By Nelson Schneider - 01/15/17 at 02:57 PM CT
This week, Nintendo finally held their long-awaited Switch reveal event. Lasting just over an hour, Nintendo spent a lot of time painstakingly showing us what the Switch is, seemingly as an overcompensation for their confusing messages regarding the late WiiU around the time of its own launch. Unfortunately, despite all that showing and telling, Nintendo still failed to explain some of the core nuts-and-bolts features of the Switch, such as whether or not the (Western) games shipped on cartridges will download and patch the game ON the cartridge or whether the Switch’s official, meager 32GB of storage space will be used for 20GB patches like every other platform.
Regular readers of MeltedJoystick’s blog column will no doubt remember my list of 5 Ways the Switch Could Sink. After watching the Switch reveal event, I’m very saddened to report that Nintendo has managed to nail 3 of them. The gaming media is surprisingly even-handed regarding the Switch, though there is still plenty of fomenting angst in gaming forums regarding the JoyCon controllers – which I, personally, thought were the best part of the entire presentation. GeForce NOW and streaming nonsense aren’t in the picture just yet either. Unfortunately the miserable launch window, overwhelming glut of remasters/ports, and subscription-based online functionality all came true… and make it very difficult for me to get excited about the Switch, despite the fact that the hardware looks incredible.
The Switch is a multi-touch capacitive tablet with a dock and two JoyCon controller grips, sold for the MSRP of $300. This price seems a little steep at first, after all, the Switch is just an Nvidia Shield Tablet with some fancy controllers, and those tablets are currently going for $200. When you take Nintendo’s overpriced peripherals into consideration, though, with a pair of replacement JoyCons going for $80 and the TV dock going for $90, $300 for a package containing all of those almost seems like a good deal. Almost.
The JoyCons themselves are an amazing little bundle of tech, with enhanced haptic feedback Nintendo has dubbed ‘HD Rumble.’ Supposedly, the haptics in these things are so good that they can simulate subtle differences in virtual objects. Instead of being excited about playing Switch games with the JoyCons, though, I found myself more excited about the prospect of buying a pair of $80 JoyCons and hoping that Valve adds JoyCon configuration to Steam in the same way they recently added Dual Shock 4 configuration. Nintendo’s latest controllers just scream to be used for PC gaming or VR gaming, not for milking imaginary cows.
The Switch will not include any pack-in games (or tech demos), unlike the Wii and WiiU before it. Instead, Nintendo’s pair of gimmicky launch demos, “1, 2, Switch” and “ARMS,” will be sold separately. I look forward to reading about dismal sales numbers for such shovelware, instead of the massively bloated attach rates held by “WiiSports” and “Nintendoland” due to the fact that everyone who bought a console also bought those games by default.
What else does Switch have waiting in the wings for its launch window? Not much. Aside from the newly revealed “1, 2, Switch,” “ARMS,” and the long-anticipated “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” Nintendo is also bringing a weird, gimmicky puzzle game, “Snipperclips,” and a couple of remasters of “Mario Kart 8” and “Splatoon” to the table. Third parties are likewise jumping hard on the remaster bandwagon, with Konami bringing “Super Bomberman R(emastered),” Square Enix bringing a compilation of both ‘Dragon Quest Heroes’ Musou games, and Ubisoft bringing a few other ports of years-old games that they are almost guaranteed to sell for the full $60 on Switch, even though they are available on other, extant platforms for much cheaper.
It is worth noting, however, that a number of new RPGs are slated to hit the Switch… eventually. “Xenoblade Chronicles 2,” “Project Octopath,” a new ‘Shin Megami Tensei,’ and “Has-Been Heroes” were all shown-off. Unfortunately, despite this number of releases in my favorite genre, I’m even less inclined to jump on the Switch early-on in its life, as the general tone of these RPGs rubs me the wrong way. ‘Xenoblade’ has always been a 3.5/5 series at best due to its awful combat, plus this isn’t a sequel to the mecha-powered “Xenoblade Chronicles X,” but to the original “Xenoblade Chronicles,” which turned out to be the least impressive of the three Operation Rainfall titles. The name “Project Octopath” invokes a sense of forking situations, which, in turn invokes a sense of Roguelike, while the visuals give me a strong “SaGa Frontier” vibe, which was easily the worst RPG I played in the 5th Generation. ‘Shin Megami Tensei’ is a love it or hate it series… and I hate it (well, I hate ‘Persona,’ and have avoided any and all other ‘MegaTen’ titles due to that hate). Finally, “Has-Been Heroes” is releasing as a multi-plat on PC… and is a Roguelike, so donotwant.jpg.
Another disturbing tidbit about the Switch’s library is that it will be receiving a ‘Fire Emblem’ themed Musou game down the line as well. This trend, with “Hyrule Warriors” and two ‘Dragon Quest Heroes’ games being further backed-up by a ‘Fire Emblem’ game in the same style leads me to believe that Japan’s new default game style is the Musou Beat ‘Em Up. Plenty of Weeaboos and other (less annoying) fans of retro Japanese gaming love to berate ‘The West’ for its monolithic lack of creativity, with every new game being some sort of Shooter, Sandbox, or Shooter/Sandbox. When I see this many Musou games hitting a single platform (not to mention the ‘Senran Kagura’ series, which might see a heavily censored port later on in the Switch’s lifecycle), I’m boggled by the hypocrisy… and disappointed in the Japanese.
Outside of “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” which will be launching with the Switch, but still releasing on the late WiiU as a multi-plat Nintendo exclusive, the only forthcoming exclusive game that looks like a system seller is “Super Mario Odyssey.” While many people online only looked at brief footage of Super Mario running around in a realistic city and came to the conclusion that Nintendo finally decided to make “Grand Theft Mario” after players constantly asked for it, the fact of the matter is that “Super Mario Odyssey takes place in several stylistically distinct worlds, and New Donk City (love that name) is just one of them. As I watched extended footage of the game in action, I was strongly reminded of the canceled-before-release “Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds” which was in development for the ill-fated Philips CD-i (and which I was able to play, even in its incomplete state, thanks to the magic of emulation). Despite the platform it was scheduled to release on, and despite the fact that it was canceled, “Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds” was NOT actually shaping up to be a terrible game. So I have hope that “Super Mario Odyssey” will bring in some of that forgotten creativity in an actually finished product.
Hardware and game software aside, the thing that sticks in my craw the most about the Switch is Nintendo’s decision to charge a subscription to use the Nintendo Network. They won’t even have this pyramid scheme ready at launch, so early adopters will get a “free trial,” as Nintendo calls it, until the paywall is ready to go up. I think a lot of my hostility toward the PS4 has been due to its glut of remasters and its change from free-with-optional-subscription to mandatory-subscription-based online features. I chafe at the idea of pouring money into a console every year and getting nothing of particular value in return, especially when Steam and GOG are 100% free and even Microsoft knows better than to try and charge PC gamers for an Xbox Live Gold subscription. Any Switch game with online features is essentially dead to me. I WILL NOT pay. Period. My irritation at this new paywall even makes me think that, if I ever do buy a Switch (which will definitely not be at launch, thanks to this presentation), I will NEVER connect it to the Internet. With Nintendo’s track record for terrible online features and high prices, I still expect Nintendo Network to be the most expensive of the pay-2-play services, while simultaneously being the worst.