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“Switch”ing Sides – Nintendo’s New Console

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I have been a pretty big skeptic of what everyone was calling the NX since the rumors and leaks started to trickle in. Things like the portable gimmick and built-in screen led me to think it would be Wii U2, and that once again the focus would be on pushing a goofy gameplay gimmick over just building a solid console. I was pleasantly surprised after seeing the reveal trailer, and I certainly feel less cynical about the console and its potential. With my personal biases aired out, let’s take a look at the new Nintendo Switch.

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The Screen

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The biggest deal breaker for the Switch with me was the portable aspect leaked in early rumors. The tablet controller is one of the worst parts of the Wii U. It’s clunky, makes development of games a hassle for studios, and the Wii U cannot turn on if the thing is out of juice, misplaced, or broken. The screen console/peripheral of the Switch is a better gimmick than the tablet. For starters, it’s the actual console and not an attachment needed to play it. Resting it in a special charging base keeps it from gathering dust or risking it being broken or misplaced. It also doesn’t look like a touch-tablet; not once in the trailer does someone use the screen for anything other than looking at their game.

While I like how Nintendo has chosen to use the screen, I do have a few questions about it…

How durable is the screen?

As we all know, the Nintendium mines started to run dry shortly after the GameCube, and Nintendo had to start folding Japanese plastic 1000 times to mimic it’s durability. If I’m supposed to carry this thing around in my backpack on a train or a bus, I want to know it’s not going to crack. The only modern Nintendo comparison we have right now is the 2DS, but it looks very different. The 2DS’ screens are sunk into the plastic, which lessens the strain put on it if something heavy were to be placed on top of it, or someone accidentally sits on or jolts the bag it’s in. The Switch’s screen, however, is the size of the entire device, so how will I be able to protect it? Am I just supposed to be careful, or will there be something like a cover similar to other tablets?

What is the console’s portable battery life?

The Wii U tablet was lucky to last you 3 hours and the Switch is supposedly much stronger than that. In order for the Switch to be a decent handheld-console it would need to have a battery life of around 5 to 6 hours just to match up with other portable devices. This brings me to my other question regarding the screen…

What is going to happen to the DS line?

New-3DS-XL-Black

In just about every major market outside of Japan, the Switch’s main competition as a portable gaming device would be Nintendo’s own line of 3DS handhelds. Mobile gaming and portable gaming are two very different things, and I doubt Nintendo would want to compete with itself. It only makes sense for the 3DS to get pushed out of the way if Nintendo’s goal is to highlight the Switch’s portability.

In reality, the portability of the console probably will not matter too much. The Switch being portable has no impact on game design or development, which was one of the biggest hurdles when making games for the Wii U. The 3DS will probably continue to thrive while the Switch will go down as “that Nintendo console you can easily take with you that emphasizes multiplayer.”

 

The Controller

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The controller reveal was the coolest part of the trailer to me. It looks like Nintendo has tried to create a controller that not only works with their console’s gimmick, but also covers a wide range of play styles. In the opening shot we see a man playing Breath of the Wild with what looks like a basic controller. He can remove the sides of the controller and attach them to the screen for something similar to WiiU tablet, remove them from the tablet and have two floating controller pieces (like a Wii Nunchuck), and probably reattach them to the original controller base while on the go. What really got me though was in later clips where you see people sharing the controller for two-player games. This means the Switch will inherently come with two controllers out of the box. Hopefully these peripherals will not be expensive, because cheap controllers could help push the console and its multiplayer on-the-go feel.

I only have one question regarding the controllers after the trailer…

What Peripherals and Legacy Support will Exist?

While Nintendo teased what looked like an early build of a pro-controller in the trailer, I’m curious to know what other things will be supported by the Switch. There are two slots on the side of the console that look like USB ports; presumably you can attach something to it. Nintendo doesn’t have the best record with USB attachments, as even the Wii U needed help when trying to attach an external hard drive to it. If you played something like Smash Bros. or Mario Kart online, having a wired connection was important, and only doable with a USB peripheral.

 

Cartridges

Cartridges? Are we going backwards? No, not at all. Discs were definitely the stronger media format for games back in the 32 and 64-bit eras, but since then cartridges have caught up in terms of capacity. You can get a 32gig SD card for less than $10 now, and most games rarely approach that size (not like you’d want them large anyways, with limited console hard drive space). Cartridges also work into Nintendo’s portable gimmick. A cart is much more durable than a disc. Even the PSP, a handheld that used UMDs, stuck its games in cartridge-like cases. It might not look as glamorous as a disc, but I’m all for a return to cartridges. My real concern is less with the cartridge and more with console’s hard drive space. The Wii U’s hard drive sizes are absolute jokes; both 16gigs and 32gigs are pretty small in the grand scheme of things. It definitely didn’t help that you couldn’t swap them out like on the PlayStation or Xbox console lines, and it seems the Switch will continue this trend. All the hardware is built into the screen, and that screen looks too small to open and tinker with, or at least to swap a hard drive on.

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The Switch is definitely much better than I was thinking it would be. It looks like Nintendo learned a lot from the faults of the Wii U and found better ways to implement their vision of gaming. We still don’t know the console’s launching price, which could be a deal breaker for some if it’s more expensive than the PS4 or the One, both of which have been receiving price cuts and console revisions. “March 2017,” still isn’t much of a date; it’s more like a window. Nintendo wants to put the Switch out at the start of the fiscal year, meaning they might double down on pushing it to investors for most of 2017 as opposed to the WiiU or 3DS. There’s still plenty of unanswered questions I have about the console, but only time will tell if those answers will surface before the console’s launch.

 

What are your thoughts on the Switch? Are you sold on it, or do you think it’s a drowning gimmick? Make sure to leave a comment below and get the discussion going.

Taylor is a writer from Atlanta, GA. His passion for games extends across genres and generations. When not playing or writing about games, he's probably reading science fiction.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Christian Buck

    October 20, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    I agree that cartridges are the way to go. It will be interesting to see if they are compatible with the 3ds (sigh, just replaced mine). If we are lucky the built in HDD will be an interchangeable micro SD like the 3DS. My biggest questions are concerning 1.eShop compatibility, will we be able to access our older disk games. 2. 3rd party access, including indy games. Seeing such a variety of games being played makes me wonder if these are just ports or if there is some level of compatibility across systems (its a long shot, but maybe (pc/steam support doubtful but I can dream)). Also, First.

    • Taylor Smith

      October 22, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      I’m assuming the eShop will work how it did between the Wii and Wiiu, where they are two separate entities.
      3rd party support will probably be easier to obtain unless the screen on the tablet runs at some weird resolution, making development difficult.

      I’d actually like to see consoles stay separate from Steam. The only reason I buy Nintendo consoles is for the second and first party titles Nintendo has, and the only reason I bought a PS4 was for Japan-developed games that either won’t launch on PC or if they do they’re shoddy (looking at you, Namco).

  2. Ricky D

    October 21, 2016 at 2:40 am

    This is a great article. I have some similar concerns. What happens to the 3DS? What is the battery life and will it break easily?

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PAX South 2020 Hands On: ‘Ghostrunner,’ ‘Everspace 2,’ and ‘Wrath: Aeon of Ruin’

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‘Ghostrunner,’ ‘Everspace 2,’ and ‘Wrath: Aeon of Ruin’

We’ve already covered a wide variety of the games on display at PAX South this year, from retro revivals to unorthodox romances to everything in between – and we’re not done yet! In this next roundup article, we cover three more ambitious, action-packed games: Ghostrunner, Everspace 2, and Wrath: Aeon of Ruin.

Ghostrunner

Ghostrunner

Ghostrunner was one of the most in-demand games at PAX, and after playing it, it’s easy to see why. This first-person action slasher, developed by One More Level and produced by 3D Realms, lets players dash through the air, run across walls, and slash through enemies at blistering speed all while exploring a dystopian cyberpunk world. It’s gorgeous, lightning fast, and feels amazing to play.

Ghostrunner begins in a broken future, where the remnants of humanity have hidden away in a single condensed tower. Naturally enough, you’re put in the role of the one rebel who dares to rise up against the forces oppressing humanity. As you begin your uprising, you’ll also encounter a grand mystery – why is humanity the way it is now? Just what happened to the rest of the world? And what’s that voice you hear in your head?

Ghostrunner

My demo didn’t offer much illumination to these mysteries, but the 3D Realms team assured me that the story plays a significant role in the main campaign. What my demo did offer, however, was a look into the fast-paced, brutal gameplay that defines the game. Combat is so dynamic in Ghostrunner. Your arsenal of moves is massive and varied – of course you can run, jump, and slash with your katana, but you can also run along walls, dash over chasms, slow down time to dodge bullets, and more.

When all the moving pieces flow together, Ghostrunner achieves a visceral, almost hypnotic flow of battle. There are a few obstacles to this feeling. The controls took a bit of getting used to on my end, but that would be because, console peasant that I am, I’m not used to playing 3D games on a keyboard instead of a controller. Also, this may be an action game, but at many times it feels more like a puzzle game. With bloodthirsty enemies scattered around each environment, you’ll often need to take a step back and methodically evaluate which abilities to use in each situation. This can take some trial and error – it might have taken me more than a few tries to clear out the final wave of enemies. But when the solution works out, it’s a beautifully exhilarating feeling, and that’s what sets Ghostrunner apart.

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin

PAX featured plenty of retro-styled games, but not many quite like Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. This retro-style FPS is a throwback to the simpler, faster days of shooters, built entirely in the same engine as the original Quake. It was even based off the work of Quake community modders. If you’ve played any classic FPS like the original DOOM or Wolfenstein, then you should have a good idea of how Wrath plays: it’s brutal, lightning fast, and action packed.

My demo got straight to the point. After teleporting me to a distant hellscape, I was faced with a horde of demons, ranging from simple skeletons to more aggressive ogre-like enemies and flying laser monsters. Thankfully, I was also given an assortment of weapons to take these creatures down with, including a simple handgun, a powerful blade arm, and my personal favorite, a shotgun. Each one of these felt good to control, and like any good old-fashioned shooter, they gave me a great feeling of power.

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Like any good, brutal FPS in the vein of Quake, Wrath features an insane amount of mobility. Movement is extremely fast and fluid, allowing you to zip across and above stages with reckless abandon. This extra speed will be necessary, especially considering that enemies can slaughter on with reckless, overwhelming abandon.

Of course, being built in the original Quake engine, Wrath is a delightfully retro treat to behold. It features all the signature hard polygonal edges of PC shooters from that bygone era, but with the added smoothness and fluidity of modern hardware. The game feels great to play and is a unique treat to behold. Wrath is currently available on Steam Early Access, and there’s plenty of new content that can be expected throughout the year, including new levels, enemies, and even a full online multiplayer mode. Stuffed with violent retro action, Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is absolutely worth watching out for.

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Everspace 2

Space is the final frontier, offering limitless exploration This’s the exact feeling that Everspace 2 captures. This sandbox open world space shooter dumps you in outer space and leaves you to figure out the rest, allowing you to fight, scavenge, and explore as you will, all with an incredible amount of freedom.

It’s a remarkably beautiful game too, boasting of extremely detailed 3D graphics that wouldn’t look out of place in a full 3D AAA experience. It’s extremely ambitious, offering a wealth of customization options through parts that can be scavenged from fallen space craft or space debris. There’s alien life to discover and a wealth of locations to explore, with the full game apparently featuring more than 80 unique environments.

PAX South

These environments will always be interesting to explore thanks to a mix between handcrafted worlds and randomization. The original Everspace was a pure roguelike, and as developer Rockfish Games told me, this constantly changing design has often been fundamental to previous great space shooters. Although Rockfish opted for an intentionally designed open world for the sequel, they want to maintain some of those same roguelike elements. That’s why whenever you venture through the many galaxies of Everspace 2, the galaxies and planets will be the same, but the items you find or enemies you encounter within them may change each time.

It took me some time to get used to Everspace. It immediately offers a great amount of freedom, with the demo simply dumping me in space and only requiring that I take down some enemy units and pick up some loot. Yet once I got the hang of the controls and the environment, it became extremely fluid and natural to zip through space, upgrade different components, and experience all the free-flowing action that it has to offer. Space is the ultimate freedom, and Everspace 2 is set to represent that.

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PAX South 2020 Hands On: ‘Windjammers 2,’ ‘KUNAI,’ and ‘Young Souls’

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PAX South

PAX South 2020 attracted tons of exciting publishers to San Antonio, and even with such a crowded lineup, the DotEmu and Arcade Crew booth easily stood out as some of the show’s very best exhibitors. Streets of Rage 4 might have been their standout demo, but the French boutique publisher and developers brought a fantastic selection of games to the show, including their signature retro revivals and some promising original indie games of their own.

PAX South

Windjammers 2

Sequel to the much-beloved arcade classic, Windjammers 2 takes all the hectic frisbee-throwing action of the original and updates it for the modern generation. For those unfamiliar with the art of windjamming, it’s effectively pong, but instead of balls, you toss discs back and forth across the court. It pits two players against each other on opposite sides of the court, tasking you with mercilessly hurling your disc back and forth until it gets into your opponent’s goal.

You can just throw the disc directly at your opponent, but Windjammers 2 gives you many more options besides that. To really excel at the game, you’ll have to make use of the most extravagant moves you can, dashing across the court, leaping into the air, tossing the disc above you before slamming it down into your opponent, to list only a few of the uber-athletic abilities at your disposal. The game can move extremely quickly when both players take advantage of these capabilities, yet things never feel overwhelming. I always felt in control of the action, even when my quickest reflexes were put to the test. It’s fast-paced disc throwing insanity, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

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Just like the rest of DotEmu’s catalogue, Windjammers 2 combines classic gameplay with gorgeous modern aesthetics. It has the same hand-drawn style that makes other DotEmu titles stand out, like Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap. The original Windjammers was a time capsule of garish 90s style, and that design is retained for the new release, with characters looking even more colorful and absurd than ever thanks to the revitalized art and animations. Hectic to play and beautiful to behold, Windjammers 2 is already set to be a multiplayer hit.

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Young Souls

Streets of Rage 4 was certainly the premier beat ‘em up on display at DotEmu’s booth, but it wasn’t the only one. Alongside this retro revival was an all-new take on the genre: Young Souls, an extremely stylish action game that blends fast-paced fighting with deep RPG customization and a charming, emotional narrative.

Beat ‘em ups might not be known for deep storylines, but Young Souls aspires to something more. Along with its satisfying combat mechanics and plentiful flexibility for character builds, it also boasts of having “a profound story with unforgettable characters.” While my demo didn’t give me much of a look at this deep narrative, it’s reasonable to assume that the story will at least be quality, since it’s penned by none other than the author of the Walking Dead games, Matthew Ritter.

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However, I did get a substantial feel for combat. Young Souls features more than 70 monster-filled dungeons, and I got to venture into two of them in my demo. The action feels weighty and solid when going up against enemies, yet precise at the same time. Like any classic beat ‘em up, there’s a mixture of light and heavy attacks, along with blocks and powerful special moves, along with items and spells to exploit during combat as well. In between battles, you’re able to deck your character out in equipment and items, allowing for an element of roleplaying depth that isn’t typically associated with action games like this. In my short time with the game, it was fun to experiment with different character builds, which could determine the speed and abilities of my fighter, promising combat for the final game.

I played the demo both solo and co-op; in single-player, you’re able to switch between the two twins at will, while two players can each take control of a sibling. In both playstyles, the gameplay was just as visceral and satisfying as one would expect from a classic-style beat ‘em up like this, but the addition of a deep story and RPG mechanics put a unique spin on this entry. That’s not to mention that, like every other game at the DotEmu and Arcade Crew booth, it’s visually beautiful, featuring stylish 2D characters in 3D environments that are all rendered in gentle, washed-out colors. Young Souls might not have a release date or even any confirmed platforms as of now, but it’s absolutely worth keeping an eye on in the meantime.

KUNAI

KUNAI takes the typical metroidvania formula and boosts it to hyperspeed. It has all the hidden secrets and massively interconnected world exploration that you’d expect from the genre, and it gives you the ability to speed through that faster and more dynamically than ever. Its main gimmick is right in the name – by giving you two kunai hookshots, you’re able to traverse up and down your environments with speed and freedom, making for a uniquely vertical method to explore.

KUNAI starts out with the end of the world. In a dystopian future where technology has taken over, you control Tabby, a sentient and heroic tablet that’s dead set on liberating the planet. This serious plot is filled with plenty of personality, however, from the silly faces that Tabby makes in action to the charming dialogue and quirky character designs. This personality is rendered in appealing detail thanks to the game’s simple yet effective pixel art.

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It’s in the gameplay where KUNAI truly shines. With the eponymous kunai, you’re able to latch onto vertical surfaces. Combine this with the additional abilities to dash, bounce off enemies, or wall jump, and it provides for a uniquely dynamic method of exploring the world. Using the kunai feels easy and intuitive, fast enough to gain speed but never too floaty. It’s a balanced approach to speed and movement that never gets out of control, resulting in what it is perhaps the best-feeling movement of any metroidvania I’ve played recently. My demo was brief, and ended very soon after first getting the kunai, but the gameplay felt so smooth and natural that I can’t wait to experience more of it. Thankfully, it’s not long to wait, since KUNAI hits Switch and PC on February 6.

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PAX South Hands-On: ‘Streets of Rage 4’ Balances Legacy and Innovation

Streets of Rage 4 embodies the original series’ elegant, action-packed design and revives it for a new generation.

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Streets of Rage 4

From the moment I began my demo with Streets of Rage 4 at PAX South, it felt like coming home. It might have been more than two decades since the first three games in the Streets of Rage series perfected the beat ‘em up formula on the Sega Genesis, but courtesy of developers Lizardcube, DotEmu, and Guard Crush, this legendary series is back and in good hands. This brand new entry aims to recapture all the style and balance of the originals, while introducing innovations of its own. If my demo is any indication, the game is set to achieve that.

Streets of Rage 4 uses the same elegant level design that set the original trilogy apart back on the Genesis. The gameplay is simple: keep walking to the right, taking out every enemy in front of you with all the jabs, kicks, jumps, and special moves at your disposal. If anything, the controls feel better than ever before, with an added level of precision and fluidity that simply wasn’t possible on older hardware.

Streets of Rage 4

That’s not to mention the new move sets. Beat ’em ups might not be the most complex genre around, but Streets of Rage 4 adds the perfect level of depth to the combat. It has the same simple jabs and kicks found in the original games, but spiced up with the potential for new combos and even a handful of extravagant new special moves. With new and old fighting mechanics, this new entry features plenty of room to experiment with combat but never loses the simple, arcade-like charm of the originals.

Streets of Rage 4 revives the series’ rage-filled and action-packed style for the twenty-first century

The demo included series staple characters like Axel and Blaze, yet I opted to play as an all-new character: Cherry Hunter, a guitar-wielding fighter whose move set felt very distinct from classic characters. Her movement is speedy, certainly faster than Axel but slower than Blaze, and her guitar provided for some unique melee moves. Like the new mechanics, her addition to the character roster helps shake up the Streets of Rage formula just enough, while maintaining the core beat ’em up simplicity that made the series special in the first place.

Streets of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 might innovate in a few areas, but one thing that’s clearly remained true to form is the difficulty. It boasts of the same old school difficulty that characterized the original games. The classic and brand new enemies are just as ruthless as ever, mercilessly crowding in around you and can easily overwhelm you if you’re not careful. However, just like the originals, the fighting feels so satisfying that it’s easy to keep coming back for more action.

Amid all these changes and additions, perhaps the most obvious (and controversial) change is the visual style. While the original series used detailed pixel art, Streets of Rage 4 instead boasts of an extremely detailed handcrafted art style, in which every frame of character animation is painstakingly drawn by hand and environments are colorful and painterly. Thousands of frames of animation go into each character, and the effort certainly shows, making every punch, kick, and other acts of violence a breathtaking sight to behold.

Streets of Rage 4 reimagines this classic series for a new generation, reintroducing the best of the beat ’em up genre for players of all backgrounds and experiences.

Some fans have complained that the game loses the series’ spirit without pixel art, but DotEmu marketing director Arnaud De Sousa insisted to me that this simply isn’t the case. Pixel art wasn’t an artistic choice back then – it was a matter of necessity. If the developers could have designed the game to look exactly as they wanted, regardless of technical limitations, then it likely would have looked just like the luscious hand-drawn visuals of the current Streets of Rage 4.

That’s not to mention that, as De Sousa emphasized, the Streets of Rage games are defined by looking different from one another. The third game looks different from the second, which looked different from the first – and now this new entry has twenty years of change to catch up on. Thus, it only makes sense for this new entry to adopt a radically new graphical style after all this time.

Streets of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 reimagines this classic series for a new generation, reintroducing the best of the beat ’em up genre for players of all backgrounds and experiences. The difference between De Sousa and myself is perfect evidence of that. He grew up playing the games in the 90s, whereas I wasn’t even born when the original trilogy became such a phenomenon and only played them years later in subsequent re-releases. Yet here we were, standing in the middle of a crowded convention and gushing about decades-old games. We might have had extremely different experiences with the series, but that didn’t stop us from appreciating the joys of stylish beat ’em up action.

“A good game is a good game,” De Sousa told me, “no matter how old.” That’s the attitude that Streets of Rage 4 exemplifies. It revives the series’ rage-filled and action-packed design for the twenty-first century. And with a release on all modern platforms, more players than ever will be able to rediscover the simple pleasure of wielding your bare knuckles against thugs of all types. Between the new art style and the solid gameplay, Streets of Rage 4 is looking like an incredibly welcome return for this iconic franchise.

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