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My Thoughts on Last Night’s Nintendo Switch Announcement

The night we’ve been waiting for since last October 20th finally came and we got a ton more details on the Switch and a look at many of the (80 or so) games in active development. Nintendo’s presentation was quirky, as we expected, and a little sad as it was the most stark reminder that Satoru Iwata is no longer with us.

We learned a lot, though. Let’s go over each aspect of the system and see where things stand now as opposed to 3 months ago.

The Hardware

The most noticeable improvement to the hardware, in my opinion anyway, was the introduction of the neon colors. Yeah, that’s right…I’m superficial. While I generally liked the look of the classic Switch, I’d hoped for a real Nintendo flair to it. The neon is a happy compromise, adding a splash of Splatoon-like color to the whole thing. It feels a little tacked on when I look at the box, but whenever I see photos of the Joycons on their own it really stands out.

Those streaks of color not only had some flair to the console, but it'll be easier to keep track of the controllers.

Those streaks of color not only add some flair to the console, but it’ll be easier to keep track of the controllers.

The storage capability is still a paltry 32GB like the Wii U, which is disappointing, but this time around the Switch has microSDXC support to let you add a cool 256GB of storage. The Wii U didn’t support that directly, you had to use a converter and go through Flash storage to do it. (Even then, Nintendo only recommended using an externally-powered hard drive!)

On the bright side, the games are no longer on optical media (discs) but rather flash storage…so the advantage of downloaded titles etches away as there’s no speed increase to gain from it. Unless you really have a problem with getting off your butt to swap out the games, there’s little motivation to getting the digital copy of any particular game. Even the game cases are prettier now, with artwork running free from colored margins!

There were no new details about hardware specs, though I generally don’t care about that anyway. In the end, what do the games look like is what I want to know. Many systems in the past had fantastic hardware specs but architected in a way that made it too complicated for the games to take adequate advantage of. The hardware superiority of a platform is not as important as how efficiently it can be used.

The Portable Experience

There’d been rumors over the last month that the Switch didn’t perform as well when not docked. While those rumors weren’t officially debunked, there’s no indication by anybody who demoed the hardware that they’re true either. Games played as smoothly on the 720p screen as they did on a TV.

This is great news.

Also, despite being fretted by Polygon, you can indeed plug in the portable to charge it while playing using a USB-C cord. We expected this, honestly. What is surprising coming from Nintendo is that this is the first portable to use a standard connector to handle the charging. In the past, proprietary charges were required. This is handy because now you can share cords among more than one device.

Finally.

The Dock

The dock is the dock. They didn’t talk much about it, but we did confirm one great thing: you can buy an extra dock separately from the system bundle. Why would you want two docks? Well, you could put your second dock in another room of your house…maybe your bedroom or your basement…and be able to play your Switch on a different TV. Many households will be able to avoid buying a second Switch thanks to this.

On the downside, the docks cost $90 on their own. The price feels inflated and I think that’s because Nintendo is hurting their own business by making them available (see above), so the $90 price is there to get a bigger return when this happens and maybe dissuade it a bit.

It’s up to you if you want to buy a second dock or just spend a bit more money and get two Switches instead. Nintendo clearly prefers you do the latter. The more Switches you have, the more likely you’ll buy multiple copies of a game after all.

The Joycons

The Joycons saw the biggest mountain of improvements from what we knew back in October. Aside from the color alternatives, it was announced they’d have motion control built in, a camera (on the bottom) that can detect distance and reasonable object shapes, a more accurate rumble experience called HD Rumble, they each have two shoulder buttons on top, and the newly introduced wrist strap provides both safety protection and a thicker end-cap to make holding the controllers much more comfortable.

That’s a lot of good stuff!

In October, my view on the Joycons was that they were a temporary, lower-quality controller experience helpful for use with multiplayer games but not ideal control mechanisms. My opinion has changed now. Not only do they look more comfortable, but they’re designed to be the main controllers for 2- to 4-player games. In fact, picking up a second set of Joycons ($80) is advised for games like Super Bomberman R, Snipperclips, and Poyu Poyu Tetris.

More on those games in a bit…

The Online Experience

Nintendo didn’t outline their online experience quite yet, but we did learn that it won’t be free anymore. (This is the norm now, sadly.) There’s also some element of “free games,” but as of now it’s more limited than Sony and Microsoft’s offering in that you don’t own those games forever. (Reports say it’s one game per month and at the end of each month the game goes away. Boo.)

I have a hunch this could change as they listen to the feedback. Many people aren’t happy that Nintendo won’t give away just one of their old NES games. I wonder that as well…if they end up charging $10-$15 a month, why not give away some of the older titles? How many people really are buying Balloon Fight at a minimum? Imagine the buzz if they announced they were giving away Contra in April? If Konami and Nintendo could get that deal done, it’d be a great way to kick things off!

I expect they’ll hear the criticism and make a change. We’ll see, however. We still don’t know much.

The Launch Titles

There’s no definitive list of launch titles for the Switch as we’re still 7 weeks away from launch and software delays are still possible. However, the list of definite launch titles seems to be:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • 12Switch
  • Skylanders Imaginators
  • Just Dance 2017

Meager…albeit with a mega-title from the Legend of Zelda mega-franchise included. However, it’s fully expected this list will grow over the next few weeks. Publishers know that launch titles can be cash cows as players will buy generally 3-4 games right off the bat with their system. Games that normally would get poor sales numbers can do really well if they’re launch titles. (Rayman Raving Rabbids, anyone?)

Given this, here are some games that are expected to be available on day 1:

  • Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together!
  • Has Been Heroes
  • I am Setsuna
  • Super Bomberman R

It’s not the best launch lineup by a long shot, but there’s a good mix of quality adventure, RPG, and minigame titles there to play. Has Been Heroes is a new rogue title designed just for the Switch and I Am Setsuna  is a beautiful RPG from Square Enix. Also, keep an eye out for Snipperclips as it looks to be an amazing 1-4 player couch-op game!

Games Coming in 2017

Following the launch, Nintendo seems to have fixed the first-year roadmap that hampered the Wii U so much. (Games were sparse in the early days of the Wii U for sure.) Through 2017, in order, we’ll see the following 1st-party titles alone:

  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (April)
  • Arms (Spring)
  • Splatoon 2 (Summer)
  • Fire Emblem Warriors (Holiday)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Holiday)

This list will be buffeted by a slew of third-party titles such as Skyrim, Stardew Valley, Yooka Laylee, Disgaea 5 Complete, Octopath Traveler, Dragon Quest Heroes I & II, Sonic Mania, Steep, Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition, Minecraft, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and even the return of EA titles such as NBA 2K, Madden, and FIFA. (Good to have you back, EA!)

I mean, we finally have Bethesda in the fold? It’s refreshing to see such great initial 3rd-party support, but there’s still so many developers on Nintendo’s list we’re waiting to hear from including my favorite, From Software. (Makers of the Dark Souls games.) You can’t blame them, either. By porting their games to the Switch, they automatically get the first portable versions of them — for free!

Who's your favorite?

Who’s your favorite?

The Good Surprises

Despite analyzing the Switch teaser trailer to death for the last 3 months, Nintendo still managed a few surprises.

First, the Switch will not be region locked. This means you can buy European and Japanese games and play them on your North American Switch exactly the same way. Since some Japanese games aren’t being ported to America, this is a welcome feature.

Second, Arms looks to be a first-of-its-kind, fully motion-controlled fighting game that looks and plays fantastic! I personally can’t wait for this one to come out.  The game 1-2 Switch! also came as a surprise, though it doesn’t look like it will live up to the standard set by Wii Sports and Nintendoland. Still, milking a cow isn’t something you get to do every day in a video game.

Thirdly, we learned that the new Mario title, Super Mario Odyssey, would be coming out in 2017, not too long after the Switch is released. It also featured the strange sight of Mario actually interacting with real human beings. Crazy talk, right?!

Finally, the $299.99 pricetag was less than I’d expected. Sure, some people were hoping for $249.99, but I’ve always favored a pricier system. I’m happier to pay more for a system up front that I plan to use for 5-6 years in exchange for more power. I was hoping for a $349.99 cost, but ultimately the cheaper price doesn’t seem to have come at the expense of power as games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Arms, and Super Mario Odyssey all looked polished and impressive!

The Not-So-Good Surprises

The biggest negative surprise was an online system that would cost money. While Microsoft has been charging for forever and Sony now requires payment, Nintendo had been the only one to offer theirs for free. As a tradeoff, theirs is also the worst of the bunch, so hopefully the cost comes along with a modern online system we can all appreciate.

Additionally, the accessory prices seem higher than they should be. A Pro controller will run you $69.99. A new set of Joycons will cost $79.99. Ouch! Not to mention that second dock costing $89.99. Switch owners will have to pick and choose their extras wisely.

Also, that translator during the presentation. What was up with that guy?

My Overall Excitement Level

Personally, I couldn’t be more stoked for the Switch release to happen! I had several concerns after watching the initial trailer in October that went away last night. The biggest being how usable those Joycons are going to be. The addition of the wrist strap and bumper looks to make those controllers a lot more comfortable and they come included with the system as a bonus.

And did I mention I looooooove the neon…OK, OK. I’ll stop.

Also, after not knowing about many launch titles we’d be seeing, there’s a lot I love from the March lineup. Of course, Breath of the Wild is a must-have, but I’m also extremely excited for Snipperclips and 1-2 Switch! I do wish that latter game was a bit more fast-paced (perhaps a WarioWare title instead), but there’s so much to it I can’t wait to explore it all. I’m also stoked for Arms and Skyrim to come out a little later…I’m glad we finally got confirmation on that last one.

And the best part is the Switch comes out right at the beginning of March! It really is right around the corner! In fact, I’m so excited I’ve pre-ordered two of them!

My body is ready.

What did you think about the Switch presentation? Are you more or less excited than you were in October/ Let us know in the comments!

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About John Blanco

John Blanco is an avid game collector and loves to write about his hobby as much as he participates in it. He run the Denver Retro Gamers Facebook group in Denver, Colorado, and coordinates swap-style meetups with dozens of other collectors every couple of months.

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