The Nintendo Switch, and Nintendo’s Recent Launch History

When the Switch was first announced, I was ecstatic. The proof-of-concept type trailer that they used to show the functionality of the Switch was a frequently watched video for the next few weeks, and the possibilities – mainly, portable Skyrim – were enticing. It’s the most excited I’ve ever been for a Nintendo home console, as somebody who only really paid attention to the company’s non-handhelds around the launch of the Wii. And for the most part, my excitement remains unchanged. But there’s one big reason (besides the price) that I’m not going to grab the console any time soon, and it’s the same reason why I’ve never been all that fussed about rushing for a brand new Nintendo console.

Launch titles. Nintendo has a history of launching their consoles with very little in the way of actual games, and the Switch is no exception. Typically, there will be one big, triple-A title, followed by a smattering of third party games that are swiftly forgotten in the following months, and a game or two which promotes the main gimmick of the console. For instance, with the launch of the DS, the US saw the release of Super Mario 64 DS – a remake of an older game – alongside Asphalt Urban GT, The Urbz: Sims in the City, Feel the Magic: XY/XX, Spider-Man 2 and Madden NFL 2005. The Wii’s launch was somewhat more respectable, with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports (their proof of concept style title), and a handful of larger titles found on other consoles. The 3DS launch was particularly barren, with not a single standout title and a smattering of potential interests depending on your niche franchise preferences. The ill-faring Wii U launched with a dramatic number of title ports that ultimately failed to pull audiences away from rival consoles which did a better job of running the games.

The Switch, then, follows this pattern to a tee. You have the large triple-A title that everyone wants to play, namely The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And you have their gimmicky demo, 1-2 Switch, which I’ve seen reported as being fun for a few hours but far from a full title. (Hello again, Wii Sports. I see they gave you a hefty price tag this time.) You have an attempt to revitalise a dead franchise (here’s to you, Bomberman) and a few niche or unique titles. In all fairness, I’ve not played them. They could be fantastic. But I’ve not heard much besides “meh”.

I was going to dedicate a portion of this blog post to what I thought was a less-than-wise decision to launch your new console with its main title being available on the previous platform. From what I’ve seen and heard, Breath of the Wild is only slightly less impressive on the Wii U – almost negligibly so. I’d just like to point out that on this front, though, I was dead wrong, as Breath of the Wild is apparently outselling Super Mario 64 as a launch title so far. I felt that was worth mentioning, considering how this blog post has criticised Nintendo’s console launches so far. I’m not a big Zelda fan myself, and even I want to get my hands on this one.

Despite all of this, I’m still pretty damn excited for the Switch. I’ve seen the list of games which are coming to the console, and I’m absolutely planning on buying titles such as Skyrim, Terraria, and Stardew Valley for a second (or third) time, as well as investing in some other indies that I’ve not gotten around to yet like Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac and Unbox. Plus, the 3DS gamer in me is eager to delve into the Virtual Console library again, and to own some of Nintendo’s older games that previously didn’t make it onto the 3DS shop. Plus, as somebody who skipped the Wii U as deftly as Neo from The Matrix dodges bullets, I’m looking forward to owning a Nintendo home console again and playing some larger titles.

But that’ll all come in a year or two. Because, once again, Nintendo has given us a console with hardly any decent games attached. I’m just hoping that Breath of the Wild’s success will carry the Switch past Nintendo’s recent early day console failings. The 3DS caught up, but the Wii U never did quite manage to recover from so many devs pulling their support.

I’ve also found Nintendo to focus somewhat too much on giving their consoles some crazy functionality, to the point where it can hinder gameplay. I can only assume that after the Gamecube’s failure to compete against the Xbox and the PS2, Nintendo decided to stop competing altogether and take things in a whole different direction. It worked for the DS. Theoretically speaking, it worked for the Wii, but in a manner that made it more of a family party console than the Nintendo gaming console that many people wanted. I can’t count the number of times I got sick of playing Animal Crossing because of the Wii’s motion controls. The 3DS had a dismissable gimmick, so much so that Nintendo capitalised on it and sold a non-3D variant of the console. The Wii U was a weird mess of motion control and dual screens combined into a home console with an identity crisis. The Switch, however, has functionality which actually makes it more convenient to play, like Nintendo’s handhelds, as opposed to being less convenient, such as its home-based predecessors.

So, that’s about the sum of my thoughts regarding the Switch. I’m sure they mirror many others. I’ll be excited to own it when it has a decent library a year or two from now, so that it can be the companion console to my gaming PC. As much as I frown upon Nintendo’s functionality-driven approach to consoles, it works out for them in the somewhat niche market of PC gamers looking for a console that isn’t simply a less-powerful version of what they can already accomplish. Making it semi-portable is what mostly solidified my interest in it.

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The Secret Double Life of a Villager (Animal Crossing)

Sometimes, I like to play World of Warcraft and smite my demonic foes. Sometimes I play Unreal Tournament and go on a massive killing spree. Sometimes I boot up Rocket League and roar at my screen when my teammates are idiots. But sometimes, beyond all that, all I really want to do is live in a little virtual town with animal friends and make money by catching fish, selling fruit and working to build a better house.

Animal Crossing: City Folk was one of the main reasons I got a Wii back in 08, and it was my first Animal Crossing game. I don’t remember where I’d heard about the series (I vaguely recollect an online forum based around Wii titles called friendcodes.com), but it’s up there with Minecraft, WoW, Spore and Terraria as one of those few games that caused me to almost leap out of my seat with excitement when I first laid eyes on it. From there, I watching Animal Crossing Let’s Plays on Youtube (there was a great Gamecube one I remember fondly) and pining for a title in the series until I finally acquired my Wii.

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After much digging, I managed to find this screenshot from my City Folk save on an old website. Excuse the quality.

Eventually, however, due to the nature of the Wii in having to set it up whenever you wanted to play (sometimes getting the Wiimotes to sync to the sensor bar was a bitch), I got sick of playing it, and moved on with my life to let my town become overgrown with weeds and abandonment. I’d actually become interested in the previous title in the series, Wild World, as it was a DS title and was therefore more easily accessible. I believe it was Christmas 2010 when I got the game, and to my delight one of my villagers was a penguin named Aurora. Later, when I’d abandoned my town and restarted with a new one, Aurora once more moved in, following me between saves. I think she’s my favourite villager.

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Erm… woops.

But the latest entry in the series (unless you count Happy Home Designer) is New Leaf, and I made sure to pick that one up alongside my 3DS. The quality-of-life changes are delightful, the graphical updates much appreciated (although I do miss the old grass somewhat) and the game as a whole feels familiar, but better. I recently decided to try out Wild World again and found that I couldn’t adjust back after being spoiled by New Leaf. I think my favourite part about New Leaf – besides them fixing the hastily deteriorating grass found in City Folk – is the ability to choose the beautiful town ordinance, making the age old dilemma of your town being overrun with weeds nonexistent. I can abandon my village without having to worry about restarting when I return, or spending an hour de-weeding the entire village.

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Yes, Queenie. Yes I do.

I’m not entirely sure what it is that keeps pulling me back to Animal Crossing. I’ve never fully paid off my debts and acquired the largest house, or maintained a perfect town or grown much of a bond with my villagers (besides Aurora in Wild World).  But every few months or so I’ll get this little niggling at the back of my brain to go back and play more, and I’ll do everything there is to do in a day in the game, every day for a week or two, until I give up on the debt again. But I’ll always return, no matter how many Animal Crossing inspired games I play in-between.

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Yes, Ed. It’s so quiet. I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone besides you today. Where did everybody go?

One last thing: If you love the Animal Crossing soundtrack as much as I do, consider trying out this website. It plays the appropriate soundtrack for the time of the day, and you can choose between games in the bottom right. It can make life pretty peaceful!

The Endless Quest for Loot (Diablo 3)

I’ve never played any of the previous Diablo games, and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about Diablo 3’s state at launch. However, my prior addiction to World of Warcraft had caused me to take a look at Blizzard’s other games, and Diablo 3 had caught my eye many moons before when I tried out the demo on PS3. After a swift recommendation from a friend, I plunged in wallet first and entered the world of Sanctuary.

The story caught me off-guard. I remember that I’d been intrigued by the gameplay, but when I actually bought it around two years ago (shortly after the release of the expansion, Reaper of Souls), I became quickly invested in the actual events unfolding around me. I had also been enticed by the cinematic at the begging of Act IV (spoilers, watch at your own discretion), but I’d mostly attributed its awesomeness to Blizzard’s ever-spectacular cinematic team; seeing it in context with the narrative was a whole other layer of enjoyment.

But that was a few years ago. I completed the game ages ago and have gotten a second character to level 70 alongside my original Wizard. So what am I still doing playing the game?

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The other day, my friend and I were lucky enough to take down a treasure goblin which opened a portal to The Vault. I think I gathered around 40 million gold overall.

Well, Diablo 3 really comes to fruition as a game after its completion. When you finish the story, you’re launched into adventure mode, and that’s where the game really opens up. You can gain infinite amounts of paragon levels which allow you to attribute small enhancements to stats (I’m currently at level 103), and the game becomes a search for gear which will enhance your skills and complement your character’s abilities. I’m currently attempting to gather the set pieces needed to pull off an Archon build for my Wizard… and in all honesty, this is the first time in a hundred paragon levels and countless hours of gameplay that I’ve actually decided to look up a guide on how to build my character, and it’s really given me new motivation to continue playing. There’s countless ways to improve, such as switching up which abilities you use so that they work together to create a unified effect (I currently work with a lot of lightning) or enchanting your gear to have some extra defenses if your character becomes squishy. It’s a never-ending balance of doing enough damage and having enough toughness and recovery, and choosing when to finally move up to the next level of difficulty for faster experience and more rewards.

It’s rare that I become so invested in an RPG that I continue to return to it. Nowadays Blizzard allow you to create seasonal characters, meaning that you start completely fresh (with no shared bank or money with your previous characters) and complete quotas (such as hitting max level) to unlock rewards such as gear and cosmetics. When Season 6 began a few weeks ago I began levelling a Demon Hunter with a friend, but soon decided to continue working on my main character outside of the seasonal game and truly get to grips with the way the metagame works. And I’ve been having a blast.

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Kadala sells you random items in return for Blood Shards. I got ridiculously lucky when searching for a particular set helmet (orange items are legendary, green items are set items), but alas, did not find the particular one I was looking for.

Diablo excels at giving you a sense of progression and achievement far into the depths of the adventure mode. From treasure goblins to cursed chests, to random legendary item drops and even the sound that it makes when it clinks to the ground and the beam of light the shines upwards from it, everything is designed to make you feel accomplished as you romp through the ever demon-infested lands and kill bosses you’ve put down many a time before. And it doesn’t feel monotonous, because you’re always working towards a new, greater goal. The layout of areas is randomised, and if you’re doing rifts then the very lands you’re running through are randomised too. I hope Blizzard will put out another Diablo 3 expansion sometime, but honestly, the updates and continuous re-iteration of game systems is enough to keep me going, so long as they stick with it. Diablo 3 is one of my favourite games of all time, and I’ve only got more gameplay ahead of me.

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Just remember… there is no cow level.