch will undoubtedly be surpassed by its competitors in the speed and power departments, but it’s doing something that Nintendo does so well - taking a risk on a potentially fantastic idea.
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