On January 12th, Nintendo delivered a presentation from Tokyo, Japan to make further announcements about their next console iteration, the Nintendo Switch. Last revealed in October, the Nintendo Switch is touted as a hybrid console/portable offering and is set to deliver what may be perhaps the best of the best that Nintendo has to offer: Their notorious penchant for excellent handheld hardware and a haven for many of their first party titles that all have either come to loathe or love.
I will make it no secret that Nintendo and I have had a large divide when it comes to the fan/consumer side of the market. I haven’t purchased a Nintendo system since their GameCube and the last handheld device I owned of theirs was a DS Lite. To say that I have been extremely critical of them over the years is perhaps the most accurate statement one can make about me when it comes to gaming and the viewpoint I have towards the Big N. It would be easy to say that I was anti-Nintendo but that would be a lie. I’ve always loved Nintendo but since the GameCube and even with their next two console iterations all I saw were mistakes in their consumer approach that turned me off from their systems. Gimmicky motion controls and mixed messages present in both their Wii and Wii U reveals just left a sour taste in my mouth and over time just reduced my faith in the company. After their Switch reveal, which had some hits and some misses, they managed to do the impossible in that they actually won me back. A large portion of the community seems divided still about this offering and comments of this being the Wii U all over again seem to be a tad bit misguided, so us over here at DEE CORe have decided to not just discuss the highs and lows of their streamed announcement but how this one is in fact leaps and bounds beyond their Wii and Wii U release.
Their streamed conference was a mixed bag overall from the variance in tone that had a showcase with hip and modern lights and music and then the jarring switch to the typical Japanese business side of things. It started off with the standard business motto of what the system offers with things like an online service that will be free for a trial period and then a paid service option rears its head in the fall of 2017. Region locking is a thing of the past though as for the first time in a long time, Nintendo is doing away with region locking which is a welcome surprise for those who love to import. We got an official release date and price point and after some discussion on controller technology it was apparent that the main thing Nintendo wanted to solidify was that it has no shortage of games for their new platform.
Releasing mostly worldwide on March 3rd of this year, the Nintendo Switch is coming at a very opportune timeframe. There isn’t a crowd of triple A games releasing within that month as far as I personally am concerned and the system is launching with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and to have a Zelda title that I can play both at home and on the go on one system is a damn gift from the gods themselves. As another blessing, the system is launching at $299.99 and given the technology packaged in this is a pretty damn good deal. Granted the XBOX One and PlayStation 4 have offerings for a lot less, those are systems that have been available for a while now and it only makes sense they would be cheaper by this time around. Factor in that those companies also just released this past holiday season arguably better versions of their consoles with hardware revisions in the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One S and that those are priced at just $100 over the Switch launch price and it’s fair to say that Nintendo still came out swinging with this price point.
As typical of Nintendo, the primary focus of their stream was the Joy-Con controllers that the Switch comes with. The tech presented in it is very much the next upgrade to the Wii Motion Controller complete with weight differential and motion controls and even a distance sensor. With this new tech there of course would be games that show off what it can do and we got this with the first two offerings of the show; 1-2 Switch and ARMS. I’m not even going to go into 1-2 Switch as that should honestly be a throw in with the Switch and not a stand-alone title but it is a definite showcase on the types of things the Joy-Con can do with what appeared to be variations of the mini-games found in the WarioWare titles. Personally, I buy a console for games that I can play on my TV more than anything and ARMS is the kind of thing that sold me on just what the controllers can do and what their design is for. A multiplayer fighting game offering that is the quintessential upgrade to Wii Boxing with a fantastic visual style reminiscent of Punch Out on the Wii, ARMS is the kind of thing that should be shown alongside the Switch whenever anyone wants to explain why it’s an awesome piece of hardware, but unfortunately will not be a launch title as it is slated for a Spring 2017 release. Insert my face of profound sadness here as this title is one of the new ones that got me hype and began to solidify my belief that this was a much different Nintendo delivering this presentation.
We then got a look at Splatoon 2 which I am sure brought some degree of hype to the cult following that game garnered when it came out for the Wii U. I just hope it offers more than what the first one did at launch and doesn’t have single player content locked behind an Amiibo paywall like the original title did as well. Splatoon 2 is slated for a summer 2017 release. Immediately following this we got a look at Super Mario Odyssey, and it was just an extreme feeling of elation to seeing Mario back to the sandbox running and jumping days not seen since Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. It was a little weird seeing Mario in a modern day setting when he ran through the New Donk City world, but all the other worlds shown in the trailer immediately brought back that rich vibrancy the Mario games are known for. I also loved that his hair and mustache have texture and follicles and that his hat is now a power of sorts being used as both an offensive tool and a platforming element. I for one cannot wait until the holiday release for Super Mario Odyssey.
Monolith Soft threw out their Xenoblade 2 trailer for the six people that played that game and we then got a tease of Fire Emblem Warriors being brought to us by Team Ninja and Koei-Tecmo. Dynasty Warriors and Fire Emblem being mixed together is sure to excite most but neither of these two games had any release date of any kind so it’s a wait and see situation at best for those titles.
3rd Party support is always something beneficial for any console, and it is an area that Nintendo has suffered in previously with the Wii and Wii U. Apparently there are over 50 developers on board the Switch with over 80 titles in development. Atlus, EA, Bethesda and Square Enix made statements on the stream and some even showcased an offering. Atlus had a Shin Megami Tensei tease, EA is giving the Switch FIFA 2017 and more, Bethesda is porting Skyrim and Square Enix is practically throwing every Dragon Quest game in existence on this thing and teased some weird new project. SEGA even promised to offer support in some fashion so it’s pretty much a sure thing that Sonic will make an appearance on the Switch. Easily a highlight was SUDA 51 and the fact that the translator could barely keep up with SUDA’s slang and colloquialisms. It’s pretty much assured that SUDA 51 will bring back No More Heroes onto the system in some form. It remains to be seen how long the 3rd party support will hold up over time as most tend to back out once the numbers don’t show any traction when it comes to sales, a critical element the Wii and Wii U suffered from. I would hope that 3rd party developers realize just how good the Switch is from a developer standpoint and put some official support on the system as opposed to the shovel ware and ports that dominated the Wii and Wii U from most 3rd parties. Even with that though, Nintendo seems firm to hold on to what they have and if 3rd parties do wane over time, I believe this is the one time Nintendo is ready to pick up the slack and deliver on consistent 1st party support to keep its fans happy over time.
So while their presentation was decent and offered a mixed bag as far as reception goes, there were still some things that would warrant a face palm or two. It was later revealed on the Nintendo homepage that the paid online service would offer a free NES or SNES game per month, but only for that month. Once the month was done, the free game would be pulled back into the store. It’s amazing how Nintendo can so often take so many strides forward and then stumble backwards with the simplest business move. With the large nostalgia driven library that the NES and SNES contain it is enough to make the subscription service something that could directly compete with the likes of PSN and XBL but Nintendo, in its ever classic style of doing things their way has decided that you can utilize their service to borrow what is essentially a ROM file per month.
Another example is how the Joy-Con grip packaged in with the system is not the charging variant but just a standard grip. The charge grip will be sold separately at a $29.99 price point. The peripherals also warrant some extravagant pricing, with Joy-Con bundles sitting at $79.99 with individual left and right Joy-Cons at $49.99. Nintendo Switch docks are at $89.99. It’s purely a business move because Nintendo knows should these things get lost or broken, they will have to be replaced and peripheral sales is where Nintendo tends to strive. It is most definitely a bit costly depending on how much you want to invest in it but the major take away from this is that their accessory pricing is an outright joke at this point.
The battery life is also a mixed bag. Touted at 2.5 to 6.5 hours depending on the game played, the battery life for the Switch on the go is comparable to the 3DS and PlayStation Vita. It may seem off putting to some as given that Nintendo is really trying to push this as their next big thing, one would think more time and development would have gone into providing a longer battery life for the on the go portion of the console/handheld hybrid. Granted the system supports external charge options so one would have to warrant a guess that this factor will either raise or assuage concerns over time.
Also despite some killer apps from their most treasured franchises within these next 9 months, it’s criminal that we still have no new F-Zero or Metroid title. While Redout is making its way to the Switch, it is at best a clone of the popular Nintendo racer albeit a good one judging from STEAM reviews and the like. Nintendo did go on record to say that Metroid is coming to the Switch, but in what shape or form remains to be seen. Still on a major plus we are getting a Mario title and a Legend of Zelda title all within the first year of the system’s life which is a great start considering on the Wii and Wii U there were droughts of time between the systems major first party offerings. Overall these little missteps are just typical Nintendo being Nintendo. My personal hope is that it does well despite these seemingly bad decisions, and if their first couple of months of offerings is any indication, they seem to be heading in the right direction.
Yes, this is the part where I gush over The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and how much this title alone makes me want a Nintendo Switch especially as someone who did not purchase a Wii U. Plain and simply the game just looks outstanding and is pretty much everything I have ever wanted in a Legend of Zelda title. A vast open world, incredible landscapes, the signature music and -FINALLY- full voiceovers. Seriously why isn’t anyone making a bigger deal about this? Hearing Zelda and what I assume to be the Deku tree speak was a damn delight. The trailer reveal had me in literal tears and when the theme hit after Zelda cried into Link’s arms I lost it and just threw my wallet at the screen.
For me on a personal level Nintendo has done the impossible. They have taken this jaded fan, one who felt they were on the down and out and gave me renewed faith. Deep down I have always wanted Nintendo to succeed and this time I’m putting my money where my mouth is. This is a system done right, with a steady stream of games within its first year as opposed to the constant drought that Nintendo tends to be faced with between their game releases. Granted there is still the typical Nintendo moves in their pricing, online structure but we get Legend of Zelda at launch, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe a month after in April and within a few short months post-launch we’ll have ARMS and Splatoon 2 and then get capped off with Super Mario Odyssey. That’s five strong first party games within the first 9 months of launch. I don’t even care that their launch library is practically nonexistent but given Nintendo’s staple quality in their offerings, this is perhaps the strongest they have ever come out in a long time and it’s a welcome feeling. It feels like Nintendo is the comeback kid all over again, and I for one cannot wait to see what lies over the horizon.