Nintendo Switch

Nintendo’s Switch just had its best sales week in the US

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Nintendo today noted that the Switch just had its best-ever sales week in the States. Over the course of Thanksgiving week, the three-year-old console moved more than 830,000 units. That brings the system up to a combined 17.5 million units in the U.S., by Nintendo’s count. It’s pretty impressive momentum for a mature console.

Back in late October, the Switch hit the 15 million mark in the States. It continues to sit atop the console sales charts posted by analytics firms like NPD. The numbers, of course, were juiced by both the upcoming holidays, the addition of the new, lower-priced Switch Lite and various Black Friday offers that bundle in things like a free copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

The system is expected to get another major boost outside of the U.S., with a forthcoming launch in China. Nintendo is teaming up with Tencent to deliver the system to a potentially massive market at around $300 a pop. Pre-orders in the country opened today, with sales starting on December 10, along with a trio of Mario titles.

As of late-September, the system has sold in excess of 40 million units globally — a healthy upgrade from its lukewarmly received predecessor, the Wii U, which only managed to move 13.5 million in its lifetime. The Switch still has some catching up to do with the eight-year-old 3DS, which has sold 75.5 million units globally. 

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Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure is a silly, gentle way to shape up

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

Nintendo has a long history when it comes to exercise-driven games. I’m dating myself, but I can say I remember playing Track & Field on NES with the Power Pad. How far we’ve come! Ring Fit Adventure is a full-body workout for grown-ups, but fun, gentle, and ridiculous enough to forget it’s exercise.

The game and accessories were announced in September, coming as a complete surprise even considering Nintendo’s constant but hit-and-miss attempts at keeping its players healthy. What really threw people off was that this game actually looked like… a game. And so it is!

Ring Fit Adventure has you, the unnamed and (naturally) mute protagonist, journeying through a series of worlds and levels chasing after Dragaux, a swole dragon who’s infecting the land with… something. Maybe he’s not wiping down the equipment afterwards. Come on, man.

Playing with these virtual versions of the controllers gives you a real feel for how solid the motion detection is.

Anyway, you do this by using the Joy-Cons in a new and strange form: the Ring-Con and leg strap. The latter is pretty self-explanatory, but the ring must be explained. It’s a thick plastic resistance ring that you squeeze from the edges or pull apart. It detects how hard you’re squeezing it through the other Joy-Con, which slots into the top. (The strap and ring grips are washable, by the way.)

The two controllers combined can detect all kinds of movements, from squats and leg lifts to rotations, presses, balancing, and yoga poses. You’ll need them all if you’re going to progress in the game.

Each level is a path that you travel down by actually jogging in real life (or high stepping if you’re in goo), while using the Ring-Con to interact with the environment. Aim and squeeze to send out a puff of air that opens a door or propels you over an obstacle, or pull it apart to suck in distant coins. Press it against your abs to crush rocks, do squats to open chests — you get the idea.

ringfit1

I haven’t gotten this one yet, but it looks handy. I could use a stronger arm-based multi-monster attack.

Of course you encounter enemies as well, which you dispatch with a variety of exercises targeting different muscle groups. Do a few arm presses over your head for some basic damage, or hit multiple enemies with some hip rotations. Each exercise has you do a number of reps, which turn into damage, before defending against enemy attacks with an “Ab Guard.”

The ring and leg strap seem almost magical in their ability to track your motion in all kinds of ways, though some are no doubt only inferred or fudged (as when you lift the leg without the strap). A missed motion happened so rarely over thousands of them that I ceased to think at all about it, which is about the highest compliment you can give a control method like this. Yet it’s also forgiving enough that you won’t feel the need to get everything right down the millimeter. You can even check your pulse by putting your thumb on the IR sensor of the right Joy-Con. Who knew?

As you progress, you unlock new exercises with different uses or colors — and you soon are able to fight more strategically by matching muscle group coloring (red is arms, purple legs, etc) with enemies of the same type. It’s hardly Fire Emblem, but it’s also a lot more than anyone has every really expected from a fitness game.

The red guys are like, “yeah… do him first.”

In fact, so much care and polish has clearly gone into this whole operation that’s it’s frequently surprising; there are so many things that could have been phoned in an not a single one is. The exercises are thoughtfully selected and explained in a friendly manner; the monsters and environments show great attention to detail. There’s no punishment for failure except restarting a level — the first time I “died,” I expected a little sass from my chatty companion, Ring, but it just popped me back to the map with nary a word.

Throughout is a feeling of acceptance and opportunity rather than pressure to perform. You can quit at any time and it doesn’t chide you for abandoning your quest or not burning enough calories. If you decide not to do the warm-up stretch, Tabb just says “OK!” and moves on. When you perform a move, it’s either “good” or “great,” or it reminds you of the form and you can try again. Whenever you start, you can change the difficulty, which I believe is reps, damage, and other soft counts, since it can’t increase the resistance of the Ring-Con.

dragaux

Seems familiar…

There’s no pressure to change your body and no gendered expectations; Your exercise demonstration model/avatar, Tabb, is conspicuously androgynous. Your character is a pretty cut specimen of your preferred gender, to be sure. And Dragaux himself is a sort of parody of oblivious, musclebound gym bunnies (“He’s working out while planning his next workout,” the game announced one time as he skipped an attack to do some bicep curls). But even he, Ring mentions at one point, used to be very insecure about his body. Importantly, there’s nothing about the game that feels targeted to getting a certain type of person a certain type of fit.

I’m not a trainer or fitness expert, but so far the variety of exercises also feels solid. It’s all very low-impact stuff, and because it’s resistance ring and body weight only, there’s a sort of core-strengthening yoga style to it all. This isn’t about getting ripped, but you’ll be surprised how sore you are after taking down a few enemies with a proper-form chair pose.

If you don’t want to play the adventure mode, there are minigames to collect and short workouts you can customize. Honestly some of these would make better party games than half the stuff on 1-2-Switch.

As I’ve been playing the game and discussing it with friends, I found myself wanting more out of the game side. I’m hoping Ring Fit Adventure will be a success so that Nintendo will green light a new, deeper version with more complex RPG elements. Sure, you can change your outfit here for a little extra defense or whatnot, but I want to take this concept further — I know the fundamentals are sound, so I’d like to see them built on.

It feels like until now there have been few ways to really gamify fitness, except the most elementary, like step tracking. The two separate motion controllers and the smart ways they’re used to track a variety of exercises really feel like an opportunity to do something bigger. Plus once people have bought the accessories, they’re much more likely to buy matching software.

My main criticisms would be that it’s a bit limiting at the beginning. There’s no choice to, for example, prioritize or deprioritize a certain type of exercise. I could probably stand to jog more and do arm stuff less, and I dreaded having to resort to squats for the first few worlds. And the constant instruction on how and when to do everything can be wearing — it would be nice to be able to set some things to “expert mode” and skip the tutorials.

The game and accessories will set you back $80. If you consider it simply as buying a game, it’s an expensive gimmick. But I don’t think that’s the way to think about it. The target audience here is people who likely don’t have a gym membership, something that can cost $50-$100 a month. As a fun and effective fitness tool that does what it sets out to do and does so in a praiseworthy way, I think $80 is a very reasonable asking price.

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Nintendo Switch hits another sales milestone

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Nintendo’s North American Switch unit sales have already surpassed the lifetime worldwide unit sales of the Wii U.

The company announced Thursday that they had sold 15 million units of the popular handheld console in North America, further noting that the Switch had been the most popular console in the U.S. for 10 months in a row, according to the NPD Group.

This number brings NA-specific sales well past the 13.56 million units sold of the company’s previous-generation console, the Wii U.

While the Switch lags far behind the PS4 and Xbox One in lifetime sales, it’s important to realize how old those other systems are — hardware refreshes aside. The Xbox One and PS4 were released in 2013 and the Switch was introduced in 2017.

The Switch is likely still early in its life cycle — the company just released the $199 Switch Lite, which cuts down on some functionality and focuses wholly on portable gameplay.

A common refrain has been that there are too few titles available on the Switch, while I still think that’s definitely true, Nintendo announced that 14 titles had sold more than 1 million copies, with four of its own games (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) selling more than 6 million copies.

As of June 30, 2019, Nintendo has sold nearly 38 million Switch consoles worldwide.

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Nintendo’s more portable Switch gets matching 8BitDo controllers

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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

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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

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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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