After endless months of leaks, rampant speculation and oh-so-useful “expert analysis,” Nintendo finally fully unveiled their new console, the Switch. Less than two months before they plan to release the thing. Well, better late than never, I suppose. Hey, don’t put it past Nintendo to someday release a console without showing it to the public at all.
So, what did I, the avowed Nintendo fanboy, think? I like the hardware! It looks great, and the Joy-Con controllers pack in more Nintendo gimmicks per square inch than anything they’ve ever made. Motion controls, cameras, the ability to play them in a million different configurations, and, uh, each one’s full of ice cubes? Sure, what the hell! Can you swirl your DualShock like a glass of sweet, sweet Kentucky bourbon? You can not.
Nintendo also confirmed a few important stats. $300 launch price, which is on the high end of the spectrum, but still acceptable. 2 ½ to 6 ½ hours of battery life in portable mode, depending on the game. At its worst, the Switch has as much juice as a 1st gen 3DS. Better than I was expecting.
Unfortunately, Nintendo stumbled over the same thing they always stumble over – software. They just didn’t announce enough. Not nearly enough. And most of what they did reveal was strictly for the Japanese audience. To the mainstream Western audience, which is who Nintendo really has to win back, the Switch is a 2 game system. It has Zelda (which is also on Wii U) and it has Mario. Some lapsed Nintendo fans won’t have played Mario Kart 8, and portable Skyrim may appeal to a small subset. Splatoon 2 is mostly for the faithful. Really, that’s the Switch in general – for the faithful, and to some extent, the wider Japanese audience.
But hey, I’m part of that faithful tribe, and like wacky Japanese stuff, so let’s dig into the individual games…
Zelda: Breath of the Wild: I don’t know if they’ve just polished up the game in general since E3, but the new Switch footage looked much better than what we’ve seen previously. Sharper, crisper, better lit. Game obviously looks amazing. Great variety of locations and gameplay, and a surprising amount of emotion and heart from the story stuff. Love to know more about the specific differences between the Switch and Wii U versions.
1-2-Switch: A cute idea, that I could see working pretty well at parties and family gatherings. That said, as the Switch’s Wii Sports, it seems kind of thin. I’ll buy it if it’s $15 or less.
Arms: Punch-Out!! as played by Inspector Gadget. Looks like it could be fun, but it’s almost impossibly dorky. The heavy focus on motion controls is also cause for concern. Can’t say I’m sold yet.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Weird title aside, MORE XENOBLADE! I was one of the few who thought Xenoblade Chronicles X was even better than original, and I’m very eager to see where they go next. Also, Monolith finally fixed their egregiously ugly character designs. Hopefully we get a 2017 release date in NA.
Splatoon 2: Nice that it’s an actual sequel, but it didn’t look that different to me. Yes, I realize there were a bunch of new weapons and stuff, but after a while one explosion of paint looks about the same as the rest, y’know? This series just isn’t really for me, although I’ll be interested to see what they do with the online features, since this will be pretty much the only game selling Nintendo’s new paid online service.
Shin Megami Tensei: Oh, a new HD Shin Megami Tensei game…neat! But, um…[looks in the direction of Persona 5]. I mean, it’s cool and all, but…
Mario Odyssey: Okay, I’m just going to say it – the city stuff with Mario interacting with realistically proportioned humans is weird and looks like something from a Sonic game. That said, everything else looks fantastic. This was the truly eye-popping, next-level HD Mario game people wanted on the Wii U. Nintendo isn’t holding back anymore, trying to do HD on the cheap, and that’s very exciting. Now if only we could play it at launch.
And that’s it, pretty much the whole lineup. I’m pre-ordering, but I’m not sure I’m crazy about the Switch’s chances. At this point, there’s far less announced for the Switch than the Wii U had before launch, and we know how that turned out. That said, both Zelda and Mario look good…very, very good. If both of them end up being 95+ on Metacritic games, number one and two with a bullet in year-end lists, well, that’s going to sell consoles. Wii U had good games, great games, but it was short on all-out classics at first. Hopefully Nintendo’s focus on the Japanese market, also pays off with a lot of support from previous 3DS backers – Square-Enix and Atlus are apparently already on board.
There’s a path forward, a way the Switch can succeed, but it isn’t as clear as it should be.