Starting Screen is our weekly column featuring news, commentary, and music to help you get over your case of the Mondays.
Hello people of USgamer! Thank you for lending your eyeballs to another edition of Starting Screen. I'm taking over for Kat this week, since she's on vacation.
At first I said, "I have a great idea to make this week's Starting Screen stand out in Kat's absence!" Then I realized there's no way to host a digital pizza party. Yet. So let's talk a bit about the Nintendo Switch instead, which was unveiled to your mom and dad via its Super Bowl commercial on February 5.
The commercial is a good one, and apparently, it made an impression: Search terms for Zelda, Nintendo, and the Switch spiked after it aired (and social media has plenty of grousing to go around thanks to the Switch's long sold-out pre-orders). The commercial itself has over 1,200,000 views on YouTube, and the "Likes" overwhelm the "Dislikes." People are warmly curious about the Switch – perhaps moreso than they were a month ago, following the January 13 reveal (holy heck, has it been a month since Jeremy and I went to NYC? Dearest Go! Go! Curry, not a night goes by when I don't dream of you).
Kat, for one, was feeling skeptical about the console / handheld hybrid in January, and though she still has reservations, but has a rosier outlook on the Switch since going hands-on with it. The Switch really is a lot easier to like once you put your hands on it, and everything clicks like that very catchy "snap!" sound that kicks off every Switch trailer.
That's not to say I'm super-duper confident about the Switch being a runaway hit. There's still plenty of time for Nintendo to botch this, especially since it's choosing to play a bizarre game of information keep-away. We're two weeks and some change away from launch day, and it's stunning how little we know about this machine. Information has been drip-drip-dripped into us, and some big questions remain. Er, what about the Virtual Console, Nintendo? Hello?
This hesitance to speak out isn't a good look for Nintendo. What's it hiding about the Switch? Is it unfinished? Is it going to eat us? Is the Switch going to grow teeth and bite my arm and drink my blood as soon as I open the box? I bet that's it. I bet the Switch is a vital part of a Little Shop of Horrors-style scheme. The Switch will enter homes around the world, bite into our jugulars (with that iconic "snap!" sound, of course), feed on our blood, grow to an enormous size, and wreak havoc across the planet until humanity is reduced to bones and ashes.
…I'm still keeping my pre-order.
Game Music to Get You Through the Week
First, let me say I have every intention of bringing back my Note Block Beat Box game music column, which I had to suspend while I was doing guide work. I enjoy writing it, and if you forgive me a moment of ego, I like to think some of you enjoy reading it.
For this small interlude, I'm highlighting music from the criminally underappreciated Illusion of Gaia soundtrack. One of the things I love most about IOG is the low-key nature of its melancholy themes, which I've only grown to appreciate more as I've become older. The game's hero, Will, encounters a lot of terrible things as he looks for his missing father. Not dragons and monsters, but violent colonialism, child slavery, child labor, human trade, and disease. In other words, Illusion of Gaia's monsters are humans, but the game doesn't gasp and point a finger at our sins. It just lays them all out for the player to consider, then throws a pig into a fire.
Anyway, I think "Signs of the Past" embodies IOG's general mood perfectly. It's a sparse, haunting piece. Remember that Incan gold ship? You probably do now.
- If you enjoyed John Learned's review of Nioh and his follow-up piece about Nioh's difficulty be sure to check out his excellent Annotated Symphony of the Night videos, which are packed with tricks and trivia about the best game in the Castlevania franchise (Yes, I went there). The videos are a perfect chaser to Jeremy's Design in Action entries for Symphony of the Night.
- Twitch Plays Pokémon is three years old. It's still going strong, by the way: Like Pokémon itself, it never "died." It just seethes quietly under our feet. The most current version of the game involves a modified version of Pokémon Yellow, except it's been hacked to make Chatot follow the player around instead of Pikachu. So now the Twitch chatroom (there were 1000+ "players" when I last checked) is trying to play the game and trying to get Chatot to talk. It's a glorious mess.
- Here's the last Skyrim mod you'll ever need: Skyrim Dad Jokes. It replaces the loading screen's advice and trivia bits with Skyrim-themed dad jokes. Here's one: "How long does Ulfric Stormcloak sit on this throne? Ulfric-in day." I tried to think of my own Skyrim dad joke, but my brain seized up. Sorry.
- Kat has talked at length about her Fallout 4 settlements, but I bet she doesn't have an alcoholic Deathclaw living in any of her irradiated hamlets.
- Maybe in between the heart attacks you experienced while playing Resident Evil 7, you happened to notice the Baker family has perfect teeth? They may live in Swampy Buttcrack, Louisiana, but they don't shirk their dental routine. What's your excuse?
- Don't forget to listen to Episode 92 of Axe of the Blood God. John Learned talks to Kat about Nioh, and Kat and I have a "very Canadian argument" about Fire Emblem Heroes and the morality of free-to-play mechanics. Nobody raises their voice and both sides walk away with a better understanding of the other person's point of view. Blood on the ice! Blood on the ice!
- Off-topic: I don't want to imply Canadians are never hurt in muggings and robberies (sadly, the woman who provided the flowers for my wedding was killed in a robbery gone very bad), but I was once the victim of what I call "A very Canadian mugging." I was walking to the store and a guy approached me and said, "Look, just give me $5. I don't want any trouble." Luckily, I had the $5, and I gave it to him without incident. This was at a point in time when our $5 had hockey on it, by the way.