On October 20, 2016, Nintendo published a video that glued my eyes to the screen. This video was the reveal trailer for the Nintendo Switch. Despite sitting in the back of a college lecture, I watched this trailer multiple times in a row. I immediately sent a link to all of my friends — this console was unlike anything I had seen before! Everything about the Switch and its trailer intrigued me: the multiple ways to play, the seamless transition from home console to handheld, the snippets of gameplay footage; I simply viewed this trailer in awe.
Months and months flew by as I anxiously awaited getting my hands on the Switch. While the Switch released on March 3, I finally acquired mine in June after I had graduated. March 3 has just rolled around again, so I would like to wish the Nintendo Switch a happy first birthday! To celebrate, let’s take a look back at the console’s first year, and then into the near future. Why is it so unique? Is it worth buying so early on? Why should I buy the Switch over a more technically powerful console? I hope to answer all of these questions and many more.
For those uninformed, the Nintendo Switch is the first hybrid video game console. This means you can comfortably play at home or on the go. The Switch may be new, but the idea of a hybrid console is not. For instance, the Sega Game Gear allowed for playing Genesis games portably, and Sony implemented cross-save features between some Playstation 3 and Vita games. The Switch stands out, however, because it is a package deal; one console serves the function of two.
The Switch itself is simply a 6.2-inch screen, sporting a 1280 x 720 aspect ratio. This screen can either be placed into the included dock to play on a TV or carried around for portable use. You may be thinking, “How am I going to play massive games with just a screen? I need a controller!” Well, this is where the Joy-Con come in.
Like the Wii Remote and Wii U Gamepad before it, the Switch’s Joy-Con definitely fills Nintendo’s order for an eccentric controller. The Joy-Con comes in a pair (no, the plural is not Joy-Cons). Each Joy-Con looks like half of a regular controller, equipped with an analog stick, two shoulder buttons, and four face buttons. The two Joy-Con can then attach to the sides of the Switch. The end result looks like a sleeker version of the Wii U’s Gamepad.
I find this set-up to be most convenient for portable use, but it is far from the only possibility. As demonstrated in the initial reveal trailer, the Joy-Con are highly versatile. You can hold everything attached, as depicted above, or prop the Switch up with its kickstand and hold a Joy-Con in each hand a la Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
The biggest feature of the Joy-Con is that they can turn into individual controllers, albeit small ones, simply by turning them sideways. This allows for a true multiplayer experience on a single handheld console. On top of this, the Switch comes packaged with an ergonomic Joy-Con dock which emulates the feel of a traditional controller.
While the Switch has most versatility as a handheld console, there are still multiple ways to play when docked at home. All the listed Joy-Con configurations are supported, but the kicker is that the Switch’s dock includes USB ports. This allows for the use of Nintendo-licensed wired controllers, including the coveted GameCube controller (through the rare, discontinued Wii U adapter). All of this hardware is innovative; the Joy-Con are peripherals like no other.
Now, one large question remains: Does the Switch have a library of games that justify purchasing said hardware?
To briefly answer my last question: even just a year in, the Switch absolutely has a sufficient library of games and then some. Unlike past Nintendo consoles, the Switch saw releases for two flagship franchises within the first year. These two games are none other than SNAKE PASS and SNIPPERCLIPS.
…who am I kidding? We all know I’m talking about ZELDA and MARIO.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
I had the opportunity to play BREATH OF THE WILD early at E3 2017. Here, players had two 15-minute demos to romp through. I knew I was in for a special experience as soon as I started playing. I was climbing walls, finding weapons and resources — the gameplay felt so new and fresh for the 30-year-old franchise. Then the inevitable happened: the demo ended. I anxiously waited to play again for months and months. The day finally came when I got the Switch and BREATH OF THE WILD, and I was honestly unable to put the game down.
What can I say about this game that hasn’t been said a million times already? BREATH OF THE WILD is enormous — it completely flips the ZELDA formula on its head. No longer does the player have to follow a linear path; after the brief introductory section the map fully opens up. You no longer have to hop from dungeon A to dungeon B until reaching the end credits.
You don’t even have to go to any dungeon — why not race straight to the game’s final encounter? BREATH OF THE WILD left me with feelings of exploration and freedom like no game has before. The game doesn’t pressure the player to want to finish it. I personally explored as much as I possibly could; I took on Ganon when I was ready to finish my latest adventure in Hyrule.
BREATH OF THE WILD is a fantastic game. I had some minor gripes with the (lack of) story, but the gameplay more than makes up for this. I thought to myself multiple times while playing, “How is Nintendo ever going to top this?” Well…
SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY
Hoo, boy. SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY was far and beyond my favorite game of 2017. I also had the opportunity to play ODYSSEY at E3 2017, where I was surprisingly not blown away. I thought the demo was fun and I knew I would buy the game, but I didn’t mind the wait this time. October 23 eventually came, so I hopped over to my local GameStop and picked up ODYSSEY. This is when the game finally sucked me in.
I knew it was going to be good, but I did not expect it to be this good. ODYSSEY completely nails the 3D platformer feeling from the games of my youth. Like BREATH OF THE WILD did for ZELDA, ODYSSEY freshens up the MARIO franchise.
The stages the player takes on still come in order, but the way to tackle a stage is completely open-ended. The game’s required collectibles, called Power Moons, are located everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Each stage only requires a small number of Moons to finish, but I wasn’t satisfied with the minimum. I played and played, trying to find every possible moon before finally progressing.
What really kept me playing ODYSSEY is that Mario has never controlled better. The ability to throw and bounce off of his hat leads to some ridiculous stunts. Mario can also take control of enemies and other objects that all control just as well as he does.
My preference to ODYSSEY over BREATH OF THE WILD seems to be an unpopular opinion. It honestly boils down to nostalgia — ODYSSEY evokes a sense of child-like wonder that I thought had long gone away. It is one of those special games that I keep coming back to.
More Games to Fill Your Switch Library
BREATH OF THE WILD and ODYSSEY warrant buying a Switch for me, personally, but there is certainly a lot more out there. For starters, some Wii U games have been ported over to the Switch. This includes the fantastic MARIO KART 8 DELUXE and POKKÉN TOURNAMENT DELUXE (I can sense a new naming scheme brewing). On top of this, the Switch is already gaining a lot of third-party support.
Games like SKYRIM, L.A. NOIRE, and the recent DOOM are available for purchase, some with the added option for motion controls. The real draw in picking up a game on the Switch, over another console is portability. I travel fairly often, whether by plane or train, and the Switch has finally replaced my 3DS as my handheld of choice. I can play huge, AAA games on the go! What could be better?
Finally, some other Nintendo-developed games have already been released. SPLATOON 2 is a fun excursion; the real reason to pick it up is for the competitive online play. ARMS seems like an innovative fighter, despite not playing it myself. The aforementioned SNIPPERCLIPS is a cute puzzle game, and it’s a ton of fun with a friend. The list goes on and on. There are already a ton of games for the Switch, the library is sprinkled with a little of every genre.
A Peek Into the Future
The most exciting thing about the Switch is its young age. It has a fantastic library after just one year, so things can only look better from here. A lot of new games and peripherals are officially confirmed for the Switch as well as rumors for other anticipated software. We’re going to take a look at both:
Confirmed Games to Look Out For
Keeping with last year’s trend, Nintendo is releasing many new titles for their previously established franchises. Such titles include a new KIRBY game, a new YOSHI game, and the highly anticipated METROID PRIME 4. I have never played a METROID PRIME game myself, so now seems like the perfect time to jump in. On top of this, more ports are headed to the Switch. Two such games are DONKEY KONG TROPICAL FREEZE and HYRULE WARRIORS.
The Switch game I am most curious about is the upcoming POKÉMON title. This will be the first main-series POKÉMON for a home console as opposed to a handheld. I am usually a huge fan of the series, but I was disappointed by 2016’s SUN/MOON to the point that I didn’t buy ULTRA SUN/MOON. I am hoping that the Switch title draws me back into the series. I’d like it to change the formula like BREATH OF THE WILD and ODYSSEY did for their respective franchises, but I’m trying not to raise my expectations too high.
There are numerous other games that I neglected mentioning; these few represent a sample of what’s to come.
Nintendo Labo: The Switch’s Newest Peripheral
The Nintendo Labo announcement came on January 17; it is the most recent hardware addition to the Switch. LABO presents an entirely new way to play. There will be two sets available for purchase, each consisting of mainly sheets of cardboard. “How do I play with sheets of cardboard?” you may be asking. Well, that’s where the fun comes in.
The draw of Nintendo Labo is that all of the pieces require assembly and, optionally, decoration. As an example, one can build a small, cardboard piano. It doesn’t function on its own, but it can be played like a normal piano by inserting the Switch into it! Labo is definitely marketed towards a younger audience, but it seems fun to play with nonetheless.
We’ve written a separate article on Nintendo Labo. Feel free to read it for more info:
The last, and potentially most exciting, thing I’d like to mention are some popular rumors. While none of the following items are confirmed, I’d be surprised to not see them take shape in one way or another. One of the biggest Switch rumors is the implementation of a GameCube Virtual Console.
For those unaware, the Virtual Console is Nintendo’s way of bringing older games to newer systems. The Wii U had Virtual Console games most recently spawning from the Nintendo 64 era. With the inclusion of the GameCube, I’d be able to play games I haven’t in years or try new ones that I missed out on. On top of this, younger players will be able to pick up games that came out before their time. The GameCube holds a special place in my heart; the ability to play its games on the go would be fantastic.
The last rumor I’d like to mention is a new SMASH BROS. game for the Switch. This one is all but confirmed — what’s a new Nintendo console without SMASH? SMASH rumors sprout up as soon as a new console is announced since it’s by far one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises. I can see the Switch iteration going one of two ways: I’d definitely prefer the new SMASH to be completely new, built from the ground up.
The most recent game is almost four years old, so a new game would definitely be refreshing. The other option, which fits in with last year’s trends, is a “Deluxe” edition of the previous title. This would hopefully include new modes, maps, and/or fighters as shown by the other “Deluxe” games. I’d definitely buy the game regardless of the route Nintendo chooses, but I’m still eager to see how it turns out.
Happy birthday, Switch, and many more!
I knew I’d love the Switch as soon as I viewed the reveal trailer. This has been a fantastic introductory year for the console; every single Switch game I’ve played has been stellar. On top of this, the console itself is just a joy to use. The transition from docked TV play to handheld play is truly seamless — just pick up the console and be on your merry way. The portability factor has definitely made the Switch my console of choice. I’d rather buy a multi-platform game on the Switch just to be able to take it wherever I go.
For instance, I flew to LA to attend E3 this past June. The flight from New York to LA is six hours long. I’ve been on worse flights, but having BREATH OF THE WILD on handmade those hours breeze by. Travel is not even necessary to take advantage of handheld play. There are some nights where I just want to lay in bed to play some MARIO KART. I have not noticed any major performance issues between the two modes, so why shouldn’t I be comfortable when I play?
Well, that about wraps everything up. The Switch is a fantastic console from a design standpoint, and it already has a great library of games. The console’s first year has truly been one to remember, and I cannot wait to see what’s in store.