Ahead of its March release, Nintendo is hauling their new Switch console all over the place to let fans get their greasy paws on it. One of those places was at PAX South this weekend, so I went ahead and added my own grubby fingerprints to the shiny, plastic veneer. What I came away with, though, are a bunch of thoughts.

The Hardware

One word: portable. Nintendo wasn’t kidding when they said this would be a small device because wow is it, and I say that lovingly. It’s a 6.2-inch screen running at 720p with remarkably bright and vibrant colors. Even at its diminutive scale (I’d say somewhere between a Galaxy Tab and an iPhone 7 Plus, for reference), it never felt like I was missing or straining for detail.

Once you snap on two Joy-Con controllers to the side, it feels an awful lot like what you always assumed handheld gaming would eventually be. It’s comfortable, not terribly heavy, and doesn’t leave you holding the screen awkwardly close to your face every so often like the Nintendo DS does. It’s quite the pleasant advancement for Nintendo.

If you want to play the Switch on a regular ol’ TV, you can do that, too. All you have to do is pop it into a dock and it’ll push out a signal for your big boy screen. (For most games, that’ll be 1080p.) The main demo on the show floor, in fact, was a gigantic, eight-foot tall screen where people could duke it out in the fighting game Arms.

The weird thing about the controllers, though, is that because the Switch itself is so petite, the Joy-Cons are similarly svelte. Attached to the Switch is fine (and, honestly, kind of fun to take on and off), but using either one in each hand or one on its own feels nonsensical. I’ve got average hands for a dude 6’3″ and it felt like bad boys just immediately disappeared into my palm.

The Games

The obvious headliner is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s the same demo as the one Nintendo had at E3 last year, though, except on a Switch instead of a Wii U, so you can just read that if you want. The crux of it, however, is that it’s a vast open world with interesting interpretations of staples of the survival genre. I like it just as much now as I did in June.

For some unfathomable reason against other reasonable ones, PAX organizers decided to put the Nintendo booth right at the main entrance, and Nintendo decided to have a giant god damn screen to make sure every single person stopped dead in their tracks as soon as they saw it.

And to an extent, it was deserved. Arms is a good crowd game. You can to see action at a constant rate with a rather capable announcer informing standing obstac—err, viewers of the proceedings. As many Nintendo games do, it contains a novel twist to something more traditional, and in this case, you have insanely stretchy arms that you can maneuver as you send them flying towards your opponent.

It’s frantic and fun but also tiring if you’re using the motion controls. There are also button controls, but I didn’t get to use them. I’m not sure of the depth or Evo-worthiness of it after my short time with it, but I will say I had a good time.

That’s all I had time for, unfortunately, though I did see others playing 1-2-Switch, the Wii Sports-style minigame collection that should be a pack-in title but isn’t. It looked fun in the same way of just showcasing the breadth of what Nintendo thinks is possible with the Switch and Joy-Cons.

There was also Splatoon 2. It makes me incredibly sad to have not played that seeing as how I put so many hours into the first one. But it did make me realize that it will be the first big name to hit the console first and foremost and natively. Breath of the Wild was originally on and is still coming to the Wii U, the core of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been out since 2014, and Skylanders: Imaginators has been out since October for, like, every console.

And even then, it won’t be until Super Mario Odyssey comes out late next year that we’ll get a Switch exclusive that isn’t a direct sequel. But anyway, I like what I’ve seen so far and Nintendo has traditionally been on-point with its launch window titles, so we’ll see what happens.

The Nintendo Switch will be available on March 3 for $299.

Tim Poon

Computer scientist turned journalist. Send tips to tim@workingmirror.com.