Nintendo Switch Direct Mini Overview – Mario Tennis, Hyrule Warriors Switch and Dark Souls

The highly anticipated January Direct for Nintendo has finally arrived, this time in the form of a fifteen minute, ‘mini’ presentation. It was completely unexpected, appearing without notification: a clear response to the desperate, crying fans. While the event itself was particularly short, the content was packed to the brim with remasters, ports, a few new titles with release dates and tons of surprises – even if they did raise a handful of questions about Nintendo’s plans in 2018.

One of their biggest announcements came with the release of both Hyrule Warriors and Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze for Nintendo Switch later in the year, both without an official date. Originating from the Wii U, these ports bolster the Switch’s second year line-up and give a completely new experience to those who didn’t own the previous home console. This is a fantastic offering of content, even if you have played it, because of the portable capabilities the Switch has. It brings a fresh perspective to an older title and allows those who want to play it to purchase it. Those who aren’t interested by the prospect don’t have to purchase it, so this was a great business move – although an announcement of  a new title in development for Donkey Kong would have cemented the feelings towards this reveal.

A large portion of this direct highlighted Nintendo’s sudden push towards DLC content, most likely due to the recent success of Breath of the Wild’s ‘Champion’s Ballad’. Pokken Tournament continues to add more characters, support characters and outfits for trainer customisation, keeping the base game enjoyable and all the more competitive. Aegislash and Blastoise will deepen the strategy of the game and maintain its audience’s activity, giving players a reason to continue playing and improving. After that, Donkey Kong was revealed as a character for Mario and Rabbids: Kingdom Battle DLC, which was surprisingly entertaining to see. It wasn’t a gameplay trailer, but it was appealing nonetheless. Finally, the free content, Mario Odyssey will be receiving a hide and seek style balloon mini game, as well as three new outfits. While it may have value to some and it is a free update coming in February, it doesn’t provide much sustenance for warranting plenty more hours. Sure, the primary game experience provides tens of hours, but this update could have been much, much more. Whether or not Mario Odyssey receives an expansive update, that remains to be seen.

Nintendo did outline a few first party titles that were brand new, including Mario Tennis Aces and the already announced Kirby Star Allies. The latter was dated for a March 16th release, putting it aproximately two weeks after the Switch’s official first year anniversary. Mario Tennis was a sensationally colourful and aesthetically gorgeous game, while also reinforcing a solid single player campaign. It looks everything a good Mario Tennis game should be, so hopefully future directs will show more information on the mechanics and general gameplay ahead of release. Kirby Star Allies looked like a fun experience with lots of potential, bleeding charm and humour onto the screen. Both of these titles look relatively strong releases to further develop the Switch’s still rather mysterious second year. 

Now, Nintendo’s concluding reveal: Dark Souls Remastered. This had been speculated for months, so the reveal itself wasn’t as impressive as it may have initially seem. But, upon further reflection, this is actually an incredibly great achievement. Being able to play Dark Souls on a portable system is a testimont to how far mobile technology has come. To those wanting darker, more challenging games for their library, there aren’t many better than this. The trailer itself was very short and didn’t show any form of gameplay, making for something to look forward to in eager anticipation for the future.

A few smaller announcements were made, including a demo of Dragon Quest Builders, a release date for Payday 2, a NIS America new title and a remastered version of The World Ends With You. All of this points to more content, and therefore a wider range of audiences being catered for. Nintendo are accomodating for every possible audience they could ever need at this moment in time, and these titles solidify that.

While this direct disappointed the hearts of those awaiting a lengthy direct, it answered some very crucial questions while also adding to the enigma and excitement for the coming months to build upon. As we draw closer to the Switch’s first year anniversary, it is becoming more and more apparent that Nintendo is readying themselves. They’re preparing all they can possibly muster, but it will require patience and acknowledgment. This was a ‘mini’ direct, and anyone who thought otherwise was only going to be disheartened. If this is a small presentation, just think what they have in their arsenal come their larger events. This reiterates the fact that Nintendo has a lot of different avenues and approaches they could take, it’s just a case of gradually placing us in the situation and revealing the shocks and surprises on the biggest of stages. Whether you agree with the porting scenario or not, the addition of such quality games – that, granted, didn’t sell particularly well on their previous system – only benefits the Nintendo Switch’s library. You may have wanted to see a new title revealed for a beloved franchise, but you have to appreciate that it takes a lengthy time to create something from the ground works. Be patient, Nintendo knows exactly what they’re doing. This year is already off to an interesting, content heavy start and I’m sure that will continue to progress as the months pass.


Splatoon 2 – Global Splatfest Coming Soon!

Over the past few weeks, Splatoon 2 has had a large array of free downloadable content, including new stages like Walleye Warehouse and Makomart as well as a brand new ranked mode. It goes without saying that the developers as hard at work creating this game and building around it to provide as much content as possible. And so, moving into 2018 and looking towards Nintendo’s paid online service, it comes as no surprise that a global Splatfest is on the cards.

This is the first global Splatfest in Splatoon 2, so it should test the online capacity to some extent and hopefully give Nintendo a strong idea of what to improve on in the next Splatfests. Another fantastic addition is that all the scores will collate into one total percentage at the results, so this broader length of matches and battles will only add to the excitement and thrill we have come to know. If you’re just starting Splatoon 2, this is a great time to join in and learn the mechanics.

So, here are the two sides and the times:

Action vs Comedy films – Saturday 13th January

12:00 UK Time

What side are you on? 

Rocket League (Nintendo Switch) – A High-Octane, Insanely Addictive Experience

After recently receiving over 40 million sales, Rocket League has become one of the most successful indie titles to date, and the addition of a Nintendo Switch port further reiterates its current popularity and accessibility. It boasts an immersive, incredibly appealing and genuinely fun experience that many games struggle to offer on the market and it goes back to simple concepts that blend into one to create a very enjoyable atmosphere. Who doesn’t get satisfaction from scoring a goal whilst hovering in mid-air in a rocket car? The variety of customisable vehicle parts only deepens the simplicity and emphasises the replayable nature of the title. While its dynamic resolution on the Nintendo Switch may be quite noticeable when in handheld mode, it’s the exact same silky smooth 60 frames per second you’d expect. This is the Rocket League we’ve all come to know and love with a few minimal compromises.

The most important, primary feature that embodies and encompasses the very nature of Rocket League is the gameplay, and everything in this area is absolutely astonishing. It’s lively, competitive, thrilling and addictive. One match leads to another, and then another after that. With a blend of compelling football matches, supercharged cars and arcade shooters, this title is completely innovative in its style and overall gameplay experience. There simply aren’t many games like it, at least to my knowledge, and that’s so appealing as a gamer to be able to just have fun. It’s a solid 60 frames, so the actual gaming experience feels just as natural on your Switch as it does on any other device and it means that online players on other devices don’t have an advantage. The game is very accessible for newcoming players, allowing for those with little knowledge of the game to play in the training area or have exhibition matches with computer controlled players. Those hoping for a competitive experience can sink their teeth into the online matches, which are typically very smooth despite a few minor hiccups here and there. This may just be an issue with Nintendo’s currently free online, which might get updated and improved over time so it is difficult to criticise it too heavily on this. Yet this never once takes away from the main attraction as it still warrants the fun and enjoyment aspect. The overall excitement and insane amounts of fun you’ll have are truly indescribable. It’s good to have a game that doesn’t care too heavily about the graphics or the resolution, but rather just having a great time.

As you begin to progress through the matches, you’ll become accustomed to the massive possibilities available in the field of vehicle customisation, from intricate antennas and goal celebrations to different vinyl designs. This keepsyou wanting to play, so you’ll achieve more and be able to gain a greater list of customisable options. There are also microtransactions in the form of loot boxes – all cosmetic – that offer rarer items if you seek a deeper inventory, but they come at the cost of actual currency. It’s such a significant factor in the replay value and maintaing an active consumer base that is never tired of the unlockables they acquire through playing. 

The online service is a little on the weak side, although this may be more an indicator of Nintendo’s convoluted online instead of Psyonix’s misjudgements. Text chat is available for those wanting to communicate, but the button layout gets quite frustrating and really isn’t coherent enough for those split second moments where voice chat would be preferable. Other than that, matchmaking is rather smooth and the matches are usually very enjoyable – though that is dependent on the latency of players as it can stutter jarringly in some situations. A greater incorporation of being able to play alongside friends would be greatly appreciated and a stronger sense of voice chat to match that, but this is definitely something that could be fixed or improved as Nintendo’s paid online service becomes more fleshed out and realised.

For those worrying about the portable aspect of the game, please don’t.  Psyonix have accommodated for those wishing to play offline with a full season mode, where you play against several, computer controlled teams in a league, and exhibition matches. It’s simple to accessible and allows the player to get back to where they were. While the online matches are usually a little more enjoyable and exciting, this functionality allows you to continue playing and practicing without the need for internet access. It’s resolution is dynamic and sometimes can drop below 720p in certain parts, but Psyonix have been attempting to stabilise this issue so it won’t be as noticeable. If you are looking for stunning visuals, this isn’t the most beneficial version. However, if you’re looking for convenience, the Nintendo Switch version offers everything you could want and more. Being able to take this game anywhere is truly magical and is a true testimont to how incredible it is, dynamic resolution or not. 

In home console mode, the Nintendo Switch version of Rocket League displays a solid 720p image that looks reasonably nice aesthetically, but don’t be expecting the advanced textures and strong depth of field as in the other versions. As you play the game more, you begin to question how much the resolution actually matters in this situation. A high-octane, intense game filled with action requires 60 frames to be credible, but a high resolution isn’t – especially when most of the attention is on the car rear and the ball. You might love looking at the backgrounds in the previous versions just for how visually impressive some are, but that isn’t as memorable here. Once again though, the frame rate is absolutely solid and continues to emphasise the importance of such when playing. 

Rocket League on Nintendo Switch delivers everything you’d want it to, minus a some minor details that are compensated for by the portability of the system. While the text chat is messy and the resolution is noticeably choppy at times, the essential gameplay is exactly the same and the fact that you can play it portably only adds to the value of this affordable £15 indie. The experience is wacky, crazy and wholly unique, offering a plentitude of customisable parts and unlockables to keep you gaming for hours on end. It’s little wonder that this game has reached such a landmark in sales, it deserves every last one of them. This is a game like no other on the market, and for that it truly is a masterfully fun title that everyone should pick up at least once in their lifetime.

VERDICT – 9/10

Nintendo Switch January Direct Predictions

With the first year of Nintendo’s latest handheld hybrid, the Switch, drawing to a close, all eyes now rest upon the second year and how they can possibly top it. After the plethora of fantastic first party titles – from the Game of the Year winner Breath of the Wild to the critically acclaimed, lively fun Mario Odyssey – and specifically curated indies, this truly does feel like a year that is particularly difficult to improve upon. January is Nintendo’s opportunity to lay the foundation for the second year and really flesh out the finer details that we are still awaiting eagerly. There has been a lot of speculation revolving around the significance of a supposed January Direct that will hopefully outline the company’s plans for the future. But, the question is, what might they show at this event and how significant will it actually be?

Prediction 1 – Fire Emblem, Kirby and Yoshi 2018

Since these titles have already been announced by Nintendo themselves in 2017 for a release this year, it makes sense for them to show new footage – perhaps in the form of trailers – and establish some rough guidelines. Kirby and Yoshi both have lengthy trailers at E3 that gave a clear idea of what to expect, suggesting that those games are being created with the intention of an early 2018 release (perhaps one in February and the second in March). Fire Emblem is yet to be given a trailer, which makes this event a fantastic chance to spotlight it and indicate a release window – possibly launching towards the latter half of the year. There might not be much to see, similarly to how the initial Fire Emblem Fates trailer established a brief story concept, but that it adds to the excitement and general anticipation for the title.

Prediction 2 – Virtual console

A long awaited feature to the Nintendo Switch’s hardware is the ability to play older titles from previous system generations. Nintendo has been rather radio silent about the occurrence of their virtual console games, but it may have been an intentional strategy to collect as much content as they could before releasing it – or maybe it will be linked in correspondence with the online services and payment. There should be a large library of games being spread over the course of the year or even going into following years, which allows for a greater audience of customers. A service similar to Netflix, where you pay a particular amount and receive games each month, could be a very nice idea to tie into their paid online outlines, but a familiar virtual console should be there as well to ensure that players can pay for their favourite games individually. That way everyone is entertained and content with the arrangement, making a nostalgic heaven for all those clambering for old titles.

Prediction 3 – Online Services and Apps

This is potentially the largest mystery surrounding the Nintendo Switch’s existence and it is one that needs resolving most likely sooner rather than later. The online experience thus far has been entirely free of charge to users, although it has been slightly unreliable in terms of consistency and quality. An event like this should shed light on the matter at hand and give a greater understanding on what to expect this year with the online services. They could release the non-gaming applications, such as Youtube and Netflix, or at least provide some indication of when to expect them on the Eshop as another element that the Switch can achieve to become this self sufficient gaming device. We already know that the applications are awaiting approval so it is only a matter of time before they are announced and officially released for users to enjoy.

Prediction 4 – Metroid or Pokemon

Both of these titles hold a special significance to them: Pokemon is a universally known brand that has embodied Nintendo’s handheld gaming divisions for years and is finally branching into a fully fledged home console game, while Metroid is unexpected and eagerly anticipated by fans. It’s difficult to see them both showing up at the event because they’re both complete and utter enigmas that could release beyond 2018. A trailer for one of these titles would give a flavour and yet keep it a mystery, allowing the other to be used for E3 or another event entirely.

Prediction 5 – Smash Bros

This is a long shot in every sense of the word, but a prediction nonetheless. A fantastic way to conclude the presentation would be to have a little teaser for Smash Bros, either an improved and enhanced port of the Wii U version or an entirely new title specifically tailored to the Switch’s hardware. The latter sounds more promising, but more unrealistic. Just having a portable Smash Bros that allows for eight players at once with a higher resolution than the initial 3DS installment is an exciting prospect, port or not. This could be a great way to show that Nintendo is approaching this year head-on in the hope of excelling even further with their latest hybrid console.

Prediction 6 – Third Party Central

2017 highlighted Nintendo’s intentions of providing a strong first party lineup, whilst also ensuring that third parties delved into their system. A specially enhanced Fifa, Skyrim and Doom are only a few of the third party titles that spring to mind, not mentioning the array of indie games that delivered consistently. We have knowledge that several other games are listed for 2018 by third parties, including Wolfenstein 2, Dragon Quest Builders and Fe. Perhaps a reveal of Grand Theft Auto 5 for Switch is possible, or Injustice 2, or even Hearthstone. There hopefully will be some really significant announcements that will set out the path for the year as all the companies set their sights on this system.

Prediction 7 – New Joycon and New Pro Controller

As a final prediction, this is another long shot. A new pair of Joycon and a brand new Pro Controller design would keep audiences coming back for more purchases, especially if they’re done right. Perhaps a Pokemon set of Joycon, or a Fire Emblem Pro Controller could bring new life to 2018 and the Switch’s aesthetic brand and overall appeal.

There are the predictions. Hopefully some of these, if not all, will come true. We shall have to wait and see for what Nintendo is planning for this year and beyond. It’s their opportunity to offer an insight into the journey of this system and how they are going to please us with their games and services. If this presentation delivers quality, it could be the first indicator that Nintendo is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle twice. And so now, we simply just have to wait.

Skyrim (Nintendo Switch) Review – A Classic Reborn

Fives year after the initial release of Bethesda’s latest iteration in the Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim has been heralded as one of the great RPGs of our time, earning over 200 game of the year awards and gaining critical acclaim from critics and fans of the series alike. Now, that fantastical, gritty experience has come to a portable system, adding to the overall convenience and accessibility of this epic fantasy. While this version of the game lacks the ‘mod’ support and stays largely familiar to its original roots, this game provides more than enough depth and content for Switch owners looking for their next time-consuming adventure. 

Skyrim follows the life of a Dragonborn, whose destiny it is to slay an overworldly dragon known for being a signal of the end times. The story itself covers fairly simplistic territory at the surface level, but the additional side quests and hidden temples and dungeons really breathe life into the expansiveness of this world. Many games of this particular style and genre struggle to provide such rich lores and backstories, so exploring the world of Skyrim felt more like an enjoyable journey of exploration and understanding of the world and their cultures rather than a grind to get from one objective to the next. There were times where the story wouldn’t push boundaries, for instance with the concluding battle against the mighty dragon Alduin, but there were other times where this story was extraordinarily different for its context. Whether you’d be infiltrating a friendly party or searching for treasures in caverns, there was a plentitude of exciting moments to keep you immersed and absorbed. This leads onto the length of the main quest itself: an approximately 20 hour story, boasting intensity, expansiveness and general fun, slaying skeletons, trolls, bandits and many more. Although the main quest could have been a longer investment, it isn’t as necessary since the side quests will have you venture onward for a while. There’s tons of content here, and that’s not even mentioning the DLC content added. 

The combat, as you’d probably expect for a five year old game, is a little choppy and convoluted at times. They emphasise the basics right from the start, from unsheathing swords and slashing enemies to changing perspectives, but it still feels too messy and unnecessary. A simpler control scheme to change weapons almost instantaneously would have benefited the game, for example swapping out a two-handed weapon for a healing spell in a time of aid. You’ll become accustomed to switching out items quite regularly, but an improvement in this area would have made it even more accessible and convienient for handheld gamers. Obviously, at the time this was quite a revolutionary leap for such open-world experiences, but now it feels slightly sloppy and unresponsive in certain parts.

In terms of difficulty, Skyrim is particularly interesting, for its enemies are matched to the strength of the player. That meant you were equally fighting against characters of a similar skill level and made it so much more player friendly for those not wanting to have to load every few minutes because of dying time and time again. It warranted replay value, to correct the errors you made originally and try to progress. That’s not to say that Skyrim doesn’t hand you some difficult challenges, though. The battle against Tsun is familiar, as are many of the Dwemer ruins, but that only added to the complexity and overall unpredictability. Sometimes you’d get annoyed, but after a few more attempts you’d get the eureka moment and move on. Skyrim provides enough difficulty to provide a challenge, but not too much to make it inaccessible.

On the Nintendo Switch, Skyrim performs exceedingly well. It might not have the silky smooth 60 frames per second, and there a few noticeable differences to the other versions of the game in terms of aliasing and textures, but it is essentially the special edition, enhanced specifically for the system. In handheld mode, Skyrim runs at a solid 720p resolution with a locked 30 frames per second. The overall look of the game was slightly washed out, with some rock and grass textures appearing somewhat rough around the edges, but it was perfectly playable and enjoyable nonetheless. Also, the Switch version wasn’t without its glitches and occasonal bugs – similarly to the other versions – that made for some humorous encounters. The added amiibo support, HD rumble and motion controls utilise the functons of the joycon relatively well and once again prove that this has been enhanced to perform to the Switch’s capabilities. Considering the fact that you can now play a game as large, expansive and rich as Skyrim on what is essentially a tablet is truly astonishing and shows just how far mobile chips have come recently. 

In conclusion, Skyrim is another fantastic addition to the Switch’s ever expanding library of games and caters to those looking for a meatier, more Western RPG experience. It’s a good time for newcomers to engage in Tamriel, now with the ability to play it at home or portably. While it rarely changes the ground it once laid, and the framerate and textures aren’t as finetuned as other versions, this is a must-buy for those in need of a time-consuming game. It’s absolutely filled to the brim with content and offers everything from the base game plus the DLC content, which makes this so appealing for a first time explorer. This is a timeless classic, once again celebrated and heralded for its achievement in open-world game development. 

REVIEW SCORE – Excellent

Skyrim for Nintendo Switch : 9 out of 10

Nintendo Switch Sales Explode in Japan 

It was an inevitable turn of events. Nintendo was gearing up for a moment like this, and the launch of Splatoon 2 and their boost of stock allocation within Japan for the week proved a particularly effective strategy in gaining a large amount of players in a very short amount of time. This week was always going to be a huge selling point for the Switch in Japan; the idea of the inky shooter really has everyone eager to get their hands on the system. So, let’s get down to the figures.

The Nintendo Switch sold approximately 98,000 in this week alone – a significantly large improvement over the previous figures of around 30,000. It is a clear indicator that Nintendo had been attempting to provide a much more substantial allocation of stock for this particular week in preparation for the release of such a strong system seller like Splatoon 2 has proven to be. The question of whether this is a sign of Nintendo’s improving stock situation or an anomaly that only happened this week really remains a mystery, although it definitely gives fans a little bit of hope to latch onto that maybe – just maybe – there are more systems ready and waiting to go. If Nintendo have the stock ready, they could quite easily sell 70,000 each week in Japan alone. Either way, it’s going to be an incredibly interesting topic of discussion next week when the figures are released for the following week’s sales, where the question will finally be resolved.

On top of all this, there’s even more positive news. Splatoon 2 sold approximately 640,000 physical copies in Japan on the first weekend of sales, a significant increase from the original’s approximate 150,000 on launch weekend. Don’t be surprised if this game reaches six to eight million units sold in the Switch’s life cycle, as these figures truly show just how much demand there is for it. Hopefully these statistics will give Nintendo a further incentive to renew their confidence in the series and make a third entry a few years later. 

Nintendo have another heavily influential franchise in their arsenal now and the sales numbers for this week show that the Japanese market truly adores it. Now the only concern remaining is the allocation of stock on the market and whether Nintendo can deliver the systems to meet the extremely high demand. With these sales, absolutely anything is possible.

Crash Bandicoot Beats Splatoon 2 in UK Charts – with a Catch

With the launch of the splatastic, inky shooter Splatoon 2, many thought that it would almost most defintely be at the top of the charts without a second thought. This, however, was not the case – at least for the UK charts. It appears that Crash Bandicoot, on the Playstation 4 family of systems, has denied the shooter a swim to the top spot. It comes as a slight shock, despite the difference in sales only equating to approximately 680 in terms of physical purchases. You must look at the reason why this may be the case, though, and why it was beaten to the top spot because it appears that there may be a slight catch.
Firstly, this is only the judgement based on physical sales, not digital. Considering the fact that the Switch E-shop crashed due to the overflowing activity on the night of release and the download size was only a minimally impacting three gigabytes suggests that digital sales may have been a huge contributor the overall sales. While we all know and love Crash and his fantastic games, it’s unlikely that digital sales would be quite as high as Splatoon 2 since it has been on the market for several weeks – therefore most people who wanted to purchase the game digitally have already done so. This would be a very interesting aspect of the sales to look at and compare to the UK charts, especially with the sales having quite the influence this time.

At the release of Splatoon 2, it appeared as though Sony predicted the large intake of inkling fans within the UK and tried to diffuse the situation through the injection of more physical stock. Those waiting for a physical copy could now get their hands on one, which would heavily impact upon the shooter’s overall sales. Not to mention just how large an iron fist Sony dominates the European market, so these sales were near inevitable. It was the perfect opportunity to release more stock, taking Nintendo’s biggest seller for the summer and repressing it in the charts.

Now, just take another look at the list. Yes, Grand Theft Auto 5 is in the top three spot. Have you noticed anything strange about the positions of the Nintendo Switch games? Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has sold approximately 60% more this week than in the previous week, and Breath of the Wild has moved back into the top ten at sixth place. This gives a strong indication that there have been more shipments of systems sold and most potential buyers have also attached an existing game to their order, rather than buying the sequel to a fresh IP. Don’t be surprised if Splatoon 2 tops the charts next week, as more players finally get the opportunity to purchase it.

All in all, it has been a great week for gaming. Crash Bandicoot has done remarkably well and shown that older, more nostalgic games really have a place in our hearts. If this isn’t a solid enough reason to reinnovate and make another installment in the Crash Bandicoot franchise, then there is little hope of finding one. This truly is a great achievement, although it neglects the brilliance and potential of the colourful shooter. Either way, both games are incredible and both deserve to be at the top spot.