Hands-on Impressions: Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda

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We’re one of the rare few privileged to try out the Nintendo Switch a month prior to its release. RTX Sydney showcased all of the upcoming Switch games in Nintendo’s scene-stealing booth. During our time at the Nintendo Switch booth, we’ve checked out most of the basic features of the console. Plus, we’ve got up close and personal with the latest Legend of Zelda game!

Switch Impressions

The Nintendo Switch booth had both the Switch Pro and Joy-Con game controllers in different demos. One booth had Ultra Street Fighter II and featured the heavy use of the Switch Pro Controller. We couldn’t help but make comparisons with current-gen controllers, namely the DualShock 4 and the Xbox Controller. The Switch Pro feels light on the hand, but a bit too chunky on the grip. Buttons feel sturdy, and the shoulder triggers have quite the travel between presses, capable of simulating light and hard presses when needed.

The Joy-Con controllers are on a different level, however. Each Joy-Con side is packed with a multitude of features, and its full range of capabilities were demonstrated in all of the 1-2 Switch mini games. One of which is the “HD Rumble” feature that tries to simulate accurate haptic feedback. 1-2 Switch’s Safe Cracking and Ball Count mini-games make efficient use of this rumble feature, impressively making even the tiniest vibrations. However, this HD Rumble feature is a novelty at best, looking forward.

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Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Joy-Con controllers are its gyroscope and accelerometer. It doesn’t need an external IR sensor like the Wii to make accurate motion controls. Switch’s fighting game, ARMS, shows off its highly-responsive motion controls. The sensors are intuitive enough to detect the tilts in different axes, swing directions and positioning that the Joy-Con is doing. There are a few lag moments in response time, but nothing detrimental to gameplay.

We’ve also tried the Nintendo Switch undocked while playing The Legend of Zelda. The console is surprisingly as light as the iPad Air, and we’ve had no problems carrying it for prolonged periods. The right side is slightly heavier than its left, probably due to former having the IR camera. But the weight difference may be negligible once you’re on the go.

Thumb travel between buttons feels the same as that of the Wii U or the 3DS. The distance is optimal for sudden button presses. However, the location of the directional buttons and the Plus/Minus still takes a bit getting used to, especially if you’re a newcomer to the Nintendo-style layout.

Finally, the tablet features a 720p resolution crammed within its 6-inch screen. Despite the small screen size, the clarity is unmistakable. Even in 2-player split screen mode, the game still shows vivid colors and good viewing angles. We haven’t tried the capacitive touchscreen though, so we can’t ascertain its response time.

The Legend of Zelda Impressions

The highlight of the Switch booth was a free 20-minute demo of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The demo takes us into the introductory part of the game, where Link wakes up from his long sleep and begins exploring the open world.

From the get go, Breath of the Wild (BotW) already looks and feels like a modern-day RPG. There’s a lot to explore on the open world, and a lot of things to do, especially keeping Link alive. There won’t be any rupees popping from under the bushes any time soon. And hearts would have to be replenished with food now. BotW has made cooking the new staple, rather than looting for dropped hearts. Gathering ingredients, chopping wood, lighting campfires, and simple crafting features all add to the survival challenge.

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There are also a host of new features included in the game. Items, such as weapons and shields, get to degrade with continued use. Some puzzles and traps rely on physics now, like rolling explosive barrels down a bokoblin camp. Stealth and detection mechanics are also present for additional combat strategies. Day and night cycles also affect Link’s travels, as well as random weather changes, like lightning strikes capable of killing him or heavy rains lowering visibility.

Movement is pretty much straightforward and smooth. It was definitely refreshing to see Link finally jump freely in the open world! The return of the stamina bar was not a surprising addition, but was a welcome enough addition to an already-challenging game. Combat takes a bit of practice, like dodging and executing flurry attacks. Attack controls are also a bit confusing at first, but nothing that the tutorial won’t leave out. Targeting with a bow and arrow is also a hit or miss, since it takes a bit of trial and error to understand the target reticule combined with the arrow trajectory.

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The game’s graphics are in a style of its own. It won’t win awards for realism in the near future, but the freshness and vibrance of the environment definitely feel like a constantly changing painting. However, the game has clearer visuals when in tablet mode at 720p resolution. Docked, BotW’s screen is upscaled to only 900p, which gives a slightly noticeable stretch and a bit of a blurriness to it. There were also instances of frame rate drops when docked, but were rare and not a detriment to the overall gameplay. Hopefully, it would be fixed prior to release.

Overall, Breath of the Wild is a must-buy for everyone getting a Nintendo Switch. It’s definitely packed with hundreds of hours of gameplay, and the challenging gameplay is balanced enough so as not to detract newcomers to the franchise. We’ll get to explore more of Hyrule when it gets released this March.

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We’re at the two-week mark before the global release of the Nintendo Switch. Suffice to say, we’re definitely impressed at the latest Nintendo has to offer. With a ton of first and third-party games at launch, and more than a hundred games coming in the next few years, the Switch has made its way back into the console wars. Get your pre-orders now while stocks are still available!

The Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be released globally on March 3, 2017, and will retail for US$299.