On October 20th, 2016, we finally learned what the mysterious Nintendo NX was–not quite your average home console, and not quite your average handheld, either. The reveal trailer for the aptly-named Nintendo Switch showed us a unique gaming platform that seemed to combine the the HD, living-room experience with an on-the-go ability to play. It generated a great deal of excitement, intrigue, and a litany of questions from fans.
A little less than two months–and over 23 million views later–and Nintendo hosted a special event straight from Tokyo that gave us a more proper introduction to the Switch, answering a lot of the questions that spawned from its debut trailer.
We always knew that the Switch was a home console/handheld hybrid, but now we really know what this system will be going forward.
Lead by current President of Nintendo, Tatsumi Kimishima, the early stages of the stages told us a bit about the hardware that comprises the Switch, and that this system is not its competitors.
The Switch will not, and should not be compared to the Xbox One, PS4, PS4 Pro, or Project Scorpio. It’s running power and technical output will not match what Sony and Microsoft’s machines are capable of producing. Given the graphical fidelity that we saw from its highlighted software, it can be best be said that the Switch is a slight improvement from the Wii U as far as specs go.
If it needs to be considered the successor to any Nintendo platform, it should be seen as the next step in the DS family of consoles. In that regard, it’s an impressive system. For games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to exist in a portable capacity is quite the leap for that medium of gaming.
But to say that the Switch is just a brawny handheld doesn’t do its identity justice. Early on in the presentation, the head director of software development for the Switch, Shinya Takahashi, lauded the system has having “inherited DNA from each of the many hardware systems Nintendo has released to date.” What initially sounded like schmaltzy, fawning hype-speak has actually turned out to be a rather accurate description of the peculiar console.
Even going beyond the ability to swap from playing on your tv to playing in the palm of your hand, Nintendo has seemed to go out of its way toward giving Switch users a myriad of options to play its titles. They paraded out more than usual number of controllers and accessories for your average console, although most of the Switch’s add-ons seem wildly over-priced.
The return–or reimagining, depending on how you look at it–of motion control was a surprise. The two mini-controllers that combine to make up the primary controller, known as the Joy Cons, were shown to feature some pretty nifty sensors, seemingly more complex than even a Wii Motion Plus controller’s. Although this should hardly be seen as an attempt to relive the days of the original Wii, it is telling that Nintendo wants to keep using motion control as a way to attract the expanded audience. New software like 1,2, Switch and ARMS substantiated the implementation of motion control, again, and are probably intended to be the games you insert into the system during a family gathering or party.
That strong presence of local co-op–which Nintendo routinely prioritizes–is surely another reason why they must have felt compelled to continue churning out ideas for motion gaming. Between the potential for party affairs, LAN sessions, and being able to play certain games anywhere you please just by standing the tablet up, the Switch has you covered for just about any way you want to game with a few friends nearby.
It’s when you want to game with friends who are not so nearby where the details get a little murky. One of the earlier eye-openers in the conference came in the form of an announcement that the Switch would feature one of the dreaded, horrifying paid online subscriptions that Nintendo fans have long only heard about on those “other consoles”. The fees won’t start until later this year, according to Kimishima, but the conference left us in the dark on this aspect of the Switch. Dollar amounts, benefits, perks, and features were largely withheld from the audience; there was mention of smart devices being able to connect to the Switch and employing voice chat and the like, but aside from those–also vague–descriptors, we’re still largely sitting in the dark on what the Switch’s online infrastructure will entail.
If there is anything that the conference solidified for us, it’s in what kind of software we can expect to see appear on this system, and will ultimately decide its identity. The main reason why the majority of people will buy this system is for the famed Nintendo properties. We only have a taste so far of what software the many Nintendo EAD studios have been cooking up, but two games alone–The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey–offer loads of promise. Those two games have displayed senses of ambition and evolution for their respective franchises that all of Nintendo’s IPs have long deserved. If other series, like Animal Crossing, Fire Emblem, Donkey Kong, Metroid etc. make the same strides that Zelda and Mario have shown to be making, we’re in for some of Nintendo’s best creations in a long, long time.
They’ll be joined by improved third party support, both from the East and, in a twist of fate, the West. Now, that doesn’t mean that the Switch will be seeing all of the blockbusters that come to Xbox and Playstation, but the mere show of support from certain industry figureheads like Bethesda and EA are encouraging.
After years where Bethesda publicly criticized Nintendo’s hardware, to simply have Skyrim appear on the system is a big deal. Seeing Patrick Soderlund stand in during the conference to voice support for the system with games the likes of FIFA isn’t anything to scoff at, either. It might just mean that sports staples like Madden, NBA, and NHL are set to find new life on a Nintendo platform.
The Switch may not get the biggest and best that North American and European studios have to offer, but it seems set to receive more than a Nintendo system has quite some time.
Where it won’t have to worry about partial offerings is from Japanese studios. This year alone, Square-Enix might be burying us beneath four different titles from the Dragon Quest franchise, including the brand new mainline entry, Dragon Quest XI. Shin Megami Tensei will celebrate its 25th anniversary on the Switch. No More Heroes has been resurrected by the quirky and beloved game designer Suda 51 for a third entry. We’re bound to get an appearance from Monster Hunter, soon enough.
Lump that in with other titles that Nintendo is contributing–Xenoblade 2, Fire Emblem Warriors, the inevitable Pokemon and Fire Emblem mainline games–and you have what could be JRPG heaven.
If that magic combination of Nintendo IPs, a sprinkling of popular third party franchises from the West, and loads of Japanese third party exclusives sounds familiar, it’s probably because you owned a DS or 3DS. That was the kind of healthy software library that helped make those handhelds such big successes for Nintendo. A consistent flow of notable software is what determines a console’s success. It is not shocking that, the Wii’s various successes, aside, Nintendo’s home console division has been in decline for multiple generations, with each console suffering from insufficient software releases.
Of the many questions that still remain about the Switch, that’s probably the most pressing, because it’ll judge whether or not this inventive platform ends up being epochal for Nintendo’s role in the console business, or crippling. At the moment, it seems safe to say that there will be enough software to satisfy its owners throughout 2017. They claim to have 80+ third party titles being developed, and we only saw a handful of what games Nintendo, themselves, are surely conjuring behind closed doors. Perhaps we’ll see more of these in just a few months at E3 to affirm that 2018’s lineup will be appropriately stacked, as well.
One thing that has been affirmed over, though–the Switch is a console that absolutely has the potential to restore Nintendo’s place in the industry, and the hearts of many gamers.
Jeff Pawlak is the Nintendo Expert on the Geekiverse; he’s been exploring dungeons as Link, blasting aliens as Samus, and leaping across obstacles as Mario for the past 23 years. You can find him on Twitter @JeffreyPavs, where he’ll definitely share more thoughts in the near future on all Nintendo Switch news.
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