Let’s take a closer look at the Nintendo Switch controllers

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Gaming on the go! Gaming in the lounge! Nintendo Wii U on the streets and Nintendo 3DS under the sheets. Aw yeah. Either way you slice it, the Nintendo Switch looks like an interesting device, a marriage between Nintendo’s dominance over the handheld market and their underwhelming home console initiatives.

But ideas can only go so far. There’s no point in having a device which is fancy plugged in or on the go with you, if the method for playing on it is sub-standard. It’s possibly one of the reasons why the Wii U was a bit of a flop. The much vaunted tablet controller may have been impressive, but it was otherwise a bulky and clunky piece of hardware held by the technological limitations of the day when it was first released.

But the Nintendo Switch? It’s going for a few fresh ideas in terms of input devices. Let’s break ‘em down. First up, here’s another look at the two detachable controllers that come with the device:

The Switch controllers can be used by either a single player or two, sharing a few buttons each to play games such as Splatoon as the almighty intended: Awkwardly. Nintendo refers to these as Joy-Con controllers, and they’ve got the usual setup of control sticks and four face buttons. I’m not too sold on these controllers being worthwhile for higher-tier gaming, while the idea of giving your hands more freedom to move around as opposed to the usual setup with Xbox and PlayStation controllers feels somewhat alien.

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I mean, I have tiny hands and even I think that they look they’ve been run through a shrink-ray. You’ve also got to deal with a possible lack of comfort when they are attached to the tablet as well, something the Wii U tablet controller suffered from. Basically, I think it’s going to take some time to get used to using these controllers.

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But at least Nintendo has recognised this possible hurdle, by making certain that they’ll have a new pro controller present.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

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With the Wii U, I think Nintendo managed to create one of the very best tradition controllers. Their Pro controller was magnificent stuff: Light, solid and it included a battery life that could outlive Duncan McLeod. The overt Xbox inspiration wasn’t hard to miss, and the new controller for the Nintendo Switch looks like it’s taking a few cues from Sony as well:

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So what do we have here then? We’ve got a controller body with longer grips ala the current Sony Dual Shock device, and an arrangement of buttons that have clearly taking even more inspiration from the superb Xbox One controller: Analogue stick at the top left, another at the bottom right and a D-Pad on the left as well.

Compared to the original Wii U pro controller, that’s a big ergonomic upgrade. It also looks a bit wider, and is overall leaning more towards the console standard of the last couple of generations. Nice. The sticks themselves look nifty as well. The Wii U controller had a more concave shape and a thin border to keep the thumbs in line, but the Nintendo Switch is going for a dip instead with their sticks. Again, just like Xbox One controller.

Hopefully it’ll also be as durable as that device, after numerous complaints were leveled at Sony for the shoddy quality of the rubber of their sticks. Right now, I’ve got some good GameCube feels from this unveil.

Press Start to play

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Here’s a bit of an odd design choice: The start and select buttons. The standard four face buttons look superb and just the right size, but the Nintendo Switch start and select buttons (usually symbolised by a plus and minus sign) are downright tiny. Thing is, they also appear to extend a bit more on the face. Which actually kind of works for me.

Triggered!

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Shoulder buttons are so easy to mess up. Just ask the PlayStation 3 about that. One of the things that the Xbox 360 got right, was to shape their shoulder buttons with a proper trigger design that made snapping them that much more fluid. Sony’s Dual Shock 3 went for a smoother curved look, and those triggers felt like absolute garbage in comparison.

You can’t see the triggers on the Nintendo Switch controller too clearly, but it does appear to follow a simple template: Clicky L1 and R1 shoulder buttons, and standard curved L2 and R2 triggers by the looks of that Splatoon demo.

Toucha toucha touch me

The Wii U tablet controller liked it when yout touched it. So did the 3DS handhelds. What about the Nitendo Switch then? Well…We have no idea to be honest. And if you look closely at the advert, not a single person using the device touched the screen to interact with the game.

So who knows exactly at this point, now that Nintendo has decided to zip their lips on any other details for the rest of 2016. And that’s about all we know so far! The Nintendo Switch is out next year March, and I’m just about ready to introduce anyone who gets in my way to a Nintendo Switchblade.

Last Updated: October 21, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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