With the launch of the Switch quickly approaching, Nintendo has taken their new console on a whirlwind tour across the country. I, along with Danny, got to a chance to spend three and a half hours with a multitude of launch and in-development titles during the Chicago leg of the trip. Yes, that includes a far-too-short chance to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild was, of course, the main attraction at the event, but play time was limited. With our reservations to play set for later in the day, Danny and I roamed the show floor to check out the other titles on display.
Snipperclips is a fun and clever cooperative puzzle game that will sell for $19.99 when it launches in March. Players each control an anthropomorphic bit of paper, and reshape their partners by clipping bits off each other. A number of puzzle styles are present, including combining to form new shapes and finding ways to move objects on the playing field. Its simple design makes it a great party game as well as a fun co-op challenge for more serious players. The price is a little high, I think, but more reasonable than 1-2-Switch or ARMS.
1-2-Switch is a party game that really should have come bundled with the console. As inventive as its minigames are, I can’t say I think they are worth the $50 price tag. Outside of using the Joy-Con’s HD Rumble, most of the games feel like something designed for the original Wii. Dropping the price significantly would make it palatable, but at its asking price it feels like a disappointment. It seems to me like a perfect Joy-Con bundle game, much like Wii Play was bundled with a Wii Remote.
ARMS feels like a cross between Punch-Out!! and Virtual-On. It makes use of both the Joy-Con’s motion controls and its triggers, providing a complex but easy to learn control scheme that does not falter in the heat of battle. I played a few rounds and enjoyed it thoroughly. Like 1-2-Switch, it does a great job of showing off the Joy-Con. However, the game requires players hold a Joy-Con in each hand, making it an expensive proposition. Since ARMS does not have a set launch date or price, I’ll reserve judgement for the final product. Like 1-2-Switch, I fee like its requirement for an extra Joy-Con set makes it a good bundle title.
Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers
Ultra Street Fighter II is slight variation on Super Street Fighter II Turbo, with the addition of grapple breaks, light rebalancing, and a choice of classic graphics or HD visuals like those found in Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. It also adds Evil Ryu and Violent Ken to the roster. Street Fighter II is a known quantity in gaming. If you enjoy it, you will want to pick up its latest iteration. If you don’t, it won’t do anything to change your mind.
Disgaea 5 Complete
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Disgaea, but haven’t played any games in the series since. Disgaea 5 Complete features all the DLC of the PlayStation 4 version, but no new content. Disgaea has become a staple of the Tactical RPG genre, and Disgaea 5 Complete carries on its tradition of over-the-top action and absurd humor. Tactical RPG games make great portable experiences, and I can see Disgaea 5 Complete becoming my go-to lunch entertainment — after I’ve finished Breath of the Wild, of course.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Aside from Breath of the Wild, there were probably more demo units of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe than any other game. Nintendo used it to better illustrate the flexibility of the Switch. There were serveral “environments” set up in which one could play, including a diner, airplane seats, and a living room. Each instance presented a different way to enjoy the game. I played in the plane seat and diner. While in the airplane environment, a single Switch was shared with two players. Each took half a Joy-Con and played in split screen mode. In the diner environment, each player raced with a Switch of their own. In each instance, the game played without a hitch. The game was quite playable with a single half of the Joy-Con, though without the Joy-Con strap to extend the L and R buttons it was a bit more of a hassle to hit the triggers.
I’ve been looking forward to trying Has-Been Heroes since its reveal. It’s the latest release from Frozenbyte, the developer behind the Trine series. Has-Been Heroes starts with a hilarious concept — the player controls aging heroes who are tasked with protecting princesses on their way to school — and uses elements from roguelikes, brawlers, and strategy games. It was second only to Disgaea 5 Complete in terms of complexity, so I wasn’t able to master it during my demo. I remain excited for its actual release and can’t wait to play it for an extended period of time.
The Sonic the Hedgehog series had a rough go of things after the Genesis/Mega Drive. Despite this, many players hold onto nostalgia for its earliest incarnations. Sonic Mania, designed and programmed by dyed-in-the-wool series fanatics like Christian Whitehead, remixes classic stages like Green Hill Zone and introduces true-to-the series’-roots new ones. It’s a lot of fun, and if you told someone the new stages were present in or cut from a previous Sonic game, they’d probably believe you. This is a game for Sonic fans, by Sonic fans, but any fan of platformers should enjoy it.
Super Bomberman R
The formula for Bomberman is tried-and-true, and Super Bomberman R continues that tradition. It’s a great multiplayer game, filled with frantic action. It doesn’t seem to add anything new to the series, but its easy portability makes it a no-brainer for fans of the series or people looking for a quick competitive fix.
Just Dance 2017, Skylanders: Imaginators, Splatoon 2, Puyo Puyo Tetris, and Fast RMX were also on display, but I didn’t get a chance to check them out.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Switch’s biggest title was also the one in the greatest demand on the show floor. Players lined up to play Breath of the Wild, and the short demo was worth the wait. I chose to forego the story elements and just focus on exploration. I died three times trying to take out an enemy encampment, each time making more progress and finding new ways to dispatch them. Beyond that, I wandered through a small portion of the overworld, and an attendant showed me how to roast apples. It was easily the highlight of the event, but I got nowhere near enough play time to say anything other than I can’t wait to play the final product. You can see how games like Skyrim influenced this new, more involved world, but it still feels like a Zelda title.
Outside of Breath of the Wild, the Switch’s launch lineup is solid, though unimpressive. I wouldn’t make too big of a deal about it, just because few console launches are all that great outside of a game or two. It’s unfortunate that Nintendo isn’t breaking the mold, however. Despite that, I can’t wait to play Breath of the Wild in a little over a week, and it’s likely I’ll pick up Snipperclips and Has-Been Heroes to mix things up. For me, a Street Fighter game is a guaranteed sale, and Disgaea 5 Complete might make it into my library once I’ve finished Zelda.
Outside of Breath of the Wild, there is nothing that makes the Switch a must-have console. I don’t think we’ll have a good idea of whether it will be successful for a few months; early sales always go to scalpers and super-fans. If demand is high come fall, Nintendo should be on solid ground.
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