Nintendo Switch: First impressions of Zelda, Splatoon 2, Sonic Mania, more
Nintendo held a press-only event Friday in New York City to show off its upcoming Switch, and we were on hand to try out the console and portable hybrid system. We detailed the hardware and the various control schemes of the Switch, but now let’s take a deeper dive into some of the games that were playable and will be available later this year.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (March 3)
How we played: Grip controller, portable mode
Why we’re excited: Let’s be honest: If you’re picking up a Switch on March 3, this is the reason why. (Sorry, Just Dance 2017.) Breath of the Wild looks to be the most ambitious Zelda in decades, and the demo we played barely scratched the surface of what the full game will offer. We got to control a considerably more nimble Link who can dash, jump, climb, and swim, and for the first time in the series, it features voice acting and did not start with a painfully slow tutorial. We got to battle some Bokoblins with an ax and bow and arrow and talk to a mysterious old man who tasked us with finding some treasure before he’d give us a helpful item — and we experienced crushing despair when the 20-minute demo concluded and we knew we’d have to wait six weeks to play more.
Why we’re concerned: It’s still unclear what kind of horsepower is under the Switch’s hood, but I did experience noticeable slowdown when I first ventured outside and swung the camera around a field of grass, so it’s decidedly not on par with the PS4 and Xbox One. And Nintendo has reported that battery life on the Switch while playing the game is only about three hours, so don’t expect to take it on long trips without having to plug it in.
Splatoon 2 (Summer TBD)
How we played: Pro controller, portable mode
Why we’re excited: Splatoon was a breath of fresh air for the competitive shooter genre (and EW’s No. 2 game of the year in 2015), and we were a bit surprised that the Switch version is an actual sequel and not a port like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Only one multiplayer mode was playable, but it controlled equally well with the Pro controller (which features gyroscope controls) and in portable mode. We’re excited to see what the Inklings have in store, and here’s hoping that there’s an expanded single-player mode, which was an underrated highlight of the original.
Why we’re concerned: Splatoon 2 felt great and was instantly a blast to play, but if you had told us the demo was from the first game, we would have believed you. We hope there’s more than just some new maps and weapons in the final game.
Sonic Mania (TBD 2017)
How we played: Joy-Con held horizontally
Why we’re excited: This retro 2D platformer comprised of remixed versions of classic 16-bit levels and brand new zones is clearly an attempt to recapture Sonic’s ’90s glory, and the two levels we played were extremely fast and very promising. While Green Hill Zone, a remix of the original level from Sonic 1, felt comfortably familiar, Studiopolis Zone was brimming with exciting new ideas that left us wanting more. And this game showed that the Joy-Con held sideways is an effective control scheme for old-school 2D games.
Why we’re concerned: We were hyped for 2010’s downloadable Sonic 4, which similarly promised a return to Sonic’s 2D heyday but ultimately couldn’t deliver.
Arms (Spring TBD)
How we played: Two Joy-Cons (one in each hand)
Why we’re excited: Nintendo’s colorful new fighting game uses the Joy-Cons much like the Wii remotes. You hold the tiny motion controllers vertically, tilting them to control your character, and punching the air to throw punches at your opponent. The art style is colorful and vibrant, with quirky character designs that wouldn’t look out of place in Overwatch.
Why we’re concerned: Nintendo’s colorful new fighting game uses the Joy-Cons much like the Wii remotes. Been there, motion-controlled that. Although there is an option to use buttons instead of motion control, we don’t see this challenging Street Fighter for the fighting game crown.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers (TBD 2017)
How we played: Pro controller
Why we’re excited: Speaking of, the classic fighting game gets its first update in nearly 20 years, with two new characters (Evil Ryu and Violent Ken), a new 2 vs. 1 mode, and the ability to choose between the original pixel-art graphics or the updated HD art created for 2008’s Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix. The ability to take the game with you and challenge friends to matches is cool, but…
Why we’re concerned: We can’t imagine playing this intricate fighter with the tiny Joy-Cons, meaning you’re looking at shelling out $70 for an extra Pro Controller. Also, how many times can Capcom repackage SF2?!
Fast RMX (March TBD)
How we played: Pro controller
Why we’re excited: The underrated Wii U racer Fast Racing Neo gets a Switch-exclusive sequel with 30 tracks and 15 different hovercraft. Fast RMX plays like a cross between F-Zero and Wipeout, with a challenging color-changing boost mechanic that keeps players on their toes. RMX features split screen multiplayer for four players and online for up to eight. It should be a nice, futuristic alternative to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Why we’re concerned: Fast RMX is a good spiritual successor to F-Zero and Wipeout, but it still lives in the shadows of both of those classic racing franchises.