The MoeGamer Awards are a series of made-up prizes that give me an excuse to celebrate games, concepts and communities I’ve particularly appreciated over the course of 2017. Find out more and suggest some categories here!
Welcome back, and I hope you’ve had a suitably restful Christmas break with good food, good company and, of course, presents.
Today I wanted to highlight a particularly awesome present I received. To be fair, I knew I was getting it well in advance of Christmas, so it wasn’t a surprise or anything, but it’s still awesome. And I somehow doubt I’m the only one to receive such a present this year, either!
And the winner is…
The Nintendo Switch
Being someone with a delightful cocktail of Asperger’s, social anxiety and all manner of other highly enjoyable issues relating to mental and emotional wellbeing, I’m not someone who tends to let what I’m feeling show particularly obviously “in the real world”. Sure, I can let all those emotions out pretty easily through my writing, and that’s partly what MoeGamer is all about, but actually acting like I’m excited to people face to face? I get incredibly self-conscious and clam up, tending to look the exact opposite of excited.
I preface the rest of what I’m going to say with this disclaimer for the benefit of the people I spent Christmas with — my parents and my wife — who may have thought I was just being my rather stoic normal self when in fact I can honestly say that I haven’t been so excited about a Christmas Day since I was a kid. (I am 36.)
There are a number of reasons for this, perhaps most notably the fact that my life has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs for the last seven years or so — the details of which I shan’t bore you with here — and that 2017, on the whole, has ended up being a long-overdue “up”, primarily thanks to escaping (albeit by necessity) the instability of freelance work and getting a full-time job, but also due to me producing some of the work I’m most proud of here on MoeGamer — even alongside said full-time job, something I was originally a bit worried about.
The other reason I was excited about Christmas this year is the fact that I knew I was getting a Nintendo Switch from my parents. I haven’t had a games console as a Christmas present since the early ’90s when I found a Super NES under the tree, so it brought back very pleasant memories of that time, and further emphasised the association I have in my mind between Nintendo and the holiday season.
So before we go any further, a simple and genuine “thank you” to my parents for getting me the Switch, to my brother and family for getting me a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (which you can expect a Cover Game feature on in the future) and to my wife for getting me the lovely physical edition of Cave Story+ (which I also have lots to say about, but haven’t decided if it will get the full Cover Game treatment as yet).
So what about the Switch itself? Well, it’s a lovely system. In handheld mode, despite having a distinctly larger form factor than any other handheld in recent memory, it’s comfortable to hold even for long periods, not too weighty and has a gorgeous screen. In terms of width, it’s probably comparable to Atari’s Lynx 2, but it differs from that legendary beast’s form in a couple of ways: most notably the fact that it is a lot thinner and thus less bulky, and also it has a battery life of more than about 90 minutes. Fond memories of my batteries running out just as I was about to finish Gauntlet: The Third Encounter during a car journey back from my grandmother’s.
Perhaps its most impressive feature is how seamlessly it can switch between TV-based and handheld mode — it really is just a case of putting it into or removing it from the provided dock, which is easy to put somewhere accessible but discreet, and that’s all you need to do. Certainly a far cry from the swapping memory cards and rebuilding databases I have to do every time I want to change between the handheld Vita and the PlayStation TV.
The JoyCons are interesting bits of kit. I don’t really like them as individual standalone controllers, particularly for games that make heavy use of the shoulder buttons such as Mario Kart 8, since said shoulder buttons in that form are difficult to press and uncomfortable to use. But when forming part of a larger controller, either as attachments to the system in handheld mode or slotted into the provided controller grip for use with the system in TV-based or tabletop mode, they’re actually very comfortable. I’m particularly impressed with the “buttons as D-pad” thing on the left JoyCon; I was concerned this was going to suck, but it’s actually worked very well, particularly for Cave Story+.
The controller grip itself makes for a comfortable wireless handheld controller, and having now used it with a couple of games I’m in no hurry to rush out and purchase one of Nintendo’s expensive Pro Controllers. I may change my tune a bit when I pick up a copy of Splatoon 2, of course, but for now I’m more than happy with what the JoyCons in the grip offer.
I think the thing I like about the system the most is the fact that the operating system is so no-frills. Like Nintendo’s previous systems, this is a machine purely for gaming and nothing else. It’s not trying to be a catch-all multimedia set-top box, it’s not trying to be a machine to facilitate online socialisation, it’s just a machine for playing games. And that’s great; it’s so refreshing to just be able to turn it on, play something and not be bugged with ads, notifications and too much choice. As in the previous console generations, Nintendo are doing their own thing in parallel with the “big boys” and it works brilliantly; it means the Switch offers something truly unique.
They’ve clearly learned some lessons from the Wii and Wii U in terms of what little online functionality it does offer, mind. The signup process for a Nintendo account is simple and can easily be linked with 3DS and Wii U systems. You can even find friends using these past accounts, which saves you having to use the cumbersome Friend Code system. And everything runs a lot slicker and smoother than previous generations; this is particularly apparent with the eShop, which appears almost immediately rather than after the lengthy wait seen on the Wii, Wii U and 3DS.
I’m very much looking forward to delving further into the system and its growing library of great games. And with lots of popular Japanese developers signing up to develop for the console, I have a suspicion that before long it’s going to take the place of the Vita as the handheld platform of choice for Japanese RPGs and visual novels, which I’d be very happy to see. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the Vita, but the Switch’s lovely screen and ability to instantly transform into a TV-based console makes it a very appealing prospect for these types of games, so I’m excited to see how the landscape for the games we cover here on MoeGamer changes and shifts over the next few years.
And, of course, I’m excited to write about the games on the system! Expect plenty more features on Switch games throughout 2018 — and to those of you who got a Switch for Christmas, I hope you’re having as much fun with it as I am.
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