Nintendo has had a rough time of things over the last three or so years.

After making a Mount Fuji-sized pile of cash with the Wii, the Japanese platform holder released the Wii U, an odd console/tablet combo that befuddled fans and shareholders from the time it was unveiled at E3 in 2011.

To say that the Wii U was a flop is an understatement. While it certainly attracted Nintendo’s keepers of the faith, its unwieldy design, paucity of exclusives and laundry list of ports from the last generation failed to win converts the same way the Wii did. Shortly after the Xbox One and PS4 hit the market, Nintendo went from from ruling the console war to a very distant third.

Nintendo Switch Hands-On Preview – Gaming on the go

The Switch, then, is Nintendo’s bid to return to its former glory and after spending a morning with it, I have to say that there are reasons to be optimistic about its chances.

In case you weren’t aboard the Nintendo Switch hype train when it left the station last year, here’s the pitch. The Switch is a gaming console/tablet combo aimed at gamers on the go.

While it can be played on your massive flatscreen TV at home through the use of a rather sleek-looking dock and HDMI cable, its unique selling point is that players can lift it out of the dock, snap two control pads to either side and carry on playing, albeit on a smaller screen.

Nintendo Switch Hands-On Preview – Closer look

On close inspection, the Nintendo Switch looks and feels like a console that incorporates the best features of its two predecessors. In tablet/mobile mode, the Switch boasts a 6.2-inch screen that runs at 720p. It also doesn’t feel as clunky or cheaply made as the Wii U.

The controllers – or Joy-Cons as they’re called – fit snugly in one’s hand and yes, motion-sensor interface is present and correct. The Joy-Cons can be operated in three states; players can snap them onto the sides of the Switch, use them separately as motion-sensor controls or snap them together in a dock to form a more traditional-looking control pad. Incidentally, the Joy-Cons contain rumble pads that vibrate subtly when the game one is playing calls for it.

Nintendo Switch Hands-On Preview – Games

Nintendo Switch Event

Of course, as slick as the Nintendo Switch is, this console will live and die on its games. It’s quite heartening, then, that the games available to play at the Switch’s press event this morning in Sandton were really rather good.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 were every bit as fun as one would expect and because I was able to play them on both the Switch in tablet mode and on a TV, they were decent showcases for how the console handles visuals in both states – there was no tearing or framerate lag to be seen.

1-2 Switch was up next and it’s the closest experience we’ve had to a Wii game since we packed Nintendo’s little white console away a few years ago. It’s essentially a collection of mini-games, some of which are straight-forward – compete with your mate in a quickdraw competition – and some that are downright odd – there’s a game where players compete to see who can milk a cow’s virtual udders the fastest. Yes, really.

Nintendo Switch Event

Colourful fighting game Arms is a lot deeper than its name suggests. On the surface it looks like a boxing match between two zany characters with massive springs for arms in which players succeed through wild flailing. However after a couple of minutes at the controls, one realises that bobbing, weaving, jumping and timing special attacks are key in any victory.

The event’s centre piece – and arguably one of the most anticipated games of this year – was The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, and it’s a console exclusive the Sony, Xbox and PC crowd should feel more than a little envious of.

Beautiful to behold, what really bowls one over is the size of the game and the variety of things to do. In a brief 10 minutes, I’d engaged in fighting, archery, wood-chopping, log-surfing, fire-starting and had managed to raise an ancient temple from underground. If you’re planning on buying a Switch, this is a must-have, and it’s probably worth booking time off work too.

Nintendo Switch Hands-On Preview – Cost

So the Nintendo Switch is a slick piece of kit with some very decent games to play on it – and according to Nintendo, there’s a ton more to follow launch. There is, however, a sticking point: the console’s rather high RRP of R5,299.

Nintendo’s decision to bring a console to market at this price with games that cost R880 and extra peripherals that are also hellishly expensive (a pro-controller and extra Joy-Cons cost over a grand) seems more than a tad risky. It’s also unclear just how much ground the Switch can make up against Sony and Microsoft.

Still, life’s filled with second chances and if Nintendo’s new console gains a steadily growing library of quality titles, the Switch could be a hit. As ever, it’ll all come down to the games.