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.