Along with St. Patrick’s day, MLB spring training and eating way too much Easter candy (hello Cadbury Crème Eggs, goodbye New Year’s resolution), March marks the one-year anniversary of the Nintendo Switch.
When Nintendo first revealed the Switch, it seemed like another odd project. After all, the company has a reputation for doing things its own way. Coming out with the first VR game system, adding a second screen to its best-selling handheld, sticking with cartridges when everyone else was moving to CDs, and then making a move to a nonstandard sized disc just for fun.
Some of the company’s experiments have been successful. Some, like the Virtual Boy and Wii U, were not. At first, no one was quite sure which side the Switch would fall on. The system intrigued by sporting a large, high-definition screen, a dock to play it on your TV and controllers that easily snap on and off to accommodate portable play, traditional console play and even two-person gaming in some situations.
Of course, sacrifices were made to squeeze all of these capabilities into a portable package. Compared to rival systems like the PS4 and Xbox One, the Switch is woefully underpowered. Set against the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, you also lose the ability to play games in 4K HDR. And what’s this? Yep, we’re back to using cartridges to store our games on.
Now, any game system is only as good as the games it plays. Here is where Nintendo’s planning shined. It launched the Switch with the highly anticipated “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” which happens to be a bright, shining star in the long-running franchise.
Then, it followed up with other great games, releasing at least one major title per month, including “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,” “Splatoon 2,” “Mario vs. Rabbids: Kingdom Battle,” “Xenoblade Chronicles 2” and the astounding “Super Mario Odyssey.” This stellar lineup accompanied a flood of third-party titles, both major releases like “FIFA 18” and “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” and more indie titles than you can shake a controller at.
The system remained hard to find throughout the year, selling more units than the Wii U in its first nine months, some 14.86 million units by the end of 2017. In fact, the Switch is outpacing the Nintendo Wii, the best-selling game system of all time.
Of course, this has prompted more and more publishers to develop games for the nascent console, meaning that the pace of new releases will only increase later in 2018 and beyond.
All has not been perfect though. Nintendo has delayed its highly anticipated online infrastructure several times, finally settling on September 2018 for the launch — some 18 months after the console’s debut.
Additionally, the company remains mum on the bulk of its 2018 game lineup. We know there’s a new “Kirby” game coming in the spring, as well as a new “Mario Tennis.” Otherwise, the big announcements have been re-makes of older titles like “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,” “Dark Souls: Remastered” and “Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition.”
There’s also “Labo,” a new learning system that uses the switch as a component along with simple cardboard machines the user builds and plays with. It’s an interesting concept and sure to please parents, but it won’t scratch that game itch like “Zelda” and “Mario” does.
Still, Switch owners have a lot to be excited about.
Nintendo has already announced “Metroid Prime 4” and a new “Pokemon” game, and either or both could make it this year. Additionally, rumors swirl that more first- and third-party surprises are waiting around the corner, including a possible fast “Mario” follow-up a la “Super Mario Galaxy 2” and the next “Super Smash Bros.” installment (perhaps based on the excellent Wii U version).
So, if I had to give the Nintendo Switch a letter grade for its first year, it would end up with an A-. A few points must be removed for the delays of the online service and for the mystery surrounding year two.
It remains, however, the best system launch in years, with an incredible catalog of games that includes a few all-time classics. If Nintendo can keep the momentum flowing, the Switch could become the most popular game console ever.