This past summer Nintendo continued their innovative tradition with the release of the Switch, the world’s first fully portable home console. As the year comes to a close many are asking if the Switch will live up to the hype or will it follow in the path of the Wii U?
The device itself is a compact and well put together piece of hardware that functions perfectly as a traditional home console. The Switch, however, caters to today’s mobile lifestyle by freeing the gamer from a stationary television. In portable mode, the battery life lasts between three to four hours and connected to the TV the Joy-con controllers boast an impressive 20 hour battery life.
Putting aside its revolutionary hybrid nature, the true defining feature of any system is the games and the Switch does not disappoint in that aspect. The primer release title “Breath of the Wild” (BOTW) is a true masterpiece of modern game design. This latest “Zelda” title breaks from the linear story driven model that has been the “Zelda” mainstay since “Ocarina of Time” on the Nintendo 64, choosing instead a fully immersive open world experience, recapturing the free exploration that inspired the first game. Indeed “BOTW” is the first game to truly capture this spirit of freedom since the original title.
After a quick tutorial section, the game sets the player free to explore the truly massive and visually stimulating kingdom of Hyrule. Although the main story can be completed within a few hours, the true joy and challenge of the game comes through the exploration. The various quests and shrines dispersed throughout the world, along with the sheer joy of exploring these gorgeous lands, will lead the player to spend hundreds of hours jogging, climbing and fighting throughout the vast land of Hyrule.
By abandoning the linear gameplay model, “BOTW” frees the player to progress at their own pace and through their own strategy. The only true objective is to defeat Ganon, a task which can be completed, albeit with great difficulty, from the very moment one leaves the tutorial. Combat in the game presents a new and engaging challenge. The game introduces weapon durability, forcing the player to constantly search for new spears, swords, bows and shields. Rather than detract from the experience, this element adds a unique challenge to combat as the player is forced to utilize all the weapons in the game, further incentivizing exploration and innovation.
Nintendo’s other premier title “Mario Odyssey” is another worthy iteration of the beloved title, and like “BOTW,” is a perfect balance of old and new. The characteristic game mechanic of “Odyssey” is Cappy, Mario’s sentient hat sidekick who grants Mario the ability to possess various creatures within the game. This mechanic adds a fresh new twist to the old 3D platformer, as each character brings unique abilities, enabling Mario to solve unique puzzles in reaching a new area. With over eight hundred moons to collect throughout the game, “Odyssey” will keep players exploring the enormous game for hours.
After “Odyssey,” the release of “Doom” and ‘Skyrim” signal a welcome change for Nintendo and recognition by the company, as they must join Xbox and Playstation in welcoming the extensive library of third party games to their system. It appears that the company is committed to fixing the mistakes of the past, by bringing as many third party games to the Switch as possible, with these two games serving as a superb example of what is to come.
Despite a need to look to the future, Nintendo has often been successful by harkening to the past. The eventual addition of Nintendo’s full virtual console, a hallmark of the Wii and Wii U, will surely delight many nostalgic Nintendo fans with the prospect of housing all of their beloved games both new and old on one console. The recent release of Hulu, with Netflix and Youtube soon to follow only adds to the utility of the Switch as an all-encompassing entertainment device.
So then, what is the verdict on the Switch? The device itself is superb and promises to provide more utility and entertainment in the future with the release of video streaming services, fully formed online play and the virtual console. However, these developments are slow. As a result, the Switch is unlikely to be on par with the other consoles for some time. Despite this delay, the Switch is a superb system with superb games and new releases every month. Having personally dumped hundreds of hours into the system I am still just as enthusiastic about it and its games as the day I first turned it on.
Bernie Bronsberg is a fourth-year majoring history with a minor in Latin. He can be reached at BB851023@wcupa.edu.