The big Nintendo Switch presentation was held last night (you can watch it here), showing off the upcoming system and some of its games. There’s a lot to digest in that presentation, and I’m not going to talk about everything. I’m just going to cover what particularly interested me, for better or worse.
Most importantly, and somewhat surprisingly, the system is launching worldwide on March 3rd. That’s only seven weeks away! It seems odd that it’s coming so soon and we’re just now learning about it. The U.S. price will be $299.99, which is reasonable.
The hardware has some interesting features, including a sensor that can recognize hand gestures, and a new “HD rumble” ability. A capture button lets you take screenshots of games (and eventually, record videos as well). And of course, you can take the system with you and play on the go, but I probably won’t be using it that way very often. Interestingly, the system is region-free, meaning you can play imported games from other regions.
The system uses cartridges, not discs, and it is not backwards compatible. Backwards compatibility is something that Nintendo has been including in their systems for the past decade, but not this time. So if you want to keep playing your Wii U or 3DS games, you’ll need to hang on to those systems.
I’m now going to talk some more about the highlights of the presentation:
Zelda at Launch
Surprisingly, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be a launch game, coming out along with the system on March 3rd. It’s been a long time since the last new console Zelda game (Skyward Sword back in 2011), so I’m more than ready to begin a new adventure. I’m just hoping they didn’t rush the game in order to get it ready for launch.
Splatoon is probably my favorite game from the past two years, and I still play it regularly. So it’s probably not a big surprise that my favorite part of the presentation was Splatoon 2. Thankfully, it’s not just a rehash, it’s a full-fledged sequel. Here’s the trailer.
There’s a jetpack power-up? A storm cloud that rains ink? And those inkrails from the story mode of the first game? A dodge roll maneuver? And of course, new maps to fight on. There seems to be a lot of new additions, and I can’t wait to play the game. It’s coming out in the summer, which sounds great to me.
Super Mario Odyssey
The trailer started out showing Mario in a realistic style city, climbing up buildings and jumping off skyscrapers. Admittedly, that seems like an odd scenario for Mario. But then it shows Mario in other environments that seem more fitting for a Mario game, like a platform-filled forest, a desert, a giant vegetable garden, an underwater area, and so on. So he’s not just in the Mushroom Kingdom, he seems to get around this time.
Mario can be seen throwing his hat and then using it as a platform to jump on. His hat also sprouts eyes at the end of the trailer. So the hat seems to be the key to some of the new power-ups and/or abilities.
But most importantly, they said Super Mario Odyssey is the first Mario game since Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine to provide a “large sandbox world” to run around in. As much as I enjoyed Super Mario 3D World and the Super Mario Galaxy games, they didn’t provide the same sense of exploration that the first 3D Mario games had. So I’m really excited to see Mario return to this style at last. Super Mario Odyssey will come out later this year in time for the holidays.
Beginning in the autumn, online play will require a subscription to Nintendo’s online service. This is a change in strategy for Nintendo, as online play for Nintendo games has been free for over a decade. I am not happy about this, and I think it really limits their potential user base.
We don’t know the details of the plan(s) yet, but the mere fact that a paid account will be required will turn a lot of people off. Not everyone can afford paying fees just to play the games they already bought and paid for. It eliminates the casual online player who might only play online occasionally. And that reduces the pool of players for all of us.
On the bright side, subscribers will get a monthly bonus. Each month, you’ll be able to play a designated game of the month, which will be either a NES or SNES game, with newly-added online play. You don’t get to keep the game permanently (unless you buy it, presumably), but the monthly rental is a nice little bonus. But still, it’s hard to say if this is a good deal or not since we don’t know how much the service will cost yet.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming for launch. So is 1-2-Switch, which is a gimmicky looking mini-game that looks awful. And then there’s…well, that’s it. At least of the first-party games. Hopefully some third-party companies will pick up the slack, because that launch lineup looks pathetic. I don’t understand why they’re rushing to get the Switch out so soon when the first-party games aren’t ready.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Even though Mario Kart wasn’t mentioned during the presentation, Nintendo posted a trailer afterwards. Unlike Splatoon 2, which is a full sequel, this is basically a port of the Wii U game with a proper battle mode added, and some new characters and tracks (including one based on Splatoon).
As someone who already bought Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, and then paid again for the two DLC packs, I have no interest in buying the game again…especially at full price. And Mario Kart 8 wasn’t exactly one of my favorite Mario Kart games to begin with.
It would be nice if Nintendo gave a discounted price to people who bought and registered the game on Club Nintendo (and/or bought the DLC), but that’s probably quite unlikely. Still, that’s about the only way I would even consider buying it.
Re-releasing this game may be good for people who never bought a Wii U. But to me, it looks like a lazy money grab. And furthermore, Mario Kart games have always been limited to one per system. So this could prevent us from getting a true Mario Kart sequel on Switch. Of course, that might not be a horrible thing if they used those resources to make a different racing game instead (*cough* F-Zero *cough*), but I digress.
Aside from the previously known games, I was hoping for some unexpected surprises that interested me. Despite some rumors beforehand, Mother 3 was not confirmed. There was no Animal Crossing announced, no F-Zero, no Metroid, no Donkey Kong, no Pikmin, and not even a Smash Bros. game.
Of course there is still plenty of time for those franchises to show up, but even a confirmation of a future game would go far for people on the fence about buying a Switch. Especially when some of those series have been ignored on console for years.
The presentation was definitely a mixed bag. I’m excited about the system, and in particular, the big three of Zelda, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey. I definitely plan on buying a Switch, and in fact, I’ve already pre-ordered it. Once it comes out, I’ll be covering the system with future blog entries and videos on Youtube.
There are some disappointing aspects, but most of them can (and will) be remedied in the future. If Nintendo is indeed going to focus all their development teams on Switch (as opposed to splitting them with 3DS or another handheld system), that alone is reason to be optimistic about the first-party support we’ll be getting from Nintendo. Let’s hope the Switch does better than the mostly-forgettable Wii U.
Long live Nintendo Switch!