A week out from its release, a lot is being said about the Nintendo Switch. It’s been called a low-end tablet, it’s had its simple UI questioned, people are upset that it launched with only nine games and no Netflix support, the system’s limited graphical power is causing problems with frame rates, a lot of hate is being thrown at the Joy-Cons, reviewers claim it’s not designed well—the list goes on and on and, despite high sales numbers, the general consensus seems to be that the future of Nintendo’s new console/handheld hybrid is uncertain at best, failure at worst.
I’ve had my Nintendo Switch for about a week now, and (You better brace yourself for this) I really think (You ready? You’re not ready) that… (ooooohhhh boyeeee!) I kinda like the thing. I actually really like it. And I’m not just talking about its most excellent launch title, I like the whole experience. The Joy-Cons feel good to me, the early limited library is not worrying me, the UI seems great to me… am I insane? I don’t think I am, I think I just care about games and, when it comes to powerhouse triple-A titles, games are starting to plateau.
First the good stuff: the system—it just feels right. The Joy-Cons are comfortable, the UI is simple enough that my wife can just pick it up and TEACH HERSELF. I had to spend a week to teach her how to turn on the PS4, choose the right profile and find Netflix (I mean, look at this shit). I love that I’m able to virtually pick it up any time and jump right back into my game without having to boot the game back up. I love that I can take it from my TV to the bed and, even in tablet mode, play it different ways. The other day I was playing Shovel Knight in tablet mode, but was feeling uncomfortable. There was an easy fix: I disengaged the Joy-Cons, propped up the tablet and played the game, Joy-Cons disconnected, with hands resting at my sides. It was a cool little moment.
The games I’ve played so far have been great. Zelda, honestly, could be my favorite of the storied franchise and IS the best launch title I’ve ever played. The goofy twenty-dollar puzzler, Snipperclips is fun, intuitive and about the only game I can get my wife to seriously want to play. The indie selection is strong, and only set to get stronger. Also, as of today, the library of games nearly doubled, so everyone chill the fuck out about the small amount of games on day one. Do you remember the PS4 launch? Knack? KILLZONE?! I bought the system almost two years after it was released (May 2015) and until late that year I was frustrated with the lack of good titles (notably RPGs).
But whatever, that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is… well, I guess, it’s Gears of War 4. Let’s talk about Gears. Let’s talk about how it has an aggregated score of 84 on Metacritic. Let’s talk about how major video game journalists like Polygon gave it a 9-out-of-10 because
“… it’s a remarkably consistent, complete package with the kind of refinement and focus few other games can manage…”
Wow! You finished your game and it was fine! Do we want more of this shit?
I did a lot of research before playing Gears 4, bouncing between reviews posted on major sites to find out if it was going to be worth my time. The reviews were all positive, citing the game as a return of a storied franchise. I ordered it and I put it in, it was fine I guess. Gears 4 is the poster child of the mindless, tech-centric, graphic pushing future that gaming is headed into. And dude? The future is kind of garbage.
Gizmodo’s Alex Cranz said this about the Switch in her review:
“While Nintendo has no desire to compete with Sony or Microsoft it still is, you know, competing with Sony and Microsoft.”
I would argue that this isn’t the case at all. Microsoft and Sony are making systems that cater to the triple-A experience. These two mostly indistinguishable systems are constantly chasing the PC dragon in power and peripheral accessibility. As gaming becomes more ubiquitous on tablets and computers find more ways to interface with your television sets, the demand for consoles like that are going to dwindle. So where do we go from there?
Nintendo is, at least, trying to provide an answer. The Joy-Cons make the gaming experience feel new and interesting and I can see great potential in them. I don’t mind the graphical limitations. I don’t need to see Marcus Fenix’s ball hairs to have a good time.
But the cards are still stacked against Nintendo. Major 3rd party studios are focused on creating massive, hundred million dollar titles that push graphic technologies to their limits, they aren’t interested in devoting any time to changing gears and creating something that looks worse and uses new controllers. It’s going to be Nintendo’s job to convince the world there’s a market for a more interesting type of gaming. Indies are flocking to the machine already, but for the thing to be successful, it’s going to need $60 major releases. And I hope it works out, because I’m seeing a lot of potential for how this new device could push our favorite medium forward.