Nintendo Switch

Nintendo’s more portable Switch gets matching 8BitDo controllers

Posted by | 8bitdo, Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch | No Comments

In a way, these new wireless controllers from 8BitDo kind of defeat the purpose of the Switch Lite. So, why do I kind of want them? Honestly, I’m pretty enamored with the new, more portable version of Nintendo’s wildly successful console. As I noted in a recent review, it’s exactly the take on the Switch I was looking for as a TV-less frequent traveler.

The idea of an accessory that’s roughly half the size of the Lite kind of goes against the whole bit about “built-in” Joy-Cons. Also, the Lite doesn’t have a built-in kickstand, so you’re either finding a way to prop it up or playing it flat on a table. Neither scenario is ideal, and yet here I am, thinking about shelling out $25 to augment my setup with a matching turquoise version.

Life comes at you fast.

The controller actually sports two D-pads, rather than sticks, which is nice for all of those NES and SNES titles that have been added to Switch Online. Honestly, my Switch playing has been like 95% A Link to the Past since I started testing the Lite. The controller is up for pre-order now through Amazon and set to start shipping at the end of October — plenty of time for me to come to my senses.

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Breaking a sweat with Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure

Posted by | Gaming, Health, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

On October 18, Nintendo will finally fill a Wii Fit-shaped hole in its product line. The Ring Fit is a kind of spiritual accessor to the numerous fitness titles that helped make the Wii’s motion controls such a massive, demographic spanning success. But the large, round peripheral is perfectly at home on the Switch, taking a page from offerings like Labo, which find clever new ways to leverage existing hardware.

I took the forthcoming peripheral for a brief spin earlier this week, and like Labo was pleasantly surprised with what Nintendo was able to accomplish here, using the Switch’s Joy-Cons as a starting point. Here, each side serves a uniquely different purpose. One slots into the ring and the other into a band that straps on the player’s thigh.

Nintendo Switch Ring Fit

In the case of the former, the controller serves as the brains for the flexible steering wheel controller, measuring movements via built-in sensors, including the accelerometer. Using that set up, you can spin the ring to move selection in the starting menu and squeeze its sides to select. The second controller, meanwhile, serves as a sort of makeshift Fitbit, keeping track of your lower body movement — a pretty central part of the workout.

Adventure is the first title to use the hardware. It almost certainly won’t be the last, though Nintendo, per usual, won’t comment on any future plans. Rather than going the straight sports route, à la Wii Sports, Nintendo’s instead created what amounts to a Final Fantasy-style turn by turn adventure game that makes the player battle bad guys by breaking a sweat.

There are a ton of different games and workout experiences out of the box, but the basic adventure plays out as follows: You move your character by running in place, squeezing the ring to blow up boxes for coins and pulling it apart to suck in power-ups. Jumps are accomplished by pointing the ring downward and pressing in. You will break a sweat.

Your character’s anime-style hair is a big ball of fire, growing or diminishing based on how well you’re keeping up. Every so often along the track, a boss will appear. You’ll then engage in a turn by turn battle using a variety of different ring-based exercises. When it’s the monster’s turn, you’ll squeeze the ring against your torso to defend yourself.

Nintendo’s dreamed up an impressive variety of exercises that utilize the ring’s resistance. Playing an hour a day, it’s easy to actually lose some weight. The game also does a pretty good job encouraging you to mix things up. I’d certainly be interested in doing some extended testing — I like the idea of a fitness regiment one can accomplishment at home or in a hotel room with minimal equipment.

Nintendo Switch Ring Fit

You can also detach the Joy-Cons and take the ring with you to get some reps in away from the system — say, on lunch break at work. The controllers will continue to record your progress and upload them when you get back.

That said, I’m pretty committed to the Switch Lite these days. The Ring Fit will work with the system, assuming you also have a pair of Joy-Cons. You can prop up the Lite and use that screen for the game, but you’ll really want a TV screen for the full effect here. It’s easy to imagine, however, Nintendo combining Labo VR with the exercise kit for a more immersive fitness effect.

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Nintendo Switch Lite review

Posted by | Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite, Reviews, Switch, TC | No Comments

Let me preface this by saying: I realize that I’m not necessarily the target user for the original Nintendo Switch. First: I don’t own a TV, and haven’t since high school. Second: I travel all the time for this damn job.

The combination of these things have made the device’s convertible form factor a bit of a nuisance. It’s big and heavy and the Joy-Cons semi-frequently slip off during game play. And while I’ve occasionally considered playing it in convertible mode, with the kickstand up, controllers detached as the console sits on, say, an airplane tray table, the capability ultimately isn’t worth the trade-offs.

It seems odd that “built-in controllers” is listed as a feature on a gaming console, but, then, I suppose it kind of is.

Nintendo Switch Lite

That’s all a lot of words to say that I was excited when the rumors around the Switch Lite first dropped. That enthusiasm carried over to a recent hands-on with the device. And now, here we are. Honestly, the Switch Lite is pretty much what I’d hoped for.

The Lite is noticeably smaller and lighter than the standard model, even without having both models handy, but here’s a shot from our hands-on for reference:

Nintendo Switch Lite

Of course, the form factor is still considerably larger than a majority of smartphones, which, at the end of the day are the Lite’s true competitor when it comes to mobile gaming. But Nintendo’s put a focus on first-party hardware, and the value of that proposition has played out remarkably well during the Switch’s nearly three-year life. Nintendo’s line has always been about making software for the hardware, and that certainly follows with the Switch line. It’s hard to imagine most of these first-party games successfully making the jump to mobile intact.

Nintendo certainly did right by the color scheme. As I wrote in the hands-on, the hardest question for me wouldn’t be whether or not to purchase a Switch Lite, but which color to get. Nintendo made the choice easy, sending a turquoise number in for review. The gray and yellow are also quite nice in different ways, but I was already leaning in that direction.

Nintendo Switch Lite

The portability’s the thing here, but shrinking the device down comes with some compromises. In addition to the loss of dockable TV versatility, the screen has been shrunk down from 6.2 to 5.5 inches (the resolution is the same admittedly unremarkable 720p). This is mostly noticeable in places like the menu, where the font has become more difficult for my aging eyes to read (the menu UI, admittedly, could still use some work). Longtime Switch players will notice the difference during gameplay, as well, but you’ll adjust soon enough — especially if you’ve grown accustomed to playing games on your phone.

The battery, too, is smaller, down to 3579mAh from 4310mAh, per FCC filings. Even so, the company is claiming three to seven hours of battery, compared to the original Switch’s 2.5 to 6.5. That slight upgrade appears to have been accomplished through a combination of a less power hungry (smaller) display and a more power efficient processor. The newer version of the classic Switch, meanwhile, sports a 4.5 to nine-hour battery. Given that a truncated life was the first gen’s biggest complaint, I’d have hoped that the company would have made battery progress on both sides — but you can’t win them all, I guess.

Nintendo Switch Lite

The headphone jack stayed put for the Lite. So, too, did the microSD and game card slots. Physical media isn’t quite dead in the gaming word just yet. The kickstand is gone because, well, there’s really no point without the detachable Joy-Cons. The other key physical difference is the addition of an omnidirectional D Pad, replacing the less-useful four arrows. I’ve honestly grown fairly accustomed to using the left stick for basically everything. Still, the arrival of the Lite’s D Pad is timed nicely with the addition of NES and Super NES titles to the Switch Online library. The button’s usefulness on standard Switch titles is a lot more limited, however. The pad also felt a bit softer than I was anticipating — something that takes some getting used to.

The Switch’s real killer app, however, is price: $200 feels just about right for the console. That’s down $100 from the standard Switch. Couple that with the surprisingly affordable $4 a month (or $20 a year) for Switch Online and you’ve got a pretty killer deal for a platform in its third year of life.

Forced to choose between the two models today, I’d almost certainly go for the Lite. Though I would grit my teeth a bit at the idea of sacrificing a couple of hours of battery life in the process. Of course, not everyone is me (thankfully). Most of you, for instance, are normal, well-adjusted people with television sets in their homes, and moving to the Lite means sacrificing the Switch’s namesake and most innovative feature.

As someone who spends much of his life on subway cars and planes, this is the Switch I (and others, I’m sure) have been waiting for.

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Nintendo shows off exercise-powered RPG for Switch, Ring Fit Adventure

Posted by | fitness, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, Health, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch | No Comments

Nintendo has been at the crossroads of video games and fitness since the famous Power Pad for the NES, and the Switch is the latest to receive a game powered by physical activity: Ring Fit Adventure. And it actually looks fun!

In the game, you’ll jog in place to advance your character, and perform various movements and exercises to avoid obstacles and defeat enemies. Your quest is to defeat an “evil body-building dragon” who has disrupted the peaceful, apparently very fit world of the protagonist. Sure.

The game comes with a pair of accessories: a ring and leg strap, each of which you slot a Joy-Con into. The two controllers work together to get a picture of your whole body movement, meaning it can be sure you’re keeping your arms out in front of you when you do a squat, and not phoning it in during leg raises.

ringfit1

The ring itself is flexible and can tell how hard you’re squeezing or pulling it— but don’t worry, it can be calibrated for your strength level.

Interestingly, the top button of the controller appears to be able to be used as a heart-rate monitor. That kind of came out of left field, but I like it. Just one more way Nintendo is making its hardware do interesting new things.

ringfit2

There look to be a ton of different movements you’ll be required to do, focusing on different areas of the body: upper, lower, core and some sort of whole-body ones inspired by yoga positions. Ingeniously, some enemies are weak to one or another, and you’ll need to use different ones for other scenarios, so you’re getting a varied workout whether you like it or not.

Meanwhile, your character levels up and unlocks new, more advanced moves — think a lunge instead of a squat, or adding an arm movement to a leg one — and you can get closer to the goal.

ringfit3

There are also minigames and straight-up workouts you can select, which you can do at any time if you don’t feel like playing the actual game, and contribute to your character’s level anyway.

The idea of gamifying fitness has been around for quite a while, and some titles, like Wii Fit, actually got pretty popular. But this one seems like the most in-depth actual game to use fitness as its main mechanic, and critically it is simple and easy enough that even the most slothful among us can get in a session now and then at our own pace.

Ring Fit Adventure will be available October 18 — no pricing yet, but you can probably expect it to be a little above an ordinary Switch game.

You can watch the full-length walkthrough of the game below, but beware — the acting is a little off-putting.

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Nintendo Switch Online gets SNES games September 5, plus new SNES controllers

Posted by | Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Super Mario World, Switch, TC, virtual console | No Comments

Nintendo Switch Online, the subscription-based online services component of Nintendo’s Switch console, will get SNES games starting on September 5 — yes, that’s right, the first games are available to play tomorrow. There are 20 games available initially, with more planned in the future.

Alongside the new software, there’s also the new SNES system wireless controller for Switch, which charges via USB-C and retails for $29.99 directly from Nintendo.

The launch lineup for the SNES portion of Nintendo Switch Online looks pretty promising, and includes highlight favorites like Star Fox, Breath of Fire, F-ZERO, Super Mario World and Super Metroid (you can see the full list below).

Screen Shot 2019 09 04 at 3.30.23 PM

We got a strong indication that this was happening earlier this month, thanks to an FCC filing that detailed the SNES controller hardware. Nintendo likewise released an NES controller alongside its launch of the Nintendo Online Service when it debuted last year.

The best part about this surprise drop is that it’s available basically right now — check your Nintendo Online app on your Switch tomorrow to begin playing these nostalgic gaming classics.

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Switch Lite is the portable Nintendo fans deserve

Posted by | Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch Lite | No Comments

It’s the plight of the early adopter. A few years from now, there will be a new version of the console — one that works out the biggest flaws of the original, most likely at a lower price point. Having used Nintendo’s latest console a fair bit since its launch three years back, I can say without hesitation that the Switch Lite is exactly the one I’d buy now.

Granted, I’m not a typical gamer by any stretch. My relationship with the industry could be described as casual at best. Oh, and I don’t have a television. Yep, I’m that guy… and have been for a while. Point being, the Lite appears very specifically tailored to my needs. Really, the bigger question at this point is which color?

The Lite is $100 cheaper than the original Switch, a feat it accomplishes by removing some of the console’s more innovative features, including the ability to dock and play it on a TV. The solid state body also removes the shakable Joy Cons from the equation.

The console is notably smaller, too, with the 6.2-inch touchscreen getting scaled down to 5.5 inches. It’s not a huge change, but it’s certainly noticeable. On the upside, the smaller footprint means a lighter (as the name implies) device, down to 0.61 pounds from 0.88 pounds. If you’ve spent any time playing the original Switch, you’ll notice the difference right away.

Nintendo Switch Lite

Like the newfound portability, I actually welcome the solid state design. I’ve basically played the Switch exclusively in handheld mode and have always found it annoying when the Joy Cons accidentally detach mid-game. As for those games that required a hearty Joy Con shake, that functionality is addressed in various ways, depending on the title. There’s an accelerometer built into the hardware here, so in many cases the player will end up shaking the whole console to accomplish this.

As FCC filings have confirmed, the battery is smaller on the Lite, but the smaller screensize negates that to some degree. A stated three to seven hours is a bit north of the original switch’s 2.5 to 6.5 hours — though still a fair bit less than the 4.5 to nine hours on the new model. Those numbers are game-dependent. Nintendo says the Lite should get about four hours playing Breath of the Wild, for example, versus the new Switch’s 5.5 hours.

Nintendo Switch Lite

That’s definitely a bummer. As someone who’s interested in the Switch primarily as a travel companion, battery life has always been my chief complaint with the original model. It would have been great if Nintendo would have made battery a bigger focus on the Lite. There are understandably some limitations due to the smaller footprint, but I suspect the company could have squeezed a bit more life out of it here.

The addition of an honest-to-goodness D-Pad on the left side is a nice touch, too — and hopefully an indication that a lot more NES/Super NES classics are about to come to the console. My aging self will be spending a lot of money on downloads if that ever happens.

Nintendo Switch Lite

The color choice is surprising, but quite nice. The yellow and turquoise pop quite nicely, while the gray is considerably more understated — insofar as a Nintendo portable console can be understated, that is. I honestly went back and forth trying to choose one, but if I had to pick tomorrow, it would probably be the turquoise.

At $200, the Lite is $100 cheaper than the standard model and a no-brainer for those who find it difficult staying in one place. It arrives September 20.

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The ClockworkPi GameShell is a super fun DIY spin on portable gaming

Posted by | Bluetooth, computing, electronics, Emulator, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, linus torvalds, linux, microsoft windows, Nintendo Switch, open source software, operating systems, Reviews, Speaker, TC, vice, wi-fi | No Comments

Portable consoles are hardly new, and thanks to the Switch, they’re basically the most popular gaming devices in the world. But ClockworkPi’s GameShell is something totally unique, and entirely refreshing when it comes to gaming on the go. This clever DIY console kit provides everything you need to assemble your own pocket gaming machine at home, running Linux-based open-source software and using an open-source hardware design that welcomes future customization.

The GameShell is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, which began shipping to its backers last year and is now available to buy either direct from the company or from Amazon. The $159.99 ( on sale for $139.99 as of this writing) includes everything you need to build the console, like the ClockworkPi quad-core Cortex A7 motherboard with integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 1GB of DDR3 RAM — but it comes unassembled.

GameShell Clockwork Pi 3

You won’t have to get out the soldering iron — the circuit boards come with all components attached. But you will be assembling screen, keypad, CPU, battery and speaker modules, connecting them with included cables and installing them in the slick, GameBoy-esque plastic shell. This might seem like an intimidating task, depending on your level of technical expertise: I know I found myself a bit apprehensive when I opened the various boxes and laid out all the parts in front of me.

But the included instructions, which are just illustrations, like those provided by Lego or Ikea, are super easy to follow and break down the task into very manageable tasks for people of all skill levels. All told, I had mine put together in less than an hour, and even though I did get in there with my teeth at one point (to remove a bit of plastic nubbin when assembling the optional Lightkey component, which adds extra function keys to the console), I never once felt overwhelmed or defeated. The time-lapse below chronicles my entire assembly process, start to finish.

What you get when you’re done is a fully functional portable gaming device, which runs Clockwork OS, a Linux-based open-source OS developed by the company. It includes Cave Story, one of the most celebrated indie games of the past couple of decades, and a number of built-in emulators (use of emulators is ethically and legally questionable, but it does provide an easy way to play some of those NES and SNES games you already own with more portability).

There’s a very active community around the GameShell that includes a number of indie games to play on the console, and tips and tricks for modifications and optimal use. It’s also designed to be a STEM educational resource, providing a great way for kids to see what’s actually happening behind the faceplate of the electronics they use everyday, and even getting started coding themselves to build software to run on the console. Loading software is easy, thanks to an included microSD storage card and the ability to easily connect via Wi-Fi to move over software from Windows and Mac computers.

Everything about the GameShell is programmable, and it features micro HDMI out, a built-in music player and Bluetooth support for headphone connection. It’s at once instantly accessible for people with very limited tech chops, and infinitely expandable and hackable for those who do want to go deeper and dig around with what else it has to offer.

Swappable face and backplates, plus open 3D models of each hardware component, mean that community-developed hardware add-ons and modifications are totally possible, too. The modular nature of the device means it can probably get even more powerful in the future too, with higher capacity battery modules and improved development boards.

I’ve definitely seen and used devices like the GameShell before, but few manage to be as accessible, powerful and customizable all at once. The GameShell is also fast, has great sound and an excellent display, and it seems to be very durable, with decent battery life of around three hours or slightly more of continuous use depending on things like whether you’re using Wi-Fi and screen brightness.

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Nintendo Switch sales are up, even with new models on the way

Posted by | Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

Quarterly sales for the Switch remained brisk for Nintendo’s most recent quarterly earnings. The number made a jump from 1.88 to 2.13 million units year over year. Modest, sure, but still solid for a console that’s getting slightly long in the tooth — especially given the fact that we’ve been aware new versions are on the way.

Two were confirmed earlier this month, addressing concerns with the product. There’s the Switch Lite, a $200 version of the console ($100 less than the standard price) that swaps convertibility for portability, and a unit with longer battery life. The arrival of both will almost certainly boost sales as the company heads into the holiday season.

With the new quarter factored in, Switch sales are now at 36.9 million for the life of the product. Nintendo, meanwhile, expects total unit sales to hit 18 million for the full year. In spite of positive numbers on the console front, operating profit dropped ~10% year over year for the quarter.

The 3DS, meanwhile, while still alive, has unsurprisingly begun a death rattle, slowing to 200,000 for the quarter. Still, it was a respectable life, with more than 75 million sold over the life of Nintendo’s previous portable. Farewell, 3DS, it was a good run.

Mobile numbers saw a nice 10% bump for the quarter, and Nintendo’s got plenty of solid titles lined up for the back half of the year, so likely most aren’t too concerned by some lackluster financials this time out.

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Nintendo Switch might soon go on sale in China via Tencent

Posted by | Asia, Beijing, China, Entertainment, Gaming, Mario, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, shanghai, Sony, Tencent | No Comments

After months of anticipation, Nintendo Switch is ready to shed more light on its China launch. The Japanese console giant and Tencent are “working diligently” to bring the Switch to the world’s largest market for video games, the partners announced on Weibo (the Twitter equivalent in China) today.

The pair did not specify a date when the portable gaming system will officially launch, as the government approval process can take months. But there are signs that things are moving forward. For example, Tencent has been given the green light to run a trial version of the New Super Mario Mario Bros. U Deluxe and a few other blockbuster titles in China.

On August 2, the partners will jointly host a press conference for Switch — no product launch yet — in Shanghai, Tencent confirmed to TechCrunch. It appears to be a strategic move that coincides with the country’s largest gaming expo China Joy beginning on the same day in the city.

Tencent and Nintendo are hosting a media event on August 2nd 2019 in Shanghai for Nintendo Switch.

Steven Ma, Senior Vice President of Tencent and Satoru Shibata, executive at Nintendo, will attend.

Should be more details of Switch launch in China. pic.twitter.com/MULC7jMSqg

— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) July 24, 2019

Sales of Nintendo Switch in China, made possible through a distribution deal with Tencent, will likely add fuel to Nintendo’s slowing growth. It can also potentially diversify Tencent’s gaming revenues, which took a hit last year as Beijing tightened controls over online entertainment.

Switch faces an uphill battle as consoles, including Sony PS4 and Microsoft Xbox, have for years struggled to catch on in China. The reasons are multifaceted. China had banned consoles until 2014 to protect minors from harmful content. The devices are also much less affordable than mobile games, making it difficult as a form of social interaction in the mobile-first nation.

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Nintendo introduces a Switch model refresh with better battery life

Posted by | Federal Communications Commission, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, TC | No Comments

Nintendo already announced an entirely new Switch console this month, the Switch Lite, and now it’s bumping some of the specs on the existing Switch with a slightly updated version, spotted by The Verge. This update improves the hardware right where it counts when it comes to Switch portable playing power.

The new model will provide between 4.5 and 9 hours of battery life, depending on use, which is a big bump from the 2.5 to 6.5 hour rating on the original hardware that’s been offered to date. This is likely an improvement derived from a change in the processor used in the console, as well as more power-efficient memory, both of which were detailed in an FCC filing from last week.

Nintendo’s official Switch comparison page lists the models with improved battery life as model number HAC-001(-01), with the bracketed addition distinguishing it from the original. You can check the version based on the serial number, with XKW preceding the newer hardware and XAW starting off serials for the older, less power-efficient version. It should arrive sometime in the middle of August, so if you’re in the market it’s worth taking a “wait and see” approach to ensure this battery-boosted hardware is the one you get.

In all other respects the two Switch models appear to be similar, if not identical, so it’s probably not enough of a change to get anyone considering an upgrade, unless the battery life on your current version really seems to fall about two hours short of your ideal play session length on average.

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