Sunday 4 March 2018

Nintendo Switch - The First Year [Gaming]

October 2016 gave us a first look at Switch, after months upon months of ‘NX’ rumours all trying to give an account of just what this new console of Nintendo’s would be. One thing most agreed on was the hybrid nature of the system. That was certainly the case with it’s showing, with a trailer that’s probably still sat at the top of most entertaining console reveal of all time list ten years from now. Huge exaggeration, sure, but the fact is this trailer hit home the message of the Switch – Play Anywhere, Anytime, With Anyone. It also gave hints at the games we’d be playing, such as Mario Zelda, Skyrim!, and a number of others. Come January, we got the details of the system and an outline of the games. Cue March 3rd, when the console launched.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild hit hard, becoming an instant hit with many people – including those who were casual fans and even those who had never played a Legend of Zelda game before. In fact, such was the popularity of the game, it was easy to forget the other games that launched alongside it. Just Dance, FAST RMX, Snipperclips, Shovel Knight, Skylanders, Bomberman, among a few others helped make sure it wasn’t just the Breath of the Wild machine. Plenty of releases the days and weeks after also made sure of that. If you’ve read my thoughts on the release month, you’ll know much of what I’m about to say. I instantly preordered Breath of the Wild with the Switch as soon as it became available, and upon release, I eagerly set it up and set to playing. It was pulling me in with how open it was, allowing exploration how the player wants to do it. I explored, and explored, and then got on with the main quest. FAST RMX was the second game I bought, giving a lot of skill to the racing genre as you control the super-fast vehicles around a number of tracks. I enjoyed what I played of it, though as soon as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe came around, it was pretty much forgotten. Snipperclips was the third game, a week later, with a second set of Joy-Con. It’s been fun to solve the puzzles solo, but that sort of game needs two players. These co-op puzzlers are more about the experience than the puzzles themselves. It’s why Human Fall Flat is such a popular one. Snipperclips also features a competitive mode for up to four players, expanding the range of things to play around on with friends.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at the end of April brought the game from Wii U with a few small changes and a rather big one in the form of a completely revamped battle mode. Even with the near 300 hours put into the Wii U version, having one of the best Mario Kart games in a portable form has certainly kept me playing. A fact that is true for a number of these games.
Released on the same day as Mario Kart was Puyo Puyo Tetris, with Minecraft on Switch following from that in May, as well as Ultra Street Fighter 2 and Disgaea 5 Complete. June also saw a few releases, such as Shantae: Half-Genie Hero and Mighty Gunvolt Burst, but it was day 16 of June that gave the big release.
ARMS had been getting focus in the E3 Treehouse stream before it’s release, and that certainly seemed to have helped in terms of exposure. After all, a tournament featuring professional players is definitely a way to create hype – especially if the game in question releases the day after. At first, I found the game had minor flaws that affected enjoyment, but with patches, nearly everything has been sorted out. Improvements to the game also meant there was new content to enjoy – even if such updates have come to an end. The fighting was fast and fun, though just like most arena fighters, my interest dropped to occasional plays pretty quick. There’s just something to the more technical fighters that can never hold my interest, it seems. Despite that, it certainly is a great game that fans of the genre can enjoy. Even if it did get overshadowed by Nintendo’s next big release.

July saw the release of Splatoon 2, and again it shook the world into a frenzy. A solo mode that expanded on the first, a new wave-based multiplayer mode, and the multiplayer modes brought back from the first allowed this to be as good as the 2015 game. New subs and specials replaced the original roster, making sure the tactics of play changed. A special four-hour Splatfest Testfire appeared on the eShop a week before release to hype everyone up. Content updates are going strong – the same with Splafests – with numerous returning stages from the first game having been added, and even more new competitive modes to be added. This time around there has been a music update, adding even more battle themes to the game, and I honestly think Splatoon 2 has the best music of the two. I’ve been loving the game, sticking with my trusty Splattershot Jr.’s for the multiplayer, and having actually finished the solo campaign in the second game where the firsts didn’t really interest me as much. It’s definitely one to play, though for me has been side-lined by other games both on and away from the Switch.
I’m a fan of minigolf, and the games are no exception. I remember Planet Minigolf on the PS3, and to hear that ZEN Studios were to be releasing a new minigolf game on Switch was great news for me. Infinite Minigolf was great to play, but had a flaw in its controls that was soon corrected in a patch. Since then it has been a lot more playable, and with new themes added to the game, it has expanded quite a bit since release.
I’m not much of a fan of the classic Sonic games, with Sonic 2 being the only one I’ve really enjoyed, but Sonic Mania looked to expand on that game, so I was in. The drop dash was easy to forget about, but the flow of the game was great. The special stages are the only ones I really enjoy from the entire series, bringing a Sonic R feel to them that makes me wish for another game in that style.
While I haven’t played it, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle seemed weird at first, which is why it was probably a good thing the rumours flying around got us used to the idea. Ubisoft saw success with it, and this is probably the first of many crossovers and third-party handling of Nintendo IP in a line of them.

Pokkén Tournament DX and Fire Emblem Warriors released to favourable reviews, but my next game didn’t come along until the beginning of October with Stardew Valley. It had released on other platforms in 2016, but with knowledge that it was coming to the Switch, I held off. Just like with Sonic Mania, I wanted the game on a handheld as I felt it fit the spirit of the game better. A farming simulation going back to the old versions of Harvest Moon, it felt like a great game to play for a bit at a time and then find you’ve lost hours to it. While it has been good, I find myself not returning to it due to the art style and controls feeling slightly off.
Super Mario Odyssey. The Switch’s next hype game. Since Zelda had taken the focus of E3 in 2016, E3 2017 was jumping in the air without a care with that wonderfully crafted vocal song accompanying the trailer of the next 3D Mario game. We’d already seen it in action from January, but the amount of content that came out of E3 for it made it one of the most hyped games and managed to make it massively popular. When it released, I loved it, and having remained free from spoilers found the ending to be such a blast. And with the new Balloon finding mode added, exploration of the worlds within the game has increased – with me finding areas I didn’t even know were around in some of them.
Back when this one originally released, I never really gave it much of a chance. Skyrim was a one play and forgot game back then, and for a while it looked as though that was to happen again. Having played it once on the Switch version’s release, it was forgot about until a month later, where I picked it back up and lost many, many hours in exploring the world and getting invested in the connections I was making with it. Sure, combat was frustrating me, but it didn’t stop me playing. I was too invested to give it up. And it continued like that until 2018.

It wasn’t until February that my first 2018 Switch purchase was made, and that was Dragon Quest Builders. I’d seen it as a novel idea, having a JRPG-like sandbox, and while the RPG elements weren’t exactly sandbox, the exploration and building definitely were. The building tools weren’t limited, and each of the four chapters were like self-contained episodes leading up to a climactic finale. Happy to say it succeeded in getting me away from Skyrim with a new world to explore. With a second game soon to be released, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the second as much as I have the first.
As for the rest of 2018, we know of Kirby Star Allies and the new Yoshi game. Kirby will be my next purchase, and from what I’ve seen of it, I’m sure I will be enjoying my first mainline Kirby title. Yoshi I’m not so sure about, but it looks enjoyable from what’s been shown. Mario Tennis Aces is set to launch soon, and expands on everything that Ultra Smash gave us. Nintendo Labo – the cardboard creative set of accessories – is to come in April, and starts off what looks to be the first in new ways to play. While I can’t say much of it, it does look to give some interesting ideas.
Nearly everything else is a mystery, but we know of a new Fire Emblem. Smash Bros. on Switch seems almost certain, and considering the numerous ports of games, it seems expected that Smash 4 will be making its way over. Just like with the other ports, new things are likely to be included. I’ve always been parading the idea of expanding the Miis and Wuhu Island, and I think the Switch is the perfect place to do that. A new Pilotwings would be great, with a Wave Race also being a sought-after return. Both of these and more could be a part of Wuhu Island game. All-in-one, a game-as-a-service, as it were, but with the objective being to not make money with each new addition. No microtransactions either. A game sold at full retail price should remain a one-price-only game. If it were free, that would be a different case, but then would Nintendo really want to expand into a social-gaming service that Sony tried with its Playstation Home?
A Party-type game is more than likely coming, Animal Crossing is surely coming – whether this year or not is a question that needs answering sooner rather than later. It could be expected that a new Mario Maker will be coming, as well as a few other WiiU ports.
And of course, the big one that I’m hoping will be the main focus of E3 this year. Pokémon on Switch. Many an idea has been asked for with this one. Open world design like Skyrim or Breath of the Wild. Full-3D Kanto remake. Revision of the battle mechanics. There’s been loads of ideas going around, including region ideas, starter ‘mon ideas, and new mechanics.

Nintendo have had a very good first year with the Switch, beating out the lifetime WiiU sales in just one year. If the second can keep that momentum going, it could be a very successful console in the future. I’ve been loving it, though now is the time to bring the features. The eShop could also do with a bit of work, and bringing more themes – and a bit of a refresh – to the home screen would be good as well.
There’s a lot to be said for a gaming machine that serves as both handheld and home console, and I’ve certainly been enjoying it as both. Here’s to many more years of Switch.