When we were growing up, Nintendo was synonymous with video games. Playing video games meant playing Zelda, or Mario, or Castlevania, or Metroid. Then later we moved to Super Castlevania, Ocarina of Time, and Goldeneye. As the systems advanced, we’d debate getting either an Xbox or Playstation, but we’d always have a Nintendo. Nintendo Wii was a real triumph, providing a vital gaming experience that really made us wonder what video games could be. Then we hit the rough years of the WiiU. We were early adopters of that one and the lack of games and innovation on that system really burned us. After Super Mario Galaxy and Wii Sports, there hadn’t been an important game on Wii or WiiU in a decade. Thus, I think we were justified in being wary of the Switch, but – after a strong showing at E3 – I think we may be coming around to the new system. All of this has us wondering if it’s finally time to get excited about Nintendo again.
We’ve been pretty pessimistic about the Switch every step of the way. Heck, I wrote a column announcing that the Switch would suck last October. When the Switch launched, I predicted that the system would look ridiculous next to the graphics and gameplay powerhouse of Mass Effect. I could not have been more incorrect; Breath of the Wild was an innovative title and Mass Effect Andromeda was pretty disappointing. Wild’s open world, no-instructions-provided style of gameplay kept the gamer community interested for weeks, much like the Dark Souls franchise used to. Sales for the Switch stayed strong. Still, I thought we’d seen the best the system had to offer with Breath of the Wild, but then Nintendo had a strong show at E3, with a lot of titles and excitement about the coming months. Nintendo arguably even upstaged Microsoft’s new Xbox.
For what it’s worth, I’m still not convinced that the Switch’s portability is a terribly important feature. But what the Switch seems to be doing well is encouraging Nintendo to get back to making fun games, something they haven’t done in quite a while. We think Breath of the Wild is a ridiculously overrated game but it is the best Zelda game in years. Nintendo took some real chances in creating a massive, open-world game that – despite it’s flaws – was one of the most essential experiences of the year. Likewise Super Mario Odyssey seems to be expanding the Mario universe in some interesting ways. I haven’t been interested in Mario’s adventures in years, but this new title has the potential to be pretty fascinating. At the very least, it looks to be the title everyone’s going to be talking about this fall.
We’re still a little scorched by our faith in Nintendo. For ten years or so, Nintendo seemed content to let its titles stagnate and never explored the potential of its system. The Switch may have awakened some of the creative energy that’s lay dormant in that company for a long time. Again, this doesn’t seem to be driven by any of the features that are unique to the Switch. Nintendo just seems to be suddenly more willing to take some chances with its key franchises and this seems to be making these games more interesting than ever. We’re not ready to buy the system just yet; we want to see what Nintendo has in mind for 2018. But, we have to admit, we’re a lot more interested than we thought we’d be a year ago.