The Season Of The Switch
Earlier this week, I reported back with my impressions from Nintendo’s big Switch showcase in New York City. The console and, more frustratingly, Nintendo have their problems, but the device itself has the potential for a wide, weird gamut of games. The big question is whether developers other than Nintendo will be taking advantage of it. As Natureslayer pointed out down in the comments, this was ultimately one of the problems with the Wii U:
The Wii U gamepad never lived to its potential. Not enough games took advantage of the limited information the pad could give to players. The Luigi’s Mansion mini-game was one of the better games in Nintendoland precisely because of the hidden information one player had over others. No other system could do something like that in a couch co-op/competitive setting. Something like Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes would have been a perfect fit.
As I mentioned in my article, Nintendo would do well to court quirky independent developers to build new games for the system, both traditional fare and those that take advantage of Switch’s wackier features. Needlehacksaw had similar feelings:
This is why I still hold out hope for the day Nintendo realizes one of its brightest futures is with indie developers. While major publishers never will invest more than a fleeting thought in how to use those things, there is a whole scene of innovative indie developers who are doing silly and creative stuff with control schemes that are a lot weirder than the Switch’s, and on a micro budget to boot.
I mean, there’s the Punch The Custard guy, for example, or all the devs using Kinect or VR or any kind of bizarre sensors to do games you will only ever get a chance to play by attending a game festival or party—those creators would have a field day trying to come up with new concepts, I’d imagine. Put them together in a WarioWare or Sportsfriends like compilation, if you don’t trust them as individual titles.
That said, it’s really a bit frustrating to see how Nintendo can’t figure out how to open up to that potential. A certain sector of the indie scene seems to share in a mindset a lot closer to Nintendo’s than virtually every other bigger studio out there. (And that’s not even mentioning people like Undertale’s Toby Fox or Stardew Valley’s Eric Barone, who basically out-Nintendoed Nintendo.) A Nintendo console with broad support for indie devs? That would actually be my dream console, much more so than the boring dream of a “PS4 with Mario and Link on it.”
Speaking of “PS4 with Mario,” SingingBrakeman thinks that’s not quite as simple as it sounds:
I don’t think we can or should attempt to disassociate Nintendo’s hardware from their software. Since the Super NES era, they’ve effectively been making games based on their in-house hardware, and it’s what allows them to craft more unique experiences. They aren’t designing a piece of software to work across various hardware set-ups with the most standard of controllers. They’re designing software that plays to the strengths of the very specific architecture and inputs with which it is associated. Consequently, you get cool stuff like the Zelda DS games (touch controls), NintendoLand (asymmetric dual-screen gameplay), Yoshi’s Island (complex SuperFX visuals), Metroid Prime Trilogy (motion-controlled FPS), and other neat things.
There are notable exceptions, to be sure. Skyward Sword‘s painterly art style was hampered by its SD resolution and New Super Mario Bros. Wii was hampered by pointlessly imprecise motion controls. But I’d argue the company has far more successes than failures at this point, in terms of their unique blend of art design and innovative hardware/software development. We have other consoles (and PCs) for more standard fare. It’s nice to see Nintendo always pushing the envelope.
Meanwhile, Jakeoti is excited for the possibility of quick and easy meat-space multiplayer but shares my fears about the system’s most surprising feature:
I’m most excited for the ease of access with the Joy-Con and the fact that it’s a console built for local multiplayer. Snipperclips shows that you can make a simple game for it that’s entirely built around co-op, and you’re pretty much guaranteed that the console owner can play. Sure, you need to make sure you have a partner, but having two controllers right there saves a bit of the hassle. I’m hoping that we see a wealth of two-player games. Maybe a Pushmo sequel with co-op?
My worry about HD Rumble is the same as the article. Will it be used outside of a mere gimmick for games like 1-2 Switch? The closest comparison I can think of is the motion controls that were in the PlayStation 3’s standard controller,. A feature that I didn’t even realize the console had until I played LittleBigPlanet, in which it was a finnicky way of making you slap the other players. Yay. Don’t get me wrong, the tech sounds really cool, but I’m having a much harder time thinking of design uses for it than I was for things like the Wii U’s second screen or even the 3DS’ 3-D. Maybe it’ll best be used like the latter was; rarely having an effect that actually adds gameplay but can just make some sections of games way cooler. Because as much as I didn’t play in 3-D, occasionally turning it on for one of the more spectacular Kid Icarus Uprising levels or the final boss of Kirby Planet Robobot was pretty spectacular for such a tiny screen.
Filling In The Cracks
Also this week, Anthony John Agnello dug into the ending(s) of Castlevania III and found it to be a bittersweet finale with eyes toward the uncertain futures of its heroes. Down in the comments, NakedSnake wondered about the sparse stories in classic games of this ilk and how they let players—including whoever the hell was writing those instruction manuals—fill in the gaps:
One of the things that’s interesting about older games is that the plots are so spare they allow plenty of room for interpretation. There’s a lot more space for the player to make up their own stories, given the relative low levels of in-game plot development. This also allowed the developers a little more flexibility to be creative with what is presented in game. Why is the spirit of Death, who is basically a god, one of Dracula’s minions? I’ll wager it’s because Death is spooky and someone thought it would be cool to put him in the game.
This whole loose attitude to plot and character is only reinforced by the errors and contradictions that exist in the old instruction manuals. They read more like fan interpretations than authoritative tomes, which implicitly gives us the right to come to our own interpretations. The quotes above made me curious to check out the instructional manual for Castlevania III. Whoever wrote that was given a wide range of latitude and was clearly having more fun with world-building than your average Elder Scrolls writer. Check out this scene-setting passage:
“The last line of defense is you, Trevor Belmont—the forefather of Simon Belmont and the origin of the Belmont Warlord Chromosomes. But your chances are slimmer than Jim. In fact, the only real edge you have over this fang sharpened freak is your power to transform into three different partner spirits.”
Or this description of the stakes involved:
“And remember, if your courage and cunning are any less than magnificent or if you fail to choose the correct Paths Of Fate, you’ll be banished to the world of the undead, and zombies will rule until the end of time.”
Hell, even the section on the time limit is described as a “Countdown to your Last Gasp.” The silliness and enthusiasm that goes into these descriptions simultaneously undercuts idea of a canonical interpretation and encourages the player to come up with an interpretation that fits the spirit—if not the details—of the game’s official explanations.
That’ll do it for this week, friends. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all again next week!