Last weekend, I finally had the opportunity to get my hands on the Nintendo Switch. I have been dying to play this device for months. I’ll admit, I’ve been wrong about the Switch up until now. I assumed there was no market for a new console, I was wrong. I assumed that portability wouldn’t be a draw for the new system. Apparently, it was! I thought the system would be overly reliant on nostalgia in a time when gamers were hungry for new experiences. I learned an important lesson: you can never overestimate gamer nostalgia. So last weekend when I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with the Switch I felt excited and open-minded; I was anxious to see what the new system has to offer. Hours later, I was as confused about the success of the Switch as ever. I hate to admit it, but I still don’t get the Nintendo Switch.
The first thing I noticed about the Switch was how bizarrely small the controllers are. I felt like a giant playing a game with a controller in each hand. The second thing I noticed was how limited the catalog of available games was. Switch has the entire history of Nintendo behind it; surely having some classic games available at launch would make obvious sense. But Nintendo store, when I viewed it, had about 270 games available on it, and most were not games I’d pay money to play. What games there were seemed fairly extravagantly priced. Would you pay $40 for a Nintendo Switch version of Monopoly? How about $30 for Syberia 2? Telltale’s Batman is priced at $40, which has to be about $15 more than I’ve ever paid for that series. Given that the system does not include a game, it feels frustrating that most games in the store seem considerably more expensive that they are on other systems.
My friend, fortunately, had already purchased two games I wanted to play: Mario Kart and Super Mario Odyssey. Mario Kart was exactly what I expected; it’s super fun but felt very familiar. My friend loves traveling with the game and playing the battle modes, so he enjoyed it much more than I did; to me, it was I expected but nothing more. Super Mario Odyssey, on the other hand, was surprisingly deflating. The game’s worlds are initially very beautiful and exciting (particularly New Kong City) but they also feel surprisingly small kind of claustrophobic. The Lego games feel much more successful at developing vibrant open worlds to explore. The new hat mechanic is fun, even if it feels a little out of place in a Mario adventure. After I possessed the T-Rex for a little while, though, I found myself kind of bored with the mechanic. That actually kind of sums up my experience with the Switch; I liked playing it for about 30 minutes but once the novelty faded, I was ready for something else.
This experience was in stark contrast to the fun I had with my buddy’s OTHER new purchase, the PSVR. I was very skeptical about the ability of virtually reality to provide an exciting experience initially and I’ll be the first to say I was dead wrong. VR is much more immersive than regularly gaming, and the effect sneaks up on you. As you first play, you feel like you’re just playing a regular game with a heavy helmet on. As you continue, though, the immersion consumes your attention and makes you feel like you’re living the game you’re playing. I flew an X-wing, I drove a getaway car, and a destroyed a city as a rampaging monster. I loved every minutes I had with VR and I’m already looking forward to having that experience again.
I think that, for whatever reason, I just don’t get the Nintendo Switch. The game system seems overpriced, the visuals feel unspectacular, and the games don’t seem to be much of an improvement over the previous titles. Super Mario Odyssey, for example, is not the same leap forward that Super Mario Galaxy is for the series. To be clear, I’m aware that the Switch has a lot going for it in terms of portability and flexibility, but it’s crazy to think that those two features are enough to sell this system. The Switch seems to be running on nostalgia and low expectations. Compared to the PSVR, the Switch feels like a relic of the past rather than a system of the future. Maybe it’s just me – or, actually, obviously it’s just me, but I just don’t get the Nintendo Switch.