Month: January 2017

A Parent’s Guide to the Nintendo Switch: A Dramatization

An important segment of the games-purchasing population is inhabited by the parental units whose children desperately want the latest in vid’ya games tech-naw-lawgee. This was the segment that common wisdom likes to tell us Nintendo reached with the Wii (“Oooo! Tennis!”) and whiffed on with the Wii U (“Didn’t I already buy this?”).

In the interest of enlightening those parents out there who may not be as hopelessly dopey as myself, I present, in the form of a dramatic dialogue, A Parent’s Guide to the Nintendo Switch.

Please hold all applause until the end.

*

PARENT: So I was on Facebook and my friend Dolores shared a video from Jimmy Fallon. I don’t usually click on Dolores’ Facebook posts because she is just so political and I just can’t, you know? But I think this one was about a new Nintendo, and my kids are going to want this for at least a few weeks until they get distracted by something else, so I figured I’d better find out what it is I may be tricked into buying this time.

ME: Yes, well, the video Dolores posted was about the new video game system being made by Nintendo, called the Switch.

PARENT: The Switch?

ME: The Nintendo Switch.

PARENT: And what is a Nintendo Switch?

ME: The Nintendo Switch is a multi-form video game console.

PARENT: … um…

ME: Don’t worry, I’ll explain. The Nintendo Switch system, itself, is a tablet, not unlike an iPad or Kindle Fire.

PARENT: Oh. I already have three of those.

ME: There’s more. The Switch tablet comes with two controllers attached to either side, so it can be played on-the-go like a handheld system.

PARENT: Like an iPhone?

ME: Like a GameBoy.

PARENT: Ooohhh…

ME: But the two controllers, which are called JoyCons —

PARENT: JoyCons?

ME: It’s a portmanteau of “joystick” and “controller”.

PARENT: Oh. Clever.

ME: Right? Anyway, the JoyCons can be detached from the side of the Switch and now TWO people can play a game, together, anywhere.

PARENT: Wait. One tablet, two controllers, two players?

ME: That’s right.

PARENT: I have two kids.

ME: How convenient. The Switch can also be placed into a box that you attach to your television, and suddenly the portable system becomes an at-home system.

PARENT: So is it a portable game or a TV game?

ME: It’s both.

PARENT: Huh. Well, what games are there for it? Mario and Zelda?

ME: Like, the originals?

PARENT: Right. From when we were kids.

ME: … yes, probably.

PARENT: For free?

ME: … I very much doubt that.

PARENT: Seems like they should be free.

ME: I get that, but —

PARENT: They’re so OLD.

ME: You and I are old! Should we be free? Are you and I worth nothing?!

PARENT: That’s a little different.

ME: IS IT?!

PARENT: Are you okay? You’re getting all red and blotchy.

ME: Yes. Yes, I’m sorry. I… I have ‘episodes’.

PARENT: Uh… sure. Does this Switch thing have Minecraft? My kids are gonna want Minecraft. I don’t get it, but they love it.

ME: Minecraft is coming for the Switch later this year.

PARENT: Okay. How about Skylanders?

ME: Skylanders will be there on day one.

PARENT: And Disney Infinity?

ME: Disney actually stopped making Infinity.

PARENT: Are you kidding me? You know how much money I spent on all those stupid little toys? Now I’ve got Queen Elsa underfoot all day and nobody ever plays the damn game anymore!

ME: Just FYI, Nintendo has its own brand of interactive toys called amiibo.

PARENT: A-what-o?

ME: Amiibo.

PARENT: And what do they do?

ME: Let’s move on. So the Switch is an all-in-one video game console, at-home and portable, that allows for one player, two players, and up to eight players in any configuration.

PARENT: Eight players? Wow. But I thought there were only two of those Joy-thingees?

ME: Yes, but you can buy extras.

PARENT: For how much?

ME: For some amount of money. The Switch itself comes out on March 3rd, for $299.99.

PARENT: Oof. Three hundred.

ME: It’ll be a great Christmas present.

PARENT: Oh, so you just assume I’m Christian? That I celebrate the Christian holidays? You don’t know me.

ME: I made you up.

PARENT:

ME:

PARENT:

ME:

PARENT: How about sports games?

ME: Two of the big ones are coming this year for the Switch. NBA2K and FIFA.

PARENT: Oh, good, FIFA. My kid is crazy about soccer. Soccer and Minecraft. I don’t know what happened.

ME: What’s his favorite soccer team?

PARENT: Her. HER favorite soccer team. You know, I’d think you’d be better informed about the made-up backstory of your own fictional creation.

ME: Sorry. What’s HER favorite soccer team?

PARENT: She doesn’t have one. Nobody actually WATCHES soccer. They just play it as a kid and forget it exists once they hit puberty.

ME: I should warn you: FIFA for the Switch is rumored to be based more on the XBox 360 version than it is on the forthcoming XBox One or PlayStation  4 versions.

PARENT: What does that mean?

ME: It might not be quite as powerful as those two versions.

PARENT: My kid plays FIFA on my Kindle and on an old BlackBerry I found on the sidewalk. I’m sure your Switch FIFA will be fine.

ME: So what have you learned so far?

PARENT: Well… the Nintendo Switch is an at-home and on-the-go video game that both my kids can play together in the car.

ME: Yes! Yes!

PARENT: It’ll cost me three-hundred… does that come with a game?

ME: … uh…

PARENT: No game. So with a game it’ll cost closer to four-hundred. Not great, but not awful. What are the biggest games? Grand Theft Auto and Call of Battle?

ME: Actually, to be honest, a lot of those big games don’t come to many Nintendo consoles. We’ll see, but I’m not going to bet on it. The biggest games will be a new Zelda, a new Mario, and a new Splatoon.

PARENT: What’s Splatoon?

ME: It’s a game. It’s not important. I’m partial to it, but… no, it’s not important. A new Mario and a new Zelda.

PARENT: So the big violent games my thirty-four year old brother loves might not be on the Switch.

ME: No.

PARENT: Is he going to snort derisively when I mention the Switch to him?

ME: And then he’ll come over to play Mario Kart, yes.

PARENT: I do like Mario Kart… but I don’t know…

ME: Look: the Switch is a TV system you can take in the car. Both of your kids can play it together, even in portable mode, and you won’t have to buy them separate DS machines or new tablets, and you won’t have to give them your phone to play on, and there’s no way they can make ‘accidental’ in-app purchases because there won’t be any, and the big games on it are Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda and Sonic the Hedgehog instead of Grand Theft Auto and Gears of War, and it still has Minecraft and FIFA and NBA2K. It’s a family-friendly at-home console, portable console, and mobile gaming device, all in one.

PARENT: Mobile? Does it make — ?

ME: No it does not make phone calls! But at some point it’ll probably play Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja.

PARENT: I love Fruit Ninja! Sold!

ME: I can’t believe Fruit Ninja is what tipped this.

PARENT: I likes what I likes.

*

Aaaaaand… scene! I hope you, gentle parent, now have a better idea as to what, exactly, the Nintendo Switch is. And if you still don’t? Just watch this. Oh, just watch it. It’s only, like, three minutes long. And you’ll get to see what Splatoon is!

I’m partial.

P.S. – Once you’ve watched that, watch this adorable video about Switch’s parental control options. It’ll warm your soul.

Twitter in the Age of the NES

The Internet is a landmark technological and social achievement. For the first time in human history, large swaths of the general populace have been granted the tools necessary to participate in mass communication, a level of interaction that, prior to the proliferation of smartphones and computers, had only been accessible through gateways of influence, geography, and social status. In a very short amount of time huge portions of humanity have been given a platform through which to express their individual voice to the world at large.

To paraphrase Kevin Smith via Holden McNeil: evidently everyone has chosen to use that voice to bitch about video games.

Look at that; I’ve already lied. People also use the power of mass communication to bitch about politics, television shows, celebrities, and just about anything else you could think of. To paraphrase (again) a common meme: if something exists, then somewhere on the Internet there’s someone complaining about it.

Which brings me to the Nintendo Switch.

I’ve no interest in railing against the Switch’s naysayers in this space. That’s a fool’s errand. People are free to feel however they like about whatever they like. Hell, I EXPECTED people to flip out over the motion control game Arms and the party game 1, 2, Switch, precisely because they belong to the category of, “That is different from what I already know. I do not like that.” (Or because they’re sick of Wii games. Either/or.)

I have seen some stuff I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect people to flip out about the price tag attached to Switch peripherals, but I’ll be fair: they’re pricy. A Pro Controller will run you $70-$80, and a set of extra JoyCons will be in the same ballpark. But here’s some of the OTHER things I’ve seen people on the Internet get all bent out of shape about: “Breath of the Wild is coming out on Wii U so I can get it there and so it doesn’t count as Switch a launch title!” Yeah, suddenly everyone loves the Wii U. That’s a new development, huh? “Switch might not have Netflix?! FAIL!” I have about a dozen devices I can watch Netflix on. I’m willing to wager most people who would drop $300 on the Switch have a few of their own. “1, 2, Switch should be a pack-in!” Okay, I can see that, but — “Arms should be a $10 digital download!” Wait, that’s pretty cheap, and you don’t know — “Splatoon 2 isn’t an actual sequel!” Okay, hold it. They said it has Turf War, new Inkling fashions, and a new weapon, and that’s all we know; how can you make the assessment — “I’m sick of SNES games!” … okay, what? (Literally saw that one as a criticism of the Switch. I don’t get it either.)

Finally, and without fail, comes the all-time, forever-favorite: “Why can’t they go back to doing things the way did them in (insert time of your childhood here)?!”

Oh, did you love how things were in the hazy past? Was the world a much better place when it, and you, were simpler and younger? Did you know that overrating times gone by is such a common behavior that there’s a specific term that describes the human tendency to do just that?

I sometimes wish the Internet existed back in the 80’s and 90’s to the extent that it exists today. Not because it’s a fantastic, useful piece of technology, but because I really want to be able to look up the ridiculous complaints people had about things they now claim were utterly perfect. I can only wonder what NES and SNES Twitter would look like… so let’s wonder together, shall we?

(Public Service Announcement: in the spirit of Nintendo, I’ve censored the saltier language. Use your imagination.)

  • “$199? Overpriced. I’ve never even heard of Nintendo. I’ll just get the new Atari. Thanks anyway.”
  • “A TOY ROBOT? What, does Nintendo want everyone to think the NES is for LITTLE KIDS?!”
  • “Who makes a gun for their system and just gives you a game where you shoot DUCKS?!”
  • “They should have made it so you can shoot the <bleep>damn dog.”
  • “You can’t scroll the screen back? What if the mushroom goes back past you? More like STUPID Mario Bros! #NintendLOL”
  • “Don’t buy that <bleep>; it was obviously in the deal they made that Mike Tyson isn’t allowed to lose. <Bleeping> dumb.”
  • “How am I supposed to kill Dracula IF I CAN’T CHANGE DIRECTIONS WHILE I’M JUMPING?!”
  • “They took a WHOLE STAGE out of Donkey Kong. I’M NOT PAYING FOR THIS!”
  • “It’s ridiculous there’s no map in Metroid. They just want you to buy their Player’s Guide! Total rip!”
  • “Holy <bleep>, The Legend of Zelda is amazing!” (Some things can’t be turned negative, as it turns out.)
  • “This Pac-Man game only has ONE BOARD?! Pass.”
  • “Why the hell am I throwing vegetables? I don’t want to play as the little mushroom guy! THIS ISN’T WHAT SUPER MARIO IS, NINTENDO!”
  • “I finally finished Metroid and SAMUS IS A GIRL?! WHAT THE <bleep> IS THIS FEMINIST AGENDA BULL<bleep>?!”
  • “Magic spells? Side scrolling? EXPERIENCE POINTS?! THIS ISN’T WHAT ZELDA IS, NINTENDO!”
  • “How many <bleeping> ogres do I have to fight? And if I’d known the thief was useless I would’ve picked the guy with the <bleep> red hat. <Bleeping> horse<bleep> game.”
  • “Black and white? They made it BLACK AND WHITE?! Oh my god Nintendo is doomed.”
  • “I don’t get it, am I supposed to shoot the falling bricks? And what the <bleep> is a tetris, anyway? Pass.”
  • “<Bleep> THIS DAM LEVEL!” (Okay, that’s a legitimate complaint.)
  • “He hops around on his cane? What kind of Disney Afternoon bull<bleep> is this?”
  • “Whose idea was it to make all the graphics red and black? #VirtualBust” (Also valid.)
  • “OHMYGOD Super Mario 3 is EVERYTHING!” (Again: some things don’t go bad.)
  • “What is this thing? A cloud? A marshmallow? A blob of snot that sucks and blows? #<Bleep>”
  • “I’ve GOTTA catch ’em all? What a scam.”
  • “Holy <bleep> Nintendo. If I wanted to ride a dinosaur I’d get a Flintstones game.”
  • “Uh… Sim series games don’t work on a console. #PCMasterRace”
  • “This future racing game looks cool, but it’s way too fast. How am I supposed to steer? #Broken”
  • “Holy <bleep>, A Link to the Past is what I’ve always wanted!” (See? Can’t ruin this one!)
  • “So ‘Super’ Metroid just looks like Metroid with kinda better graphics. Pass.”
  • “I’m supposed to use a MOUSE with my console? Stupid. But the bazooka light gun is AWESOME.”
  • “Wait: I can’t name the people in my party? THIS ISN’T WHAT FINAL FANTASY IS, NINTENDO!”
  • “Holy <bleep>, why are Mario and Luigi driving around in go-karts like some dumb<bleep> bobblehead dolls? LOL Nintendo is out of ideas, everyone!”
  • “A cartoon fox flying a spaceship? LOL <bleep> that kiddie <bleep>. Pass.”
  • “Super my <bleep>. Where’s Mike Tyson?!”
  • “Uh… if this is a MARIO game, then why the <bleep> am I playing as Yoshi?!”

And so on, and so forth. You get the idea. God <bleeping> bless us, every <bleeping> one.

 

Nintendo Takes Manhattan

On a chilly Saturday morning in New York City, my nine year-old daughter Gabby and I hopped onto an uptown D train, got off at Macy’s/Herald’s Square, doubled back two blocks down the Avenue of the Americas, and lined up to await entry into a *secret location* in Midtown Manhattan. Once we were inside we slipped off of the line and checked in at an impromptu front desk. We were greeted warmly, as if meeting old friends, and were handed our press pass and ushered directly into a life size pinball machine built from childlike wonder and balled-up happiness: the Nintendo Switch NYC coming-out party.

Yeah, that’s right. I’m gonna overwrite the crap out of this thing. You’ve been warned.

This is where I’d normally say something like, “Where to begin?” but for this one I know where I want to begin: with people. More specifically, I want to begin with the numerous Nintendo Brand Ambassadors who were on hand to guide the morning’s attendees through the Switch experience. These red-shirted Doctors of Switchology (I warned you) were energetic, enthusiastic, and knowledgable about the product, and they were all eager to talk Nintendo and compare war stories. “When I was a kid my mom used to unplug the controller and tell me I was playing,” and, “I just started Wind Waker with my son,” and, “Sonic Mania took me back to my teenage years,” and, “I’ve put, like, 400 hours into the first Splatoon“… these are all things that various Brand Ambassadors shared with my daughter and I that went well beyond how to hold a JoyCon. “Remember, Tails can’t die, and he can fly,” one Brand Ambassador reminded my daughter as she struggled to keep up with my Sonic in Sonic Mania. (I could have maybe slowed down a little.) The positivity of the Ambassadors spilled over to the  already excited attendees, and soon every demo booth and line for Zelda was filled with strangers enjoying the company of other strangers in a way that simply doesn’t happen in New York City.

The event was spread out over two huge reception rooms within the bowels (see: second floor) of the aforementioned *secret location* and they were decked out in full-on Nintendo regalia, a giant Nintendo video arcade stretched from wall to wall and twice over. There was a DJ spinning records, an interactive stage show with an emcee, a photo booth (take your picture with Mario and his new googly-eyed hat!), free prizes for the kids at every turn (my daughter’s swag haul is the stuff of legend), food on an outside balcony that nobody was bothering with because we only had three hours to be in attendance and… well, there were games. Oh… the games.

It’s my understanding, and it’s late so I don’t feel like looking it up to make sure so let’s just go with this, but it’s my understanding that this Switch Reveal Event is going to tour cities across North America. If so, and if you plan to attend when it hits your neck of the woods, let me give you a heads up: don’t go expecting to learn more about the Switch’s online interactivity, or the the Switch’s user interface, or the Switch’s account system, or anything beyond, “Here is how you play this game that will appear on the Nintendo Switch.” Because “here is how you play this game that will appear on the Nintendo Switch” is pretty much what this tour is entirely about. The games, mostly all demo builds, are booted up and ready to go, waiting alongside a friendly Brand Ambassador or two or three or four or… there were a lot of Brand Ambassadors, okay? Anyway, a friendly Brand Ambassador will walk you through getting ready to play, telling you which way to hold the JoyCon or give you a brief tutorial on controls… and then, you play. That’s what this event is. It’s not about tech specs or business models or branding. It is three solid hours of play.

In the spirt of that, I’m going to skip past all of my impressions of the Switch console itself and spend the rest of this post talking about the games. I’m going to assume, gentle reader, that you already have some working knowledge of the Nintendo Switch. If not, here you go: the Nintendo Switch is a tablet gaming console that docks into a cradle and allows you to play games on the go or at home on your TV. It has two controllers, called JoyCons, that slide and lock onto the side of the tablet but can also be removed and used in a number of different configurations to interact with the game software. The JoyCons are small, but mighty.

There. Now you know about the Switch. If you’re still confused about what it is, don’t worry: that’ll be covered in my next post. On to the games!

Just Dance – I’m going to do this chronologically, and the first game we played was Just Dance. Well, I didn’t play Just Dance. My daughter played Just Dance. She said it was fun. It looked just like every other Just Dance to me. The song she danced to was a popular one that I don’t know the name to because I’m a 38 year old dad. That’s a lie; the reason I don’t know the name to the popular Just Dance song is because the first three CDs I ever bought as a teenager were the soundtrack to The Nightmare Before Christmas, the soundtrack to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and a score compilation of the original Star Wars trilogy. Also, two Brand Ambassadors dressed to dance danced along with Gabby so she wouldn’t feel like she was dancing alone and everyone was staring at her, which was a nice touch.

Sonic Mania – We were strolling over to Splatoon 2 when a Brand Ambassador at the nearby Sonic Mania station called out to us and asked if we wanted to play. So we sat down, mostly because I thought she was doomed to spend the entire day watching people blow past her to get to Splatoon and I felt bad for her, but as it turns out Sonic Mania is pretty fun. It’s every inch a shiny new version of a 16 bit Genesis era Sonic game, with a new drop dash mechanic that lets Sonic drop straight to the ground out of a jump and immediately speed off. I remembered as I played that the Sonic franchise has never really been better than it was during the Mega Drive/Genesis age, and the Green Hill Zone level of Mania we ran through showed a course that was tight and well designed (better designed than many in the original Sonic the Hedgehog, for sure). We ran, we jumped, we grabbed rings, we fought a boss… it controls like an evolved version of 16 bit Sonic, thanks largely in part to the momentum-generating mechanics of the drop dash. Sonic Mania isn’t an immediate buy for me, but it’s something I’ll pick up when the price drops in the coming months.

Splatoon 2Splatoon is the game Gabby and I both love, and Splatoon 2 is the one game we played that brought us back to the booth for a second go later in the day. And look: it’s Splatoon. The core mechanic of Turf War remains unchanged, which has led some of the snarkier corners of the Internet to snipe, “Well, it’s REALLY just Splatoon 1.5.” Is that so, Twitter? Is Super Mario Bros. 3 really just Super Mario Bros. Redux? Because the core gameplay of SMB3 is exactly the gameplay of SMB1, improved upon and refined and added to. So it is with Splatoon and Splatoon 2. In the single-map Turf War preview we played, it was clear that Splatoon 2 has a bunch of tweaks that heavily impact the strategy and combat, not mention a fresh coat of paint (pun intended.) The new Charger and the new Roller both carry game-changing alterations (chargers can now hold their charge while you swim and rollers fling out a vertical line of ink when you swing them while leaping), and new weapons like the Splat Dualies introduce all new mechanics, like a forward roll. And the new specials are banana-pants bonkers. There are homing missiles that lock on to your enemies and blow them to splatareens, a F.L.U.D.D.-like jet pack attack, a fire-hose style spray of ink, and a Superman punch that sends your inkling flying high into the air before landing and smashing their fist into the ground, sending an ink-wave out to splat flat the surrounding opponents. Plus: a new one player campaign, a new spectator mode, and who knows what else. It DOES feel better with the Pro Controller than with the JoyCons, so when Splatoon 2 hits is probably when players should invest in the Pro, as well. Splatoon 2, though, is my own personal killer app for the Switch.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – We were late adopters of MK8. We just got it this past October and maybe now we should have waited, but what can you do? We played MK8 while seated on a mock up of an airplane (Gabby grabbed the window seat) with the Switch in tabletop mode and using the JoyCons. I’ll write more about the JoyCons in a later post, but here’s the rundown: though small, they are comfortable, by and large… though MK8 was the one game where I felt a little cramped with them. We didn’t play MK8 with the JoyCons in their sleeves, though, and when we did use the sleeves there was definitely a little more size to grip onto. As for MK8 itself, we played a Grand Prix race and a Battle Mode match. Grand Prix felt great, and it was the best Gabby had ever played on 100cc, which impressed me until the MK8 Brand Ambassador told me that MK8 Deluxe comes with an optional “assisted driving” mode that was active on all the demos, a mode for younger gamers (and lazy older ones, I suppose) that would help keep them on the road. The JoyCons simultaneously enabled motion and button control, which I thought would be annoying but turned out, like in Splatoon, to be really useful: I steered with buttons and used the motion control for smaller tweaks. This was also our first experience playing on the Switch screen itself, and it is a super-sharp, bright image. I’m not going to throw numbers and schematics at you because I’m bad with numbers and schematics, but I’ll put it like this: the Switch screen is HD enough to satisfy all but the most grumpy of grumpasauruses. Also: Battle Mode is back, folks, and it is as glorious as you remember.

1, 2, Switch – Along with Arms and SnipperClips, this is the game I most wanted to play. I love Zelda, Mario Kart, and Splatoon, but I know what they are. 1, 2, Switch is something entirely different: a video game where you are encouraged to NOT look at the screen. You begin to understand 1, 2, Switch after you play it; this is Nintendo’s answer to Cards Against Humanity. It’s WarioWare, but in real life. It’s a party game that you can see turning raucous and boozy, and it could be huge at parties after the kids go to bed, or in college dorms. Nintendo presented the experience smartly, placing each game station in individual glass booths with groups of four players and two Brand Ambassadors. It simulated the group environment that the game works best in, and really illustrated 1, 2, Switch‘s particular appeal. It was also the best demonstration of the JoyCon’s HD rumble feature on the show floor. We played three games: the Old West shootout (not bad), the cow milking game (a little weird, but fun), and a game that asked you to count the number of little metal balls rolling around in your JoyCon, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t actually feel like there were a bunch of little metal balls rolling around inside the JoyCon. I don’t think 1, 2, Switch should have been a pack-in (it’s a more complete experience than Wii Sports) but pricing it at $50 is going to be prohibitive to turning it into the buzz worthy party hit that it should be. $30 is the sweet spot, IMO, and hopefully we see a drop in the MSRP before launch day, because even after all my talk about this really being great as a grown-up party game, here’s where I tell you: this was my nine year old’s favorite game of the day. So yeah… I’m going to be buying 1, 2, Switch.

Arms Arms is Othello. No, not the play; the board game. Like the old tagline for Othello, Arms is easy to learn but difficult to master, and by the way? It was my favorite experience of the day. This spiritual successor to Punch-Out!! is the Wii game of Nintendo’s dreams, two generations later. The JoyCons improve upon the motion control of the Wii Motion Plus controllers, and fit far more comfortably in your balled-up fist than the Wiimote ever did. Plus, there’s two of them. The on-screen instructions for Arms are fantastic; I can get behind any game that tells me: “PUNCH to punch!” Your punches really react to the direction in which you swing your fist, and you quickly see that advanced play is going to involve severely curling and twisting your punches as you throw them. It is simple to get your character to walk, dash, block, grab, and throw, and each character I played with had different jump mechanics: Ribbon Girl has a triple jump, and the girl in the yellow mech can hover off the ground for short periods. You can swap out your boxing gloves between every round, not just between every match, and you get access to such variations as propeller fists, boomerang fists, shotgun fists, and I’m sure many, many more. We played on two arenas: the first was a boxing ring surrounded by trampolines, and the second was a large, wide outdoor staircase that forces you to fight upwards or downwards relative to your position. Arms also has options for traditional controls but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to use them, so one of the downsides to the game is that local multiplayer will basically require a second expensive set of JoyCons, which is a sadly prohibitive approach. Much like 1, 2, Switch, lots of opinion-minded folks have suggested Arms should be a pack-in. I can actually agree with that, and here’s why: there would be no better way for Nintendo to sell extra JoyCons to people than to drop Arms in their arms.

Splatoon 2 (Again) – We went from Arms to a second round of Splatoon 2, this time using the tablet. The tablet was just as pretty for Splatoon as we had found it to be for Mario Kart, but oddly enough I had a problem with the tablet that I hadn’t had with the Pro Controller: as you may be aware, the right analog stick on the Switch is below the face buttons, as opposed to the Wii U GamePad, where the stick is above the face buttons. While playing on the tablet I keep reaching up to nudge the camera, only to find nothing there. NBD; I’ll get used to it. It’s still Splatoon, which means it’s still the best thing ever EVER I SAID.

SnipperClips – Holy hell, this game is adorable and awesome, and at $20 it’s going to be a STUPID huge value. In SnipperClips, you and up to four players control anthropomorphized pieces of construction paper, and you must work together to solve puzzles. Sometimes you have to cut snips of paper off of each other in order to fit yourselves into the dotted outlines of various shapes, sometimes you have to get a basketball up and over into a hoop, and sometimes you have to carry a giant pencil across the screen and turn it onto its side to get it into a giant pencil sharpener. It’s such a Nintendo game in that, even as I describe it I KNOW you’re not going to really understand it until you get your hands on it, and then it’ll seem as obvious and instinctual as any game you’ve ever played. SnipperClips is clearly designed to be played with the Switch tablet in tabletop mode and the JoyCons in hand. If you’ve ever been to a leadership or group building conference and done one of those group activities where you and your team had to, like, build the tallest free standing structure in the room with nothing but newspapers and Scotch tape, you know what it feels like to play SnipperClips… except nobody’s going to expect you to exhibit personal growth and share your feelings with the room after you’re done. So SnipperClips is better than those conferences.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Playing Zelda was the most boring experience of the day. SOUND THE ALARM! SOUND THE ALARM! SOUND THE — no, no, calm down. Look back on the rest of the listed games. Most of them offer experiences that can be played from beginning to end in a five or ten minute gaming session. Splatoon, MK8, Arms, etc… even the Sonic Mania demo gave players two whole levels to complete. Zelda, on the other hand, is a hundred hour game. Hundred hour games don’t exactly demo well over twenty minutes. Plus, the Switch Zelda demo build was the same as the Wii U Zelda demo build from E3. Players were only given twenty minutes to play, and you started in the Shrine of Blue Goo That Link Wakes Up In. So, you know, I got to run around on the Great Plateau, cut down some trees, hunt a boar, fight some Bokoblins… and that was pretty much it. Look: my rabid excitement for Breath of the Wild hasn’t diminished, and neither should yours. It feels like you’re playing a painting, the controls are sharp, and the menus are intuitive and clean. But I’ve seen enough of the Great Plateau. I need a quest. Twenty minutes of the same Zelda area I’ve been watching since June is just not enough to satisfy at this point. Thankfully, we only have a month and a half left to wait. Shut off the alarm and do a happy dance.

Puyo Puyo Tetris – With our time at Switchland NYC coming to a close, I asked Gabby if there was anything else she wanted to play, hoping I’d be able to sneak in a round of Bomberman or Ultra Street Fighter 2. Instead, Gabby said she wanted to play Tetris.

Tetris.

TETRIS.

So we sat down and played some Tetris, and I remembered: hey, Tetris was a worldwide phenomenon because it’s a pretty great game, and Puyo Puyo Tetris, which mashes up Tetris with the “match three” puzzle game Puyo Puyo, only reaffirms that. Two player battle mode is still a blast after all these years and the JoyCons go great with the game. It’s a bright, candy-colored, old-school good time with a new-school sheen, and HD displays were born to hold multiple Tetris boards at one time. There’s not much more I can say about it because, you know… it’s Tetris. It’s great for what it is, but it’s not like you can turn it into some long sci-fi adventure with a super compelling story. (Tetris: The Movie, coming soon to a multiplex near you. This is not a joke. It’s supposed to be a trilogy. Still not joking.)

That, then, drew the day to a close. So along with the rest of the super satisfied public, my daughter and I headed towards the exits, endured the super-friendly gauntlet of Brand Ambassadors offering us cookies and pins as we left, got our coats, said our thank-yous to our host, and headed back out into the NYC chill. As we walked, the sun seemed just a little bit brighter and the air a little bit warmer, and it was all because Gabby and I both knew: the crazy-fun Nintendo Switch experience we had just had was only a month and a half away from being introduced into our own home.

Either that, or because it was three hours later into the day. That could also be the reason why it was brighter and warmer on the streets of New York.

Making the Grade: Switch Event Edition

Just a few months back I did a breakdown of where I thought all of Nintendo’s major franchises currently stood in terms of their overall strength, appeal, value, what-you-will… grouping like-valued franchises under common letter grades. The idea was always that I’d go back and update that list whenever there was some sort of major shift or big event, such as an E3 Digital Showcase… or last night’s Switch reveal presentation.

There’s a few strong takeaways coming out of last night. I’ve highlighted the franchises that have switched tiers, with a (+) for those that have been upgraded, and a (-) for the downgrades. As always, feel free to disagree.

Edit: Miiverse is officially dead. This changes some things.

Grade A: (+) Fire EmblemThe Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, Pokemon,  Splatoon, Super MarioSuper Smash Bros.

There have been mixed reactions to the reveal of the Switch launch line-up, but consider this: Nintendo is representing four of their Grade A franchises on the Switch in the console’s first year of existence, and that’s big news. 2017 will see Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, and Super Mario Odyssey. My placement of Splatoon in the Grade A tier last time around feels validated now; the franchise is not just getting a simple remaster of the original game, but instead a full-blow sequel is coming only two years after the first game launched. Not only that, but the Inklings are set to arrive in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with their own karts and battle arena. Also easily overlooked: this was another major conference where Nintendo made sure that Fire Emblem had a presence, this time in the form of a teaser for Fire Emblem Warriors. Some told me earlier that Fire Emblem belonged in the top tier of Nintendo franchises. After last night, I agree.

Grade B: Animal CrossingDonkey KongKirbyMario & LuigiPaper Mario, (+) XenobladeYoshi

Fire Emblem graduates up one tier, and taking its place is Xenoblade, jumping up two grade levels from D to B. Xenoblade Chronicles X was generally well-received but didn’t exactly blow anyone’s doors off. Still, Nintendo gave its purest RPG franchise a full-throated endorsement with last night’s unveiling of a gorgeous trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles 2. The art style looks stronger, IMO, than either of the past Xenoblade Chronicles games, and while the first two never really piqued my interest this one looks at first glance like it will be something special. A move to Grade B is a no-brainer.

Grade C: PikminTomodachi Life, Pokemon spin-offs.

The truth is, a lot of Nintendo franchises went unmentioned last night, the result being that there’s a lot of placed on my scale that didn’t see much movement at all. No franchises graduated into Grade C (although Xenoblade skipped right over C on its way to DB. I’m expecting to see more mobility in Grade C after this year’s E3. Stay tuned.

Grade D: (+) F-ZeroKid Icarus, (-) Luigi’s MansionMario PartyMario SportsMario vs. Donkey Kong/Mini MarioPunch-Out!!PicrossPushmoPuzzle LeagueRhythm HeavenWario brand games

What Nintendo DIDN’T want, though, was downward movement of any of its brands post-event, but that’s what they got. Again, most of Grade D is the same as before, but I’ve downgraded Luigi’s Mansion. The truth is that, as much as I loved Dark Moon, I may have been a little overly bullish on the series when I first made my grades. Combine that with the rumored Switch game failing to materialize and you have a series that lost a little juice last night, IMO. On the plus side, though, earlier in the day N64’s F-Zero X was released on the Wii U Virtual Console. I’m playing a hunch here, but I think the F-Zero brand is going to see a revival on the Switch. Time will tell.

Grade E: Advance Wars, (-) MetroidMotherRemix series, Nintendogs, PilotwingsStar Fox

Again last night, Metroid was nowhere to be seen at a major Nintendo event. I don’t expect the franchise to drop any lower than Grade E no matter HOW much longer we have to wait for a new game, but at this point it’s clear: Nintendo has very little faith in Metroid as a brand, and while I understand that when I look at the overall franchise sales figures, it still makes me very, very sad.

Grade F: Brain AgeCodename S.T.E.A.M.Chibi-RoboCustom RoboDillon’s Rolling WesternDr. MarioExciteGolden SunThe Legendary StarfySin & PunishmentStarTropicsWave Race, Wii series.

Nowhere to go but up for these guys. Instead of relaunching any of these franchises, Nintendo is pushing Arms and 1, 2, Switch, two new IPs designed to show off the Switch console hardware. Sorry, Wave Race. Maybe at E3.

Nintendo Gon’ Nintendo

Last night at the big Switch coming-out party, Nintendo led with a demonstration on how their new Joy-Con controller could perfectly simulate the experience of drinking a glass of ice water. They followed that up with a game where you could use the Joy-Con to pretend to shave or eat a make-believe taco, and then to wrap up this trifecta of absurdity they showed off their version of a 3D Street Fighter 2 where every character is Dhalsim.

By this point, much of the Internet was losing their goddamn mind. Moreso than usual.

It was wonderful.

Here’s Nintendo, coming off of the very disappointing Wii U, and many gamers and prognosticators thought, “Well, this is it. They’ve got to make concessions. Sure, it’ll be a little weaker than the competition and they’re banking on the portability appeal to make up for that, but they’re going to have to do a straight current-gem gaming system.”

Instead, Nintendo did what Nintendo has always done, especially since the start of the DS/Wii era: they have made the Switch to be exactly the sort of console they wanted it to be, not the sort of console everyone else wanted it to be, and they don’t seem to give a good gosh darn about it one way or the other. The Joy-Cons were the big surprise, and a much bigger focus in the system’s central design than anyone had initially guessed. They’re not just mini portable controllers; they’re the best of the NES gamepad, Wiimote, GameBoy Micro, and N64 dragon’s claw all rolled into one, and then some: haptic feedback, full motion controls in each, HD rumble or some such thing, distance measurement capabilities, etc., etc. Truthfully, after watching how much thought Nintendo put into designing a dedicated gaming system around a wholly unique set of input devices (again), I can’t imagine why anyone would want to buy one of the pricey new Pro Controllers. The Switch console experience is clearly going to be centered on the Joy-Cons as much as it’s going to be centered on anything else.

Many assumed they were going to hit us with Metroid and Animal Crossing last night, that they were going to be dropping reveals of Day 1 arrivals for a remastered Splatoon and a new Super Mario, that Mother 3 was finally going to be announced for North American localization. Instead, they went and they punked everyone by leading with 1, 2, Switch, Arms, and Glass of Water HD, after which they started to make some of those aforementioned concessions. “Yes, we have Skyrim. Yes, we have FIFA. We’re teasing Fire Emblem Warriors. Here’s the Unreal Engine logo leading into Shin Megami Tensei. We’re showing you Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Look, we have a flat-out sequel to Splatoon, a mind-blowing 3d Mario, and we’re ending with a face-melting Zelda trailer. Oh, and there’s one last thing: Zelda will be there on Day 1, and you’re getting Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey in 2017, as well.”

After the presentation had ended and the Nintendo website updated, additional titles were revealed that, for whatever reason, weren’t mentioned over the course of the hour long presentation outside of a 2-minute sizzle reel: NBA2k, Minecraft, a new Bomberman, Ultra Street Fighter 2, Sonic Mania, and a remastered version of the far-and-away biggest hit on Wii U, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, coming in April with an all-new battle mode, all the DLC included, and new karts and racers.

Why didn’t Nintendo show off in-event the full trailer for MK8 Deluxe, the trailer that appeared on their YouTube page post-event alongside trailers for a bunch of those other titles that only appeared onstage in sizzle-form? Would showing those trailers have won back the people who decided only halfway through the Arms featurette that the Switch was already a bust? I’d say Nintendo was likely going to lose those people at SOME point anyway, if they even ever had them, but who really knows? I don’t, but here’s what I DO know: Nintendo, for better or for worse, stayed remarkably true to form last night when showing off the Switch, giving their audience a balanced mix of OMG! moments, WTF? moments, and OMGWTF?! moments.

They are who they are. They are who they’ve always been. Nintendo gon’ Nintendo.

Switching On

I’m the sort that tends to downplay life events that others might consider important or exciting. I’m a very even-keeled fellow; my highs don’t get to high and my lows don’t get too low, except for that one… never mind. This time, though, I’ve decided to keep actively reminding myself that what I’m about to do is very cool, and is sort of a big deal.

On Saturday I’ll be attending, with my 9 year old daughter, the Nintendo Switch reveal event in New York City.

This is not through the MyNintendo invite that select Nintendo fans ’round the world have received, though that would have been cool, as well. I was invited through my capacity as a blogger (I of the fifteen followers) and, I’ve gotta say, I’m pretty excited.

Which is what I have to keep reminding myself: this is something about which to be excited.

Not everyone is going to get hands-on time with the Switch this soon; in fact, most people who want to play the Switch will have to wait until March, at least. So even though another thing I’m bad at is documenting things for posterity, I’m going to make a concerted effort while at the Switch event to document everything I’m legally able via Twitter, so that I might share the love with the handful of Nintendo fans who have any idea that this blog even exists.

I asked my daughter, who is skipping dance class to attend the Switch event (much to her mother’s chagrin), what game she hopes she’ll be able to see/play the most on Saturday, and she said the new Splatoon. She was a big fan of the new hairstyles the inklings had in the Switch reveal trailer. Splatoon happens to be my number two answer, as well, after… you guessed it… Breath of the Wild.

So consider this my official announcement: on Saturday, January 14th, at 10:00 AM EST, I’ll be attending the NYC Nintendo Switch coming out party, which is being held at a *shhhhh…* secret location. If you’re interested in that sort of thing and you use Twitter and/or WordPress, you can follow me on Twitter at this link here, and on WordPress at… well, at exactly the page you’re on now.

I’ll try to stay excited. I don’t expect that to be a very hard thing to do.

Zelda Nothing: The Adventure of Nobody

I love the Wii U. I have not been shy about this. I have had more fun with my Wii U than I have had with any Nintendo console since the Super NES. That love aside, even I have had to admit that the Wii U has not been anywhere near what you would call a success in terms of how modern video game consoles are judged. Wii U has been mishandled from the get-go. It has a bad name that STILL confuses casual consumers, its key feature, the GamePad, has been poorly utilized aside from in a handful of games (Super Mario Maker, Pikmin, The Wonderful 101) and it has sold a paltry 13 million units. On top of all of this, I recently realized that the Wii U will bear for all of history another unfortunate badge of dishonor.

The Wii U is about to become only the third Nintendo console, along with the Virtual Boy and the Game Boy Color, to come and go without being graced with an original, mainline Legend of Zelda game.

Yes, yes, I know all about Breath of the Wild. We’ll get to that. Let’s go through all the others first, very quickly. The NES had The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link. The SNES had A Link to the Past. N64 had Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, GameCube had Wind Waker and Four Swords Adventures (yes, that game is canon), and the Wii had Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword.

Portables, too. Game Boy had Link’s Awakening, Game Boy Advance had The Minish Cap, the DS had Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, and the 3DS had A Link Between Worlds. The Virtual Boy didn’t exist long enough for many games to come out for it at all, and the Game Boy Color was just a slight upgrade to the Game Boy, really, and it STILL had the remastered Link’s Awakening DX.

The Wii U has had bupkis.

Okay, that’s a misnomer. It’s not as though there hasn’t been ANY Zelda presence on the Wii U (that’s Metroid you’re thinking of.) Wii U has seen two HD remakes of classic Zelda games, the fantastic Wind Waker HD and the also-very-good Twilight Princess HD, and Wii U also saw the highly successful debut of the Zelda/Dynasty Warriors mash-up franchise, Hyrule Warriors. Put these games alongside the Virtual Console, almost every Zelda game ever made is available to play on your Wii U, the exceptions being Four Swords Adventure, a Link Between Worlds, and Link’s Awakening.

Then, of course, there is Breath of the Wild. The game that was clearly MEANT to be the Wii U’s crowning achievement, so much so that Link carries around with him an artifact called the Sheikah Slate that is very clearly a Wii U GamePad, has now been so closely attached to the debut of the upcoming Switch that, even though it is ostensibly a Wii U game that’s being ported to Switch, it is destined to forever be identified as a Nintendo Switch game and not a Wii U game.

This is the same scenario that occurred with Twilight Princess, a game that was clearly designed for the GameCube but ported to the Wii for that system’s launch while still being released for ‘Cube as well. And while Nintendo has since said that the GameCube version is the definitive version of Twilight Princess (going so far as to making it the basis for the Wii U HD remake), Twilight Princess is remembered more or less as a Wii game. The difference between what happened then with Twilight Princess and what’s happening now with Breath of the Wild, of course, is that the GameCube had already seen two original Zelda games to that point. The Wii U has had none. So whether or not you consider Breath of the Wild to be a Wii U game may hinge upon whether or not you consider Twilight Princess to be a GameCube game. At first blush, I often do, but when I reconsider how closely Twilight Princess was tied to the Wii launch, and how few copies of Twilight Princess for the GameCube were actually released into the wild, I change my mind.

None of this was intentional. If Nintendo had their druthers you can bet your bottom dollar that Breath of the Wild would have come out two years ago as planned, playable on a Wii U that had found its sea legs and recovered to reach a respectable number of units sold. Life, however, often gets in the way of the best laid plans of mice and men. Instead of the former happening, the insanely ambitious Breath of the Wild, Nintendo’s first true open-world game, has taken much longer to craft than had been initially anticipated, and the Wii U has died an early death. Clearly at some point Nintendo decided that A.) Breath of the Wild was a masterpiece in the making, but B.) nobody was going to play it because nobody wanted to buy a Wii U anymore, and even if Breath of the Wild DID sell some more Wii U consoles, what would be the point of that? Then Nintendo would have sold a bunch of new units of a system that was on its way out the door, they still would have come with the Switch at about the same time they’re launching it now, and then they’d have had no new shiny Zelda title to dangle in front of the consumers trying to decide whether or not to invest several hundred dollars in yet ANOTHER gaming platform.

Now we hear rumors that Breath of the Wild is SO ambitious that it’s going to run noticeably better on Switch than on Wii U. We’re going to have to wait and see until the game has released to know for sure, obviously, but at this point, if I ran Nintendo? I’d probably just flat-out cancel the Wii U version of the game. Wii U has gone this long without a Zelda to call its own. Frankly, there’s no point in throwing what is likely to be the best game ever released for the Wii U down into the system’s grave after it.

Breath of the Wild is, now and forever, like it or not, and for better or worse, a Nintendo Switch game. Full stop. Once you accept the truth in that statement, you realize that the Wii U went its whole abbreviated lifespan without The Legend of Zelda. Of all the missteps surrounding Nintendo’s handling of the Wii U, that’s the one that may be the most egregious of all.

Update: It has been pointed out to me that the GameBoy Color did indeed see two original Zelda games in Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages, a fact that I completely brain-farted on. Which means the Wii U and the Virtual Boy stand alone as the two Zelda-less Nintendo consoles.

So Wii U = Virtual Boy.

Ugh.