The world seems to almost come to a complete stop in gaming when a new console releases, and none more so than with a Nintendo one. Such was the case this March when the shiny, either sleekly grey or blindingly neon Switch hit store shelves worldwide.
For weeks, it seemed as though all anyone in the gaming community wanted to talk about was how fantastic Breath of the Wild was, and how much they were loving their first experiences with the hybrid machine. As a fan of the company, seeing the almost-unanimous positive response online, especially after the well-documented tribulations they had been through in previous months and years, was utterly cathartic.
Now, over half a year later, the post-launch euphoria has died down. While there’s still plenty of buzz surrounding Nintendo’s ‘resurrection’, ‘resurgence’, or whatever you want to call it – Super Mario Odyssey is out in a matter of days, after all – after several months of worldwide use, the cracks have undeniably started to show. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Switch to death, but it’s fair to say that a number of issues have become apparent since launch that the other massive console twins don’t have (and, indeed, didn’t have at launch).
Let’s begin with the positives, one of which being the steady stream of strong exclusives that Nintendo have managed to pump out like clockwork. Zelda, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2 and several others have been released at a rate not previously seen from the company.
If the most recent Nindies showcase is anything to go by, the Switch also looks set to become the next haven for indie games, with a spate of announced titles heading for the system for the rest of the year and beyond. Functionally, the console is also largely excellent.
The act itself of ‘switching’ (please get the image of Yoshiaki Koizumi clicking his fingers out of my head) works as elegantly as we’d all hoped it would. So far, a surprisingly low number of titles have had issues with performance, too, and those that have (*cough* Zelda in TV mode *cough*) have been easily resolved with patches.
So, you may be thinking, “What’s the problem?” The simple answer, and the one that immediately comes to mind, is the Switch’s online component, or, if we’re going to be harsh, lack thereof. Currently, it’s extremely bare-bones stuff, with no achievement system – something some fans have been crying out for, for some time – no message system to communicate with friends, and no online chat unless you have a degree in electrical engineering and can work out whatever that is below, or can be bothered to.
We all knew that Nintendo were a bit out of touch and behind the times with things like this, but even the most pessimistic would hope for their online offering to not be quite so barren this far in. PSN, albeit not exactly the same as we know it today, was released eleven years ago. And arguably, that service was more fully-featured in 2006 than Nintendo’s online infrastructure is in 2017.
But by far the elephant in the room is the lack of a Virtual Console, one of the landmark features of past systems. The hope is that it will arrive sometime in 2018, which is all well and good; however, considering the distinct shortage of third-party content released up to this point, imagine how much a working VC, even just with NES and/or SNES games, could’ve done to fill the time that’s transpired since launch.
While it does seem as though Nintendo are winning over some major third-party developers in Bethesda and Rockstar, among others, until the releases upgrade to more than just ports, their exclusives can’t make up for everything. A small glimmer of hope came recently in the news that the latest update quietly ushered in support for GameCube controllers (portable Luigi’s Mansion, anyone?) but the wait to hear anything official is no less painful. The miniscule battery life and storage woes just add to the list of problems.
It’s become glaringly obvious that the Switch was intentionally released incomplete. It may be the case that Nintendo fast-tracked its development, either to match the release of Zelda on the Wii U, or more likely, to attempt to remedy the downwardly spiralling trajectory of their previous system as soon as possible. To all intents and purposes, then, those of us that own a Switch are currently experiencing a console in early access.
For the most part, I don’t view this as being an outright bad thing. Much like the PS4 and Xbox One are entirely different systems years after their release, so too will Nintendo’s latest success story be. And irrespective of its flaws, I still love my Switch.