Nintendo Switch: One Year In

By Chris / November 21, 2018
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This is Picklemoose's Blog.  A small section of Pixelated Cardboard dedicated to topics outside of digital board game ports.  Posts here will be less formal & cover a range of topics.

I purchased a Switch in late 2017. It’s been a great decision for me for a variety of reasons, I wanted to share my experience with the console after almost a year of ownership.  Also, did you know I ate an entire family of rabbits yesterday?

Some background on me as a gamer; I’m a casual one at this point in my moose life. I grew up on sports games, all of the Nintendo properties, and the occasional JRPG. Amazing what games are available in the woods. I briefly kept up with some of the AAA tiles like Fallouts, Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, etc…, but that phase didn’t last too long. I started playing FPS as I got older as an excuse to play games with friends. Lately, I usually only play one game at a time over long stretches. As my interest in Overwatch faded, I found myself without a game to play. Enter the Switch...

What I Purchased

I initially picked up the base console and Mario Odyssey. I’m a long time Nintendo fan and Mario has always been my top choice for favorite series, sorry Zelda.  Sorry, Moose Mom - I'm a Blogger. 

Mario Kart was purchased shortly afterwards, as I think it legally required by law for Switch owners to do within two months of purchasing their console. After finishing Mario (no, I didn’t 100% it, finished in the low 900s in moons), I grabbed Zelda Breath of the Wild. My next purchase was Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze and, finally (for now), the Nintendo Labo Variety Kit (and an extra pair of JoyCons to go with it). I have Smash pre-ordered, of course, so that will be next. 

How I Play

One of the biggest selling points of the Switch is the portability, as the console itself is a small tablet you can take anywhere. I honestly did not expect to use portable mode all that often, but that quickly changed once I started playing. Having two small children, the battle for TV time is usually won by the smallest in the house, not the biggest. The Switch allowed me to put on whatever Disney movie during afternoon relax time and sit on the couch to play Mario. 

My world was turned upside down. I’ve never been big into mobile/tablet gaming outside of board game ports, so having a full fledged game on a tablet was a new experience for me, and it was (and remains) amazing. At a different point in my life I would likely have rarely tried the portable mode, but the Switch hit at the perfect time for me in that regard.

Whether docked or portable, I almost always play with two detached JoyCons, one of a few different configurations/controllers the console offers. If I sit too far away from the TV/dock I will occasionally get dropped button presses, which are infuriating on the more difficult portions of a game like Mario, but sitting closer relieves the issue. I’ve heard great things about the pro controller, but I haven’t found myself needing it thus far.

Ranking the Games I've Played

1) Super Mario Odyssey

I was in awe on a regular basis while playing through this game with the greatness of the level design. If you haven’t played, the basic concept is that Mario’s hat/friend Cappy allows him to take the form of various enemies in the game, by simply tossing the hat on their head. The genius of this is in the level design which caters to the various enemies you can embody on a given level. There are frequently portions of the game Mario himself would never be able to conquer, but toss that hat on a nearby T. Rex and off you go. (Okay, the T. Rex is the coolest, but also the least consequential use of the hat in the game). Also, the hat itself is used for advanced movement abilities which you might miss the first time through the game, but as you go back and unlock the full game, you will find yourself leaning on Cappy for advanced jumps more frequently to nab those hard to find moons. And “full game” is a fascinating concept in this game. Without going into too much detail, you will play through the game once, “beat it” and then you will go back through an unlock the remaining 60% or so of the game. This is among the best Mario games ever released and I fully understand the weight of that claim.

2) Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

I’m a sucker for the nostalgia of SNES games and I certainly loved the old Donkey Kong Country titles of that era. Tropical Freeze does the nearly impossible by mixing that nostalgia with fresh new takes on a 2D sidescroller to create something truly amazing. This was in the running for a perfect 5 star score from me (I like to pretend I actually review games) until the last few levels. Some of them are simply impossibly difficult to master without an endless string and deaths-and-retries. The game isn’t difficult due to level design at that point, the level design is made to be difficult by forcing drastic pace changes from the player. It is seemingly impossible to run through the level without dying twenty times to get the cadence of fast/slow, low/high, etc… down. It turns into a memory game. That little gripe doesn’t wipe out the goodwill provided by the rest of this excellent game, however. Some of the level designs are spectacular and many can be brutally difficult without feeling like the game is cheating you.

3) Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

There’s really not a whole lot that needs to be said about a Mario Kart title. You know what you’re getting. It is a blast of fun, a heavy dose of infuriating comeback mechanics, and a ton of luck rolled into one great looking package. This iteration, like every other before it, steps things up a notch across the board. You either love or hate Mario Kart, I love it, and therefore this version gives a thumbs up for me.

4) Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I still haven’t completed this game, or come anywhere close. I’m a Zelda fan, having completed most of the titles from their traditional consoles throughout Nintendo’s history. BotW’s take on Zelda moves it in some interesting directions that I don’t necessarily love. The weapon and shield system is based around anything you use accruing damage. Use anything in the game too much and it will break. This is a fun idea on paper, but in practice when I finally get a decent sword I hate having to shelve it when it gets damaged or lose it completely. Another downside are the horse controls. The game is HUGE (all caps there, for emphasis), with so much to explore the speedy horse is necessary. However, doing anything except running in a straight line with the horse is a huge pain. Not all is negative, however. The game does a ton of really cool stuff. The energy system for climbing/running is fantastic. The fighting is well done, especially using the JoyCon for aiming your arrows. And the endless creativity the game allows by mixing of objects is a true joy. I feel like I will return to this game soon and finally “get” it, and not want to put it down, but I’m not there yet.

5) Labo Variety Pack

Labo is a bunch of cardboard and a game which tells you how to assemble the cardboard and then play interactive games with the detached mode Switch. For example, you can build a little fishing rod, stick two JoyCons in it, and then the tablet in a handy holder you just built, and use the cardboard contraption to catch digital fish on the tablet screen. The rod has a working reel and string, it’s really quite impressive. Other kits include a very simple RC car, a piano, an interactive house, and a set of handlebars. Labo was a purchase for my kids and on that Labo scores a gigantic home run and a huge swing and miss at the same time. The home run is the games themselves. My kids have spent hours playing the fishing and RC car games, if you have small children you know how valuable it is to find anything which can distract them for an hour at a time, and Labo delivers there.  The miss is the assembly portion. Part of the appeal is getting to get kids to build things with their hands. However, my kids are too small and lack the attention span to undertake the complex builds offered by anything except the RC cars. The other kits all run an hour or more in build time.

 The included game includes much more, as it will help you with advanced features (of which there are many very, very cool ones) and even do some light programming. These features would hopefully hook kids older than mine, but for a kindergartener and toddler I’ve got a great distraction in the form of super simple, interactive games which is, in the end, a big win.

Worth the Purchase?

Ultimately, this is all that really matters. To me, almost 11 months in, the Switch has absolutely been worth the purchase. It has given me some primal, kid-like joy in playing some flat-out fun games with genius designs. Being able to play it in handheld mode wasn’t a big selling point for me, but it should have been as I have probably logged more hours that way than in docked mode.

I’m enjoying playing so much that all of these re-releases the console is getting (see Dark Souls, for example) are really tempting for me to pick up, something I never would have considered a year ago.

Is the Switch For You?

I don’t know! It’s a very personal preference type thing. If you have strong ties to the Nintendo nostalgia then I’d say a Switch is a no-moose-brainer. If you are casual gamer who hasn’t been thrilled at the AAA titles on Xbox or Playstation lately, Switch might not hit the mark as the games might not hit as hard without those old Nintendo memories stirring in your head, but it will provide a different experience. If you want a way to play some truly great games on a device the size of a small tablet, Switch is a great choice. And so on, pluses and minuses on both sides. All I can really say is that the Switch has been great for me given my current life situation and being a big Nintendo fan. The price is reasonable but be aware of the high prices on the peripherals, a new set of JoyCons will run you more than a game.

Oh, and don’t look now, but digital board game ports are starting to hit Switch, a trend that has the potential to continue down the line.

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