As you may or may not know, I used to be the resident Nintendo Nerd here at CGM. Back when I first started at this place, I was the official Wii apologist who clung to the casual gaming joy of that system while the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were taking over the market. Times have changed and Cody’s unabashed love for all things from the house of Mario has trumped my former Nintendo Nerd status. However, I still adore the company that has become the Disney of videogames. So, when I had the chance to join the gang at a recent Nintendo Switch event and finally get my hands on the new system from those glorious geniuses in Japan, I leapt at the opportunity and dove in headfirst.
After being welcomed into a stadium-like atmosphere with ‘Gangnam Style’ blasting while a gentleman in a Mario costume danced along (I tried to high five Mario, he couldn’t see me through the mask, my high five went unreturned, and I died inside), I have to admit I felt a little uneasy about the whole thing. The pomp and circumstance was on overdrive and I couldn’t help but worry slightly that it was an attempt to distract from an underwhelming system and games line up. Oh how wrong I was. Based on my time dabbling in the early Switch demos, I have to say that I am completely converted. The hardware is remarkable; the software serves up gloriously goofy gamey-game fun. In many ways, this feels like the next evolution of the Wii that all of us Nintendo supporters/apologists have been waiting for since the 2000s. This sucker just might be a hell of a system if it sells enough units. So, let’s take a peak at some of the games that I got my dirty little mitts on, shall we?
This is a mini-game compilation designed to show off new hardware capabilities like that Wii Spots disc that provided free entertainment to way too many family gatherings and birthday parties back in the day. I only got to try three of the mini-games housed in this grab bag but they did the trick. There was a quick draw Western shoot out that played exactly as you’d imagine. Then there was a cow milking contest that was somehow even more quietly perverted than I would have dared dream (seriously though, this should be a dorm room favourite). Best of all (oddly) was a game that showed off the amazing rumble capabilities of the Joy-Con. Essentially, you had to shake the Joy-Con gently in your hand and guess how many virtual marbles were inside based on the vibrations. Somehow the vibrations were so specific and layered that it was possible to guess with eerie accuracy. Ultimately, it was kind of a nothing mini-game, but a hell of a tech demo. These new motion controllers are so remarkably accurate and the rumble so minutely detailed that it really fulfills all the fantasies that we had for the Wii back in the early days before the realities of that system’s tech limitations became clear. It suggests that Nintendo designers will have some pretty unique tricks up their sleeves when developing the next generation of casual/party games on the system.
Speaking of advanced motion control, lets talk ARMS. Now, one of the games I was most excited about getting the Wii treatment was Punch-Out, since the Wiimote/nunchuck set up seemed like the ideal way to bring the ol’ Nintendo boxing joys into the motion control era. The game was fantastic, but because it recreated the spit-second pattern recognition play style of the original Punch-Out so faithfully, it wasn’t really worth the aggravation to play with motion controllers. Not so for ARMS; this goofy boxing game features super-powered fighters whose fists fly off of their bodies towards opponents tethered on strings. As a player, you grip a Joy-Con in each hand and let rip, controlling how your flying fists will respond in the air with angled punches, while also bobbing, weaving, and blocking in defense. It’s a bit of a weird mechanic, yet speaks wonders about the design of the Joy-Con that I was able to pick up and play this title pretty much instantly. This sucker serves up silky smooth motion-controlled controlled boxing in a blazingly bright cartoon package that’s instantly endearing. Provided there’s enough content on the disc (or at least a satisfying online fight league), this title should prove to be a big winner for Nintendo. It’s the surreal boxing game we all wanted for the Wii but never got and should pick up fans fast.
I love me some Splatoon. Nintendo’s E rated twist on the multiplayer shooter genre worked far better than it had any right too and served up a new brand of online cartoony gaming anarchy for the few folks still committed to the Wii U. The demo for Splatoon 2 proved that it’s every bit as fun, colourful, and relentlessly paced as the first. The new editions (a nice dodge mechanic and John Woo style double handguns) were fun, but nothing earth shattering. Perhaps there will be new bells n’ whistles revealed before release. To be honest, that’s not particularly necessary. Splatoon was a damn fun Nintendo creation released to relative obscurity on the Wii U that deeply deserves more attention and fans. If the Switch catches on like it should, Splatoon 2 will be waiting at launch to convert any returning Nintendo fans that didn’t know what they were missing. They deserve it and the folks behind the gloriously goofy Splatoon designs and gameplay deserve a wider fanbase as well.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Yep, I got to play 20 minutes of the new and endlessly delayed Zelda sequel. I can say that it’s absolutely gorgeous in design, impressive in scale, and stays true to all the things we love about the franchise while still feeling like a unique entry to the canon. Other than that, what can I say? The first 20 minutes of a Zelda game never even scratch the surface of what will truly make each title special. So, I can’t really offer much more than a “looks good, gimme more!” statement that I may well regret once I actually get to the meat of the game and can appreciate more than the delightful designs.
I’m certain that Cody will be covering this in far more detail than I could possibly offer, so I’ll keep it brief. Simply put, this is the Sonic game that you’ve been dreaming about. It perfectly recreates the simple 16-bit art style and confusingly beautiful labyrinthine level design of the Sega Genesis classics that made the blue hedgehog one of gaming’s greatest icons. It feels like being shoved into a time warp and getting that last Sonic sequel that you always wanted before the Genesis was set out to pasture, designed by people who know and love everything that makes those high-speed sidescrollers so goddamn addictive. Even better, the game proved just how well the mini Joy-Con worked as button mashing controllers. Somehow the tiny pieces of plastic fit perfectly into my hairy man mitts and were completely comfortable in the heat of a high-pressure Sonic adventure. While these are just tiny gimmick controllers designed to fit the portability of the Switch, they work—and work damn well. Especially for simple old school games, like this revival of our old pixelated buddy.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
Just when you thought there would never be another derivation of Street Fighter II, Capcom went back to the 90s and brought it back. What can you say? It’s Street Fighter II. The controls and characters are exactly what you remember. It still plays like a dream. Will there be new characters and content? Hopefully. Not now though. All I got to play was a glorious bit of retro fighting. In a nice touch, it could be played with new silky smooth 2D graphics and animations that resemble a high-end animated TV series or in a retro 16-bit style complete with a square boxed screen. Either way, this sucker did bring back some old timey nostalgic chills and serves as a reminder why Street Fighter II might remain the greatest fighting game ever made.
There were other games available to sample, but they weren’t necessarily my cup of tea (especially for a quick taste without much time to experience depth and nuance). The good news is that every single title was fun and more importantly, they showed off that Nintendo’s new system is no joke. The motion controls are amazingly accurate. The tiny controllers are impressively versatile. The Switch’s ability to shift from living room console to portable gaming device works as well and smoothly as advertised. Provided that players weren’t put off by the Wii U’s sad, disappointing run, The Switch might just be the magic system that brings gamers back home to Nintendo where they belong. I’m already sold and I haven’t even played Mario Odyssey yet. Let’s face it; you can’t judge a new Nintendo system until you get your hands on the flagship Mario title. But if The Switch is already this appealing without a grand new adventure from the company’s Italian stereotype mascot, I can only imagine how embarrassingly giddy and overjoyed I’ll be when that sucker finally drops. Bring it on Nintendo—ya done good. I may have to rebrand myself the Nintendo Nerd again before this year is through (Sorry Cody).