Even with as bitter as I am these days, and I freely admit I’m a cranky contrarian who’s hard to talk to a lot of times, there’s a few things in the world that can turn me back into a gibbering nerdy 12-year-old like I’ve secretly (?) always been. It’s a short list of things that include “seeing Weird Al in concert” and “WrestleMania weekend”, but one of the big ones is the launch of a new Nintendo system.
I’ve had a streak of owning every Nintendo system at launch since the 64 (which only technically counts since my parents wouldn’t let me play it until the following Christmas, but it’s not like I’m still mad or anything) and no matter how many system launches I’m there for, or how many times I’ve found myself slightly let down after the fact, the launch of a new Nintendo console or handheld turns me into a frantic child, giddy at the prospect of what’s to come.
To literally nobody’s surprise anywhere, the Switch announcement was no exception to this. In fact, I was probably more excited for the Switch than I was their last few systems, and I say this as someone who never shut up about the Wii U even long after that ship had sunk.
Something about the lineup, the design of the system, and the enthusiasm about the idea that Nintendo seemed to put forth every time they talked about it got under my skin and I spent entirely too much money to make sure I got a Switch at launch.
I’ve spent about a month or so with it (as of this writing) and, as hyperbolic as this sounds, I can honestly say that not only is it my favorite new console in a very long time, it may have actually gotten me excited about video games again.
I know that sounds a little hyperbolic, and I know Nintendo fans on the internet have an unfortunate reputation/tendency towards hyperbolic statements either for or against Nintendo products (and video games in general), but I really do mean it.
I’ve railed on here long and hard about how I was starting to fall out of love with video games over the last few years, and while I sincerely don’t see a point in my life ever wherein I don’t play video games at all, I have to say my interest in them had really bottomed out over the last six months or so, mostly due to a lack of any new release I truly sincerely gave a shit about.
This came to a screeching halt once I watched the live presentation regarding the Switch.
Everything about it spoke to me. The concept behind the system was fantastic, the promised lineup was almost 100% up my alley, and I remember clutching my bootleg Mario plush tightly in tipsy excitement while I watched everything unfold. One aborted overnight stay in a GameStop parking lot (which I was mercifully spared thanks to a last minute email telling me they were available to pre-order online) later and I was a proud owner of the Neon Switch, because those actually-kinda-obnoxious red and blue Joy-Cons were too goddamn cute to pass up.
And in the days since it arrived, I’ve actually been excited about video games again! I find myself actually looking forward to going home and playing it and learning more about it, instead of feeling like I need to be playing whatever I’ve been playing, which is something I admittedly struggle with in games I like. I actually want to go home, drop whatever I’m doing, and just play some Switch instead, instead of making myself play through something out of obligation for having spent the money on it.
The biggest reason for this, and it might go without saying, is the system itself. When it was first announced I really honestly figured I was going to just leave it in the dock most of the time; while I love handhelds as a concept I have to say I’m not in a lot of situations wherein I really need a handheld system as I’m frankly not out of the house that much, and when I am out of the house I’m probably not gonna have time for video games – because I hate leaving the house, and if I’ve left the house I need to have a good goddamn reason for having done sone.
But that said, I really do find myself relishing the chance to actually take the system off the dock, even if I didn’t have to leave the house that day. Take, for example, how every night I subject myself to watching Monday Night RAW even if it usually kinda sucks – I don’t need to see the entire three hours, so whenever I have to sit through a match involving Sheamus or Roman Reigns I can just start playing Breath of the Wild whenever it sucks and then put it right back down when I actually need to watch the next match.
And taking it out of the house is just as fun as it is playing it in the house, and that’s something I’ve never really had with a handheld. I’ve owned Game Boys and DSes and PSPs and Game Gears, and yet I really only ever took them with me to conventions or long road trips or somewhere I knew I’d have to kill time. With the Switch I actually kinda look forward to taking it places? I’ve brought it to my best friend’s house a number of times for multiplayer stuff (even if I only have Super Bomberman R and Binding of Isaac for right now) and I actually don’t mind packing it up, even if I gotta bring the dock with me.
And being a deep narcissist who needs everyone to know when I buy cool stuff (which is sort of the reason I run this blog, let’s face it) I have absolutely no shame or compunction bringing my Switch with me wherever I go, even if I’m sure it’s making my already laughable attention span even worse.
Of course, even if I could take it with me it doesn’t make a goddamn bit of difference if the games for it are shitty. I mean, the Lynx was portable too, but who really gives a shit? I don’t want people to see me playing a shitty version of RoadBlasters nearly as much as I need them to know I own the new Zelda.
A lot of people online complained about the launch-window lineup, because people are going to complain about that sort of thing, but first of all it’s stupid and naive to think you’re going to get the best games of the system right at launch.
(Really, we have Nintendo to blame for that sort of thinking since we got Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 right at the launch of their respective platforms, but…we also got Breath of the Wild at launch and there’s no way that isn’t already going to be one of the Switch’s best games ever, so everyone needs to calm down that it didn’t launch with another one of your goddamn Smash Bros. or whatever.)
If anything, I’ve been kind of surprised and impressed by how…goofy and eclectic the Switch lineup has been to this point. I mean ‘goofy’ in a good way, it’s just kind of funny to think about the stuff that has made it onto the Switch so far when compared to other recent Nintendo platforms, even this early in the lifespan.
Breath of the Wild was really the money on the table, obviously, but there were a decent amount of fun packaged launch games alongside it. I feel like Super Bomberman R has been getting a lot of shit, but it’s probably the most time I’ve spent playing split-screen couch multiplayer in years and since it’s a fine, normal-ass Bomberman game I got exactly what I wanted out of it, even if there’s a shocking number of cut scenes. 1-2-Switch maybe could have been cheaper, but whatever, it’s good for a laugh (and has taught me the value of being careful with soda bottles) and, moreso, helps to show off what the JoyCons can do. The tradition of “one launch game that explains the new controller” has been pretty vital for Nintendo over the last few console cycles (even if Nintendoland remains woefully, mortally underappreciated) which makes 1-2-Switch better and more relevant than you’d probably been told, even if…yes, it should have maybe been like $40.
Admittedly my biggest surprises on the Switch have been from the indie/third-party front. There’s a surprising number of indie games either already on Switch or coming to it soon, which couldn’t be better news for Nintendo given the difficulty other indies have had getting to their platforms and the issues it’s caused them in the past.
Binding of Isaac is chief among them; its dark subject matter and cartoony gore would have felt super out of place on either of the Wiis and is still kinda weird on Switch, and yet it’s a perfect fit for the system as designed. I skipped it in the past because I usually don’t like roguelikes, and also it’s gross and weird, but goddamn if this isn’t the perfect thing for someone to just donk around on for a few minutes in tablet mode. The pacing and main gameplay loop remind me more of Doom than anything else (even if I’m constantly desperate to compare things to Doom), from the oppressive atmosphere to the enemy behavior and the way you’re expected to basically remain constantly in motion to avoid damage and actually get anything accomplished. I read somewhere that Doom was ostensibly designed for you to have to start every level with just the pistol; Isaac forces you to actually play it like that and after I got over my initial frustrations with the idea of roguelikes in general it turns out I really, really like Binding of Isaac even if the cooperative mode is sort of…lackluster and finicky. (I’ve still forced people to play it for hours with me, though.)
Even above and beyond that, the eShop is already looking pretty impressive. There’s a handful of really good Neo-Geo ports – not Virtual Console games, just straight-up Switch versions of Metal Slug 3 or whatever – that are perfect little time-wasters (and since you can have unlimited continues I can now finish Nam ‘75 instead of spending five bucks on it at Pizza Hut) and should hopefully be a good sign for more retro stuff.
The indie selection is already really good, or at least will be later. I’m already planning on buying Cave Story for a third time, Mr. Shifty looks great, Shovel Knight has always been great, I Am Setsuna probably rules. I guess the point is that the Switch is quickly becoming the home to indie stuff that the 3DS really, really tried to be, and that the previous two Nintendo consoles couldn’t quite manage, and speaking personally this is a huge benefit for me. Most of my Steam library is indie stuff that I never gave the time of day due to reasons; a lot of developers have discussed or confirmed bringing these games to Switch and since I’m a lazy sack of crap who can’t leave his couch most days this means I can play them without like going all the way over to my computer (where I am currently as I write this, and it’s exhausting).
Look, I guess the point of all this is that I think, so far, the Switch works on every level it wants to. The portability is fantastic despite the not-great battery life, the lineup is frankly already a little more varied and interesting than the WiiU (and I say that as a WiiU evangelist since day one), and I am so goddamn excited for basically everything coming out for it. I love that I can take it with me, I love how varied the selection of games is going to be if everyone sticks to their promises (a new goddamn Dragon Quest AND a Shin Megami Tensei on a Nintendo system??), and mostly I just love how seriously Nintendo is taking it.
This is the Nintendo that always manages to make it work out; the Nintendo who got beat down by sagging sales and a changing marketplace and came up with the biggest, insanest idea they had and threw everything behind it. This Nintendo gave us the DS and if you don’t think both DSes are goddamn awesome I don’t need to talk to you about video games anymore.
And even if they blow it? Whatever, I’ll buy whatever their next thing is. I’m a Mario mark for life. Mark-io?