Getting Smashed

So they tell me the online gameplay for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is broken. It’s all laggy and stuff, with lots of frame drops and what-have-you.

Uh… okay?

I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but there’s a couple of things for me to unpack here. The first of the things, is that I’ve actually had very little trouble with the online game. I’ve fought almost exclusively in 1-on-1 stock matches with no items and no final smashes, and I have a wired connection for my Switch in docked mode. Maybe if I’d been trying to play 8-player Smash with all items on, I’d be complaining, too. I don’t know. The other reason I’ve not been bothered by the supposedly poor state of Smash Ultimate‘s online game is: I’ve barely played any online at all, compared to the amount of time I’ve played in single-player mode.

Just to backtrack for a little context: my three favorite Nintendo franchises are The Legend of Zelda, Splatoon, and Super Smash Bros., all three of which are now on the Switch. I’ve put a gazillion hours into each of them, and the two Smash games I played the most prior to Ultimate are Gamecube’s Smash Melee, and the 3DS’ Smash for 3DS. Melee had no online functionality, obviously, and … for 3DS had online that was befitting of the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve played the poop out of both of those games… and I point out, neither had a “Subspace Emissary” or “World of Light”, the story-driven single-player campaigns of Smash Brawl and Ultimate, respectively. Nope. In Melee and 3DS, I played hundreds of hours of single-player Smash matches, usually in the game’s most basic mode, sometimes of the All-Star and Classic variations, and occasionally in the the 3DS’ weirdo “Smash Run” mode (although Nintendo’s occasional efforts to turn Smash into a 2D platformer, as in “Smash Run” and “The Subspace Emissary,” never quite worked.)

My first exposure to the Smash Bros. franchise was watching the demo mode for the original Nintendo 64 game in the window of Electronics Boutique, the precursor to EB Games, at Roosevelt Field Mall in Long Island, NY. I stood and stared as Yoshi and Samus punched and shot each other on an MC Escher interpretation of Peach’s castle. It was a fighting game, but the character models were too small, and there was too much platforming involved, weapons kept appearing out of midair, the damage percentages were going UP, and every once in awhile one character would punch the other off-screen. It was one of the most bizarre games I’d ever seen. After getting my hands on a rental copy a few months later… well, it was still bizarre, but at least I began to understand how to play.

Smash 64, as the original game is often retrospectively referred to, was a bizarre Nintendo funhouse version of sumo wrestling, where the basic objective of knocking your opponent out of the arena remains, but the manner by which you do it is a hallucinatory fever dream. Smash Bros. is a franchise where an electric mouse whacks an astronaut fox over the head with an oversized mallet, and it’s just another day at the office.

As it turned out, Smash 64 was little more than a tech demo for Super Smash Bros. Melee, the franchise offering for the Nintendo Gamecube. Still not online-capable, Melee refined the systems upon which modern iterations of the franchise still work. Melee established Smash as a super-casual fighter that was also insanely technical and precise if you cared to dig deep enough into its mechanics, achieving the rarified air of being both a party game and a hyper-competitive one at the same time. Melee remains so popular to this day that Nintendo famously reprints GameCube-style controllers to go along with every new release in the Super Smash Bros. franchise.

If it wasn’t my favorite game on the GameCube (Rogue Leader, Metroid Prime, and Zelda: Wind Waker are also strong contenders) Melee was definitely my most-played. Melee debuted in my early 20’s, a time in life when I would still occasionally have groups of friends over for long multi-player sessions but still largely played solo. As such, most of my time with Melee was spent fighting the CPU. I owned Brawl but underplayed it, I played the hell out of Smash for 3DS and largely ignored Smash for Wii U, and now it would seem I’m going to dump a lot of that same Melee time into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

There are other IPs I love nearly as much as I love the World of Nintendo: Marvel’s superheroes, Star Wars, Harry Potter… uh, Calvin and Hobbes. And while I’d love to play fighting games featuring any of those characters using Smash‘s simply complex mechanics, pare of the joy of Smash is its role as a lovesong to video games, and if you throw Luke Skywalker or Wolverine into the mix, its place as the definite ode to gaming as a medium fades away. Since Brawl, non-Nintendo characters have been added to the Smash Bros. mix, staring famously with Sonic the Hedgehog in the ultimate burying of the 16-bit hatchet, and having since expanded to include Pac-Man, Ryu and Ken, and Cloud Strife, among others. Smash is a now a who’s who of gaming (and a “who’s that?” of Fire Emblem characters.)

So yes: I suppose people are having trouble with Smash Ultimate‘s online modes so far. Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe are nearly flawless online experiences, so I’m sure Nintendo will soon patch out the rough spots in Ultimate‘s delivery, as well. But ultimately, the online support is only a small bit of what this franchise has to offer. Smash is made for on-the-couch multiplayer, and it’s Nintendo’s welcome mat to its competitors, a once-a-generation chance for everyone to stop fighting silly console wars and look around to realize: you know what? Video games are pretty cool.

Smash if you’ve got ’em.

Mercurial Tastes

Things move in trends, right? Stocks, movies, music… they all follow popular trends. A “trend” should not be an indicator of “quality”. Popularity doesn’t equal artistic achievement. It CAN, but not by nature.

I’m trending in certain ways these days in regards to my tastes in games. There’s gaming elements I’m not feeling at the moment that will turn me off to games that I KNOW are objectively great… I’m just not in the mood for what they have to offer.

So how am I trending right now? For example, things I have no patience for at the moment include…

  • Inventory Management: It first hit me when I attempted to dive back into Skyrim after a long time away. As I guided my Red Mage character (half warrior, half sorceress) back into her home in Solitude, I realized that I had ten or so barrels scattered around the place full of groupings of potions and foodstuffs and armor and weapons. Skyrim is so full of collectibles that famously one of the running gags perpetrated by longtime players is the keeping of a room full of all the cheese they’ve found in the world. Right now, cheese hoarding seems way more appealing to me than trying to figure out which potions to carry with me and which to store in my basement. This is one of the reasons why I don’t see myself going back to Minecraft anytime soon, and I think this is where I should point out: I believe Skyrim and Minecraft to be two of the greatest games ever made. I just can’t bear the thought of organizing one more chest full of items at any point in my near future. (This is also what’s kept me away from Pokemon my whole life: Pokemon is a franchise that is designed almost completely around the concept of inventory management.)
  • Button-Mashing: Hyrule Warriors was one of my absolute favorite games on the Wii U, so I happily plunked down another $60 for Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition on the Switch. I have played it only in fits and spurts. While my Wii U play-through of HW was a cathartic romp against the forces of darkness, annihilating enemies by the thousands while playing through a fan-fic story based on the entire Legend of Zelda franchise, my time with the Switch version of the game has been defined by one constant mantra marching through my head as I play: “What am I doing with my life?” There’s no finesse or strategy involved in Hyrule Warriors. It’s just balls-to-the-wall stylish and cinematic obliteration of your enemies. That’s what I loved about it during the Wii U era. That’s what I hate about it now. (Bonus grievances: Hyrule Warriors also contains a surprising amount of inventory management, and the Adventure Maps through which you unlock most of the game’s bonus content are tedious time-sucks.) BTW: “button-mashing” is not simply relegated to rapid-fire combat games. The mindless button-mashing and inventory management of most JRPG combat is what’s keeping me on the fence about finally sinking time into Octopath Traveler and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, two games I should historically love but which I’m viewing right now as the gaming equivalent of plates full of Brussels sprouts.
  • Stiff Controls, Jerky Combat, Object Clipping: Yeah, that seems like three things, I know, but they’re all part of the same problem to me. They all speak to gaming mechanics that lack fluidity. I tried out the Dark Souls demo; it was my first time playing Dark Souls, ever. The difficulty of the game doesn’t scare me, but when in the course of the demo a skeleton killed me when his sword passed right through the stone column I had placed between it and my character, I knew I had played Dark Souls for the last time. This is one of the reasons I’m not feeling Skyrim at the moment. Like Breath of the Wild, Skyrim takes place in a captivating and beautiful (if less colorful and more foreboding) open world. That, though, is the end of the comparisons between the two games. Breath of the Wild is firmly an action-adventure game, and Skyrim is firmly an RPG. For the former, timing and skill take precedence over all else; it is legitimately possible to make your way to Hyrule Castle with three hearts and a pot lid for a shield if you’ve perfected the timing needed to deflect Guardian lasers. Skyrim is an RPG grinder with flailing combat that depends far more on your pre-fight preparations than your in-the-moment combat skills. Again: THIS IS NOT A COMMENTARY ON THE QUALITY OF THIS GAME. Look at older posts on this blog; I LOVE Skyrim. I just don’t want to play it right now. (Well, maybe as a sneaky archer, which is the build everyone keeps telling me I should be playing as, anyway.)

Let’s keep it positive for a second: conversely, here’s some gameplay styles I’m VERY into at the moment.

  • Platforming Finesse: I mean, this is a constant for me. I will go to my grave insisting that the SNES Aladdin is superior to the Genesis Aladdin because, even though the latter is gorgeously animated in the style of the film, the former is a parkour adventure through Agrabah and I’m all about that in my games. This is why my favorite Super Mario brand is the New Super Mario series; the non-powered up platforming of that series gives you the widest traversal toolset of the entire franchise . It is ALSO what puts Breath of the Wild and the later 2D Metroids at the top of those franchise heaps for me: I want traversal that is smooth and reflexive, always. Along these lines, I can’t recommend Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment enough. I also can’t recommend every game in the Shovel Knight franchise enough, though.
  • Stealth Mechanics: Mark of the Ninja is one of those games on the short list of titles that, as a Nintendo-exclusive gamer, I had always regretted missing out on. Well, like everything else ever apparently, it is now on Switch. I’m slowly dipping my toe in, and trying to savor it like a fine wine, but between its fantastic stealth mechanics (always give me options to get through levels beyond hacking-and-slashing everything, devs!) and its like-butter traversal mechanics, I am in heaven.
  • Strategy: I’m in the mood for different variations on video game chess. Perhaps, given my current aversion to mindless button mashing and irritating list management, I’m just at a point in my gaming life where I’d prefer to use my brain than my thumbs. Maybe NOW is when I’ll finally manage to get into Fire Emblem?
  • PvP: I’ve long been an offline gamer, but over recent years my time has been devoted more and more to online gaming, mostly in the form of Splatoon and Fortnite. Given my current predilection towards character fluidity and player-v-player? This is the perfect time, for me, for a new Smash Bros. to come into my life.

So what are my takeaways here? I dunno. Mostly that tastes change, and then change back, and that there’s a lot of games out there, man. Don’t force yourself to play anything you’re not in the mood to play just cuz you think you should. Games should be fun. Play what you like, and play what you like right now. Excelsior! #RIPStanTheMan

How a Giant Purple Cube Revolutionized Interactive Storytelling

Last December, I wrote a post on this blog about the little-used literary device of “second person POV”. The second person is a form of writing in which the main character is referred to as “you,” effectively making you, the reader, the main character of the story. In a medium with minimal interactivity, like books, you can see how this is a device of limited use. However, in an interactive medium, like games… it struck me while playing Portal 2 and Breath of the Wild that second person POV is the ideal form in which to construct a video game narrative: create an intriguing world, and then step back and allow the player to react to it as they will.

While I was having this amazing revelation, Epic Games had already figured it out and was well into the process of busting the mold wide open with Fortnite Battle Royale.

In my original post, I wrote the following: “… environmental storytelling, storytelling that presents you, the player, with a world and then steps back to allow you to react to it… (developers) are asking you to react to the game… with your OWN thoughts, feelings, and responses, not with pre-scripted ones voice-acted for you in cut scenes.”

I’m pretty unfamiliar with the culture and in-depth mechanics of online gaming, but I’m fairly keyed into gaming news in general. Fortnite Battle Royale‘s presentation is something that’s new to me, though perhaps not so much to longtime online gamers. FBR is divided up into “Seasons”, which implies segments of full narrative continuity, as consumers of media have long since been trained to expect from television. I picked up Fortnite right as Season 4 was ending, so I was only sort of aware of the event that took place near the end of that season: the timed rocket launch viewable to anyone who happened to be playing the game at that moment, the one that ripped open the rifts in the world that have become such a big part of both the game’s mechanics and of its narrative.

Fortnite Battle Royale, though, is not delivering a narrative in any sort of cinematic way… except, perhaps, to the ironic nod to the sort of storytelling the game’s developers are NOT using, in the way of a short film depicting the events of Season 4 that’s playing on the drive-in movie screen of map location Risky Reels. What FBR IS doing, though, is revolutionizing the concept of storytelling in interactive online gaming.

The player avatars of FBR are purely cosmetic in nature, chock-full of personality, and complete blank slates. Everyone on the roster, from Tomato-Head to superhero to biker chick to pink furry, is equal in both ability and character. In the tradition of many of gaming’s greatest protagonists (Link from Zelda, Steve from Minecraft, Chell from Portal, and Gordon Freeman from Half-Life) the FBR avatars are silent mannequins upon which the player can project their own personalities through style of dress, back bling, and by choosing which emotive expressions to include on the in-game executable wheel o’ emotions. The developer has provided the player with sick duds, true… but it’s the PLAYER who provides the character.

What the developer HAS done, though, is create a gaming narrative that’s second-to-none in a world of characters that are beyond its control, and it has done so in Season 5 simply by inserting onto the map a giant purple cube.

As of this writing (September 1st, 2018) the Giant Purple Cube has been on the Fortnite map for nine days… or so, I’m bad at math, shut up. It appeared not long after explosive lightning blasts had begun striking the map at regular intervals. The strikes came to a head in the game’s new desert region (created in the aftermath of Season 4) as a massive bolt struck a plateau and left in its wake the now-infamous Giant Purple Cube. (The appearance of the Cube was fittingly documented on the live-stream of Ninja, the world’s most famous Fortnite streamer, in a bit of coincidence that one assumes was helped along by Epic PR suggesting to Ninja the time and place he should be hanging out if he wanted to see something cool. If they didn’t? They should have.)

Since it’s appearance, the Cube has been poked at, jumped on, and shot at by probably thousands, if not millions, of Fortnite players, many of whom quickly discovered the Cube does not LIKE to be poked at, jumped on, and shot at. Gamers have screen-capped the Cube, sent the game’s camera inside the Cube (it appears to be a four-dimensional cube, in actuality, which is messed up and also awesome), made reddit threads about the runes that are glowing on and inside the Cube, and followed the Cube across the map as it began to tumble and slide and move, leaving in some places behind it an anti-gravity energy field and more mysterious runes burnt into the ground.

In other words? Epic Games have turned Fortnite Season 5 into a LOST-level mystery event, with theories about what the Cube is, where it’s going, what the runes mean, and what’s going to happen next flooding the Internet. In fact, LOST is probably exactly the model Epic was going for. I assume nobody missed the none-too-subtle inclusion on the Season 5 map of a sealed hatch in the ground of Wailing Woods? Will the hatch ever open? Who knows? Does it have to? Not really. Epic Games was presumably just telling us in advance that Season 5 was going to be LOST-like in its level of mystery and speculation. Just look at what googling “Fortnite purple cube” brings up:

And that’s just a tiny sampling of the online ink being spilled about Fortnite Battle Royale‘s newest mystery.

Whether or not Epic Games realizes it (and I’m going to bet they realize it; they couldn’t be this good at what they’re doing without knowing what they’re doing) they are revolutionizing storytelling in gaming. There are no scripted-dialogue events in the lives of FBR‘s silent online avatars. No, all of the intrigue going on right now in Fortnite Battle Royale is derived entirely from what is going on AROUND the players, what’s going on in the world in which the game happens to be taking place. None of this would be possible, of course, if the base video game at the core of FBR wasn’t so good and if Fortnite hadn’t caught on with seemingly every gamer in the world. If you’re playing FBR, and literally millions of us are, you can completely ignore the Cube and just play Battle Royale… just as you can completely ignore the battle royale and poke and prod at the Cube. In the grand tradition of the greatest works of second person literature of all time, Choose Your Own Adventure books, Epic Games has simply built an intriguing, mysterious world. It is entirely up to each player to decide what they’re going to do in it.

So, as stated: all Epic has done here is completely revolutionize how storytelling in online games will best be presented from here on out. That old gag. No big deal.

Playing With (Marginal) Power

I’ve accrued many, many hours playing Fortnite Battle Royale over the last few weeks, so much so that I decided to indulge in the $10 Battle Pass rather than continuing to play it as a free-to-play experience. It IS an addictive game, I have to admit it. I’ve grown to enjoy the building aspect (even though it’s still sort of ridiculous that as soon as you take a shot at anyone they immediately begin building a house), but I’m STILL annoyed that, like Splatoon and Splatoon 2, too many close-range fights devolve into a hop-and-shoot-out.

I’m starting to cool off on the game, though, and it’s not the game’s fault. As you’ve no doubt presumed, I’m playing Fortnite on a Nintendo Switch, and sadly enough, if you’re playing Fortnite on a Nintendo Switch you are playing Fortnite at a competitive disadvantage.

It’s impossible to deny: since the days of the N64, Nintendo’s home console hardware has been underpowered when compared to the same-gen contemporaries offered by Sony and Microsoft. There’ve been but a handful of times when this reality has, as a longtime Nintendo enthusiast, bothered me. One of those times was the N64’s inability to run of-the-day RPGs (I will forever wonder what might have been had Final Fantasy VII been an N64 title instead of a PlayStation title), and another was when I foolishly purchased the Wii installment of an annual MLB franchise (holy hell, was that a mistake.)

And now, we have Fortnite. There are no two ways around it: Fornite underperforms on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo, as a game developer, gets incredible performances out of its own platforms. Likewise, Bethesda has managed to fit Skyrim and Doom into entirely presentable and functional packages on the Switch. Rocket League runs with stripped-down graphics in handheld mode, but the gameplay itself does not suffer. Fortnite for the Switch, though, is a frame-skipping, blurry-edged half-Victory Royale. It’s easily the best mobile version of the game, but it is absolutely the mobile version of the game, and a mobile version of the game that chugs significantly when action gets heavy. As I play I can’t help but be reminded that I’m playing against Xbox and PC gamers who are enjoying a gorgeous, smooth 60 FPS experience, especially when I run into Tilted Towers or one of the game’s other busier areas. I’d have perhaps won that last shotgun duel, I realize, if only my game hadn’t at a key moment dropped down to 15 or 20 FPS, or frozen completely for a full second. Unlike earlier Nintendo home consoles, the Switch’s hybrid nature forgives a lot of sins: does it matter if Doom on the Switch isn’t as pretty as its PS4 cousin when you can play it anywhere? Performance matters, though, especially in online gaming. I play Fortnite with the Switch in the dock and connected online via broadband, and my system still vastly underperforms as compared to Xbox and PC players.

Now, I don’t want to overstate it: Fortnite remains entirely playable on the Switch. The many, many hours I’ve already put into it are a testament to that. Also, in the interest of full disclosure? It doesn’t help that my favorite game mode is 50 v 50, where the entire field of 100 or so players quickly congregate into the center of the storm circle, increasing the likelihood of system performance issues. The fact remains, though, that I avoid landing at Tilted Towers because I know the framerate drop will likely lead to my death, and I have to remind myself not to traverse the landscape too quickly; if through a combination of seamless ramp building and launchpadding I end up Fortnite-parkouring my way across the island, there’s a good chance I’ll start moving faster than the game can fill in its draw distance. And look: I understand that part of my problem might be that I just need to “git gud” at the game. Still, believe me when I tell you that the performance issues of Fortnite on Switch are notable and real.

I will continue to play Fortnite. I will continue to try and “git gud” at it. And the situation is actually improving noticeably as time goes on, thanks to the wonders of always-online consoles and developers constantly patching out bugs and patching in better performance. But here’s something to think about: twice in my life have I been tempted to make a non-Nintendo system my primary home hardware. The first was with PS1, on the strength of FF7 and Metal Gear Solid. The other was in the age of the Wii, when I was saddled with a gimmicky system with a lineup of shovelware and sub-par ports. The Switch is not the N64, and it is not the Wii. It is a tremendous system with a tremendous line-up, and all of Nintendo’s own online offerings work flawlessly. (As does Minecraft and Paladins and other online third-party games, FWIW.)

For the first time this gen, though, I’m wondering if it’s time to invest in a secondary home console. The Switch will always remain my primary; Smash and Metroid Prime are both on their way, after all. But serious or even semi-serious Fortnite Battle Royale play just isn’t possible on Switch. At what point does a powerful portable console become an underpowered home console? If Fortnite on Switch is a significantly less-than experience (and it is), at what hour of gameplay does it become justifiable to invest in a whole other console primarily to play that one game?

Because I’d really like to be able to land at Tilted without feeling like I’m watching a flip book, you know?

A Rabbid Fan

On my mission to go back and close out some of my half-completed backlog of Switch games, I decided this weekend to put down Splatoon 2 and Fortnite and return to the surprise hit of 2017, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

(My quick Fortnite review: I’m torn. I love the art style and weapon system, and playing it is what you imagined playing “manhunt” would feel like as a kid but never did… but I could do without every player rocking an 8-foot vertical leap and building a house at the first sign of incoming fire.)

It took me a moment to get back up to speed on Kingdom Battle. I was early on in the game’s fourth and final world, the Lava Pit, and over the course of two or three days I dove back in and remembered what made the game unexpectedly fun when it debuted at the end of last summer.

If you own a Switch and you’ve not yet partaken in Kingdom Battle, and you have any fondness for X-Com, Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Codename S.T.E.A.M., Final Fantasy Tactics, or really any game in the tactical role playing genre, you really should indulge yourself. The key combat elements of the genre are all here and well-executed, but aside from that Kingdom Battle is a vibrant and colorful game with a tremendous soundtrack, a genuinely amusing story… and if you find the Rabbids annoying, fear not: the presence of the Mushroom Kingdom’s bravest and boldest takes the edge off their Minion-esque antics.

For a game featuring Mario and Luigi and a bunch of cartoon rabbits, Kingdom Battle is surprisingly stylish. Though combat animations occur only after you’ve inputed instructions to the members of your three-man squad, once your team is up and running you’re treated to Matrix-style slow motion camera pans and trick shots, with Mario, his Rabbid doppelgänger, and everyone else flipping and flying through the air, tossing grenades over their shoulder, or dabbing as they send off an explosive trolley through a white rabbit pipe. Developer Ubisoft deserves credit: they’ve blended Nintendo’s house style and their own Assassin’s Creed-flavored approach to game design perfectly.

One of the best things about Kingdom Battle, aside from its impeccable balance (did I mention the balance?) is that after its final boss battle, a boss battle that took me four tries but never felt cheap, the game almost aggressively throws more content at you. There’s a hidden world within one of the game’s worlds that’s only accessible post-game, and the game’s extra challenge maps are all waiting for your now almost fully souped-up squad to tackle. On top of that, there’s a local co-op mode, a local versus mode was added last December, and Kingdom Battle also has DLC for sale, the newly released Donkey Kong Adventure, a whole extra world to play through with a set squad that includes DK himself. I’ve not made a big secret of my love for Splatoon 2 on these pages, but truth told? I’m going to dip into Donkey Kong Adventure before I try out Octo Expansion. I don’t play Splatoon for the single player campaign, but I can’t wait to try out new characters and maps with Kingdom Battle‘s fantastic combat system.

So yeah… here it is, almost one year too late, my ringing endorsement for Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. We’ve only had the Switch in our lives for sixteen months, but it already has a very impressive set of titles, representative of most of gaming’s important genres. Check tactical role playing off the list, cuz Kingdom Battle has that covered.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is the game that nobody wanted, but now I’ve got my fingers crossed for a sequel.

Final Smash

What’s so interesting to me about the newly revealed Smash Bros. game is the title: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. First of all? I’m glad Nintendo has gone back to an exclamatory subtitle. Melee, Brawl, and Ultimate are a just lot more fun to say than the clinical Smash for Wii U & 3DS.

Consider, if you will, the definition of the word “ultimate”. In the modern vernacular we tend to use the word “ultimate” interchangeably with “best.” This is not incorrect. Language, after all, is alive, ever-evolving. If a society of people recognize a word to carry a meaning it did not initially carry when it was adopted into the lexicon, than guess what? The word now has that new meaning. Language is not a science, irrefutable and factual. It is an art, a sculpture being ever remolded by humankind.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is fitting. Even before having played it, this IS, perhaps, the definitive & best game in the Smash Bros. franchise. Every character who has ever appeared in a Smash game is in Ultimate, something Nintendo trollfully revealed halfway through a character reel that was supposed to introduce a few of the returning characters and ended up introducing over 60.

The initial definition of “ultimate,” however, is not “best” or “definitive.” The initial definition of “ultimate,” is “final.”

It’s a silly assertion. Smash is one of Nintendo’s marquee franchises; why on Earth would it stop? Still, it can’t help but seem they’re rolling out every fighter to ever participate in the Smash Bros. tournament to allow them a final bow of sorts. Consider, also, the nature of modern video games and how early Ultimate is being released into the Switch’s life cycle. Nintendo has said they anticipate supporting the Switch for up to a decade, and here we are welcoming Smash Bros. in Year 2 of that life cycle.

Smash is different from a Zelda or Mario game. It’s what I call a never-ender: a game whose appeal lies not in the completion of a set of goals, but simply in the act of playing. Look at Melee; it’s still played competitively. Look at Skyrim; it’s 7 years old and people are still pouring hours into it. If Switch lasts a decade, Nintendo will have to start answering questions around Year 4 or 5 about where the next 3D Zelda is. Not so with Smash. Why on Earth would any developer with a clue sequelize a game like Smash onto the same platform upon which an earlier version already exists? The core Smash Bros. experience has remained the same since Melee, which polished the franchise guidelines established by Smash 64. This is a game that can, in the modern age of digital gaming, be upgraded and tweaked and freshened with patches and added content for the entirety of the Switch’s lifespan.

This also brings to mind the silly Internet debate over whether Smash for Switch was going to be a new game or “just a port” of Smash for Wii U. First off? I don’t care. I would have been happy with Super Smash Bros. Melee DX. But port, sequel… what’s the difference with a game like Smash? The game has been fundamentally the same in every iteration. That’s what people want. Imagine if Nintendo introduced a “new” Smash with a new rule-set for matches? People would lose their goddamn minds and immediately demand the return of “classic” Smash.

As it turns out, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a new game while somehow being a port at the same time, a port of the whole damn franchise. Also, we can assume Nintendo plans to remain in business beyond the Switch. To think Ultimate is going to be the actual last Smash Bros. game is silly. The “ultimate” in the title, the “final,” may therefore refer to something more human. Masahiro Sakurai has been the director of every Smash Bros. game to date, from Smash 64 to Ultimate. He has grown a ridiculous idea into one of gaming’s Crown Jewels, a massive celebration of the medium’s most important developer. I don’t pretend to follow the behind-the-scenes aspects of the video game business closely, but the buzzing that Sakurai-san is tired of the franchise has been around since Smash for Wii U/3DS was in development. It’s one of the reasons Smash for Switch was such a surprise to everyone when it was teased in a recent Nintendo Direct: it was widely assumed Sakurai-san either needed a longer break from developing a Smash game, or that Nintendo needed more time to convince him to come back for one more go.That Ultimate seems to borrow heavily from Smash for Wii U could be no accident: Sakurai-san, perhaps, saw the opportunity to expand an excellent game that was not widely played (remember, Wii U was an el bomb-o), leading to this hybrid port/new game that is Ultimate.

So perhaps this “Final” Smash is not the franchise’s final iteration. Perhaps, instead, this is Sakurai-san’s final go-around with Smash, his magnum opus that takes the best of the four prior Smash games and mixes them into a stew alongside a bunch of tasty new element. Maybe, perhaps, the grand bow being taken by every fighter to ever participate in the Super Smash Bros. series of games is not a curtain call for the franchise, but for its guiding visionary. Perhaps this is the ultimate curtain call for Masahiro Sakurai himself. Or maybe I’m reading way too much into this and in this case “ultimate” really does just mean “best.” Anyway, I main Luigi, hashtag-green-missile-for-life.

We’re in the Endgame Now

That’s a quote from Avengers: Infinity War. Did you see it? It’s dope. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is my number one non-Nintendo thing these days. Earlier holders of that title include, but are not limited to, Ghostbusters, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, and the Harry Potter books.

Nintendo’s the constant, though. (Nintendo and the New York Mets, but one of those two things does not bring me endless torment and pain, and the other is a baseball team that plays in Queens, NY.) Like many gamers, I find myself sometimes feeling buried under the sheer volume of games in my library that I’ve started and not completed. Every once in awhile, though, a watershed event comes along that lights a fire under my behind to tie up the loose ends on some of these things. With Nintendo’s E3 presentation just a week away, and the expected influx of new announcements to begin trickling in over the next few months, I find myself at one of those, “I’d better get moving with the endgame,” moments. This isn’t as final as the last one I experienced: I knew I’d be trading in my Wii U for a Switch so as the Switch launch drew near I tore through Wii U games at a breakneck pace.

Truthfully, by the ripe old age of 39, I’ve been playing games for long enough that the single player campaign of any game isn’t going to cost me too much in terms of time commitment. What really trips me up are the never-enders; in particular, Splatoon on the Wii U and Splatoon 2 on the Switch. Still, I’m making an effort to pull myself away from inking and splatting online competitors in order to close the book on some of my first-year story-driven Switch purchases. (Interesting side note: I feel no such compulsion to finish Splatoon 2‘s single-player campaign. Despite enjoying the campaign of the first game, the campaign in the second just hasn’t grabbed me, even though it’s very much more of the same.)

I’ve already put a good-sized dent in my pile. I’ve gotten the main campaigns of Celeste, Steamworld Dig 2, Super Mario Odyssey, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild out of the way, for starters. I’ve still a ways to go, though. Here’s some of the stuff in my, “Finish this before Thanos snaps his fingers,” pile.

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze – This isn’t a great place to start. I just got it, and already I’m about halfway through. It’s a tremendous platformer, one of the best I’ve ever played, and even the tacked on “Funky Mode,” the so-called “Easy Mode,” only serves to make the game less frustrating, not actually easy. I skipped this on Wii U, and I’m glad I did, as this game looks and feels gorgeous in handheld mode on the Switch.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle – This is a great game. I just take really, really, really long breaks between worlds. If I remember correctly, I’m up to the fourth and final world in the campaign. I’m not a big partaker of the active battle strategy games, but if Mario + Rabbids and Codename S.T.E.A.M. are indications of what that genre has to offer I should really look into more of them. What’s the best platform for X-Com, anyway?

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment – I played about five minutes of Plague of Shadows and said, “Pass.” Plague Knight doesn’t control in any way I find enjoyable. I’ve played five minutes of Specter of Torment and found the opposite to be true about the high-flying Specter Knight. Now I just have to get back to it one of these days…

Minecraft – I know you CAN beat the Ender Dragon and essentially “beat” Minecraft, but as it turns out I don’t have anywhere near the amount of patience it takes to work my way there. Maybe if I find myself stranded on a desert island someday with nothing but a Switch, Minecraft, and a power supply… but even then, I’ll probably just try to recreate  Ocarina of Time‘s Hyrule from memory in Creative Mode.

Skyrim – Skyrim is addictive. It’s also repetitive: a lot of the missions, a LOT of the missions, require you to wander through a linear labyrinth hacking the heads off of cannon fodder until you reach a final boss that’ll kick your ass unless you spam healing spells and potions. It’s still a wonderful game, as I’ve previously documented, and even after I finish the main quest line (which I will) I can see myself going back and doing side quests for years. You know, like everyone else was doing five years ago.

Golf Story – I’m torn on Golf Story, one of the Switch’s early indie critical darlings. Don’t get me wrong: it has oodles and oodles of charm and personality. Still, the lite RPG elements haven’t hooked me quite as much as the simple 16-bit golf has. In short? I’m hot on the golf, but lukewarm on the story.

Stardew Valley – I know; you don’t really FINISH Stardew Valley, you just reach benchmarks. I’ve played a little more than one in-game year, finished the mines, and married off my character. It’s utterly charming and I’ve put a lot of time into it, and yet… chore simulators just don’t hold me long-term. Still, building your farm and tending your crops is oddly satisfying. I think I’m on the verge of becoming a homebody introvert hermit: I have little or no use for the townsfolk now I’ve taken a bride and I plan to leave my property as little as digital humanly possible. Can I add a beard to my character model?

Obviously, I don’t NEED to finish any of these games before the new batch of big Switch games come along. The old school gamer in me disagrees, though. Games have moved into online social experiments and competitions first and foremost, and it’s a wonderful evolution, frankly. It’s been embedded in my soul, though: games tell stories. They have beginnings, middles, and endings. Reaching the endgame is still a big deal to me.

I’m old, you know?

Like Fine Wine

The title of this post is a bad pun. See, this is a post about “ports,” which are games for one console that are transported as-are to another console or consoles. However, “port” is also a type of wine, so I’m saying that these ported games have aged as well as a wine has aged, which is to say they’ve aged very well.

The best puns are the ones you have to explain.

Last summer I decided, for no reason other than I decided to decide it, that after Pokken Tournament DX released Nintendo was going to call it quits on porting old Wii U games to the Switch. I honestly thought they’d be very eager to distance themselves from the disastrous former console ASAP, and move quickly to sweep Wii U under the rug. The only developers still working on Wii U games are indies dumping their quickie projects to the E-shop, and Ubisoft, and while the latter still publishes a Wii U version of JUST DANCE, it’s worth pointing out that they also still publish a Wii version of JUST DANCE. (Yes: a major publisher is still making Wii games as of October 2017.)

So, yeah, Wii U is done, and the quicker Nintendo forgets about it, the better. At least, that’s how I thought they’d approach Wii U’s legacy. Nintendo, as usual, seems to have had other ideas. Not only have Wii U ports NOT died out, but in recent months Nintendo is doubling down on them. Since Pokken Tournament DX we’ve seen released or announced BayonettaBayonetta 2Hyrule Warriors Deluxe EditionDonkey Kong Tropical Freeze, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.

Is this good, bad, or just something? While on the one hand, it looks like Nintendo is leaning on Wii U ports to fill out a so-far slim 2018 Switch gaming line-up. On the other, these are all great games that came out on a console that absolutely flopped. Switch’s 2017 line-up was stacked: Zelda, Mario, Splatoon, and Mario Kart (itself a port) headlined a year of blockbusters that enticed gamers to jump on-board with the new hybrid console. 2018 was always going to slow down, at least pre-E3, and that’s certainly what we’ve seen. Consider, though: more people have already bought a Switch than ever bought a Wii U. Giving gamers the chance to experience a whole generation of great Nintendo games that so many of them missed can’t be anything but a good thing.

Hyrule Warriors was my second-favorite Wii U title, so I happily double-dipped. I don’t know that I’ll do the same for Captain Toad, and Bayonetta 2 still doesn’t do anything for me, but Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze is the one Wii U game I missed that I regretted so I’m glad to get the chance to play it again. It’s also worth noting that most of these Wii U-to-Switch ports have some level of new content: Mario Kart 8 included a new and improved Battle Mode, Pokken Tournament DX introduced six new fighters that weren’t available in the Wii U version of the game, Hyrule Warriors Deluxe includes all of the DLC from the Wii U version of the game as well as all of the new content and DLC created for the 3DS version of the game, and Captain Toad will feature new levels based on Super Mario Odyssey‘s kingdoms.

What else will make the transition from Wii U to Switch? I’d be surprised if we didn’t see any 3D Zelda games get a port, whether it’s the much-beloved Wind Waker HD, or if Skyward Sword gets a port over from the Wii. Lots of Nintendo fans seem to think Super Mario Maker is a no-brainer, but I remain skeptical: it’s a fantastic title but its design is so reliant on Wii U’s Gamepad. Even with the Switch’s touchpad tablet screen, I wonder if the title really fits there. Super Mario 3D World is an easy guess, and they could decide to try and salvage Star Fox Zero… but like Mario Maker, the excellent Star Fox Guard seems as though it may be forever trapped on the Wii U. Xenoblade Chronicles X could make the leap, as could Pikmin 3, but the former’s superior sequel already exists for Switch and the latter’s sequel has been long rumored as in-development.

There aren’t many more Wii U games I’d need to see make the leap, honestly, and none of them are the no-brainer purchases for me that Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors Deluxe were. After all, I’m one of those suckers that OWNED a Wii U. Still, bringing nearly the entire first-party Wii U line-up to Switch would be entirely defensible, and who would lose in that scenario? Not Nintendo, who gets to recycle little-played great games to pad out the line-up for their new hit console, and certainly not gamers, who get to experience an entire generation of Nintendo games they may have missed. The possibilities, quite frankly, are intoxicating.

Because a “port” is also a wine. Get it?

 

That’s So Meta

A brief mea culpa: I’ve been busy. As you may or may not know if you follow Me & Nintendo, I write a lot of stuff NOT about Nintendo. I mean, not here, but I do. To that end, I’ve been back in school pursuing a second Master’s degree, this one in Creative Writing. My thesis is due this week. It’s about done now, but, you know… that’s where I’ve been.

Mostly. I’ve also been playing Splatoon 2.

I love Splatoon 2. The biggest problem I have with Splatoon 2 is I’m trying to write a general Nintendo blog but I don’t want to play anything else but Splatoon 2. I’m so into Splatoon 2 that I tend to spend a fair amount of time scouring the Internet reading up on the metagame in Splatoon 2.

The “metagame,” as I’ve come to understand it in gaming parlance, is an umbrella term that refers to the underlying factors beyond the surface rule-set that dictate in-game results, particularly in a competitive online game. To understand the metagame of any online fighter or shooter, you’ll need to understand terms like “hit box” (the designated area in the virtual two or three dimensional space in which a “hit” is registered on an opposing character or item as a result of an attack), “frames” (a reference to the number of animation frames it takes for a player command to be executed), and other various damage percentages, respawn times, traversal speed, etc., etc. Splatoon 2‘s meta is easy to learn but difficult to master.

Every competitor in Splatoon 2 starts from the same base: each Inkling character model has the same stats irregardless of hairstyle, gender, or pants. If given a neutral playing field and no stat improvements, every Inkling would run at the same speed, swim at the same speed, absorb ink at the same rate, and so on and so on.

Stats are impacted by the “primary abilities” and “secondary abilities” on each of the three pieces of gear (headpiece, shirt, footwear) with which you equip your Inkling; each piece of gear has one primary slot and three secondary slots. The abilities in Splatoon 2 can increase your foot speed, decrease the amount of stored ink consumed by your weapons, increase the charge speed of your special weapon, decrease the amount of damage caused by stepping in enemy ink, decrease the amount of “splash” damage (i.e. damage caused not by direct impact from an opponent’s weapon, but by secondary impact, say from the outer edge of a Splashdown or by the indirect splatter from a Blaster shot), etc., etc. The primary abilities and secondary abilities are stackable… but secondary abilities are weaker than primary abilities and each new stack diminishes in effectiveness, essentially assuring that you’ll never be able to “max out” any ability to 100%. For example: attempting to run through enemy ink greatly slows your Inkling down, but if you equip gear with a primary ability of Ink Resistance Up, your Inkling will be able to run 10% faster across terrain covered in enemy ink. Add a second piece of gear with an Ink Resistance Up primary, and the ability stacks… but the laws of diminishing returns only allow the second ability to increase your speed in enemy ink by another 8%. Add a third, and it goes up by another 6%. Putting Ink Resistance Up in secondary slots starts your speed increase at 2% and diminishes from that point on. Courtesy of the Splatoon wiki Inkipedia, here’s a graph that charts the diminishing impact of each additional primary or secondary Ink Resistance Up ability:

The world is divided up into two types of people: those whose eyes glazed over at the prior explanation and the follow-up graph, and those who instead rolled those eyes and said, “Uh… we know. Who doesn’t?” But these conversations: the exact percentages to which “buffs” (gamer-speak for “improvements”) and “nerfs” (or “downgrades”) impact the metagame? These are the details upon which competitive gaming turns.

Truthfully, the diminishing returns from stacking abilities in Splatoon 2 dictate that no one ability is going to imbalance the game too severely… but as with most competitive online games, imbalances happen, and the player community finds them pretty quickly. Take the Tri-Slosher, for example. The Tri-Slosher is a bucket-type weapon that allows the player to hurl three bucketfuls of ink at once in a wide fan in front of them. The idea is that while it gives better turf coverage, the actual ink thrown is weaker than from the standard Slosher, which throws a narrower stream of ink slightly further, and straight ahead.

However, when Splatoon 2 was first released, the Tri-Slosher’s ink throw was only slightly weaker (in terms of percentage of damage dealt) to that of the Slosher. Combined with its wider arc of ink distribution the Tri-Slosher quickly became the serious Splatoon 2 player’s go-to weapon. It was like walking around the battlefield with an “Instant Splat” button. So in an update patch to the game, patch 1.3.0 to be precise, the Tri-Slosher was “nerfed”: the developers reduced its damage output by 10% and reduced its throw range by 9%. It doesn’t seem like much, but it was enough to knock the Tri-Slosher off of the list of top tier weapons. In fact, the patch SO nerfed the Tri-Slosher that update patch 2.0.0 would eventually buff the weapon’s peak damage output BACK to where it had started, while keeping the 9% range nerf in effect.

And this is how the developers of competitive online games continuously work to balance the metagame.

I don’t run a YouTube “Squid Research Lab,” and I’m not running side-by-side comparisons of how each stacked ability buffs or nerfs a particular aspect of the game. I do, however, have my favorite abilities. I like to pair Ink Resistance Up and Bomb Defense Up, defensive abilities that help me survive in the higher ranked rounds full of high-level, top skill players. That’s my current go-to combo, but that combo changes. A lot. I also like the abilities that buff ink usage: Ink Saver (Main) and Ink Saver (Sub), which decrease the amount of ink used by your main weapon and sub weapon, respectively, and Ink Recovery Up, which increases the rate at which your Ink Tank refills (although just recently while studying the meta I realized that Ink Recovery Up is nowhere near as effective in Splatoon 2 as it was in Splatoon. I may start backing away from that. Hmmmm…) Other favorites include Special Charge Up, which increases the rate at which your special weapon charges as you ink turf, and a headgear-only primary ability, Tenacity, which charges your special weapon faster relative to the amount of competitors fewer your team has on the field than the opposing team.

Did I say this was simple?

The real metagame lies not with gear, but with weapons. Like all good competitive shooters, Splatoon 2 is balanced in such a way that there isn’t one weapon that dominates the field. And if one emerges, as the Tri-Slosher did for a time, it gets re-balanced by the developer, the sort of thing that can only happen in the age of online gaming. (Game developers take a lot of crap for releasing buggy games that need post-launch patches, and rightfully so. But the ability to adjust the competitive balance of a player-vs-player game post-release is one of the best parts of the Internet age of gaming.) Splatoon 2 has a LOT of weapons and weapon types. I have spent way too much time figuring out my favorites. Here’s some commentary them:

Splash-o-Matic – For some reason, in the first Splatoon, I hated the Splash-o-Matic. I can’t remember why but I never did well with it. So in Splatoon 2, I ignored it until literally a few nights ago. I’ve spent all of Splatoon 2 trying to fine a “main;” a weapon I could default to. In Splatoon that weapon was the Aerospray, but in the more aggressive and combat-focused Splatoon 2, an inking-focused weapon like the Aerospray (wide spray, short range, weak impact) leaves you vulnerable. So in my frustration at not being able to find “the one,” I turned to the Splash-o-Matic. I did so because I realized: I hate going up against players wielding the Splash-o-Matic. Why is that? After a round or two of using I realized it’s because the Splash-o-Matic has the highest rate of fire in the game, and the most accurate ink stream of any shooter. Seriously, it’s like shooting with a fire hose. I was knocking out Brella shields left and right with ease. So right now, and these things are always subject to change (especially since I’m not crazy about the sub-weapon load out on either of the two Splash-o-Matic options), but right now? I’m maining a Splash-o-Matic.

Clash Blaster – The original appeal of the blaster-type weapon was that it offered a one-shot kill that fires faster than a charger type weapon (but slower than a shooter), and at  mid-range instead of at long range. The Clash Blaster ignores that profile: it’s a rapid fire short-range blaster that takes three hits to kill. It has become very popular, though, especially because like all blasters, the Clash Blaster’s pellets damage outward from their explosion points. They’re the perfect weapon for firing directly up onto the tower in Tower Control and popping an Inkling you can’t even see. Also, the Clash Blaster is the only lightweight blaster (all of the others hinder movement to some degree) and its rate of fire is such that it’s hard to escape the second and third blasts after you’ve been slowed by the first. The Clash Blaster is derided among some serious Splatoon 2 players as requiring little to no skill… but it’s in the game, and if it’s in the game, it’s fair game.

E-Liter 4K Scope – The E-Liter 4K Scope is the most powerful charger (Splatoon‘s version of sniper rifles) in the game, with the longest available range. I enjoy picking up an E-Liter from time to time and going with it, but I’m not as talented with it as the point-perfect Japanese charger players. Really, I’m only effective with it on certain maps and in Tower Control and Splat Zone modes, two modes where you know enemy Inklings will be semi-contained in specific areas and therefore easier to track.

Heavy Splatling – The original gatling-type weapon, the Heavy Splatling offers a good defensive alternative to the more unwieldy E-Liter. I’ve made good use of it in Clam Blitz and Rainmaker, using it in concert with its Ink Wall sub-weapon to both defend my team’s goal and help a teammate carrying the Rainmaker or Super Clam advance to the enemy goal. Wielding the destructive power of the Heavy Splatling and rat-a-tat-tatting an Inkling or the Rainmaker Shield into oblivion is one of the most satisfying actions you can take in the game.

Jet Squelcher – The Jet Squelcher is my long-range shooter of choice. Less powerful than the .96 Gal or Splattershot Pro but with a much longer reach, the Jet Squelcher is great for holding turf in Splat Zones or for splatting the Rainmaker carrier at a long distance. There aren’t many weapons that can outreach the Jet Squelcher, and it comes alongside my favorite special weapon: the multi-enemy targeting Tenta Missiles.

Glooga Dualies – One of Splatoon 2‘s biggest additions was the dualie class of weapons, double-fisted pistols that enable a dodge roll while firing. Dualies are popular, but the Gloogas are not. I like them because, frankly, I enjoy the dodge rolling aspect of the Dualie class but I have trouble getting used to it. The Glooga Dualies feature a slower, more controlled version of the roll, and as an added bonus: after rolling, the Gloogas combine their streams into a longer range, more powerful ink burst until you move again.

Splattershot Jr. – This is the weapon you star Splatoon 2 with, and even far too many hours into the game I find it to be the best of the short range shooters: great rate of fire, nice ink coverage, moderately powerful, conservative ink usage… and they come equipped with the triangular splat bombs, the game’s signature (and best) sub-weapon.

 

Splat Bombs & Tenta Missiles – I’ve already referenced these throughout, but this is my favorite sub weapon and special weapon. The splat bombs will arm as soon as they touch the ground and explode just a heartbeat after that, faster than suction, auto, and curling bombs, and much harder to avoid. Tenta Missiles are the most annoying of the Splatoon 2 special weapons (followed closely by Ink Storm and the Stingray), as they lock onto you and force you to move out of whatever position you may have been holding.

That’s all for now. I also enjoy the Sploosh-o-Matic, the Octo-Brush, and the Range Blaster, but right now my go-to’s are the weapons I’ve listed above. I figured it was about time for this deeper dive into Splatoon 2‘s meta for one reason and one reason only: My Splatoon 2 total playtime has just passed my total playtime for Breath of the Wild.

I really do love this game.

A Lull

Nintendo took January off.

No, of course they didn’t. Not really. January of 2018, though, was the first month of the Switch’s life that came and went without a major Nintendo-published game release. It was a deserved month off, to be sure; 2017 was as gangbusters a year as any Nintendo has ever had, as the Switch debuted to boffo sales numbers and the software cranked out on a monthly basis by Nintendo’s first party madmen and their collaborators resulted in critical hit after critical hit.

Repeating in 2018 the success of their 2017, or replicating that near-constant wave of major first-party games, is almost impossible to anticipate. Those are expectations they will most likely never be able to keep. To be sure, even after January, the first bit of 2018 holds few major stops on the Hype Train, at least not from Nintendo’s publishing stable. There are some old reliables coming the first few months of the year, and a bunch of ports, but it is almost impossible to define the coming period of the year, a traditionally slower portion of the year for game publishers, as anything but Nintendo pumping the brakes for a minute.

In February, Nintendo is publishing ports of Platinum Games’ Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 from Wii U over to the Switch. I thought they were done with Wii U ports after Pokken Tournament DX. I was very, very wrong. Not that I have a problem with this. The Switch is already about a billion times more popular than the Wii U ever was, so moving some of the underplayed killer Wii U apps, such as Bayonetta 2, over to Switch is a great idea.

Moving on to March, we have the first original first party Nintendo title of 2018, Kirby Star Allies, a multi-player focused Kirby adventure. Also in March (at least in Japan; presumably the worldwide release date will be around the same time) comes the second port of the year: Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition. I put more hours into the first Hyrule Warriors than anything else on Wii U aside from Splatoon, and I never picked up the 3DS port of the game, so you can bet your buttons I’ll be diving back into this.

With April comes the launch of the highly-anticipated Nintendo Labo, the cardboard-construction-kit-meets-video-games product that literally nobody saw coming. While they may want to keep April clear for a full-fledged “Month of Labo“, also keep in mind: Mario Tennis Aces is scheduled for release in the first few months of 2018, and April might be a good landing spot for it.

In May, the third Wii U port so far announced for 2018 hits the Switch in the form of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, the most recent installment of the notoriously difficult platforming series, and the Wii U game that I most regretted missing… so I’m very cool with this re-release, pun un-intentional.

Then along comes June, and with it, E3… and we have no set release dates or windows for any Nintendo-produced titles beyond this point. Obviously, Nintendo will release several more first-party titles in 2018; we know for a fact that Yoshi, Fire Emblem, Pokemon, and Metroid Prime 4 are all in development, even if we don’t know whether or not they’ll hit this year. (Yoshi almost certainly will, and I’m betting it comes with Labo integration. Write that down.)

On a personal note? Most of my favorite Nintendo franchises released installments in 2017: Zelda, Splatoon, Super Mario, Mario Kart, and Metroid. The other big bullet I’m waiting for is Smash Bros., which will get here soon enough, of course, whether as a port of the Wii U game, as a new fifth installment in the series, or as… something else. Beyond that, I’m eager to hear about a new 2D Super Mario game, also a near sure-thing, and a new Nintendo-developed 2D Zelda would be nice. Lots of the games coming from Nintendo, though, are from IPs I’m less invested in. Fire Emblem and Pokemon are franchises I’ve tried dozens of times to enjoy, to no avail. I’m lukewarm on Kirby and Yoshi, and Labo looks very neat but I doubt it’s something I’ll put a whole lot of time into. (It’s not really made for me, after all.)

This bothers me little, though. DK: Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors DE will keep me busy, along with Dark Souls Remastered, Mega Man 11, and the Mega Man X Legacy Collection… and ALSO along with Skyrim, which I’m still elbows deep in, and any number of other backlogged titles I’ve yet to get to (Steamworld Dig 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Celeste, etc., etc.) not to mention Splatoon 2.

Still, there’s no denying it: after a breakneck 2017, Nintendo has taken their foot off of the gas a little bit to start 2018. If we’re being fair, we have to admit: if this is a lull, it is a well-earned one.