Tag Archives: nintendo

The Nintendo Switch- first impressions

Well, the Switch is here and I’ve seen it in action. So let’s give you a few first impressions.

  • The interface is closer to that of the PS4 and Xbox One than the Wii U and 3DS series. The default colour scheme is once again pure white but black is also avaliable in the options menu.
  • One can now switch (ha ha) easily between user accounts, represented by an avatar. This avatar can be customised by combining preset backgrounds and stock Nintendo graphics or the user’s Mii. There are plenty of background colours but stock art is somewhat lacking. This feature is clearly to prevent Little Johnny from seeing a picture of Donald Trump’s penis while playing Mario Kart.
  • The easy switching does have its drawbacks- one must now confirm one’s credit card details with every purchase. However this is understandable because nobody wants Little Johnny using their stored details to buy Super Overrated, Overhyped Game 5 for £too much.
  • The tablet screen is a lot heavier than I first assumed. However, it is still very portable. The screen is more like a mobile phone than a 3DS, responding to fingers as well as to stylii.
  • The cartridges are around the size of PS Vita ones. So keep them safe!
  • The framerate is far higher than the Wii U, as you can see when comparing Zelda versions.
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To wait or not to hit the Switch?

Let’s face it, the Switch looks great in action but the launch is about as promising as a dog poo sundae. Let’s see why:

  • Only four titles confirmed. Yes, one is a Zelda game but that’s barely enough, especially when it’s also avaliable on Wii U and when the other titles include a minigame collection that should come as a packin but somehow ISN’T and the 50,000th installment of the Skylanders series.
  • Games cost £60 each.
  • £280 for a partially portable console. If you’re so concerned about playing Zelda on the go, grab a 3DS and Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask for half the price.
  • Paid online after a trial period. Nintendo has offered free online since early last DECADE, and that gave it an edge over Sony and Microsoft in the multiplayer department. Iwata knew that there were many gamers who were having enough trouble paying their ISP bill. Now Iwata’s dead, many of his best ideas have gone with him. It’s said that Nintendo could fail to turn a profit for FIFTY YEARS and still have enough money to thrive, so then why price out people who otherwise couldn’t afford online gaming?

So I’m in two minds whether to buy at launch. Online will be free until autumn and Skylanders are avaliable cheaply from most good toy shops (and some bad ones too), but sixty pounds for a game whose core mechanics have never changed since the first installment. There are other things I’m wanting more than that at the moment. And I still have my 3DS and Wii U with Wii U games in particular coming down heavily in price. I think I may wait until September when Splatoon 2’s out and my degree is completed but free online ends around the same time.

Hmm.

 

 

 

Switch presentation thoughts

Well, Switchmas has come and gone with many questions answered and leaving many new questions unanswered.

The presentation itself was evenly balanced between showing off new software and advertising the features. The “joycons”- the micro pads that attach to the sides of the console- come in standard grey, blue and red with a detachable wrist strap and include a motion sensor that can apparently accurately simulate an empty glass full of ice cubes, NFC capability and and an infrared camera that can measure real-time shape, size and motion of objects. During the Yamauchi era, Nintendo were apprehensive about online interactivity in gaming and only the Gamecube marked their first baby steps into the medium. Now they’re taking it in their stride- possibly even too far- with the capture button on the left joycon that can take still images of gameplay and upload them to social media.

Confirmed new franchises include Arms, a boxing/wrestling hybrid which utilises both joycons, and 1-2-Switch, a collection of party games. Shinya Takahashi said at the presentation that Nintendo took influence from all its prior home and handheld consoles to create the Switch, but 1-2-Switch goes further and takes influence from Nintendo products dating back to 1976 with its Wild Gunman minigame. 1-2-Switch will be a launch title (I can see it being a pack-in) and Arms will follow shortly after. The highly-rated Splatoon will be getting a sequel in the summer, and an all-new Mario platformer will be released in time for Christmas. Super Mario Odyssey again takes a cue from Nintendo’s past, harking back to the days where Mario was said to be from Brooklyn with a New York-influenced city in the real world- New Donk- as the primary setting. Unfavourable comparisons with the Sonic Adventure series have already been levelled at it, but I think Nintendo can do a lot more with the open sandbox mechanic than Sega did. Other titles include the long-anticipated Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, an update to the top-selling Wii U game including previous DLC, improved graphics, new characters and new arenas. New entries in the Xenoblade and Fire Emblem series rounded out the first-party offerings with third-party titles including No More Heroes, Skyrim and FIFA also revealed. A short video at the end of the presentation teased several games currently under development including what is believed to be a new entry in the F-Zero series.

But here comes the bad news- online play, for a long time absolutely free on Nintendo systems, will only be free for a limited time followed by payments. Battery life in portable mode will range from two-and-a-half to six-and-a-half hours depending on the game being played. Apart from BOTW, the launch lineup looks very weak And finally, it will set you back a cool US$299 or £280, with games apparently retailing for £50-60 a pop in the UK. The console is very good boasting revolutionary new features, but these disadvantages are major hinderances which could lead to low takeup. Nintendo discontinuing the Wii U instead of repositioning it as a budget family console as it did with the original Wii won’t help either.

Into the Warp Pipe

I posted quite a scathing review of Super Mario Run yesterday, but now I’m finding myself rather hooked.

There’s still no excuse for locking out a good portion of the game to people who aren’t willing to pony up real money. I figured out that one can get Toad Tickets through collecting all five red (then purple, then blue…) coins in a single player level, but that supply will soon be exhausted and I am not willing to rely on the bonus game where there’s only a 50/50 chance of getting a ticket.

At the time of review I was not used to the controls (or rather control) and I therefore feel that I was a little harsh on them. They’re quick to get into, which is an obvious must for mobile games, but also versatile. All the moves avaliable to the little Italian plumber in the console games are here and doable.

So Nintendo, I apologise. You’ve made a good game but all it needs is it somehow entirely playable for free players. I don’t care if I have to get 10,000 coins to unlock a single level, just do it.

Nintendo Switches it up

So after months and months of anticipation and rampant speculation, Nintendo finally delivered details of what was codenamed the NX. And once again, they’ve not only pushed the envelope but completely torn it up.

The Switch’s main selling point is that it functions as both a handheld and a home console. This is illustrated perfectly in the introductory video showing a man playing Zelda while his dog is bothering him for a walk. The man goes over to his Switch and slots his joypad in to convert it into a handheld unit that instantly continues the game he had been playing. Well I say handheld, but there’s at least one other way to game on the go. Up to two players can play outdoors by detaching the sides (the poorly-named “Joy-Con” controllers) and using the screen’s built-in prop. This also allows for up to eight people to play locally wirelessly. According to a Nintendo spokesperson, the screen is the main unit and the dock is just used for TV output and charging. I’m pretty sure the dock will able to play Wii/U discs though.

The console uses 3DS-style mini cartridges, implying backwards compatability using a TV as one of the screens. I am assuming the handheld screen is a touchscreen but there was no stylus shown in the video. The design is remarkably simple and not too clumsy given the complex mechanics involved, but I have no doubt there will be an updated version somewhere along the line. Once again, Nintendo has foregone graphic superpowers to push the primary function. There does seem to be some improvement over the Wii U though, particularly in colour. And what’s more, the very name is a work of art. Short, simple to remember, and gets the idea across. Rolls off the tongue too. “Hey, you wanna play some Switch?” sounds natural even mere hours after the reveal.

Nintendo have released a number of publishing partners for the console. Some of the names aren’t surprising, including Sega, Capcom and Bandai Namco. Others though are well out of left field- EA, Bethesda and Activision amongst them. Other names of interest include Ubisoft, Konami and Codemasters (yes, they’re still around). In recent years, Nintendo consoles have suffered from a lack of decent third-party support, especially as regards more “hardcore” titles. Such a strong lineup promising a diverse range of games is a big step forwards though, and could very well make it a massive seller.

So my first impressions? Despite the two-in-one function being rumoured for a long time, Nintendo still managed to surprise in that regard. I certainly wasn’t expecting being able to remove the sides of the Switch for home-style gaming wherever you are. And the best part? More is to be revealed. Tablet functionality has also long been rumoured, will we be getting that too?

I’m saving up already.

Pokémon Sun/Moon Special Demo Version- first impressions

Spoilers ahoy!

I downloaded the Pokémon Sun/Moon Special Demo Version for free (yay, free stuff) today and played through it during an exercise bike session. The demo itself was obviously very limited, but what it promised looked very good.

The demo sees your player character, Sun, arrive in Alola from Kanto. You meet a local kid, Hau, who is all ready to show you around when two Team Skull grunts turn up! You take one and Hau takes one, and once your Greninja has kicked some skeletal behind they run off for their sister. Then you are shown to the Pokécentre, which in addition to the Pokémart now has a coffee shop. The coffee shop was inaccessible in the demo (with the person at the counter coming close to breaking the fourth wall by saying “the owner will be back in about a month”), but I’m assuming it will serve some stat-boosting products. Yet why would you be drinking COFFEE in a place stated by several NPCs to be extremely hot?

After this, you are introduced to Professor Kukui. He invites you to Ten-Carat Hill for a traditional coming-of-age trial, and you can either go right away or have a better look around the city of Hau’oli’s shopping district. I did the latter, knowing well that all the shops were closed, but engaging in some backyard battles (the people really need to cut their grass) and checking out the marina. Then I went to the Hill to become a man. My trial involved snapping photos of two Jangmo-o and two Hakamo-o, one of which was the local totem. The totem fought you in an “SOS Battle” in which it summoned a Rockruff to help it.  This was an interesting challenge, but I don’t think trials have the “meat” to replace the traditional gym system. The core series has little time for gimmicks I feel, believing that those added in Gold and Silver were largely enough. Plus, we already had an entire game where the objective was to take photos of Pokémon. Surely Game Freak can come up with some more original ideas.

Finally, the grunts’ sister from earlier took you on, sending out her Golbat. I’ll use this paragraph to describe the mechanics seen in this battle and in battle. Your Pikachu, loaned from Kukui, can use its “Z-Move”, a move of great power. Being that Golbat is already a Flying type, it seems a bit wasteful to use Gigavolt Havoc instead of Thundershock, and I’m hoping oversights like this don’t carry into the main game. A new feature to the battle menu is a small legend under the moves that says whether it will be super effective or not very effective against the opposing Pokémon. While helpful for new players and casuals, I find it unnecessary with my over 15 years of experience. I know that an Electric move is super effective against a Flying type. I don’t need it pointing out.

The graphics were not too improved from X/Y/ORAS, characters still being detailed sprites. However, and this is a big however, it featured a full-3D environment for the first time. This is a massive leap up and one, particularly after we can see what Go can do, which is needed in my opinion. Pokémon cannot continue being top-down for the rest of the franchise’s run. It looks dated and is quite restrictive. One drawback to the new style was that in the city, there are entrances at both sides of the road. It is impossible to turn the camera facing towards the entrance, making things a bit awkward.

So to sum up- it had its good and bad parts. The trials, while an interesting idea, seem a bit too weak to be the core of the game. This was just a short trial to get to grips with the mechanism, but if the actual trials are that short and devoid of action, I will not be happy. The gimmicks are getting a bit tiresome- the Z-Moves are almost the exact same concept as the Digimon-esque Mega Evolutions of the previous generation- and the change of setting is doing little to offset that.

Remembering Iwata

It has been one year since the gaming world lost Satoru Iwata.

Iwata started his career at Nintendo as a programmer but rose through the ranks to become the first president with no ties to the Yamauchi family. In a culture where family businesses are EXTREMELY valued, this is a testament to what Hiroshi Yamauchi saw in him.

He went on to lead Nintendo through it’s most successful period since the NES was released with the release of the Wii in 2006. When Nintendo reported losses, Iwata voluntarily cut his salary as a way of apology. Iwata also enjoyed interacting with developers and fans through Nintendo Directs and Iwata Asks interviews.

Such dilligence was not to last though. Iwata was diagnosed with bile duct cancer and underwent surgery in 2015, missing that year’s E3. Unfortunately, bile duct cancer is an aggressive beast, and he succumbed to it on the 11th of July 2015. The world was not made aware until three days later, when Nintendo of Japan published a notice that the office of president was now vacant.

Goodbye and arigato.

Here’s a drawing I made on Miiverse after his death:

iwatadrawing