Last week Nintendo finally rolled out the Nintendo Switch Online feature. I immediately bought a year subscription and downloaded the NES games. I've been waiting since Nintendo Swtch was released to be able to play some classic games on this handheld/console hybrid, which is the perfect platform for them. After I paid for my subscription I opened up the app and took a few old favorites for a spin. Super Mario Bros. is maybe the ur-classic for me; when I think of "video game" it is the first game that comes to mind and I spent many an hour in my early youth playing it along with Duck Hunt and Gyromite. Gradius is arguably my favorite game on the NES, with one of my all time favorite soundtracks. The same is, of course, true for the Legend of Zelda. Both have songs that transport me back in time over 30 years to weekend afternoons in an overstuffed chair with that uncomfortable little gray controller in my hands, transported to totally different worlds while my mom urged me to play outside (nice try, mom!) Of course I've had an NES classic for a while so I could play all three of these games whenever I wanted with a near perfect replica of that old controller on my big screen TV, but what I couldn't do was take them with me to work. Now I can and the low-res NES graphics look fantastic on the Switch's screen. I spent 15 minutes on my lunch break getting nowhere in Ghosts 'N Goblins and loving every frustrating second.
If we're honest the experience of having these games on Switch is even better than I thought it would be.
And it's not enough.
While the games I've mentioned so far are stone cold classics and the selection includes a few more (Super Mario Bros. 3 is amazing; Excitebike is still good fun; River City Ransom is a no-longer hidden gem because everyone knows how great it is) there's also some absolute trash in there. Find me a person who wants to play NES Baseball or Ice Hockey or the gimped version of Donkey Kong that's missing one of its four boards and I'll find you someone operating on pure nostalgia. The Yoshi game is bad. Pro Wrestling is bad. There are a lot of bad games out of a vast library full of really great games, and while some were selected to show off the online two player capability, that doesn't make them less bad as games.
We're getting 3 new games a month, and that's cool, but we're also a year and a half into the Switch's lifespan. This offering is what you give people at launch to mess around with, not after the system is already a mature platform and nobody's scrambling to get a new platform off the ground.
In addition, I want more than NES. I'm sure SNES will be added after a time, and maybe even N64 too (Gamecube seems doubtful) but it will be 2 years from now and a drip feed of games again. Nintendo got things so right with the Wii Virtual Console and has just backslid heavily since then, to the point where there's no way the selection of classic games will even catch up to the Wii U's sad offerings.
The Switch is the ideal platform for playing these classics. It's insane that this is the way they've chosen to present them. I'm not saying Virtual Console was the way to do it, but this isn't either. Especially 18 months after launch. And we're never going to get TurboGrafx 16 games or other platforms. It's like walking into a brand new luxury restaurant with impeccable fixtures and perfect service only to find out that all they serve is warmed over gruel.
As someone who loves classic gaming, dislikes piracy, and has plenty of money to spend on classic games in a convenient format on a console I already own this is just the worst way they could be presented. Will I enjoy playing Double Dragon while I'm waiting for the train in the coming months? I will. But I'll also spend that time lamenting what could have been, if Nintendo cared a little more about doing right by their fans and their legacy.