Ever since Nintendo announced that they were going to fully unveil their newest console a few months ago, I’ve been working to keep my expectations in check. The initial trailer seemed promising, but after the Wii U became the dampest of damp squibs, it was hard to get too hyped. Nintendo has been running headfirst into nonsensical decisions ever since the halcyon days of the Wii. It was truly impressive that games like Splatoonand Super Mario Maker were able to implement their design vision so thoroughly despite the retrograde online systems they were built upon and the elementary school kid’s toy feel of the tablet. But the Switch seemed to represent a
switch change in direction for the company. There was at least an appearance of a necessary realization that the company had stretched themselves too thin, that maintaining two technically deficient systems that didn’t collaborate or even share the same online account had stopped being sensible a while ago. Putting the best ideas of the Wii U and the DS in one place is an appealing concept, and the teases of potential games to come were tantalizing. Don’t ask how many times I re-watched the few seconds of the new Splatoon and Mario games, scrolling through the video as if there was the chance that if I watched the video enough times, Shigeru Miyamoto would manifest out of the air and tell me some great secret about the Mushroom Kingdom that I’ve never heard before (Maybe Wario and Mario’s are the same person after all).
The presentation was an example of what makes Nintendo such a singularly creative and frustrating company. There are still plenty of questions about what numerous aspects of the Switch. I love that the controllers are called Joy-cons because I have an excuse to use the word Joy-cons in daily life, but they look like they were made for certain elected officials with tiny hands. How intuitive playing games with this set-up still seems unclear. The renewed development on motion controls is a tad surprising to me since I thought they were moving away from that control scheme. The idea of paying to play Switch games online seems laughable given how rudimentary these networks have been in the past, even if they’re throwing virtual console games into the deal. The launch lineup, Zelda: Breath of the Wild aside, looks alarmingly barren of support. 1,2 Switch looks like a mediocre clone of a much better Warioware game, and ARMS (again, great name) could be a decent party game, but it doesn’t appear to have anything deeper in it. Yet again, Nintendo appears to be making a system that will lack for system-shifting third-party titles and will be survived by the few first-party games they create themselves. This is far from surprising, but it’s still slightly disappointing to see.
That said, the first-party games we did see were Very Good. The vast, colorful spaces of Zelda continues to look incredibly attractive, and Splatoon 2 just looks like more Splatoon, but the original game is such a jubilant, strange thing that I don’t really mind. It opened my mind to the wonder of what more welcoming multiplayer games could accomplish in the way Overwatchrevealed new avenues for a lot more people over the past year. If it was a launch game, I would probably get a Switch on day one. But it’s not, so I won’t.
But Super Mario Odyssey? That's the jam.
I can’t remember the last time a Mario game looked this unabashedly weird. Putting the plumber next to vaguely realistic cities and jungles is a jarring sight. It reminded me of Bayonettaand Uncharted, but instead of playing as a generically handsome white man, or a giant, sexualized witch whose bodysuit is made of her hair, you play as a stocky Italian man. The presence of (assumedly) actual human beings next to Mario raises a lot of questions. Does this mean Mario is a different species? What is the relationship between the Mushroom Kingdom and the rest of this society? What happens if Mario makes sweet, sweet love with a human woman? Can they make a baby? (I hope those last two questions are never answered. Call me a bigot, but I firmly believe that humans and whatever species Mario is should never be physically intimate with one another. Sorry not sorry.) Either way, the trailer is great.
I'm really looking forward to traversing around a pseudo-realistic world with Mario and his sentient hat and wreck Bowser’s life again. Super Mario Odyssey looks like the true creative leap after Super Mario Galaxy that the Wii U never got. As long as he doesn’t kiss any of the human women in the game. That is a step too far. I cannot stress that enough.