Last December, my girlfriend bought me a Nintendo Switch for Christmas, and I’ve been having a blast with it. For me, it marks the end of an approximately five year gap between Nintendo consoles, as my last Nintendo systems were the 3DS and Wii, and as such, I’ve found that much has changed in that time span, while some things have remained the same.
When I first got the Switch, one of my first thoughts was that it would open a world of possibilities for new game reviews, and while that is the case, most of the games I’ve been playing are new to me, but have been out for several years, and already have large libraries of reviews from people much more up to date with these games. So, I thought a series of columns would be more appropriate, documenting my return to Nintendo consoles via the Switch, aptly named “Return to Nintendo.” I’m not sure how many entries this series will have or how often I will write under this series. Some entries might resemble complete game reviews, written from the perspective of someone who has been absent from Nintendo consoles for the past five years. Others might comment on one aspect of a game series or the console in general.
This first entry will be more general. Here are some general thoughts I have about the Switch, 6 months in:
A gaming tablet with buttons
When I first got the Switch, my girlfriend and I were keen to try out each of the different game modes (plugged into the TV, with the gamepad and joy cons attached, with the gamepad and joy cons detached), but six months in, we mostly play it as a mobile device with the joy cons attached, though for certain games, like “Mario Odyssey”, we’ve found that having the joy cons detached is best — though I admit, keeping track of the joy con straps have been a chore.
Games look best on the TV, it’s just not the most convenient way to play the console. I imagine we’re not alone in the regard that we mostly just use it as a gaming tablet with buttons. Most playthroughs, we just grab the tablet from its docking station and jump right into whatever game we’ve been playing, then put it back to charge when we’re done with no additional steps.
Gaming as a way to relax, escape
Perhaps the biggest way I’ve been reconnecting with Nintendo is by using its games as a means to relax and escape from the real world. Nintendo isn’t known for its gritty shooters or overly serious action games, and truth be told, I never really connected with those type of games, that dominate XBox and PlayStation, which is probably why I never really liked either console despite the loud consensus both in some of my friend groups and online that they’re the best things ever and Nintendo is stuck in the past, doomed to forever publish kiddie games.
As an adult, I recognize the peer pressure to assimilate to PS4 and XBox as a bunch of baloney, driven by kids, young adults and adults who want to seem more grown up. It’s the same reason why people throw away their comic book and/or trading card collections, only to regret it years later. There’s nothing wrong with loving Nintendo — many of the games are timeless, and as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate games that make me happy a lot more than the ones that are “cool” to get into. And so far, the Nintendo games on the Switch have made me happy, far happier than any game I’ve played on XBox One or on mobile in my five years’ absence from Nintendo.
In what’s been such a depressing time since March of last year, a little dose of happiness is exactly what I need. Something simple but fun.
Growing up, especially as a teenager, I remember there was a sense of embarrassment playing games a young child could pick up, as if “adult” games really need a steep bar of entry. And now, I really couldn’t care less, especially in regards to Nintendo. A lot of the games I’ve been playing — “Link’s Awakening”, “Mario Odyssey”, “Pokemon Shield”, “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” just to name a few — are also titles a child could easily pick up and play. But that’s the beauty of a lot of Nintendo’s libraries, like Pixar films, they’re timeless, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Having a steep bar of entry doesn’t make a game cool, or even good. I’ve seen a lot of toxic commentary about how games are becoming too easy, but so far, I think Nintendo has been able to craft — at least in the games I’ve played on the Switch so far — parallel experiences for both new and experienced players. “Pokemon Shield” and “Mario Odyssey” I think are good examples of games that do this well, as both have mechanics that purposefully make the game easier for either new or struggling players, but they also include advanced content for experienced players.
I’m definitely on the side that no one should get upset by optional handholding/easy modes on video games, because they just make games more accessible for everyone, and they don’t interfere with hard modes and other challenges for more advanced players. Not everyone is born good at video games, and making it so that more people can enjoy them is a good thing.
So far, life’s been a whole lot better with Nintendo back in it.