The Nintendo Switch is what the Wii U was supposed to be.
It’s a home console with a tablet-like controller that you can carry away from your TV and play wherever you want. That means no crummy smartphone games on your morning commute, but rather Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
If you can’t get excited about that prospect then 2016 has truly numbed your capacity for joy.
Then again, this is Nintendo we’re talking about and the Wii U was - to put it mildly - an unmitigated disaster. Surely Miyamoto and co won’t let us down twice on the trot? To find out we got hands-on with the Nintendo Switch at its London launch event.
Nintendo Switch: The Switch tablet
There’s no getting round it, whether the Switch lives or dies will depend on how it handles as a portable. This is the hardware you could well be lugging around with you for the best part of four years, after all.
Mercifully, the Switch Console is a classy beast. Effectively a 6.2in tablet with two controllers slapped on its sides, it's thin and suprisingly lightweight to hold. It's brimming with buttons as well, including two analogue sticks, eight action buttons, start and select buttons and two pairs of shoulder triggers. The buttons themselves are pretty shallow, with little travel, but that's almost to be expected from a portable console.
In a break with the past, the pad itself charges via USB-C rather than using a proprietary Nintendo connector. That's crucial, because you'll be able to top up its battery on a train or flight when you run out of juice... and sadly, that might not take very long.
Nintendo Switch: Screen and battery
The Switch’s screen and battery life are inexorably linked: big displays with a high resolution require a lot of power to work, smaller displays with lower resolutions require less power.
Naturally, the Switch’s display is a compromise between the two. It's a reasonable 6.2in in size, has a 1280x720 resolution and will last between 3 and 6 hours depending on what you're playing. If that's Zelda: Breath of the Wild then you're probably looking at the lower end of that spectrum.
Given that the 720p resolution is less than HD, you'd expect it to be less punchy than any flagship phone or half-decent tablet, but in practice it's sharp, bright and vibrant. Mario Kart 8’s kaleidoscope of colours ping right out at you, and Splatoon 2 is a similar delight.
It's a huge improvement on the Wii U GamePad’s muted visuals and in our time with it seemed to cope admirably with awkward viewing angles.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons
So how about those controllers then? As was revealed in the Switch’s teaser trailer, the console comes with two detachable rectangular controllers called Joy-Cons. You can use them in tandem for single player affairs such as Super Mario Odyssey and individually for multiplayer titles such as 1-2 Switch or Arms.
They basically work like a shrunken version of Nintendo’s WiiMote with motion sensors built in to detect when you've thrown a punch or drawn a pistol. They feel a little slight to hold but the upside is that you barely notice them when playing. It's like you're just using your hands, and that's undoubtedly a good thing.
Nintendo Switch Dock
The other part of the Switch package is the Dock - a piece of kit which takes your viewing experience of the tablet screen and on to your TV, and in full HD to boot. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the Switch make the transition from portable to TV, but we did at least get a few minutes with the hardware. The Dock itself is pretty innocuous: easily a third of the size of a PS4 Pro or Xbox One S, it'll sit happily under your TV without any stress or hassle.
The Switch Console slots right into it, and you get ports for HDMI output and mains power. It's sleek, compact and unfussy - we’re fans.
Nintendo Switch: games
OK. There's no denying that the Switch has a worryingly slight launch line-up.
It's got no big, original third-party exclusives and even games that we saw in its demo trailer, such as Skyrim and NBA 2K17, haven't been given launch dates. On top of that its three biggest games - Zelda, Mario Kart and Splatoon - have all either been released for the Wii U in some form or another, or will eventually be.
If this is as good as it gets for the Switch, then Nintendo is in real trouble. With all of that said, loads of people missed out on the unbridled magnificence of both Splatoon and Mario Kart 8 due to the Wii U's low sales.
If you're picking them up on Switch then they'll be better than ever, with new tracks, characters, courses and weapons to enjoy. Plus, Zelda should run and look best on Switch because it's a more powerful console. And from what we've played so far of that game it's shaping up to be something special.
The few exclusives we've had hands-on with were ridiculously fun, too. Arms is basically Punch Out with motion controls, while 1-2 Switch looks like the best way to live out your cowboy fantasies until Red Dead Redemption 2 arrives later this year.
Nintendo Switch initial verdict
From what we've seen so far of the Nintendo Switch, it's a good console. It feels great in your hands, has a fab screen and should last the length of your daily commute.
What it needs now is games, and not just ones Wii U owners have seen already. So long as Nintendo can deliver those, the Switch should be a success. Here's hoping.