It’s been just over a week since Nintendo showed off their latest console, a handheld hybrid that you can play on your television, the Nintendo Switch.
To be candid from the off, I really liked it. I think it looks like an interesting, innovative concept, but when I visited my local supermarket this morning in order to pick up a fresh pack of hot takes (a banter’s dozen, if you will) to share with you all, they’d sold out completely, and instead I’ve been left to comment not what Nintendo have already told us about the Switch, but what still remains unanswered.
I suppose if we’re sticking with the food metaphor this could be classed as a… a cold take? So like… a packet of ham? But like, speculative ham? Future ham? Future cold cut of take ham? I’ve lost you already haven’t I.
What’s the deal with its online service?
My favourite thing about Nintendo systems is how easy it is to play games online with both my friends and strangers from around the world, and by “favourite” I mean “the thing that makes me want to smash every single one of my teeth out with a brick” because it’s not good it’s bad. Really, really bad.
Friend codes (a 12 digit number that had to be manually exchanged with anyone you wished to play online with on both the DS and the Wii) were a bizarre invention to begin with, an archaic system that did nothing but highlight simply how little Nintendo understood about the realm of online play. The fact that the big N stuck to their guns with friend codes all the way up until the launch of the Wii U in 2012, an entire decade after Xbox Live defined how to achieve seamless online play on consoles, is laughable.
The Switch seems to be taking a different approach, offering an online service that appears (on paper, at least) to resemble those provided by both of their direct competitors, Sony and Microsoft.
For starters, users are going to have to hand over a small amount of cash every month in order to use it, which by this point is not only a common ask from console manufacturers, but also beneficial for the company in question. The more money that goes in, the better the experience they can provide. At least, that’s the theory, anyway.
But the issue here is that we simply don’t know enough about what Nintendo have planned for the Switch’s online capabilities for their brief announcement to be anything other than worrying at this point. A short paragraph on the official website provides a glimpse of what’s to come, but its wording is painfully obtuse. Will voice chat be performed using an external smartphone app, rather than natively through the console? How will that even work? It’s lovely that we’re getting a free virtual console game every month (in a similar vein to Microsoft’s “Games with Gold” programme), but are you seriously going to take it away from us once the month draws to a close? Is it wrong to assume that the console will lack basic online functionality until Summer 2017 at the earliest?
This is all before we even start to ask questions about features that weren’t mentioned in the reveal presentation; things like an achievement system, a community hub for shared screenshots and videos, and a Switch alternative to the 3DS’s wonderful Streetpass feature. Some of these aren’t even big questions to ask, but a simple answer from Nintendo could easily sway more people out of the “I don’t give 10 pence worth of shits about this console” mindset and tempt them straight into the “yes, i’m going to get my money all wet and fold it up into a nice little ball before mashing it into a GAME employee’s face come launch day” camp. Online play is an important part of any modern day games system, and it feels like a smart move for Nintendo to detail the minutiae of what they have planned for the console over the next 12 months before the Switch launches in early March.
To be honest I just want an achievement system on a Nintendo console. Can you imagine how charming that functionality would be? It could unlock Mii outfits or home-screen stickers ( à la the 3DS), or it could literally just show my digital avatar giving Toad a cheeky little kiss on his fungus flecked lips every time I complete an arbitrary in-game task. I don’t give a shit how it works, I just want it, I want it injected directly into my fucking veins Nintendo. Do it.
So are we getting GameCube games or what?
Back in December, Eurogamer published a report that GameCube games were coming to the Switch via Nintendo’s Virtual Console. The Virtual Console was criminally under-utilised on the Wii U, and the thought of having access to a small amount of titles from one of Nintendo’s (many) under-appreciated consoles, on launch day, available to play on the move, was less of a “tantalising prospect”, and more of a “possibility that made me feel all funny in my downstairs naughty parts”.
As it stands, there’s been no official word on this from Nintendo. In fact, they’ve chosen to remain eerily quiet about the Virtual Console on the Switch entirely, bar one line referring to paid subscribers receiving a NES or SNES game every month on their official website.
I’d be an idiot to say that the Switch won’t include the Virtual Console in some form eventually (it’s been a core part of Nintendo’s systems since the Wii, after all) but until Nintendo physically grab me by the shoulders, look me in the eye and tell me in their own words that GameCube games will be available to play on the Switch, I’m remaining sceptical. Nintendo aren’t exactly known for doing things just to make their fans happy at the end of the day.
But it would be nice if it happened, wouldn’t it? I’m not expecting something like Eternal Darkness to be available instantly or anything, but to have access to a few well-known hits like Smash Bros. Melee, Super Mario Sunshine andLuigi’s Mansion from day one would go a long way to making that rather light launch lineup feel a little bit weightier.
The only real issue is that Nintendo don’t often make decisions because it makes sense for them to do so. Sometimes they do things seemingly at random. Like the Virtual Boy. Or the Wii U. Or Starfox Adventures.
How will Nintendo’s mobile apps tie in with the Switch?
When Nintendo released their first mobile app early last year (the bizarre social tool Mittomo), it was hard not to speculate on what it might mean in regards to their next console. For all I knew, what I had in my hands wasn’t just a one off, throwaway experience for mad bastards who want to hear a digitised voice say the word “cock” over and over again (for the record, I fell 100% into that category) but instead a fundamental part of their future online strategy, a comprehensive unified platform between consoles, handhelds and smart devices.
Would the costumes I was haphazardly forcing my titular avatar to wear carry over to my Mii on the Switch? As soon as I sign in for the first time, will my character jump out in front of the screen and start screaming about how my fondest childhood memory is “shitting myself in my aunt’s garden because I was enjoying watering the plants too much to go to the toilet” (actual quote)? Because if so… great. In that sense, Miitomo has been a huge success, allowing users to invest both time and effort into a core piece of functionality that they didn’t even know existed yet. Perfect. Good job Nintendo. I’m impressed. That’s some clever marketing.
No wait, the other thing, I’m not impressed at all Nintendo, if anything I’m confused. I have no idea how this is related to anything else you’re doing, and I have this sneaking suspicion that you don’t either. Will my Mario Runachievements carry over to my Switch account? Will my Fire Emblem Heroes save unlock exclusive features in Fire Emblem Warriors? Will I be able to transfer items from my Switch version of Animal Crossing to the one on my phone?
Nintendo have potentially missed a trick with this. Have they intentionally kept quiet about their plans until closer to launch? Or have they failed to notice the simple genius of merging two platforms into one entirely, and I’m just insane for even thinking about this in the first place? Either way, it would be good to hear something from ol’ Ninty themselves, especially before I speculate myself into a coma.
What happens to traditional “handheld” franchises like Pokémon and Animal Crossing?
This is a really simple one. Nintendo, are you giving us a full HD version of Animal Crossing? Because if you are, I will cough up a lung I’ll be so excited.
A full HD, portable version of Animal Crossing. I’m wet at the thought, in places a human being should never, ever, be wet. Someone call a doctor. I think I’m dying.
Oh and Pokémon too I guess.
What are the hardware specs?
I mean, realistically, this doesn’t matter. The older I get, and the closer Death’s bony finger reaches towards my slowly beating heart, the more I realise that things like terraflops and frame rates don’t really make a difference unless you A) are a Twitter egg or B) work for Digital Foundry.
But hardware specs might give us a clue as to how fast the machine will run in regards to things like its OS (an important thing to consider, especially seeing as the Wii U’s operating system was an unapologetic pile of dog shite), and perhaps even provide a benchmark for what kinds of games and experiences we can expect from certain companies. It already seems implausible that things like Mass Effect: Andromeda will be making an appearance on the system, but what about remasters of last gen games like Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed?
In my mind, the Switch will co-exist alongside other current gen consoles rather than attempting to replace them, so the option to re-experience old games on the move instead of just playing the latest releases makes me all sweaty on both my chest and forearms.
I’m personally nowhere near intelligent enough to make sense of any hardware information that will (inevitably) be revealed, but I’m looking forward to reading an article by someone who is. I can’t think of a joke to end this section on.
See. Told you I wasn’t clever.
Or am I.
Why the fuck does that one Mario level look like Sonic 06?
Look I know everyone’s had a say about this since the trailer for Super Mario Odyssey was revealed but the sight of everyone’s favourite stout Italian trade worker running around next to weirdly realistic human beings makes me feel sick to my stomach.
You know what it looks like? Sonic 06. I honestly don’t understand why Nintendo would ever look at that monstrosity and assume it was a template for good game design but apparently that’s what’s happened and I demand an answer as to why this was even considered in the first place. The rest of the game looks like straight up gold, yet that city level looks like someone modded Mario into GTA4. And then made GTA4 look like fresh turds.
It’s throwing me off. I’ve found myself dreaming about it. It’s odd. It’s weird. I don’t like it.
Nintendo, mate, I really don’t like it.
Will there be an “Early Adopter” program for Wii U owners?
I’ll save you some time on this one, the answer is probably no, but then again it wouldn’t be hugely surprising if Nintendo offered some form of discount programme for those who invested in the Wii U.
For example: I bought Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U (along with its DLC). It would be really cool if Nintendo gave me, lets say, twenty quid off the asking price for being such a loyal little lapdog. Is that too much to ask?
Probably. I’ll still buy it again, regardless, though. I have problems.
Will Nintendo eventually release a dock that will allow it to output at 4k?