By Joseph Puntschart / February 1st, 2017
Disclaimer: The opinion stated in the following article is that of the author and does not reflect oprainfall as a whole.
Disclosure: In the spirit of transparency, the author would like to disclose they attended a Nintendo Switch Hands-on event in the UK as a member of the public and not part of Operation Rainfall. This piece does not reflect their experiences at that event.
January 13th, 2017 for me was a bit of a sleepless night while I was preparing to watch the conference that would go on to reveal the Nintendo Switch and the launch lineup that would form Nintendo’s next home console. And for the 65 minutes that the conference ran, there was definitely enough games revealed that piqued my interest. Super Mario Odyssey looks like the best Mario game since Super Mario Galaxy. Arms and 1-2-Switch showcased the innovative side of Nintendo once again. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would help to get the Switch off the ground, likewise Splatoon 2. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the only minor disappointment, only because I played it to death on Wii U and there isn’t really anything noteworthy for veterans aside from a few characters and the DLC all included on the cartridge.
I feel that Nintendo looked a few steps forward with the Switch. The system is region free, meaning that importers like myself do not need to import or hack their consoles to play games from out of their region. The Switch, essentially being a home console and a handheld in one would help broaden the appeal of both handheld and home console gamers and allows for the most versatile device yet in terms of where you can play games and how. The touchscreen is multi-touch, and the Joy-Con controllers are detachable, allowing for a variety of gameplay styles to be taken advantage of as each Joy-Con can function as an individual controller, which I think is really cool. The HD rumble’s precision has increased so it is even more precise than before. The small amount of memory included with the console is also a potential drawback, however as it is not an overpriced proprietary format like the PS Vita I think this can be forgiven.
I do feel that Nintendo has looked a few steps back as well. Paid online is a bit of a disappointment, however, it may be worth it if Nintendo is able to surpass Xbox Live and PSN in terms of quality, though considering their online services have always been lacking, this may not happen for a while. At least the service is free until Autumn 2017. However, one thing I can definitely argue is that their Virtual Console game service needs working on allowing you to transfer your games over from Wii U/3DS. Furthermore, the prices for additional controllers are horrendous, $70 is far too much. Likewise, 1-2-Switch should be a pack-in game akin to Wii Sports or Nintendo Land, as the unique features of the Switch may be a hard sell without a killer app to showcase what it can really do.
I also noticed the lack of Western third party games, but I don’t really see this as a disadvantage. While it is disappointing for those interested, a lot of big Western series tend not to resonate with Nintendo platforms, on both a consumer and a technical level. It wouldn’t surprise me if The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim would be one of few very big Western names appearing on the system throughout its lifecycle, for instance. I think this is partly due to the setup of myself, and probably many other gamers too – a PS4 will perfectly suffice for virtually any non-Nintendo game, with PC, PS Vita and Xbox One serving as good second options. In my view, I think it’s partly because I see the Switch not as a home console, but as a glorified handheld with a home console element designed to merge the handheld and home console markets into one. That said, I would love some more ports of this kind on the platform so I can play more of these Western-developed critically acclaimed games on the go.
What was notably interesting was the number of Japanese games, particularly RPGs, that were revealed for the system. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was dated for 2017 by Monolith Soft. Square Enix and Atlus announced Project Octopath Traveler and a new Shin Megami Tensei game respectively. Bethesda also announced a port of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Grasshopper Manufacture announced a new No More Heroes game. Later on, it was revealed that Disgaea 5 Complete, I am Setsuna (digitally only, sigh) and other RPG series’ will also be coming to the Nintendo Switch alongside releases on other formats. I will be coming back to the RPGs later. Other third-party games on the way include Puyo Puyo Tetris, Steep, The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ and Redout.
That leads nicely to my next point – I would argue that the Nintendo Switch has the potential to be the spiritual successors to both the Wii U and the PS Vita in one. The Wii U part reflects in both the console and lineup from Nintendo, whereas the PS Vita is a little more complicated, but it starts with the RPGs. The RPGs listed earlier strongly suggest to me that RPGs will be a key focus of the Switch’s library. With developers like Square Enix and Atlus pitching projects that are early in development, it suggests to me that they are going to be in this for the long haul.
Additionally, I think several genres that you can currently find on the PS Vita will also be shifting over. I am of the belief that Vita’s 2017 lineup is awesome if you are into visual novels, dungeon crawlers or fanservice games, but with the numbers of new releases in these genres dwindling even in Japan, eventually they will need to shift to a new system. In fact, I had written an opinion piece for this site last E3 outlining the lack of exclusives that were announced for Western Vitas at the time of publication, which has now become more apparent in Japan. With the possibility of a PS Vita 2 looking very unlikely, I would wager that niche devs/gamers may take an interest in the Nintendo Switch to fill this gap in the market. For example, Marvelous have announced that they are bringing a new Story of Seasons game to the Switch so the possibility is there that they may decide to bring over some of their more “weeb” projects, such as the upcoming Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. It wouldn’t surprise me if in 3-4 years the Switch would become known for its “weeb” games, just as much as the Vita.
With these thoughts in mind, alongside the appearance of Disgaea 5 Complete on the Switch, I would wager that Nintendo is aware of this and may wish to pursue this market, which is where a potential problem can pop up. This topic is a little thorny and I’d rather not bring it up due to how polarising it can be, but I feel it needs to be addressed as it is relevant here. The Wii U and to some extent the 3DS Nintendo burnt bridges with a sizable number of niche gamers through what they see as a questionable localisation of some of their RPGs (ie. inconsistent edits, a poorly written or rewritten English script), which drew controversy and led to some of these people turning away from Nintendo published games. This could hurt their chances with the Switch in their eyes as there are a number of Japanese IPs heading to the system that could be “altered” during localisation. However, with more third parties potentially localising Japanese games there may be more choice for consumers so Nintendo may not be the only one localising games which was the case with the Wii U. It can be argued that this issue is overblown at times by a small number of black and white thinkers and that they should be ignored. I would agree that although the issue is overblown at times by a certain minority on both sides, that doesn’t mean publishers should ignore them as many of those folks are within the target market and you should aim to satisfy all kinds of gamers with your product within the target audience. I am optimistic that some of the Switch’s publishers are at least open to doing this, but if some aren’t, there’s always the option for these folks to import or stick to other publishers or formats. This is something that Nintendo, in particular, should take note of, even if only to improve the PR surrounding their Japanese releases.
To conclude, I personally am looking forward to the Nintendo Switch. Many of the 1st party and RPG titles in development appeal to me, and I’m hoping we can find out more information on these and other games sooner rather than later. Particular titles of interest for me? In case the disclaimer didn’t hint it, most of the games that I’m interested in for the switch aren’t playable publically yet, therefore they didn’t really factor into my hype for the Switch at all. After all, it is software that sells hardware, not the other way around. Those titles are Super Mario Odyssey, Shin Megami Tensei New Project and whatever the Taiko Drum Master and Tales of titles turn out to be. I don’t think it will be the AAA Western juggernaut that many people want, and that’s okay – Nintendo have never been about following that market, and if the Nintendo Switch does end up being a first party portable Nintendo machine with a strong number of Japanese and indie games backing them up, that would be the perfect system. At least for me.
Anyway, that’s me out! If you haven’t watched the conference already, I would recommend doing so via the video below.
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