There’s two weeks to go before the launch of the long-awaited Nintendo Switch – and I’ve just now cancelled my pre-order.
For those who knew me back in high school, I was a fairly relentless Nintendo ‘fanboy’, as you will. Not religiously so, but while I grew up with both Sega and Nintendo systems with Sony’s first two PlayStations filling in the gaps at my cousin’s house throughout our childhood, I’ve had a healthy mix of gaming stimuli throughout the years. But as I cast my mind back, the vast majority of my gaming ‘career’ has been spent on a Nintendo system. The Gameboy Pocket and its many later iterations barely ever left my hands. Whether it due to Pokemon, Dragonball or as a way to keep testing decks in Yu-Gi-Oh when my friends were unavailable, Nintendo handhelds have been my go-to for a quick, convenient gaming fix for as long as I can remember.
But the same can’t quite be said about their home consoles. Though they may not get the consistent use that my PC likely doesn’t appreciate, each time I boot them up for a particular reason, I usually treasure the end experience.
And that’s exactly where my initial worry of the Nintendo Switch stems. After heading into Manchester to get some hands-on time during a public viewing event on Friday, February 17, I went in somewhat fearful of the future given Nintendo’s lack of transparency weeks before release and left the event accepting its death – so to speak.
I’m not writing off the console as dead on arrive. At least, not with a withstanding ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ placed above its tiny little head. Going hands-on with the Switch, physically, only reassured me that Nintendo knows how to put together a quality product. Other than the questionably cheap feeling WiiU gamepad, every Nintendo console or handheld has felt reasonably robust and well-packaged – and the Switch is no different. It’s small, sleek and feels great in its many configurations. I have no issues with that.
My issues arise from being a WiiU owner. From what we know or have seen from the Switch so far just isn’t enough to sell a sub £300 system to this particular follower. Of its release day games, 1, 2 Switch and Snipperclips are purely multiplayer affairs – something that doesn’t personally warrant me paying out so much for what could – and probably would – boil down to a cumulative total of maybe 4-5 hours of gametime stretched over a month period or reduced to boredom within the first day.
Other than that, there’s Zelda. And while it’s the franchise I hold most dear in my heart, Breath of the Wild is not enough to give the Switch its first breath of life. During a 10 minute demo, the only thing I could think about was how often it would drop to what seemed to be sub-20 frames per second. A jarring drop that felt as if the game was winding down ready to pull to a halt. And while those issues vanished when played on the Switch screen itself, it only solidified my idea that the WiiU version will likely run just fine considering it renders at the same 720p resolution of the handheld. If the Switch version can be knocked to the same resolution when on the big screen, I’d highly recommend people do so. I’ve waited years to have Zelda back on the big-screen with speakers capable of doing its consistently brilliant score justice; so the idea of playing on a handheld with headphones for a smoother experience on a new console just isn’t a trade-off I could ever imagine doing when there’s a perfectly good WiiU in my front room.
Given its size, I honestly don’t expect the Switch and WiiU to be too far apart in terms of graphical horsepower – hence my reason for thinking a handheld Switch experience at 720p will be near identical to one thrown onto a TV by a WiiU.
So with a few games already out of the equation for me, the only other two left at the event would be Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – two games that wouldn’t even be available at launch.
Being a huge fan of the original Splatoon on WiiU, of course this one was a huge life-line in my decision to own a Switch at all. Sadly, however, it only ended up being that eased me into my growing decision to sit this launch out. Having only 3 rounds to try out the multiplayer segment made me think how hard it is to justify Splatoon 2 as a full-blown sequel worthy of a new machine. While it was clear we’d have much more creative freedom over our little Squid heroes this time around, the over-all experience felt like little more than a glorified DLC pack. More weapon types and maps were introduced throughout the life-cycle of the original Splatoon – and that’s all I could really see here. Nintendo being Nintendo, we know next to nothing of the game outside of its multiplayer experience. And while every inch of me hopes for a more fleshed-out single-player experience, it’s difficult to trust this hope will bear fruit. Without that, it’s more of the same for a lot more money. I could happily stick with the original.
And the same goes for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. I barely played much of my copy of the the WiiU ‘system seller’. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it felt like very familiar ground. It felt like I’d already played it a million times over with Mario Kart DS/Wii – much like I felt with Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS. Sure, it could be interesting to have that graphical experience on a handheld, but it’s nothing more than a port of another WiiU game already sitting on my shelf.
Right now, I honestly see little reason for a WiiU owner to pick up the Nintendo Switch at launch. While I’m still compelled by the idea of playing graphically intensive titles on the go, the current line-up just isn’t enough for those who’ve already had similar experiences. For those who never bothered to pick up Nintendo’s greatest flop – I’m still torn as to whether to suggest a WiiU to them now, or to actually hope more ports arrive in the future. Passed up by many due to its unfortunate naming issues, the WiiU had a fantastic library of multiplayer titles that will likely only be built upon with the Switch. But for those able to accept how rare those opportunities can be, the Switch itself isn’t much of a single-player platform from the start. I’ll join in with the masses and agree that Nintendo is making a massive mistake in not packaging 1, 2… Switch! with each console to potentially mimic the word-of-mouth- sales potential that Wii Sports managed, but even with that, the Nintendo Switch just isn’t ready for Prime Time.
Will I pick up the Nintendo Switch in the future? Of course. Super Mario Odyssey will be the system’s first staple title. But without mention of Pokemon or Monster Hunter, for me, personally, it’s a hybrid system without a purpose. Nintendo are driving the hard bargain by asking for a wedge of cash in the hopes that we’ll help build their barren wasteland into a growing oasis; and I can’t advocate myself being the one to do that. Not again. Not at that price.