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Nintendo Switch Announced; Console Gaming Changes Forever

After many months of torment, Nintendo finally gave us the first glimpse of the Nintendo NX — now dubbed the Nintendo Switch. Have you seen it yet?  Here…look at it. Look:

When I first saw the video this morning, I was a bit underwhelmed. After a few successive viewings though, I’m getting really excited! I don’t plan on buying *a* Nintendo Switch this March, though. I plan on buying *many* Nintendo Switches.

Let me tell you why.

One Console

The best part about Switch is that the days of having a home console and portable seem to be over for Nintendo. This is as much a concession as an advancement. Nintendo knows their Wii U took a beating against the hardcore gaming world, but their 3DS portable was a smashing success! Why not marry the two?

The best takeaway from this is that you won’t feel compelled to buy a game like Hyrule Warriors on two different Nintendo systems like today. The same goes for Yoshi’s Wooly World, Super Mario Maker, and even Mario Kart. You can buy one. Is this dangerous for Nintendo? Are they cutting sales? Not really. I predict that most Nintendo homes will buy more than one Switch and, for many games, multiple copies as necessary. (Which we sometimes do already with the 3DS anyway.) I’m debating buying five for my family, in fact. (Have to teach the kids young!) While we’ve never taken advantage of Download Play to link up all our 3DS’s for anything more than Mario Kart 7, I forsee us routinely playing games like Splatoon and Smash Bros. often on multiple Switch consoles.

It does make me wonder why I’m more compelled to do it on the newer console than the ones we already have…maybe it’s because the Switch graphics will be much better than the aging 3DS, but it’s more likely because the screen will be larger and the games better. (I’ve never been a fan of 3DS’s version of Smash Bros., it just doesn’t have the horsepower.)

On-The-Go Console Multiplayer

It’s hard to imagine, but there was an era when I wasn’t on top of all the latest news from Nintendo. One particularly memorable time was when a couple friends were talking about the Nintendo DS, an upcoming system I simply hadn’t heard about before. They explained how you could link them up wirelessly and play anywhere. I started dreaming up scenarios where you’d be on an airplane and you could call out, “Hey, if anyone wants to play some Mario Kart, join up!” The same could’ve been true at movie theaters or school lunchrooms. (So long as that was even allowed.)

The multiplayer experience was indeed great with the DS, but it wasn’t as magical as the scenarios above.

Cue the Switch, which blew me away in one particular scene from the trailer which starts at 2:45 in.  There, a group of at least 4 players each have their Switch and are playing Splatoon. They each play it on their own screen. Aside from the delicious idea of playing Splatoon anywhere I go (which is a dream of mine), imagine being able to do it on a larger portable screen with no split-screen to squeeze you out? That’s literally never been possible before outside of an Internet cafe. (And I’ve never seen one with big groups of Wii U’s, that’s for sure!)

One does have to wonder what alterations Nintendo will do to Splatoon to make it a better single-screen experience, but I’m sure they’ll re-jigger the game to not demand the dual-screen experience the Wii U demands it be.

Pure Gaming Returns

Nintendo veterans will see a lot missing from the Switch. Most obviously, it’s a single-screen experience. It can’t possibly play like a Wii U because then the concept of easy portability is compromised. Secondly, the Wiimote is dead. That was a huge problem for me on the Wii U because I wanted to move on to something new. The fact that it still used the same controller was kind’ve a buzzkill. I didn’t want to see Wii-branded accessories, I wanted something completely new.

The Switch is 100% completely new. It looks like nothing else in the industry or Nintendo’s previous product line.

On top of that, it’s almost a certainty now that the Switch will have ZERO backwards-compatibility with the Wii or Wii U. That just makes sense. The Wii is too old to even consider supporting considering the low-fidelity of the graphics. The Wii U comes closer, but in order to stay compatible you’d have to offer two screens, a similar control scheme to the Game Pad, and a touch screen. Not to mention, Wiimote support and that sensor bar. I’m not sure if the Switch has a toucherscreen either…I mean, I imagine it does…but there’s still no reason to be compatible with a system regarded as a “failure.” Nintendo needed to make lemonade from those lemons and use the opportunity to make something brand new, unencumbered by the past.

And it appears they did.

Everything we’ve seen so far on the Switch, and it’s still fairly little, suggests that it plays games in their classic forms. No motion controls. No dual-screen experiences. No peripherals. Just fun games from both Nintendo and third parties. While I still hope for a VR offering in the future, it’s refreshing to see Nintendo stick to their core values.

Did We Get Everything We Wanted?

Based on what I wrote back in March, I think so. While the look and feel of the console came as a surprise to me, it’s a home/portable hybrid like we thought. (I didn’t forsee the removable controllers.) They cut off backwards compatibility. 3rd Party support has been pledged in droves and even included Skyrim in the teaser. And as for other launch games, the first hints of a new Super Mario Bros. game are there as well! Could it be a launch game? Probably not, but could it come soon after Breath of the Wild? I think so!

Just imagine how much more efficient the Nintendo development teams can be not having to make different games for their home and portable consoles. Instead of getting one Mario game on the console and then a different portable game a year later, we can now get multiple Mario games during the lifetime of the Switch. This is exciting!

The only thing I didn’t really get is a “retro look” to the console. As I’ve said a hundred times, the worst part about the Wii U is how unimaginative and bland the console looks. Nintendo has created some of the best IP the world has ever seen, so how does a boring black box become its hardware identity? Awful. But the Switch looks amazing and even integrates that classic Nintendo-gray two-tone into it as I’d hoped.

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While likely not the final form, it does look sleek already!

What’s Missing?

My biggest issue with the teaser is that the controls look designed moreso for detachment and portability and not for comfort and ideal playing comfort. These concerns are slightly allayed by the “pro controller” appearance, but how easy will it be to play console games using a little half-controller with 4 main buttons and a seemingly unusable shoulder button? I’ll be interested to try it out, but it doesn’t look like they really thought about it much. Plus, will that middle attachment that allows you to connect the two again be usable? It doesn’t look too cozy.

And not to beat a dead horse, but even in it’s full form, the two analog sticks are not vertically aligned. That will lead to asymmetric hand alignment, something that no current system does anymore. (PS4, XB1, and even Wii U all have vertically-aligned analog sticks.) This means your hold of the console will feel different on each hand.

Again, I’d hate to see the game experience compromised by a controller that isn’t ergonomically designed correctly.

So…what do you think of the Switch?

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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 runs the Denver Retro Gamers and Denver Switch Mob Facebook groups in Denver, Colorado, and coordinates swap-style meetups with dozens of other collectors every couple of months.

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