NEW YORK– The best part of Nintendo’s classic video game franchise “The Legend of Zelda” has always been its immersive world. This is why, when I was 11 years old, I would spend all day exploring the many lands of Hyrule in “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” on Nintendo 64. Now, as an adult, I (unfortunately) don’t have the luxury of sitting home for ten hours a day.
Enter the Switch. With Nintendo’s latest platform, I don’t have to make that choice.
Nintendo has always sold two types of consoles: one for at home and one for on the go. But the Switch is a hybrid of the two. Put it in the dock and play on your TV. Or attach the controllers to the sides of the console, and play on the way to work. You can also set it up on a table and play with friends. And you can toggle between the different modes pretty easily without much interruption to your game play.
CNNTech got the chance to play with the Switch this week. Despite having a bit of a learning curve, the system showed it can open up the worlds that Nintendo has created without shuttering you from the real world.
Though the Switch is launching with only a few big name titles, it’s that seamless experience — rather than any particular game available right now — that makes the Switch feel like the future of gaming. And that ultimately makes it worth the $300 price tag.
Now, as a kid my parents gave me the option: I could have either a TV console, with the better graphics and more impressive games, or a mobile system like a Game Boy that offered me a smaller experience but the chance to move around and have, well, a life.
With the Switch I can do both.
So when I’m in the middle of Nintendo’s latest installment of Zelda, “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” (which, of course, is sold separately), and I need to get off the couch to meet up with friends or head to work, I hardly even have to pause the game to take it with me.
Other than its poor battery life in portable mode (Nintendo says it should range from 2.5 hours to 6 hours depending on the game) the mobility of the Switch feels seamless.
It also helps that the Switch boasts Nintendo’s greatest asset: Its intellectual property. Look out for for everything from Mario to Pokémon down the line. And as with summer’s “Pokémon Go” craze, which sent hordes of people rushing to Central Park to find a Charizard, we’ve seen what the mobile future of Nintendo’s series of games and characters could look like.
Much like it did with its last great innovation, the Nintendo Wii (let’s not even talk about the Wii U), Nintendo has thrown out the standard conventions of gaming for something completely new. This is what makes the Switch great, but also what makes it a bit of risk.
Take, for example, the Switch’s fun-for-the-whole-family game “1-2 Switch.” The game sets up in the console’s tabletop mode and allows a group of people to play all types of games, from “Quick Draw,” a Wild West duel shoot out, to even milking a cow (seriously).
Most of the “1-2 Switch” games are undoubtedly fun, but most require you to look at your opponent rather than the screen. This goes against years of video game muscle memory, and, let’s be honest — looking at someone with extended direct eye contact while milking a virtual cow is just plain weird.
Still, these sorts of oddities don’t dent the Switch’s appeal. And that’s important because the launch of the Switch is big for gamers, but arguably even bigger for Nintendo.
The video game company has lost some of its luster over the years thanks to more powerful systems like Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox nabbing hardcore gamers, while smart phones and tablets have grabbed the casual gamer market.
The company needs the Nintendo Switch to find a place in between the two markets to rule the video game kingdom once again. Whether it will is yet to be seen, but the Switch is a step in the right direction — and possibly one into the beginnings of a new gaming world.
By Frank Pallotta