Starting today, March 1, the embargo on reviews for the Nintendo Switch ends. While I am not one of the lucky ones who've had the Switch for a week now, I thought it would be interesting to examine one very specific part of the Nintendo Switch presentation.
Nintendo's "entertainment DNA" is going into the Switch. But how have all its predecessors have affected the design we see in Nintendo's latest console/handheld hybrid? Well, while I can't give a review for the Switch just yet, here are my reviews for some of Nintendo's other consoles, and what sort of things we can look forward to the Switch adopting from them.
Nintendo Entertainment System (JP '83, NA '85)
“The Nintendo Entertainment System included two controllers in the base system.”
Talk about a solid start. For their self-titled debut console, Nintendo created something we take for granted today: the home video game console. Plug in any game of your choice and play! It even came with two separate controllers for co-op or competitive play. For the first time, you could bring the fun of the arcades right into the comfort of your own home.
One cannot understate the importance of the NES: without it the video game industry as we know it today likely wouldn't exist. After the video game market crashed in 1983, Nintendo's new machine was the only thing keeping it afloat. And it's hard to deny the appeal: these games were nothing like those Atari toys. Super Mario Bros., The Legend Of Zelda, Tetris, all in amazing 8-bit graphics! Even today, it's impossible not to have a grin on your face when you play with this old thing. It's easy to see why to many people, this was Nintendo's greatest console: creating the video game market with one simple grey box. It's not hard to see what the Switch has taken for its own from the NES; not only is it a home console, but it comes with two joy cons for easy (if perhaps a little cramped) co-op play.
Game Boy (JP '89, NA '89)
“Game Boy made it possible to bring video games out of the home.”
Can you imagine? Four buttons, a D-pad, a speaker AND a screen all packed into this little box? Not to mention you can take it with you wherever you go?! You've gotta be kidding me! To think that a decade prior, you had to go to an arcade just to play the newest games and now you can take them on the go!
Now, to be fair, there was the Game & Watch line before this, but those were one trick ponies. Sure, you can play a little mini-game on the train. But now anyone could make games for on-the-go play, just like the NES! Handheld gaming was truly a revolution. Plus, it's hard to deny that an invention that gave the world Pokémon is an invention worthy of praise. Countless children have staved off the boredom of a car trip with one of these grey hunks of plastic. So what does the Switch take away from the little grey box? You can take it with you on the go too.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (JP '90, NA '91)
“Super NES added the X and Y buttons, and the L and R buttons to enhance the fun.”
The great divide. The only thing that mattered more on the playground than your favorite Ninja Turtle: Sega, or Nintendo? The console wars were waging with full force during the SNES era. But Sega was doomed to fail from the start. Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Final Fantasy VI, Yoshi's Island, Secret of Mana, the list goes on. The Genesis couldn't hold a candle up to the games library the SNES was boasting.
SNES games consistently top "Best Games of all Time" lists even to this day. You can even play your Game Boy games up on the big screen, for everyone to enjoy. But the real advantage? That controller. Four new buttons, two shoulder and two face, make the SNES controller the most versatile to date, allowing that amazing game list to really shine. Now-a-days, every controller on the market follows the SNES example, so it's really not surprising that the Switch will be as well.
Nintendo 64 (JP '96, NA '96)
“Nintendo 64 offered the worlds first analogue control stick, and it introduced a rambling controller with the development of the rumble pack.”
Codename: Project Reality. Perhaps one of the most aptly titled code names of all time. They've done it, they've perfected 2D gaming. Made the pinnacle of Zelda and Mario up to this point. So where does Nintendo go? They go IN. Into the third dimension with an unprecedented 64 bit graphics system allowing this machine to pump out spectacular three-dimensional worlds for you to explore. Sure, this PlayStation thing has been around for a while now, but now it's Nintendo's turn!
The N64 was $100 dollars cheaper and it launched with Super Mario 64, a game you still here people wishing for a sequel to two decades later. More of a Zelda person? Congrats, you get Zelda: Oceana of Time, a game that has been more recognized as the "best of all time" than any other, before or after. But maybe it's not for you, maybe the Zelda formula's getting a bit stale now? Well no worries, Majora's Mask came out just one year later.
In one console generation, Nintendo almost singlehandedly invents the conventions for all of 3D gaming to come. But that's now what the Switch wants. The Switch borrows (along with 3D graphics, of course) the rumble pack from the N64, now built-in with the added feature of "HD rumble." Now, if this new type of rumble is any good remains to be seen, but it's certainly peaked my interest.
Nintendo Gamecube (JP '01, NA '01)
“We put a handle on Nintendo Gamecube so it could be carried around.”
Ah, the GameCube. What did the GameCube do that other consoles didn't? Well...a lot, and at the same time, not much. The cube was surprisingly powerful in all specs save for internal memory. Hence the use of memory cards which were largely considered to be out of date. At the same time, it didn't push gameplay forward much in the same way those which came before it did. So, then, what's so special about the GameCube?
The games. Zelda: Wind Waker, Luigi's Mansion, Pikmin, Mario Sunshine, Paper Mario TTYD. Throw a dart at a list of GameCube games and odds are you'll land on a beloved cult classic. The GameCube is a perfect example of the exemplary craftsmanship Nintendo puts into each and every one of its games, and that effort clearly shows. Sure, they joke about how they put a handle on the thing to let you carry it around, but I didn't even remember that handle was on there until they mentioned it. You know what I'll never forget? Playing those games. If the Switch is going to inherit anything from the GameCube, I'd hope the quality of games is what it is.
Nintendo DS (JP '04, NA '04)
“Nintendo DS added a touch screen.”
For years, Nintendo reigned supreme in the world of handheld gaming. But it was time for a new device, for a new era. Enter: The DS. With two - count them, two! - screens, one of which had touch capabilities, setting it apart from the PlayStation Portable. Once again, while the competition was working with what they had Nintendo was pushing the boundaries.
The DS is the reason the PS4 controller has touch capabilities today. It created a new way to play, one so intuitive and simple now there's a whole market of mobile apps designed for touch screen play. The Switch, of course, takes the touch screen for its own and adds a log overdue feature; makes it capacitive, and not resistive, hopefully improving on what the DS started.
Wii (JP '06, NA '06)
“With the Wii remote, motion control became possible.”
The Nintendo Wii is, without a doubt, the most influential console Nintendo ever made. With the introduction of motion controls, a ball was sent rolling which still hasn't stopped; the casual revolution.
Up until now, games had been something of an exclusive club, not meant for the public. But now? Anyone could pick up and play the Wii, because the controls just made sense. Need to swing a racket? Swing the Wii remote. Need to turn a wheel? Turn the Wii remote. While far from perfect, no one can deny the Wii's importance to the industry. It didn't take long for Sony AND Microsoft to hop on board the motion control bandwagon with the Move and Kinect, respectively. Foreseeing the success of motion controls is one of Nintendo's greatest feats, and just goes to show what can happen when you keep pushing those boundaries. The Switch will, naturally, be taking the Wii's motion controls and improving upon them with gyroscope technology.
Wii U (JP '11, NA '11)
“And the Wii U gamepad enabled you to play games off the TV.”
Oh you poor, poor thing. Living in your father's shadow and soon to be living in your son's too. Sure, you had your moments. Nintendo Land was pretty fun, and asymmetric gameplay was a really cool idea. But in the end, you'll probably just be that thing that was "like the Switch but worse."
Now don't get me wrong, it's not all your fault. I mean, come on. Wii U? I don't think I could've come up with a worse name if I tried. You sounded like an add-on, an accessory. And your games were pretty good, actually! Smash 4, Mario Kart 8, Hyrule Warriors, Splatoon. No one can say you didn't try. Really, though, you were doomed from the start. Just couldn't live up to what came before. Goodnight, sweet prince. The Switch is, of course, just shoving an entire, superior console into a better looking and smaller version of the Wii U tablet.
Nintendo Switch (JP '17, NA '17)
“And now, Nintendo Switch has inherited all of Nintendo’s entertainment DNA, and we have packed each and every one of these features into the system.”
So there we are. The Switch's DNA. Seems promising, if you ask me. And now, over 30 years later, Nintendo has still got me excited about their new toy. Will it live up to all the hype? Will all these features really make the Switch a thing of beauty, or in the end is Nintendo just gonna have to stop making consoles? Well, let's be honest here, they've been doing it got over three decades and even now, at what many are considering their lowest point, they are bringing in over $4 billion USD in revenue, so that seems unlikely. But it's hard to deny they have a lot riding on the Switch, and I intend to put it through its paces by taking it with my internationally for the first week I have it. Be sure to check back in a week from now to see my thoughts on Nintendo's latest machine.
Until then, leave us a comment and let us know how you feel about the Switch. And follow us on Twitter @NerdItHereFirst for live updates and pictures of our gaming experience with it from the moment we get our hands on it.