By Joe Sigadel / November 11th, 2016
You might not believe it, but I was once a very enthusiastic young Nintendo fan. To give you an abridged history, I first came across a NES at my cousins’ house in Connecticut, got a crash course in Mario and Duck Hunt, picked up my own SNES at the age of 6 and owned pretty much every handheld they’d ever made since the Game Boy. My dad told me bedtime stories about Mario and Luigi coming out of the TV to have adventures in the real world, and I had a running subscription to Nintendo Power. I kept up with their console line up until the end of the Gamecube era, when the Wii was getting introduced. I wasn’t sure what to make of the Wii at the time; it looked like the most unconventional piece of hardware Nintendo had produced since the Virtual Boy (and we all know what a flop that was). So being on the fence, I saw that my best friend had one and whenever we’d hang out after school, I’d come over to play party games like WarioWare and Wii Sports, as well as Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I enjoyed those games alright, but I didn’t see a pressing need to get the console for myself.
I felt exactly the same about the Wii U. I can name several games that I would have liked to own and play through, including Bayonetta 2, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and Hyrule Warriors. So what was the problem? For whatever reason, I just could not make myself want to pick a Wii U up. I mostly thought of it as a device to play the latest Mario Kart and Smash games on, and that’s a mindset I couldn’t shake. As someone who has been streaming on Twitch for close to four years now, I’m used to seeing trends where people will pick up a game to play with others, stream it for a while and then drop it when everyone seems more or less done with it. I had to consider what the cost and benefits to me were, and that might sound a bit too businesslike, but I suppose I didn’t feel it was worth the investment. Granted, I am kicking myself a bit for not getting into Monster Hunter Tri Ultimate, but all the other multiplayer games seemed to have a short stream life.
It took me two years to come to the conclusion to not buy a Wii U. Part of that was because while they had initial third party support, third party game releases were few and far between. After a while, they faded away entirely, leaving Nintendo mostly to ride out most of this console generation alone, with some remaining indie support here and there. I feel that just having third party partnerships isn’t enough. Big companies like Ubisoft have to bring their “A” material, even if they have to compromise on the technical aspects to support weaker powered hardware. It has to be lasting support too, that takes advantage of the unique capabilities of the system and is invested in the console’s lifetime. I imagine the Wii U’s fate would have been worse had Amiibos not come into play, but I still can’t say I thought it had a great run overall.
Bearing that in mind, I am glad to see names like Atlus, Marvelous, Spike Chunsoft, Platinum, From Software, Grasshopper, Inti Creates, and Nippon Ichi all lined up for the Nintendo Switch. What I’m hoping for is that we’ll get a strong showing of niche Japanese games to fill in that spot between AAA blockbuster and indie. If we can get some quality RPGs, action games, and maybe even some visual novels, the variety of content from those companies would be a welcome addition to the console’s library. Dragon Quest will be making an appearance on it, and I would like to see Square Enix bring more of those games here. It is just as important for the Switch to have a strong launch lineup as it is to have continued release output for it to endure and stay relevant to consumers. It doesn’t have to be as frequent as PlayStation’s releases; it just has to be enough to keep gamers’ attention.
As for the Nintendo Switch’s hardware, we already know that Nintendo isn’t trying to directly compete with Sony and Microsoft, who are pushing 4k mid-generation revamps of their existing consoles. With the Wii U, Nintendo was only then catching up with making HD games. They’re quite behind, technologically speaking. Heck, the 3DS outputs titles at 800×240 on the top screen, and 320×240 on the bottom. Hardly state of the art, but they like to keep their costs low so that they can compete on price. Nintendo’s focus isn’t on power and graphical fidelity, but rather what the Switch’s capabilities can actually do to provide a fun gaming experience. To this end, we have what amounts to a new kind of tablet with convertible controller pieces that attach in different configurations for home use or portability. I believe that if everyone who is on board with the Switch produced games that allowed for different control methods for ease of use, it would maximize the Switch’s potential. Furthermore, this ‘hybrid’ device should bring in the best of both worlds. Specifically, games that were previously assumed to be better experienced only on consoles or handhelds… we can have them all on the Switch.
Finally, while the lack of backward compatibility is disappointing to me, the reasons for it are understandable. 3DS games wouldn’t look very good at all on an HDTV. We can confirm games will be fitting on to cards, rather than discs, so unfortunately you won’t be playing Wii U games on it either, unless they decide to go with a Virtual Console solution. I expect the Switch will retail somewhere between the $250-300 range, considering what’s in it and their pricing history. While I am still on the fence about whether this is something I want, the possibilities for the Nintendo Switch are still intriguing and I hope that Nintendo and their partners can produce exciting new titles with it. Making strong use of their existing IPs as well as taking a risk now and then with new ones should be the key to success.