Depending on who you talk to, the Nintendo Switch is either the greatest system ever and Nintendo's triumphant return to leading the pack, or Nintendo continuing to make mistakes with low stock and a host of game re-releases. The latter is seen as a black mark on the system for some reason.
I can understand that. When you buy a system, you generally want that purchase to be justified by all the great exclusive games that you can't get anywhere else. Nintendo did come out of the gate swinging with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You don't get an more than 1:1 attach ratio without doing something right.
The rest can be harder to justify if you're looking for all-new gaming. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition, Shovel Knight, Disgaea 5 Complete, Thumper, the Neo Geo titles, Lego City Undercover, I Am Setsuna, and the upcoming Ultra Street Fighter II are all games you can play elsewhere if the desire arises. The Switch versions may add one or two new features, but the games themselves are largely intact and playable.
There's nothing really wrong with that though. For one, what the Switch tends to bring to the table is the ability to straddle the line. It offers a console level presentation - better than the Wii U and below the current gen consoles - and the ability to take those experiences wherever you go. It is the current defacto successor to the Wii U, 3DS, and PlayStation Vita, something no other console can really call claim to.
You may not get a ton out of buying Disgaea 5 again, but for me, being able to play it on a train, plane, or general commute is a large part of the appeal. Sure, I do most of my work from home, but even within those constraints, I enjoy the Switch. I appreciate the ability to grind out a level in Disgaea or Minecraft while I'm grinding out one in real life on the toilet. The Switch has a docked mode, but outside of review purposes, I rarely use it in that mode.
Beyond that, there's nothing wrong with a re-release or remaster. Those titles are rarely taking up a spot that would've otherwise gone to a new game. They represent a chance for a fan to play a game they enjoy on a new platform or format, or for a game to reach a whole new audience. In the case of the Switch, that audience is currently fired up and excited.
In my interview with Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap developer Omar Cornut, he noted the benefit from being on the Switch early in its lifecycle.
"The nostalgia factor is really high," said Cornut. "For many who had a [Sega Master System], this game was it. It's a game that's really special for them. Plus, being a Switch launch window title probably really helped in getting attention. There was a lot of luck involved."
That extends to the re-releases. Mario Kart 8 sold 8.31 million copies, marking it as the best-selling Wii U title. The Nintendo Switch is already at 2.74 million sold and it still has the rest of 2017 to go, including the lucrative holiday season. We don't know where the Switch it ultimately wash out, but it's pretty clear it'll be ahead of the Wii U in total sales (unless something goes horribly wrong). There's a chance for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to reach a bigger audience than the original did.
Likewise, Shovel Knight is available on everything, but being one of the Switch launch titles still propelled the system to a renewed visibility. Thumper for Switch might not have virtual reality to lean on, but if you missed it the first time around, it's still a great game. I own Binding of Issac on Steam, but I purchased the Nintendo Switch version and that'll be the first time that I've actually played the game. To use NBC's old tagline: If you haven't seen it, it's new to you.
Great games are great games. I understand that we're hip deep in industry speculation in enthusiast circles. I want the Switch to achieve its best and for that to happen it needs a steady feed of new titles from first and third-party developers. It's fine to speculate and worry about that. But at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Mario Kart 9 launched on the Switch first. The point is offering a great game to owners of a new platform.
Kat's Obscure RPG of the Week
Front Mission probably qualifies under this banner despite being a long-running and popular series in Japan. While it's been released a handful of times in the U.S., it hasn't been able to build much more than a cult audience. Its one chance to break into the mainstream was ruined by a truly wretched third-person action game.
Anyway, Front Mission is a tactics RPG that functions as a sort of cross between Fire Emblem and Mechwarrior. Its best known for its heavy customization—its possible to customize every part of your mech—and its political storytelling, which recalls anime like Patlabor.
Front Mission's heyday was on the original PlayStation and the PS2, where it received a number of sequels and spinoffs before tailing off at the end of the late 2000s. Its was last seen in 2010, when the ill-conceived Front Mission Evolved killed it off entirely.
The apparent death of Front Mission is a heartbreaker for Japanese mecha fans, particularly given that Front Mission 5 never made it over to the west. It would be a tremendous fit for both the Vita and the 3DS; but alas, there don't appear to be anymore sequels in the cards.
Still, the series holds up reasonably well, particularly the excellent Front Mission 3. Pour one out for hardcore mecha strategy then do what you can to revisit these gems.
Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Subterranean (Earthworm Jim 2)
I never played Earthworm Jim 2. I'm not a humongous fan of the first game, either. I found Jim's debut adventure to be more frustrating than fun, especially when I was asked to pilot an extremely fragile goldfish bowl through some narrow passages lined with jagged coral (urrrgh). When Shiny took its passive-aggressive jab at Donkey Kong Country in the Sega CD edition of Earthworm Jim, I wonder if it ever considered that maybe DKC is more popular because it's just the better game.
Anyway, even though I don't like playing Earthworm Jim, I have no problem admitting it has a fantastic soundtrack (or admitting the cartoon series based on the game is pretty great). Earthworm Jim 2 sounds great, too. It was released on the PlayStation and Sega Saturn in addition to the SNES and Genesis, which is something that happened often to 16-bit platformers that straddled the '95 / '96 borderline.
The game's music was remixed to suit its CD format, and the boost shines through in Tommy Tallarico's "Subterranean."
Subterranean accompanies Jim as he digs through Earthworm Jim 2's underground level, "Lorenzen's Soil" (Oh '90s pop culture references, will you ever wear out?). It also shows up in the "ISO 9000" level, which is set in a tax office. Odd choice, that: Subterranean is a relaxing track, and tax offices are anything but.
Caty’s AltGame Corner
Deadlines, from Botolo developer Ian Snyder, is a simple one button, two player multiplayer game. Two players situate themselves on either end of a keyboard, holding down “A” and “L” to begin. The game itself, with its neon color palette, gives players a simple goal with their singular buttons: “be the taller line, eat the smaller line, avoid the sides.” The result is a painterly wave of colors growing in size as they attempt to collide into one another. Each round is under a second long. Deadlines isn’t a flashy, complicated multiplayer experience, but a compactly enjoyable one that can be played in just a browser. It’s perfect for wanting to pull up something quick to pass the time on your laptop when loitering in a cafe with a friend.
Matt’s Monday Mornings
A quick look at the Nintendo Switch eShop and you'll quickly realize that there's enough quality titles to make for a good digital library of games. The latest to join Nintendo's neat hybrid console, and a game I've been playing all weekend, is Drool's "rhythm violence game" Thumper.
Although Thumper first came out on the PS4 and Oculus last year, the game completely slipped under my radar. So when I heard it was coming to the Switch I decided to basically wait for it to come out on the Nintendo system. And frankly, it was worth the wait.
Thumper has players take control of a metallic beetle tied to a rail system. The players will then have to time their presses and react accordingly to different obstacles like spikes, and guardrails. Time your presses to the beat of the music and you'll bolster Thumper's industrial as hell soundtrack. Oh and also the game supports the Switch's HD Rumble feature, which I finally understand its deal because it feels really cool in Thumper.
The biggest surprise is how genuinely terrifying Thumper is. The game combines some pretty intense action with freaky boss designs. I'm actually worried what the game might feel like in VR, only because I'd probably get a heart attack from the experience.
So if you’re looking for some extra Switch games, I’d happily recommend Thumper, a kind of scary game that definitely lives up to its "rhythm violence" designation.
Musings on the News
- Last week, Bungie and Activision finally showed off everything that's going into Destiny 2. I got a chance to play it and I'm feeling good about Bungie fixing the issues that hit the first time. It feels like they've recaptured some of the Halo feeling again. Unfortunately, while the game is coming to PC for the first time, the game will not allow for cross save between console and PC platforms. Bummer.
- Overwatch is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a host of skins and three new Arena maps. While some of the skins are re-releases of the ones that came with the Deluxe Edition at launch, Blizzard did draft up a set of new skins, dance emotes, and voice lines for the event.
- As of this writing, the new season of Twin Peaks has four episodes released on Showtime and folks are excited. On the gaming side, Caty wants folks to know that there will never be a "Twin Peaks of Video Games". No one else makes film quite like David Lynch, and the same is true in video games. There are folks that strayed close, like the early-era of Suda 51, but to Lynch is to be weird, thoughtful, and emotional at the same time.
- Life is Strange is getting a sequel! Dontnod's episodic adventure is one of the few games in that style that didn't come from Telltale Games. It worked quite well, wrapping up with some great endings. There's no word on whether Max will star in the game again, but more is coming!
- If you're going to be playing Arms on a regular basis, now's the time to strengthen that upper body. Do some bicep curls. Rock some push ups. Nintendo is ready to give you a workout.