We live in an era of hot takes and hasty judgment. In the age of social media, most things are prescribed with one of three labels – good, bad, or eh – before we quickly move on to the next piece of information. When confronted with a deluge of content, we’re often left with more guttural reactions than well thought out critiques.
Nintendo seems more prone to this polarization than most, for whatever reason. The company hosts both a swarm of detractors and a horde of loyalists. Every bit of news involving the Big N will evoke equal cries of “Nintendo is saved” and “Nintendo is doomed.” Every showcase invariably brings surprise at their newest crazy idea, and disappointment that there’s no new F-Zero or Metroid.
In a way, Nintendo’s Switch presentation wasn’t much different from the norm. The audience at home reacted the same way as ever – with excitement, and trepidation, and shock, and wariness, and joy. In terms of what was actually shown off, it was Nintendo at its most Nintendo – expectedly unexpected, liable to stun with a great game announcement and confuse with a strange technical detail in equal accord.
It began simply, and with what people wanted to know – release date (March 3rd, earlier than many expected) and price ($300, perhaps more than some hoped). While the fixation on the number 3 would make Valve blush, it was followed by a 1-2 punch of bad-good news: Online gameplay would soon require payment, and region locking would be removed.
Discarding the latter point (which justly received universal praise), the former one ended becoming one of the sticking points of the night. While there is a free trial for all users until the fall, Nintendo’s lack of quality online services to this point certainly raises eyebrows. While the paywall could mean that Ninty’s online qualities improve, it’s difficult to ascertain at the moment, especially without a price. The fact that there’s a monthly free rental (not even ownership – a rental) for one NES/SNES game per month doesn’t really alleviate matters. But Nintendo and Kimishima didn’t linger on it long, and quickly moved on to the meat of things – the console itself.
For its price point, the machine certainly has some nifty technology, mostly courtesy of the Joy-Con controller. With tech like HD rumble and a motion IR camera, it’s hardly a wonder that the controllers cost so much – $50 for a single, $80 for a pair. The fact that Pro Controllers cost a lot ($70) doesn’t help either, but the fact that there’s such interesting tech does allow me to give it a chance. The console’s 2.5-6.5 hour battery life is vague, but probably enough for daily commutes and short plane rides, especially when you factor in the universal USB Type-C for charging, while the introduction of different Joy-Con colors gives hope to nifty special editions in the future.
While this beginning was intriguing, if shaky, Nintendo knew how to pique interest with games – though the devil proved to be in the details once more. 1-2 Switch seemed like a great new showcase of the Joy-Con’s functions, a Wii Sports for the modern era… but it’s not bundled with the console, and most people likely won’t pay $60 for a minigame collection. The comically titled ARMS looked like a more interesting, fleshed out use case, with a crazy style and shades of Wii Boxing, but it seems that it’ll miss launch. This was common throughout the night – exciting titles that won’t be there on release date.
Ninty really brought out the big guns next with Splatoon 2, which will surely go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities for a pun ever. Featuring hairstyles, new weapons, and a kickin’ new theme tune, the trailer certainly seemed to show a worthy sequel – full of new content, but the same old squiddy fun that Wii U owners loved. The first game oozed style, and I was glad to see the sequel continue to revel in its ’90s Japanese pop styling. Not to mention the onstage presenter, in his lab coat and goggles, proved to be an entertaining accompaniment.
Next – proving that Mario can in fact copy Sonic – was Super Mario Odyssey, containing a sprawling city, gorgeous environments, Bowser in a Pimp Hat, human beings, and… eyes on a hat? Mario is always expected from Nintendo presentations, but given the game seemed more like Sunshine or Galaxy than 3D Land/World, color me excited. The more free-roaming gameplay shown certainly seems to offer intriguing possibilities… though we must pray that Mario doesn’t fall in love with a human princess. Unless Peach counts, I guess.
Following that was my personal highlight of the show – Xenoblade Chronicles 2. After many hours spent scratching my head at XCX and how it was a departure from the first game, it appears that we’re getting a true sequel (or at least, a true spiritual successor) to one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Monolith Soft showed the same sense of scale and adventure that was present in XC1 and XCX in this trailer, but with a more anime-inspired art style for the characters. While little is known yet, I was ecstatic to see a game that I legitimately had no idea would be coming.
Continuing my elation was a teaser for Fire Emblem Warriors. In contrast to XC2, FEW is a game I and many others have been asking for/predicting for some time, so it wasn’t quite as stunning. But to be caught up in the flow of hype – and to begin imagining the possibilities for the cast – more than made up for the relative lack of info. And we won’t have long to wait, either – a Fire Emblem Direct has already been announced for Wednesday.
The downpour of JRPG related titles continued. Dragon Quest Heroes 1+2 (another Warriors title), a new Shin Megami Tensei title from Atlus, and the bizarrely titled Project Octopath Traveler from the team behind Bravely Default (which, to be fair, was also a pretty strange name.) If nothing else, it appears as if the Japanese presence on the Switch will be strong, even if not at release.
Next was third-parties. Literally everybody expected Skyrim (which had been all but announced), and Sega made clear its commitment to the platform with the long-awaited localization of Puyo Puyo Tetris, backed up by the news after the show that Sonic Mania would be making it to the Switch. The show belonged to one man, however – Suda51, or more accurately the poor exhausted soul who struggled to translate the man’s frantic and unhinged style of Japanese. While the announcement of No More Heroes 3 undoubtedly electrified some, it was hard not to want to give that pitiable translator a pat on the back. FIFA also made an appearance, which should at least mean a more mainstream appeal even if core Nintendo fans were left uncaring.
Of course, Nintendo saved its darling for last. Everyone was anticipating Zelda news and a release date, and after a segment of back and forth with the NoE and NoA branches that felt like pulling teeth… boy did we get it.
It’s time to confess – until that point, I wasn’t sure about Breath of the Wild. The game looked good, but I hadn’t been sold on it. I’m often skeptical of open world titles, and while it seemed neat, it hadn’t wowed me.
That trailer had the rough emotional impact of a hydrogen bomb. With stirring music, heart wrenching voice acting, and the size, scale, and majesty of a game befitting its legacy and development cycle, it was one of the finest trailers for a video game I’ve ever seen. Goosebumps covered me within seconds as I and countless others were captivated by the almost Princess Mononoke-esque world constructed. And with a final reassurance that it would be there at launch, hype levels reached maximum. End show.
In broad strokes, the Switch presentation was a good show. Maybe not a perfect one, but they had numerous captivating titles and a relatively decent price point. The main points of contention – Pricing for certain games and accessories, the launch lineup, and Nintendo’s online future – are more question marks at this point than massive grievances. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, because much of what was shown off was from some personal favorite franchises, but it certainly seemed adequate. Not everyone was blown away. Not everyone was disappointed. And I’d say a number of people were satisfied by what they saw, especially if there’s more to come.
That’s my critique. As for my gut reaction… I liked it. I liked it a lot.Leave a Comment