Why re-leasing old software on Switch is no bad thing
Following the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe there’s been a lot of talk about Nintendo’s penchant for re-releasing games their customers have already bought, sometimes in multiple iterations. But Mario Kart’s critical reception and whopping sales figures demonstrate that in some small part, remakes on the Switch can sell.
There are two main reasons why. On the one hand re-releases of Nintendo titles are often a chance to return to quality titles. On the other, they often provide a new way to play. Take the release of Hyrule Warriors on the 3DS for example, even if it chugged on the original 3DS and 3DS XL.
It’s both of these aspects that the Switch has in its favour when it comes to re-releases. When Naughty Dog released an up-rezzed version of The Last Of Us for the PS4 shortly after its release on the PS3 the obvious justification was that the new version gave those who had skipped the PS3 the chance to play it. The Switch finds itself in the same position; the Wii-U was undoubtedly a console that many Switch owners did not own and as a result, will have missed titles like Mario Kart 8.
This means that Nintendo is perfectly poised to release a slew of its flagship titles on the Switch and Mario Kart’s success is the green light it needs and possibly one that was looked for in the Switch release. Perhaps, Nintendo’s E3 direct will be a chance for them to reel off a list of Wii-U titles that will be released on it new star console through the last two quarters of the year?
Imagine being able to play The Wonderful 101 or Bayonetta 2 on that 720p screen. It wouldn’t be the first time that a handheld has become the place to preserve the classics. The release of both N64 Zelda games and Lylat Wars (released as Starfox 64 3D) is for many the principle reason to own a 3DS but this appeal isn’t limited to just Nintendo handhelds. The fact that both of PS3/360 Ninja Gaiden games are available on the PS Vita as well as various Final Fantasy games and, of course, Persona 4 has made the Vita a cult hit amongst Japanophiles.
The other aspect of the successful handheld is the console itself. In a world where audiences are engaged with multiple screens, handheld gaming still has a place in the industry. Particularly when the average age of people playing videogames puts them squarely in co-habitation land. Whether it’s with a partner or in a house share, that living room TV will be a contention point when it comes to single-player games. Having a dedicated gaming device that offers tactile buttons and sticks, offering an equivalent experience on the small screen has almost become essential in the modern home.
That’s only one piece of the puzzle, though. Arguably the biggest piece of the Switch’s portability is what it’s done for commuters. For anyone spending the majority of their week on public transport, the Switch is a god-send. Games often require patience and perseverance from those who play them, which makes them perfect partners for a long journey. This is not to say that the Switch is the first commuter’s console, far from it. But it is the first console to be powerful enough to deliver true “console quality” experiences on the go. It’s telling that there are a number of JRPGs due to release on the Switch because those games require grinding and tend to be a lengthy experience; thanks to the Switch’s sleep mode being equivalent to being powered off, you won’t have to rush to a save point after a train journey of grinding or during a cutscene.
This couldn’t be achieved on the Vita and 3DS because of the battery on those pieces of hardware and if Breath Of The Wild’s universal praise proves anything, it’s that a grindy experience works on a portable (see the 900 Korok Seed comments online) if the game is visually and mechanically engaging.
Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U was well received critically for the most part but there was no one to play it as it came along late in the console’s life. Xenoblade Chronicles X put players in a sprawling, alien world and invited them to explore it. Now there have been console games that have done this concept and have been far more successful in their execution such as Skyrim, a game that has a promised release on Switch even though it isn’t the remastered version its endless list of quests seems far less daunting as commuter’s distraction.
In the same way, were Chronicle X released on Switch (unlikely as the studio who made it is busy making Xenblade Chronicles 2) it might bring lapsed players, and those who were interested in the Wii U release, to the table. Plus, in Xenoblade Chronicles X, players got to pilot a mech and who doesn’t want to do that? Remember those Japanophiles?
Yet the most compelling reason for Nintendo to release Wii U titles on the Switch is something they’ve never been very good at tapping into: mind-share. When rumours started flying that the Switch would enable you to revisit Gamecube games it’s fair to say the internet made its thoughts pretty clear on whether that would be a good thing. Now, it is not uncommon for Nintendo to misread its audience but looking at indie games like Fast Racing RMX (F-Zero), Wargroove (Advance Wars) and Yukelaylee (Banjo-Kazooie) that have been released or are due to be released, it us clear that people are nostalgic for Nintendo games outside of Mario and Zelda, and Nintendo knows this.
So why not get something weird and interesting like the Wonderful 101 on the Switch? Switch owners want games like this because it reminds them of a time when Nintendo invested in something other than squat plumbers, ie, third party titles. Speaking of third parties, remember when games like Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin’s Creed 3 released on Wii U? No? Why would you? They were the worst way to play those games. But imagine if you could play them on a long haul flight? Even the morose Assassin’s Creed 3 could offer some amusement on a Switch screen where it couldn’t if it were played at home.
So if among Nintendo’s E3 announcements are 10 re-releases of old software, then that will be 10 more reasons to own a Switch because as with the Wii, Nintendo have managed to make the old new again and put the past in the hands of the future.
By Ned Newberry