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Nintendo Switch: The True Revolution or Just Wii U 2?

Dave Aubrey
Posted Oct 22, 2016
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Nintendo is changing. What we saw from them two days ago is barely a shadow of the Nintendo we saw when the Wii U was announced. A brand new console, the Nintendo Switch, has had its first trailer and the reception has been incredible, with the Nintendo faithful and jaded alike coming together to breathe in the first few moments of awe and wonder of a new Nintendo system – one that doesn’t appear to be crap, at that!

Let’s get the trailer impressions out of the way: It was everything Nintendo fans wanted. A powerful system, confirmed third party support, with an ingenious hot-swappable base to switch gameplay to the TV or to the handheld in an instant. It was everything people wanted the Wii U to be, and now it’s finally here, albeit a few years late. The trailer was stylish, the console looked sleek and modern, the actors were young adults, not children. By all accounts, it was a massive swing in our expectations of Nintendo (and I’m sure Rockstar is at least a little miffed at them for stealing the spotlight so swiftly…).

But we’ve been excited for Nintendo flops before, and there’s every chance the lovely looking system is going to do a Wii U on us and have practically no games released for it in the first year – what I believe to be the Wii U’s death knell. So, is the Switch history repeating itself, or a bold new era for Nintendo? Here’s a list of reasons why it might be a sign of great things to come…

The Most Powerful Nintendo System

There are no confirmed specs right now, but all signs point to the Nintendo Switch being the most powerful Nintendo system ever made. Leaks and rumours prior to the system’s unveiling all pointed towards a Maxwell Tegra chip powering the handheld, with Digital Foundry and others speculating that it could be upgraded to a Pascal architecture Tegra chip – also known as the Tegra X2 – for the final hardware. This looks to be justified, as the final hardware is missing an important cooling fan that was necessary for the dev kit, and the advantages of Pascal’s better thermal and power performance are well documented in plenty of GTX 10 series laptop reviews.

Pascal architecture is what Nvidia’s very best graphics cards are made of, with the top-of-the-line cards crushing even 4K gaming. The Tegra X2 isn’t going to show off anything amazing like that, and will likely come underclocked to keep the system cool while in your hands, but with games like Skyrim Remastered being shown for the system, we can assume the console won’t be far below the level of performance and graphical capabilities we see from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – and on the go, too! And on that note…

The Greatest Gaming Experiences – On The Go

Unless you’ve shelled out for a high-end laptop, the closest you’ve gotten to having proper console-quality gaming on the go is either taking your Wii U gamepad into the next room or using a PS Vita.  With the Nintendo Switch, finally quality console gaming is coming to a bus, train, lunch room and even toilet near you.

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The Best Games of This Gen That You Never Played

If you’re not already one of the Nintendo faithful, you probably didn’t play many games on the Wii U. That’s a shame, because Nintendo’s first party output on the Wii U has easily pleased the “hardcore” crowd more than anything. Splatoon revolutionised movement in shooters while Titanfall and Call of Duty were – and still are – fumbling for a solution, Mario Kart 8 is the best entry in a beloved racing franchise, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a beautiful collection of Nintendo nostalgia, all wrapped up in a frantic fighting game which is played in the world’s biggest tournaments.

And I’m mentioning all this because the Switch is basically confirmed to have several Wii U ports. Both Splatoon and Mario Kart 8 were shown in the trailer, with additions not present in the Wii U versions of the game, implying we’re due to see expanded ports, with brand new maps, modes and features. Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon ports were actually leaked earlier in the year, along with a port of Super Smash Bros. – though we haven’t seen the latter yet, the accuracy of those leaks can’t be denied.

Third Party Support

This is often the biggest complaint of those hesitant to buy a Nintendo system – there are no third party games. A fair complaint, even the most fervent of Nintendo fans would struggle to argue given their track record, but early signs are very positive right now.

To start with, Nintendo’s own announcement trailer debuted a handheld version of Skyrim Remastered. Now, granted – Skyrim is a generation old game, hardly indicating that the Switch is a state-of-the-art piece of kit, but it is a Bethesda game, and Bethesda games are few and far between on Nintendo systems – in fact, a Google and Wikipedia scan shows only two Bethesda published games on Nintendo systems; Star Trek: Tactical Assault and Ducati Moto, both for the Nintendo DS. Needless to say, The Elder Scrolls V is a massive step in the right direction – Fallout 4 GOTY Edition next, maybe?

Everything Nintendo Has To Offer, In One Place

A big bugbear for fans of Nintendo is having their software output split over two systems, those systems often demanding different playstyles, different kinds of games entirely. Well, if the Nintendo Switch replaces both the Wii U and the 3DS (which, despite Nintendo’s protests, will almost definitely happen as long as the system sells well) then we’ll see all the best Nintendo franchises in one place, built for both full-fat big screen experiences, as well as unique handheld titles.

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Most people hear this and think; ‘Finally! Zelda, Mario, maybe even Metroid, all on a powerful, portable console, which I can also play with a proper controller? Sign me up!’ But more than that, Pokémon, one of the most legendary video game franchises in existence (argue that point if you want, but Pokémon Go’s success says it all) will be there. Think about that one – it might not be the Pokémon MMO the world is dreaming of, but roaming the Pokémon world in glorious HD is enough to get me excited.

Choose Your Way To Play

One key point Nintendo wanted to drive home was you being able to have a variety of ways to play your game. Do you want to sit on the sofa and lounge while the game plays on the big screen? Absolutely possible, and Nintendo gives you the ability to either use the Joy-cons (those are the controller clips that slide on and off the main system) or even the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, which actually looks more like a traditional Xbox or Sony pad than ever. The trailer shows us that the Joy-cons can be used without the controller-like grip too, having one in each hand almost like a Wii remote and Nunchuk setup, minus the cable running between the two.

The Joy-cons can even be used as a separate controller each for certain games such as Mario Kart, meaning that you can race against a pal straight out of the box, without buying an extra pad. Convenient.

Nvidia Graphics

Yes, we’ve mentioned Nvidia’s making the hardware – so what? Well actually they’re doing much more than just supplying Nintendo with a few chips – they’re getting down and dirty when it comes to running games on the new system. In Nvidia’s blog on the Nintendo Switch, they specified that Nvidia are actually developing the system’s graphics API, known as NVN (N-Vidia Nintendo, maybe?).

Nvidia also brags about hardware-accelerated video playback, custom software for audio effects and rendering, a revamped physics engine, new libraries, advanced game tools and more. If you’re not hardware savvy, what all this essentially means is that the latest and greatest game engines and renderers should be compatible with the Switch – what performance they’ll be able to tease out of the system, however, is still to be seen…

There’s A New Mario

Did you notice there’s a new Mario game being played in that trailer? It looks beautiful. Get excited.

The Nintendo Switch is different, it’s something new, and there’s a lot to get excited for. Sure, it could be a total flop, it could be underpowered, it could have no good games, it could even have a terrible battery life, but early impressions are exactly what the gaming public wants. Whether or not the system will live up to expectations remains to be seen, but only time will tell…

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