It’s getting to feel a lot like Christmas. As in that gaming news keeps clawing its way earlier and earlier on the calendar. Back when I was a kid, it was all about CES. Then the gaming industry started its own show so it wouldn’t be lumped in with TVs and Camcorders called E3. Then the REAL news started showing up before E3 at Press Conferences. Finally, here we are two weeks before E3 and the game industry is throwing out announcements and teasers like they were 8 month old spaghetti you found in some Tupperware in the back of the top shelf of the fridge that you can never see all the way unless you crouch down so you forget things back there a lot and oh hey we DID have butter!
Anyway, let’s get into it.
What we know: Fallout 76 is being developed by Bethesda Game Studios and Bethesda Game Studios Austin (Formerly BattleCry Studios). We know its set in Vault 76, one of VaulTec’s “Control Vaults” that didn’t have any weird experiments and was set to open 25 years after the bombs fell – making this one of the earliest Fallout games chronologically. We know that Bethesda Austin has experience with multiplayer (they assisted Id Software with making Doom 2016’s multiplayer mode) and we know that they were hiring people with Free-to-Play/Micro-transaction game experience.
What We Think: My money is on some kind of squad based multiplayer game that are all the rage with developers right now (From what I can tell, the public isn’t really biting) – probably to compete with EA’s Anthem and Activision’s Destiny. No clue how required the multiplayer aspect will be for the game, but you can bet that micro-transactions will be involved. The game will probably center around venturing out of the vaults and trying to stake a claim in the post-apocalyptic world, establishing the earliest settlements in the wastes, etc.
I also wouldn’t be shocked if there was some PvP elements to this, since then Bethesda can recycle the canceled BattleCry game with its 5v5 squad based combat as some level of return on investment.
Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee
What We Know: Pokemon’s first major outing on the Switch is a return to basics with a semi-reboot of the original Red/Blue games updated with new mechanics. Everything from Team Rocket to Mewtwo was shown in the trailer as well as being a return to “Your First Adventure” in the Kanto Region.
However, this time you have a shoulder-riding pal in Pikachu or Eevee that can be dressed up and played with. The wild pokemon catching mechanic seems to built on the Pokemon Go mobile app’s core mechanics rather than battling but battling with your pokemon is still a thing with other trainers.
There will be additional functionality between Pokemon Go and Pokemon Let’s Go where you will be able to send Pokemon back and forth from the two games (depicted as being possibly temporary or in a minor way – it was shown being imported into a “Go Park” in the trailer).
The game will have a multiplayer component. The game only uses a single joycon to play, so if someone hops on using the the second joycon, you will have a second player join you in the game. It appears you’ll be able to try and catch pokemon together with properly timed ball tosses giving some kind of special bonus perhaps.
Finally, there will be a ‘substitute’ joycon in the form of the Pokeball Plus – a pokeball with a joystick/button at its center. Meaning the the mechanics to play the game can likely be distilled into a joystick to move, a button to interact, and motion controls to throw balls. The Pokeball Plus can also store an ‘uploaded’ pokemon that you can take with you. Unsure if its ANY pokemon or just Pikachu/Eevee.
What We Think: In terms of a first outing on a new console? I think this is a great idea. It combines the already popular Pokemon Go app with the traditional pokemon experience, it takes full advantage of everything that the Switch can offer a game (Multiplayer with multiple joycons, motion controls, etc.), and gives a fresher update on the original Kanto games (Let’s be honest, LeafGreen and FireRed didn’t bring a ton of ‘new’ to the table beyond using the Ruby/Sapphire game engine and allowing you to trade to old pokemon to the newer games).
For those who were hoping for a more tradiitonal Pokemon experience, Nintendo was nice enough to make mention that another ‘brand new’ Pokemon game was slated for 2019. I however will be VERY happy with this one in the meantime. It looks fun and has a lot of fresh new ideas to play with. I do want to dress Eevee up as a mad scientist.
What We Know: Don’t care.
What We Think: Really don’t care.
So last Friday, I got my grubby mitts on the new Nintendo console, the Switch. I didn’t camp out or anything like I did with the Wii. After having that experience once, I am quite satisfied with just pre-ordering off of a website and waiting for the mail man. I’m getting old. I ain’t a whipper snapper no more.
Honestly what confused me more so was that people asked IF I was going to get a Switch. As if there would be some reason I wouldn’t? I guess people just assume when they see my Wii and Wii U that I might have felt burned by Nintendo in the past with these “dreadful” systems. Which only makes me laugh. I have NEVER been dissatisfied with a Nintendo console. Not once. Heck, I thought the Virtual Boy was pretty awesome when it first came out. I still think it was one of the most forward thinking consoles ever made along with the Dreamcast. Go back and look at the Virtual Boy and tell me that thing doesn’t look like the equivalent of the Game & Watch devices for the modern Vive or Gear headsets. Nintendo systems are always kind of this weird nostalgia trip anyway. When they were current both the Nintendo 64 and GameCube were mocked for having small game selections that trended toward “casual” or “kiddy” games unlike the then rising star Playstation & Playstation 2. Nowadays? People pine for the days of the N64 or ‘Cube. People sing their praises now that they’ve passed into the realms of nostalgia. But hey, I still loved those consoles when they were current. My PSX was used for Final Fantasy. Everything else? Nintendo 64.
So when people point out things like the weird gimmicks or the small launch selection, I can’t help but shrug. The Switch is no exception. It looked fun as hell and I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed.
The Switch itself is surprisingly compact. Even with the JoyCons attached to the side of it. It actually kind reminds me of a skinny Game Gear in that sense but with a bigger screen (Maybe a bit longer battery life). It’s definitely not like the 3DS where I can just stick it in my pocket but it would easily fit in a backpack, messenger bag, or purse. The stand on the back is NOT as flimsy as I’ve seen people complaining about, at least not in my experience. I’ve used it in the kickstand configuration a few times and the only time I had trouble keeping it standing up was when I tried to do it on a non-solid surface like a sofa cushion or the bed. The kickstand set up is probably my favorite configuration outside of putting it on the TV so far. The JoyCons connect wirelessly so you can just have your hands in any position you want while playing. I was at my sister-in-law’s hookah lounge/tea shop/gaming emporium (Check out the Lair of Abraxas if your ever in the Denver Metro area. #Plug.) with the Switch set up on the table and my hands crossed underneath and just playing away without a concern in total comfort. It’s hard to explain why but something about the fact that the JoyCons fit in your hand and are connected to nothing just gives you a lot of freedom to play comfortably.
The biggest technical hurdle I’ve had so far was honestly getting my TV to display a decent picture, and that’s really more so the TV’s fault than the Switch so I can’t complain too much. But if the saturation or brightness of the image seems too much or the anti-aliasing seems choppy on your TV, you might want to play around with the settings some. For me, it turns out that Gaming Mode on our TV isn’t so good for gaming, but HDR+ mode makes the games look great. So you might just need to fiddle in the settings until you find one that looks good for you.
These things were my biggest worry when it came to the Switch. I mean, they LOOK tiny right? And they are. Kind of. My hands can fit around them easily enough that I can play without any discomfort or crab claw hands. The buttons are about the size of the ones on a 3DS so if you don’t have an issue there, you won’t here. I won’t really know what to say about them in terms of gameplay until probably next month when I pick up Mario Kart 8 Director’s Cut or whatever they’re calling it, but I don’t anticipate too many issues. Regardless, I did get a Pro Controller to use just in case.
However, one thing that was both cool and weird at the same time is actually feeling the HD Rumble do its thing for the first time. While I didn’t bother with 1-2-Switch, there are a few moments in Zelda that use it and its just kind of neat. Feeling the water run down a stalagtite before dripping down as you watch it on screen is definitely a nice touch of immersion. I’ll be curious to see how developers will use it moving forward.
I only grabbed two games at Launch: Zelda and I Am Setsuna, and over the weekend I only really played Zelda. I was tempted to go for Bomberman as well, because I remember playing the heck out of BomberMan 64 back in the day, but I felt it was one of those wait and sees. Meanwhile, the next Zelda game and a retro send up to Chrono Trigger style RPG? Heck yes I will be playing those.
Zelda is gorgeous and pretty much hits all the right notes. The gleaming reviews are everywhere so I don’t think I need to sell you on the game, but I will touch on the highlights for me:
- Exploring: In what must be a send up to the original NES games, Breath of the Wild has minimal if any handholding when it comes to things. How do I get to that shrine in the icy area without freezing? Well, I picked up some peppers that said they could keep me warm. Cook those up with some apples for a spicy stew and viola! I can make my way up to the shrine. Or rolling a rock down a hill just to see it crush a bokoblin camp.
- Collectibles: Three primary things to run around and find while you play (so far). Korok Nuts that you can trade to increase your inventory, Spirit Orbs from Shrines to increase your Heart or Stamina meters, and Outfits that make Link fashionable and also give bonuses to stuff like Climb speed or Sneaking.
- Shrines: These are little mini dungeons that usually just puzzles with maybe a few enemies. Maybe. But the puzzles have been SO FUN so far. Easily my favorite part. I stumbled upon a later game dungeon fairly early by accident and it had a puzzle where you had to burn some vines to release a giant ball that you had to push a button at the right time to send it flying across the room to a spinning platform that you need to Stop Time on with your Stasis magic so the ball will roll and open the door. That’s to open ONE DOOR in the Shrine. LOVED IT!
- The World is Huge. It just is. I was skeptical when I heard that Breath of the Wild was going to be on-par with Xenoblade Chronicles X in terms of the map size but uh… I’m a believer. Luckily there’s a quick travel system utilizing the Shrines and Towers and a few other points that you can zip around with.
- The Game is that right level of hard. Some people have been calling this the Dark Souls of Zelda. I can see where they’re coming from but I don’t think this is quite that bad. You will probably die a lot, yes. But the game autosaves quite frequently to help prevent too much lost time and it’s never really unfair with it unless you have seriously wandered into a place where you are squaring off against much tougher opponents. Then just use the quick travel system after you reload your autosave to skidaddle out (or be like me and just die over and over trying to outrun the crazy killer robot that’s twice as fast as me). There’s no real punishment for dying beyond maybe having to replay a bit of an area, but it seems to remember things like what chests you looted already and what not, so the repetition is never terrible and it gives you a chance to try new strategies.
So that’s my early impressions of playing with the Nintendo Switch over the weekend. Once I get an actual multiplayer game, I’ll probably post my Friend Code somewhere so you can friend request me or something.