Not everyone was blown away by Nintendo's international Switch announcement stream last night. I don't count myself among those people.
Well, it wouldn't be correct to say I was blown away, exactly. Nothing about that presentation seemed particularly revelatory or offered any real shock. Rather, the Switch looks to be precisely what I hoped it would be: A console whose function and software align almost completely with my needs and interests as a gamer. That's no small feat, because I've become awfully finicky about games in my old age.
I grew up playing Nintendo consoles, because when you were a kid growing up in late '80s America, you had a Nintendo Entertainment System. But I haven't loved every Nintendo device to bob along down the line through the years. The Nintendo 64 fell terribly short and drove me to buy competing hardware for the first time in my decade of Nintendo fandom - which was no bad thing, because that opened my eyes to many other kinds of game experiences and styles. And while I liked the Wii in principle, in practice I mostly used it as a fitness tracker and a medium for playing old games.
Switch, on the other hand... I've been in love with this new system since, oh, 2012. Not that Switch existed back then, when the Wii U was just barely launching. It's just that the sort of odd, not-quite-there design of both 3DS and Wii U started me and some friends to talking about how great it would be if Nintendo stopped segregating its hardware design between consoles and handhelds and simply went all-in on a hybrid machine you could take with you on the go then dock for television-based play - similar to the PSP-2000's television-out feature, but better.
Switch turned out to be precisely that, which is great for me: That's how I want to play games. I can see where my particular needs wouldn't be shared by everyone, though. Some people want greater horsepower in a console, and Switch's portability makes the idea of it competing on equal terms with PlayStation 4 Pro or Scorpio simply impossible. Most people want a less expensive console, even though $300 strikes me as being on the low-end for a brand-new machine, especially one with a built-in capacitative touch screen. Have you seen how much an iPad costs? (Nintendo's Switch accessory pricing suggests to me that they've priced the console as low as they reasonably can and intend to make up the difference through inflated add-on price tags, kinda like Sony with its Vita memory card highway-robbery pricing.)
In action, Nintendo hybrid design demands compromises up and down the line. It's a little too expensive, a little too underpowered, its battery life leaves much to be desired, and its vast ocean of accessories adds greater cost, complexity, and potential to lose key components to the mix. None of these compromises constitute deal-breakers for me, though, because the fundamental appeal of the Switch (console-class experiences through a dynamic format) outweighs all of those shortcomings. I love me some handhelds, but I've finally hit the point of life where my eyes are changing too much for me to feel comfortable staring at small screens for endless hours. But I hate being tied to a television or computer for long gaming sessions; it makes me restless. Switch will free me from the TV without causing eyestrain, and that's beautiful.
Nintendo outlines the games you can play in the Nintendo Switch's first few months.
None of this would matter if the console's library came cross as a wet fart, though, and happily Nintendo's initial teasers gave me hope on that front, too. Ample hope. Super Mario Odyssey looks bizarre, but in the best sense of the word "completely mad." Zelda's going to be excellent, of course. And I specifically held off on buying Skyrim Remastered because I'm going to be able to sink more time into it via Switch than I would have on PlayStation 4. But did you see all those new role-playing game announcements? Everything from Shin Megami Tensei to a Xenoblade sequel giving off heavy Chrono Cross vibes to a SaGa-esque hand-drawn RPG by the Bravely Default people. And who knows what else! I'm sold, basically. Between the promise of core Nintendo creations, access to classic games, and a raft of RPGs that essentially peg Switch as the spiritual successor to the DS/3DS RPG legacy, I'm sold.
I'm also not so naïve as to think this thing is a guaranteed success. It straddles a lot of the same lines as Wii U and Vita, two systems I've also really liked for their unconventional, semi-hybrid natures. It's a tough sell for Nintendo, and all my high hopes and personal interest, I also recognize that last night's presentation was not the way into the average gamer's heart. Fortunately, Switch supposedly is incredibly easy to develop for, and so long as Nintendo doesn't impose cumbersome Switch-specific features the way they did for Wii U, the road map for porting games from PS4 or PC to Switch should be painless enough to ensure a healthy roster of software... even if a fair amount of it is hand-me-downs.
So, I guess that's one Switch Nintendo has a guaranteed sale for. Another 29,999,999 and it could be a serious contender.
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