Nintendo Switch links to the past but feels like the future

Hands on with the Nintendo Switch
Hands on with the Nintendo Switch

Nintendo's latest gaming console is only weeks away and will provide a new platform for some of the company's most popular titles.

The Japanese video game giant announced Friday that the eagerly awaited device, the Switch, will go on sale worldwide on March 3 for $299.99.

At a big event in Japan that was streamed online, Nintendo (NTDOF) revealed an impressive first wave of games for the Switch, a handheld system that can easily transform into a console for the home.

The new titles range from original offerings to new entries in some of the biggest franchises in gaming.

Switch will launch with "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" in March. And Mario will follow later, first in "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe" in April and then in "Super Mario Odyssey" in time for the holiday season.

Nintendo teased fans at the event Friday with scenes showing the iconic plumber in a New York-esque city as well as a desert, a jungle and other environments.

Another game available from the start is "1-2 Switch," which the company described as a "face-to-face party game" in which players don't have to look at the console's screen but at an opponent in front of them. They hear audio cues and feel physical responses through the the controller to know what's happening.

That game takes advantage of the Switch's Joy-Con detachable controllers, which have motion-sensing features like the original Wii and an infra-red camera that detects hand gestures.

"The fact that they've focused a lot on the capability of the controllers really harks back to what they did right with the Wii," said Rob Fahey, contributing editor of, referring to the hugely popular Nintendo console that sold more than 100 million units.

CNN received an early look at the new console on Friday in New York and was impressed how seamlessly it mixes Nintendo nostalgia with modern technology. Although it has the feel of classic consoles such as the Nintendo 64 or the Nintendo Wii, the ability to move from TV to a portable device is a game changer.

Our favorite way to play the Switch is in handheld mode. Thanks to its portability, you no longer have to spend hours playing video games on the couch. The device has a bit of weight to it, but it's light enough to hold without hands and arms getting too worn out.

The detachable controllers clicked in and out of place with ease but were a bit too small when separated. It especially felt unusual to use them in tabletop mode, where a kickstand pops out to prop up the display.

Nintendo has struggled with the graphics prowess of competitors like X-Box and PlayStation, but the Switch's colorful worlds hold up for the most part.

In "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" launch game -- sold separately -- players are introduced to stunning landscapes and characters are incredibly detailed (take Link's ragged clothes, for example).

Related: Nintendo's future may hinge on Switch

The lackluster battery life is perhaps the most disappointing part of the new system. Nintendo said the Switch's battery life will vary when it's in portable mode but range from 2.5 hours to 6 hours, depending on which games are played.

The launch of the Switch is one of the biggest moments for the company in recent years.

Once dominant, Nintendo's fortunes have fluctuated wildly over the past decade, from the vast success of the Wii console to the quiet failure of its successor, the Wii U.

Happy Birthday, Wii: A look at how it aged
Happy Birthday, Wii: A look at how it aged

A lack of games was one of the reasons the Wii U struggled. With limited support from third-party publishers, Nintendo failed to provide a steady stream of hit titles.

"Something they need to prove this year and going into 2018 is that Switch is going to have a significant software library that's added to on a monthly or bimonthly basis, rather than something where people are waiting four months between releases," Fahey said.

Nintendo says there are 80 titles in active development for the Switch.

Related: Nintendo's mini-sized classic console is worth the hype

Investors' initial response to Friday's big show-and-tell was negative, however. Nintendo stock sank 5.8% in Tokyo after the event.

The company's shares have been on a roller-coaster ride in the past year. They've soared and plunged on fluctuating hopes about how much the company might gain from new releases like augmented reality hit Pokemon Go, mobile game Super Mario Run and the Switch.

But they're still up about 55% from this time last year.

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