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Nintendo Report Card 2017: Switch, SNES Classic, And 3DS

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A few frustrating Nintendo-isms still linger on Switch, however. The lack of built-in voice chat and poor friends list management–topped off by the persistence of friend codes–is incredibly limiting. Splatoon 2 would have been a good litmus test for the future of Nintendo’s online offerings, but basic communication features are still impossible within the Switch itself. Additionally, there’s currently no replacement for the Virtual Console as it appeared on the Wii and Wii U, and Nintendo’s paid online service has been delayed until next year.

A Switch update in October added quite a few new features and fixes, most notably gameplay recording and save data transfer. While there’s still no cloud saving–a quality-of-life feature that’s standard by this point–the update did indicate that there’s room to grow. Voice chat still doesn’t seem likely, but there’s hope that some of the more outdated parts of the Switch can be improved over time.

Finding Success Outside Of The Switch

Even with the Switch at the forefront, Nintendo didn’t completely abandon its other avenues. Following the highly popular NES Classic from 2016, Nintendo released the SNES Classic at the end of September and sold 2 million units right away. It comes with 21 games, including some of Nintendo’s most beloved: Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, to name a few. SNES Classics are hard to come by, but it seems Nintendo is slowly learning from mistakes, as it is bringing the NES Classic back in 2018 for a second run.

Nintendo also didn’t ignore the aging 3DS, releasing the new 2DS XL in July. While there weren’t too many new 3DS games in 2017, there were a few that stood out: Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Metroid: Samus Returns, as well as the remake of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Samus Returns in particular launched rather quietly, but proved to be a faithful successor to 2D Metroid games.

Other Matters, In Brief

  • Nintendo doubled down on mobile with adaptations of a few of its franchises, including Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, but to mixed reception.
  • Still no word on Virtual Console for the Switch, though the October update sneakily and mysteriously added GameCube controller support with no obvious use yet.
  • Miiverse was shut down across all platforms and regions in November, but its meme-y legacy lives on in the Splatoon 2 message system.
  • Production of the standard-size New 3DS ended in Japan and Europe. (It never came to the US outside of special-edition bundles.)
  • The SNES Classic included the previously unreleased Star Fox 2, which was originally supposed to release in 1996 before it was canceled.

Verdict

After a disappointing few years for Nintendo, 2017 has been a comeback year. The Nintendo Switch launched strong with Breath of the Wild, dominating sales charts and drastically increasing revenue for the company. The Switch still suffers from some of Nintendo’s more outdated quirks, most notably the lack of built-in voice chat, but updates leave room for hope of improvement.

Most importantly, Nintendo seems to be learning from its past mistakes. Critically important third-party support has been ramping up, joining great first-party games to make a strong first-year library. The company appears to be listening to fans, bringing back 2D Metroid and launching two essential entries in two of its most beloved franchises. And in doing it all while not totally abandoning the hugely popular 3DS creates the well-rounded Nintendo powerhouse we’ve been sorely missing. 2017 hasn’t been a perfect year for Nintendo, but it’s certainly the one it needed.

The Good The Bad
  • Strong, steady lineup of games starting from launch
  • Switch has the initial third-party support it needs to thrive
  • Portability combined with excellent first-party favorites makes the Switch a must-have console
  • Despite its age, the 3DS hasn’t been completely forgotten in the Switch’s shadow
  • Switch still has quality-of-life issues, like the lack of voice chat and cloud saving

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