In honor of the Nintendo Switch’s 1st year anniversary, I have decided to write a review of the console itself. My journey with the Switch has been an incredibly personal one, and the style in which I will write this review will reflect that. This might end up being one of my least objective reviews up until this point as I have an unending well of opinions relating to this console, and not everyone is going to agree with me. But my passion for the system has granted me the opportunity to write about it as I am now with Switchwatch, and that is something I am very grateful for. As such, I am going to use this chance to express that passion in a way that I might not normally. From here on, let’s get into my first-year Nintendo Switch review.
*Note: This review ended up being over 25 pages in Microsoft Word, so I have broken it up into five more easily digestible articles. I am going to post one part of this review per day for the next five days. You will be able to find links to the other parts of the review at the bottom of each page.
What is a console without its games? That is how I will open this review. It has only been one year, but the Switch already has an incredible 476 games released on it with more being released every week. It can be argued that many of these games are small indie and mobile titles, but of course that is the case on every platform. Through a staggering number of releases both big and small, the Switch has had an incredible library to choose from for new adopters of the platform and for early supporters.
*Note: This number was determined based in a list of every Switch game released so far created by Eurogamer. This number also does not include Japan-exclusive titles.
Game of the Year and Contender
It is impossible to discuss the Switch without bringing up its flagship titles: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey. Breath of the Wild is a phenomenal experience which absolutely earned its spot as Game of the Year from most media outlets. To quote my younger brother from his first time playing it, “A game hasn’t made me feel like this since I was 12 years old.” The absolute freedom it offers grants players the ability to approach their adventure in any way they see fit, and it brilliantly encourages experimentation. It turns the expectations of a Zelda game completely on its head while maintaining the spirit and form of the series which makes it so special in the hearts and minds of fans the world over.
Last year, I went to a Switch event in Nagoya, Japan on January 22nd. It was part of the World Hobby Fair and was Nintendo’s effort to give people a chance to check out the Switch prior to its release. I was fortunate enough to get about 20 minutes of hands-on time with Breath of the Wild. Before actually getting to try the Switch out myself, I was still skeptical of it, but those first few moments actually holding it and playing BOTW for myself made me 100% a believer. It really was something you had to see and hold yourself to believe. It was new and invigorating for both the gaming world and the Zelda franchise. The Switch’s screen just made everything pop beautifully, and the world of Zelda itself felt so open and free. In a way, that concept is what makes Breath of the Wild the perfect system to compliment the Switch. Breath of the Wild is a game in which you can play and explore in any way you want to, and the Switch is a console which you can play anytime and anywhere you want to.
Mario Odyssey is another truly special game which appeared exclusively on the Switch, and frankly it is astounding that we have gotten two of Nintendo’s most important classic franchises in the same year both of which being contenders for being the best in their respective series. Breath of the Wild was amazing for how it completely rewrote the conventions of the franchise while maintaining its heart and soul, and Mario Odyssey was amazing for how it took the conventions of the franchise and refined them so immaculately that the game just feels on a another level compared to almost every 3D Mario game that has come before it.
ARMS, Splatoon 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2
While bringing its two big titles to the Switch in the fledgling console’s first year was clearly a priority for Nintendo, they also had three other heavy hitters in the works, too: Arms, Splatoon 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I don’t think anyone doubted how Splatoon 2 would perform considering how well the first game did on the Wii U. In fact, it has become the first Switch game to pass the landmark of 2 million units sold in Japan. In fact, the last console game to exceed that milestone was Wii Party in 2010! Splatoon 2 translated very well to the Switch and works great for LAN parties. It took one particular hit by not having an ever-present, touch-compatible map on a separate device like the first game had thanks to the Wii U’s gamepad, but it still works beautifully despite lacking that feature.
ARMS was Nintendo’s big new IP that was born out of the last year, and most people did not know what to think of it at first. I was quite intrigued by it because I love motion controls, but I couldn’t get sold on it until I could actually try it. I was extremely disappointed when I went to the Switch event because I had taken an interest to the game after watching Pro Jared’s video preview of it, but they did not have an actual demo station for players to try it out at. However, once the Global Test Punch occurred, I was completely enthralled with the experience it offered.
It took me a little while to figure out the proper way to hold the Joy-Con in order for the gyro to properly register your movements, but after I did, I found the most well-utilized motion controls I have ever seen a game. They were completely responsive, and I felt like I had total control over my characters. Any time that the characters took an action that I didn’t want, it was generally my own fault and not just because of shoddy motion control implementation. I tried to use a pro controller for ARMS, but I found that the controller just held me back in a lot of ways.
Unfortunately, ARMS hasn’t taken the world by storm like Splatoon did. It has still managed to top an impressive 1.6 million worldwide sales, but I somehow doubt that those sales were quite what Nintendo had wished for the game. I desperately hope that Nintendo hasn’t yet given up on this budding franchise for it has so much potential for improvement. Hopefully Nintendo has looked at the reception the game has received and is already working on a sequel to provide much-requested features such as a fleshed out story mode which I know many players have been desiring.
Anyone who reads my material knows that I can go on gushing over Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for days on end, so rather than regaling you with an in depth explanation of the game, I will refer you to my full written review of the game here.
In short, I LOVE Xenoblade Chronicles 2. After completing it, the game settled in comfortably as my favorite title of 2017. The intense and emotional story, the massive world and the deep battle system which speeds up drastically after mastering it made for an excellent and cohesive experience. The game wasn’t perfect by any means as it appeared to have been rushed out the gate to meet the promised release window of winter 2017. There aren’t many bugs I am aware of and the game never crashed on me, but the resolution and frame rates struggle to say the least. Also, the menus can be rather convoluted for newcomers, and the voice acting can certainly be questionable at times in both English and Japanese. But, despite those things, I still found it to be an excellent experience, and it is slowly improving via updates. Additionally, there is an upcoming story DLC to be released later this year that will hopefully prove to be exciting.
The Resurgence of Excellent Wii U Titles
As much as I loved my Wii U, it cannot be denied that it was a commercial failure. It was one of Nintendo’s worst-performing platforms beaten only by the Virtual Boy. The fact is that in only 10 months, the Switch has already outsold the Wii U worldwide. Despite not selling well due likely to its terrible marketing, the console was graced by some of the best games of the last generation along with several other very strong titles. The surging popularity of the Switch has given many of those games a second wind and is providing a completely new market a chance to experience them.
So far, the Switch has already seen ports of Pokken Tournament, Mario Kart 8 and Bayonetta 1 & 2. Even Breath of the Wild was originally slated to be a Wii U exclusive and was ported for a simultaneous release on the Switch. There are even more Wii U ports in the works such as Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze and Hyrule Warriors which combines all of the exclusive material from both the Wii U and 3DS versions. If you missed out on any of the Wii U titles or loved them and don’t mind double dipping, I say absolutely go out and buy them. All of them are still great games completely worth buying, and the new portable feature of the Switch makes it a great place to play them. Although, it would certainly have been nice had Nintendo thrown us a bone by making them cheaper than full-priced new games.
Budding 3rd Party Support
Nintendo has developed a reputation over the last decade for being the red-headed stepchild of the gaming world mostly relying on itself while garnering little outside support from major 3rd party developers. This was one factor which damaged the reputation and sales of the Wii U. Sure, the Wii U got a staggering number of major 3rd party ports at launch such as Batman: Arkham City and Ninja Gaiden 3, but these were games that most people had already played on their Xboxes, Playstations or PCs and just didn’t see a need to reinvest in on the Wii U. After that, most 3rd party support for the system dried up almost entirely. Fortunately, we are seeing a massive turnaround in this department.
One of the biggest 3rd party developers that has jumped on board with Nintendo and the Switch is undoubtedly Bethesda. They have never really supported Nintendo’s platforms aside from the Home Alone game on the NES based after the movie of the same name. They had always claimed to have an interest in Nintendo but, and I’m paraphrasing here, only didn’t support them because Nintendo’s platforms couldn’t play their games in the way they envisioned them. They finally made good on this claim by being one of the first major developers to invest in the little console in a big way: by bringing two of their most important games to it within the first year and a third one in the second year.
Skyrim may not be universally loved, but it is the 12th best-selling game of all time and stands as a symbol of Bethesda’s achievements. And it was a game that most people, myself included, never thought would come to a Nintendo system. And yet, here we are in a world that saw Skyrim released on the Switch along with several features exclusive to the system such as fairly decent motion controls, perfectly utilized HD rumble for picking locks, Amiibo functionality and an awesome Link equipment set based on his appearance in Breath of the Wild. Also, it is not a port of the original PS360 version. It is a port of the PS4/Xbone remasters with only a few very slight graphical downgrades and lacks modding support.
DOOM and Wolfenstein 2 are the Bethesda ports which really stand out though. The reason? Because they are both very new games developed for current-gen consoles. DOOM was only released in 2016, and while the Switch version may not have as fluid of a frame rate or as sharp of a resolution as it does on the big boys, it is still a technical marvel that the game has appeared on a console which doubles as a handheld and still works great. When you actually get your hands on it, there is no denying that it is 2016 DOOM despite the lower resolution and frame rates. DOOM served as absolute proof that the Switch is capable of providing player nearly the same experience as they are getting on the stationary home consoles. Wolfenstein 2 hasn’t had any Switch footage shown yet, but it will be interesting to see what Panic Button has learned about pushing the Switch through its DOOM and Rocket League ports when Wolfenstein 2 for the Switch is officially unveiled.
I may have only been talking about Bethesda here, but other big developers have been supporting the Switch in a great way. Square Enix in particular has been standing up for the Switch by bringing such titles over as Dragon Quest Builders, I am Setsuna, Lost Sphear and their upcoming port of the PS4 version of Dragon Quest XI. They even have an excellent game exclusively in development for the Switch called Project Octopath Traveler (working title) which employs an advanced HD-2D graphical style and a branching 8-story path depending on which one of the 8 characters you choose as your protagonist. If you haven’t yet, you really should check out the demo. It is quite an amazing game. Make sure you play Primrose’s story in the demo for that one really sets this game apart.
Year of the Nindies
Speaking of Rocket League, 2017 and early 2018 has been an absolutely phenomenal year for the Switch in terms of indie releases. It has only been one year, and indies have been lining up in droves to bring their best games (along with some mediocre ones) to jump on the Switch hype train. In the first year alone, the Switch has seen some of the biggest and best indie games such as Binding of Isaac, Stardew Valley, Rocket League and Super Meat Boy. It is impossible to list all the great indie titles coming to the Switch, but just know that every week multiple new games are coming out. There hasn’t yet been a drought of games on the Switch thanks to this, and that can only be a good thing!
Sales Performance of the System and Games
The Switch only has a fraction of the user base as seen on Steam, the PS4 or the Xbox One due to it still being a new console, and yet there have been multiple success stories with the games on the Switch selling better than all of the competition combined. A few great examples of this are Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap, Super Meat Boy, Shovel Knight and Forma.8. In Japan, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2’s sales have even officially exceeded the game’s sales figure on the PS4.
The Switch is proving to be an absolute gold mine for these early investors on the platform. Are these games selling better on the Switch simply because there is less competition on the eShop than on stores offered by the other platforms? Or are gamers just more inclined to buy games on the Switch instead because of the flexibility the console offers? Or are gamers on the Switch simply buying more games in general? These are questions that only time will answer, and it will certainly be something that I will be keeping my eye on in the future.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all rainbows and gumdrops for gamers on the Switch. Making games and porting them takes a long time assuming developers aren’t rushing broken messes out the door, and there are many games being released on the other platforms now simply haven’t had an opportunity to be brought to the Switch. These developers were either not aware of the system well enough in advance to bring their games over, or they had not predicted the smashing success the console would become. What this had led to is gamers on the Switch having to sit on the sidelines while having to wait and port beg for such games as Dragon Ball FighterZ, Final Fantasy XV and Monster Hunter World.
Monster Hunter World is the one I hear the most about, and for good reason. Gamers had fully come to expect seeing a brand-new Monster Hunter on the Switch after the massive success Capcom saw for the franchise on the 3DS. As a result, most people assumed that Capcom was in it for the long haul with Nintendo. Once World was revealed, it was quickly realized that this would not be the case. Based on Capcom’s recent comments, it looks like hope may be wearing thin that this particular game could come to the Switch.
One game that there does feel like a great amount of hope lies in it coming to the Switch is Dragon Ball FighterZ. Bandai Namco said that they would consider bringing the game to the Switch if fans requested it and if Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 performed well. It has performed extremely well considering its sales in Japan. It is just a shame that gamers on the Switch have to wait for so long before getting to play it if it ever does get ported.
Need To See More Games With Simultaneous Releases on Switch
It is hard to determine how exactly new games will perform on the Switch compared to other platforms until a major one (outside of sports games) gets released simultaneously on all three consoles. After all, many people interested in Dragon Ball FighterZ will have already gotten it on the PS4, Xbone or PC. Even if it performs very well on the Switch later, that still does not indicate how well it would have sold had it come out at the same time as the others. After all, most people won’t be double dipping for such a recent game.
This line of thought is extremely relevant to the situation that Switch owners find theirselves with regarding the Monster Hunter franchise. Capcom has already released Monster Hunter XX in Japan, but it received only middling sales despite having a warm critical reception. Once players saw the exciting quality and freshness of Monster Hunter World, many of them decided to pass over a port of a 3DS title to just wait for the phenomenal world. Unfortunately, what that tells Capcom is that there is less of a demand for Monster Hunter on the Switch than on the other two consoles even if it isn’t true.
Even if they bring XX to the West for the Switch, it likely won’t do any better than it did in Japan. After all, most players who want Monster Hunter are already playing World, and it is hard to go back after seeing the fluidity of World. Even if World comes to the Switch sometime this year or next, it will hardly be a metric for how it would have performed if it had a simultaneous release with the others, and I hope that Capcom will be able to see that.
If these game companies want to see real success with their games on the Switch, they are going to have to make an effort from here on out to ensure that their big games coming to the system are on par with the other versions, and they need to come out at the same time. Until that happens, we simply are not going to see how well the Switch competes with the other platforms in terms of sales. How many people will choose versatility over graphical fidelity will be an interesting thing indeed.
Nintendo’s Own Missed Opportunity
One of the greatest missed opportunities comes from Nintendo themselves, though. A factor which propelled the Wii to such high levels of success was its out-of-the-box inclusion of Wii Sports. Here was a small and unassuming game which perfectly conveyed the concept of the console. It was received incredibly well because of how well it implemented the motion controls in a way that spoke to almost everyone. It was a game which people who bought the Wii could invite friends over or take their Wiis to a friends house thanks partly to its compact design and show off to their friends. When other people got to try it for theirselves, the game by itself proved to people how much they wanted the system. It was one of the most surprising system sellers of all time. (My opinion.)
The Switch had a game very much like Wii Sports at launch. 1-2 Switch was heavily advertised by Nintendo, and it was an excellent proof of concept which players could bring to their friends to try out thanks to the portability of the Switch. The only problem was that it wasn’t included with the system in any form. Instead, it was only available as a separate purchase for $50 in the US and was in competition with Breath of the Wild. Most people buying the Switch did not find it to be worth the amount of money being asked and passed it over. As a result, this game which could have had the same effect for the Switch as did Wii Sports ended up being mostly ignored by the community. At the very least, Nintendo could have included a demo of 1-2 Switch with its five most advertised games in their full form with the system. I would personally say that the cow milking, quickdraw and sword catching games, for example, would have suited this quite well. After all, Wii Sports only had five games, so this demo would have served the same purpose and probably would have been received very well.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been visiting friends or colleagues wanting to show them the potential of the Switch. The problem is that most of my co-op games are either difficult or have a somewhat steep learning curve for newcomers such as Fast RMX, Shovel Knight and Phantom Trigger. Having a demo such as what I described above for 1-2 Switch would have been much more suited for a general audience than my gamer-centric titles. I guess I’ll just need to show them Senran Kagura in the future. I’m sure that would go over well, hehehe.
Below is a gallery with just some of the great games that came out in the Switch’s first year.