As I write this, the Nintendo Switch live presentation has just concluded, and the world has had its first real look at Nintendo’s odd new system, complete with actual confirmed games. So I know what you’re thinking: wossit like?
The technical nitty-gritty of the console is still unknown, but we did get a confirmation that the system does have a touchscreen. We also got new information about the joy-con controllers: specifically, the joy-cons each have independent motion controls, and each has one analogue stick, A/B/X/Y face buttons, and L and R shoulder buttons, making for a fairly robust set of inputs. In addition, there are the expected start and select buttons, the former on the right joy-con and the latter on the left, along with a home button and a "share" button for taking screenshots. The right joy-con also apparently has an IR camera built into the top of it; what on earth anybody intends to do with that thing was left an open question, but we know it’s there. The joy-cons also contain NFC readers for easy Amiibo compatibility. Apparently they can also simulate the feeling of putting ice in your drink. Don’t ask me; I don’t know either.
What about the games? Nintendo showed quite a range, beginning with the oddball party game 1-2-Switch. In what we’ve seen of 1-2-Switch, it’s a two-player game in which each player holds one joy-con, the players face each other, and then compete to be the quickest draw; the game will call out "fire," and whichever player draws the controller and fires first wins. Presumably there are other game modes also (as it’d be pretty thin on the ground as just a quick-draw game), but it’s a fun core concept for a party game, since it has players engaging with each other and not looking at the screen.
In a similar vein, we have Arms, a punching game that seems like something of a spiritual successor to Wii Boxing. Each player gets a set of joy-cons, one for each hand, and punches a lot. The punches are on crazy extending arms, though, and the path of the arm can be controlled mid-punch by twisting the joy-cons, which is an interesting mechanic. The gameplay appears to be extremely fast, which may be offputting to casual players, but fighting fans will probably dig this; it’s an unusual take on a classic formula.
The pièce de résistance, to my mind, was Super Mario Odyssey, an utterly madcap 3D Mario game in which Mario evidently runs around New York City. No, that’s true:
Apparently Bowser is all swanked up in a suit and top hat this time, and (spoiler warning!) he’s kidnapped Princess Peach, and Mario has to get himself a magic talking hat and go rescue her. In New York City. I mean, I’m compelled to admit that, for a Mario game, that’s not really that crazy, but it’s still pretty rad. Nintendo claims that this will be a more open-world sandbox Mario game akin to Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine; some players will appreciate that, but it accosts me with all manner of mixed feelings. Personally, I liked the 3D Mario games a lot more once they adopted tighter level designs and focused on actual platforming rather than Super Scavenger Hunt Minigame 64 stuff, but, hey. Your mileage and that.
There are a bunch of sequels and remakes of Wii U games coming to Switch also, including Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and, of course, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We also saw footage of the upcoming Xenoblade 2, which is an impressive level of confused even for Monolith, given that it’s the third game in the Xenoblade series. From what we saw during the presentation, it appears to be more like the original Xenoblade than like X; X was a pretty fun game, but the original was better in almost every respect, so that won’t get any complaints from me.
Square Enix revealed a whole host of Dragon Quests, with both Dragon Quest X and Dragon Quest XI coming to the Switch… in Japan, anyhow. As is often the case, we’ve no idea when or if they’re coming to the West. If I had to guess, I’d say that they’ll bring over XI but not X; X is an MMO, after all, and given the high cost to operate those and the relatively small audience for Dragon Quest over here, it’s hard to see the margin on that. Which is, of course, why no previous version of Dragon Quest X has come over either. The Switch will also be playing host to a compilation of the Dragon Quest Heroes games; I’ve played the first one, and it’s pretty fun; Dynasty Warriors with Akira Toriyama artwork and Square Enix’s patented horrific localization. Speaking of Square Enix and awful, the Switch is also receiving the mysterious Project Octopath Traveler, an RPG that looks pretty fun and has a fantastic art style, but dear God Square Enix, please fire all your game naming associates.
Overall, I’m pretty enthusiastic about the Switch. It’s coming on March 3rd at only $299, which is soon and very cheap. Time will tell if it generates more interest in the market than the Wii U did, but the lower price and more robust launch library are both good signs.