Why I’m Excited for Nintendo Switch

Switching it Up

It finally happened. Nintendo revealed their upcoming system, Nintendo Switch. The trailer was under four minutes long, but it was enough to get me hyped up for it. Here are five reasons why I’m excited for the Nintendo Switch.

1. Hybrid System

I love handhelds. The Nintendo 3DS is one of my favorite gaming systems as was the Nintendo DS before it. I appreciate the ability to play games wherever I want, especially while I’m commuting or traveling. Even at home, I actually prefer the 3DS or Wii U’s off-TV play because I can play in any room.

Thus, I was thrilled to hear that the Nintendo Switch would be a hybrid system, allowing for both home console and handheld capabilities. While playing on the TV, the “Joy-Grip” controller looks like a standard huge controller with two removable sides, lovingly called the “Joy-Con.” When the Joy-Con sides come off and attach to the Switch’s tablet-like screen, it suddenly functions like a handheld that continues the game where you left off. This mirrors the Wii U’s off-TV play, effectively making the new controller a logical progression of the Wii U’s GamePad. Since the system appears to use game cards similarly to the 3DS, we’ll be able to take games on-the-go, which is great news for handheld gamers. If the system can replicate the awesome experiences I’ve had with the 3DS, then I’m already on board.

Nintendo Switch.jpg
The Nintendo Switch and puppy-face controller (can’t unsee it)

2. Unification

We may also finally be looking at a unified system. Instead of having to buy two separate systems, we may only have to buy one, and all of the new titles will ideally be streamlined into it. We could be looking at a built-in cross-buy, which would fix the existing issue of having to buy the same game on both systems. This move benefits Nintendo as well. The Wii U didn’t do as well this generation, while the 3DS sold like hotcakes. Its handhelds have performed traditionally well, so it would be wise for Nintendo to play to its strengths. In the best-case scenario, the Nintendo Switch could have the sales and lasting power of the 3DS and the larger-scale game experiences of the Wii U.

Of course, in the worst-case scenario, we could get neither. It will depend on several factors. First, if the cost is on the upper end, then it might actually lose sales from those who are used to the cheaper handhelds. After all, the 3DS struggled when originally launched (also in March) with its $249.99 price point. The Switch will need a price that will sell its new hybrid vision while still remaining profitable. Also, we’d need more information on the handheld. For instance, what is the battery life, and how will the video quality be? Is it online-enabled? It’s hard to tell much without physically having the controller. At the very least, if the DS line ends here, I’d miss the dual-screen and clamshell features. It’s still up in the air how exactly Nintendo will handle the handheld situation.

portable-switch
I look forward to both console and handheld titles on the Nintendo Switch.

Of course, if the handheld line continues with Nintendo Switch, we could be looking at the next version of Pokémon on a console/handheld. In fact, just having Pokémon on the Switch would do wonders, since it’s a big system-seller already. It’d also be great to see big recent handheld games such as Monster Hunter and Yo-kai Watch on the system. I’d love for many handheld franchises to be on a console while still maintaining portable functionality. Likewise, I’d be ecstatic to take all of the big console games wherever I want.

3. Sleek Design

I usually don’t care how a system looks when I play it. After all, I played with the Nintendo 64 controller, the original DS, and the GameCube (Disclaimer: I love all three). That said, I love how the Nintendo Switch looks. The transformation into a tablet surrounded by two slide-on Joy-Cons works so much better than I could have imagined. The end result resembles a flatter, cleaner, sleeker GamePad.

nintendo-switch-sides
I adore how the sides slide onto the tablet screen.

The Joy-Con controllers are surprisingly versatile. Not only can you connect them to the tablet, but you can also detach and use them like miniature Wii remotes. It’s unclear whether they have motion control, but you can play with one on each hand or even sideways like an NES controller (à la the Wii remote). With a kickstand and headphone jack, the Switch is already looking more user-friendly than some phones. Finally, I found the traditional pro controller’s design to be one of the best since the GameCube’s. The right control stick is finally on the bottom right, and it just looks comfortable to hold.

I also think the name Switch effectively describes its function with a single word. It might not be the hippest console name, but it’s at least a better name than Wii U. I do think there is a missed opportunity though. They really should have gone with Swiitch. Joking…

Nintendo Switch Mario.png
I want to know where in the Mushroom Kingdom this is.

4. 3D Mario

There were a few games teased during the reveal trailer, including possible updates or new games for Splatoon and Mario Kart. However, the one game that caught my attention most was the 3D Mario game. It only appeared for about five seconds, but I rewatched those five seconds over and over. I loved Super Mario 3D World, but I’ve always wanted to see another hub-world adventure more akin to Mario’s first 3D outings. What little we saw looks like it may be a return to form. It resembles Super Mario Sunshine combined with a Mexican-inspired world. The footage looks unlike anything we’ve seen in a Mario game, and it’s that freshness that has me craving more. I’m still excited for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but this potentially new 3D Mario is an easy second place.

Nintendo Switch Third Party Support.jpg
Impressive list of Nintendo Switch partners

5. Third-Party Support

Third-party support is crucial. The Wii U lacked it, which led to long game droughts. Exclusive Wii U owners also missed out on many games. While we don’t know exactly what will be on the system, we do know that the Nintendo Switch will have an extensive list of partners. Its usual partners Capcom, Platinum Games, and Sega are back. Some third parties are back like Electronic Arts, Activision, and Konami. It’s great to see Square Enix, who will hopefully bring Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts in addition to Dragon Quest. Support from DeNA (creators of Miitomo and upcoming mobile Nintendo games), SpikeChunsoft (Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, Zero Escape), and Level-5’s (Professor Layton, Yo-kai Watch) suggests that we’ll be seeing portable, and perhaps mobile, franchises on the Switch.

Some other interesting partners (and their notable series) are Bethesda (which we saw in the trailer with Skyrim), FromSoftware (Dark Souls series), Telltale Games (The Walking Dead adventure series), Tokyo RPG Factory (I Am Setsuna), and Take-Two Interactive (Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption). It would be amazing for the Nintendo Switch to finally become a melting pot of excellent game series that reach a variety of gamers. Wii U also started with a fair share of partners, but fizzled out with third-party support early on its life. If played right, we could finally see Nintendo standing tall with the big third-party properties.

Nintendo Switch Mario Curtain.jpg
What else are you hiding, Mario?

Conclusion

There is plenty to be excited about with the Nintendo Switch. At the same time, there is a lot we don’t know regarding the Joy-Con, the games, the release schedule, battery life, and cost, among other things. Regardless, I remain optimistic that Nintendo will learn from previous missteps and move forward with this sleek new hybrid system. I also hope that Nintendo can give the system broad appeal with a diverse line-up of games. Either way, for the above reasons, I am excited to make the switch to Nintendo Switch in March!

What did you think of the Nintendo Switch reveal trailer? What are you most excited about? What do you still want to see? What games would you like to see on the hybrid system? Finally, will you be getting the Switch? Please share any thoughts you have about the Nintendo Switch in the comments below!

Advertisements

Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits/Fleshy Souls (3DS) Review

Build a Supernatural Entourage

The Western release of the original Yo-kai Watch for Nintendo 3DS finally brought Level-5’s Japanese monster-collecting RPG phenomenon overseas. The first game had flaws, notably its battle system, monster-befriending mechanics, and fragmented story progression. While the game gained a following, it didn’t live up to the lofty precedents from its home country. Despite this, Nintendo and Level-5 have given the franchise another chance in the West with Yo-kai Watch 2 for 3DS. À la Pokémon, the game has two versions: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls. Each come with its own set of exclusive monsters but are otherwise similar. While it is easy to compare this series to Pokémon, Yo-kai Watch is its own unique breed. With general gameplay improvements over the original and plenty of new quirky ghouls, Yo-kai Watch 2 may find a home in the hearts of monster-collecting fans.

Story

Yo-kai Watch 2’s story builds upon the Saturday morning cartoon concepts of its predecessor. Yo-kai are mysterious ghoulish creatures that cause numerous daily problems. For example, if you suddenly forget something, begin to sweat profusely, or get over-excited, you may be inspirited by a Yo-kai. Many Yo-kai are based on Japanese myths and folklore, and a stellar localization ensures that fans outside Japan can appreciate the cultural creatures. For example, Predictabull is a human-like bull based on a mythical beast that can predict misfortune, but the localized name itself helps unfamiliar players understand some of the significance. The quirky Yo-kai are easily the stars of the game, and with over 180 additions in this installment, there are hundreds of fun spirits to befriend.

yw2_giantnyan
This Yo-kai makes objects big…

YW2 begins with the (male or female) protagonist forgetting all memories from the first game. While it is a common trope, he quickly regains the memories following a helpful tutorial, which streamlines the gameplay elements from YW into an easily digestible two-hour lesson. Following that, the hero is able to go back in time 60 years to meet his grandfather, who also has the ability to see Yo-kai. As you travel between past and present, you discover a scheme that could alter both time periods. The story is more cohesive than the original’s, with less filler elements breaking up the pacing. The main plot is still divided into episodes, but nearly every part contributes something meaningful. The game is even more humorous with tongue-in-cheek jokes reminding players to simply enjoy the wacky world. As a result, YW2’s campaign is more satisfying.

Gameplay

There are several improvements over YW, but the battle system and befriending mechanics are mostly unchanged, for better or for worse. Using Yo-kai that you befriend throughout the game, you build a team of six monsters. Unlike traditional RPG battle systems, Yo-kai fight on their own, creating a more passive experience. However, don’t confuse passive with easy or boring. Rather, it’s better to think of the player as a general commanding Yo-kai troops in battle. While the Yo-kai battle on their own, you are in control of several aspects. For instance, you decide which three Yo-kai are in the frontlines at any time. Although you bring in a team of six, only three can fight at the same time. However, you can literally rotate your team around using a wheel on the bottom screen. By spinning the wheel, you can substitute in benched Yo-kai to continue the battle, effectively making your team a revolving door of creatures.

YW2_Bottom Screen.jpg
Battles are three-on-three affairs. Use the touchscreen to rotate your frontlines and activate Soultimates.

The player also decides whether to strike hard or get back and recover. When a Yo-kai’s Soul Meter is full, you can activate its Soultimate move, which manifests as either a strong special attack or helpful recovery/stat boost. Upon using a Soultimate, you engage in a brief touchscreen minigame like tapping bubbles or spinning a circle. When your own monsters are inspirited, or debilitated, by enemies, you can rotate them to the back and engage in a similar touchscreen-enabled purification minigame. There are only a few minigames, and only a couple are new, so it can get tedious if you do them often. The new Yo-kai Watch Model Zero tweaks the battle engine a little by allowing two new actions: M-Spirits and Poking. M-Spirits are supercharged Soultimate moves that draw upon the Soul Meters of the Yo-kai next to the user. Meanwhile, poking a Yo-kai in certain sweet spots nets bonuses such as a higher chance of befriending the enemy. Lastly, players can target which opponents to attack and use items to affect the flow of battle.

There is clearly more to the auto-battle system than meets the eye, and it can get overwhelming keeping track of everything during a fight. Boss battles especially can get heated since you must strategize and target weak spots, similarly to fighting bosses in platformers and adventure games. Unfortunately, those who didn’t like the battle system before will likely not change their opinion. Since Yo-kai act on their own, they may not always perform your desired actions. Depending on a Yo-kai’s attitude, it may even loaf around in battle. There is quite a bit of dependency on luck, which may turn off some.

YW2_Boss.jpg
Bosses are fun to fight and strategize against.

Continuing with the “Yo-kai General” analogy, preparation is half of the battle. Where you place Yo-kai on the wheel is important. For example, you may want a balance of offensive and defensive Yo-kai, or you may want to put a healer next to a weak creature. Additionally, Yo-kai belong to one of eight tribes, such as the strong Brave tribe and the quick Charming tribe. When putting two or three of the same tribe in the frontlines, they receive “Unity” stat boosts. Yo-kai attitudes also matter greatly when building your team, as they affect stats and likelihood of loafing around during battle. It’s fun to come up with team strategies that produce the greatest chance of success.

Befriending Yo-kai was one of the big complaints from the first game, and it sadly doesn’t change much in the sequel. To add a Yo-kai to your collection, you must first have the Yo-kai randomly approach you after battle to join you. You can throw its favorite food at it to improve your odds, and thankfully, the game tells you what Yo-kai like when you hover your target over it. However, it’s discouraging to use up an expensive slab of meat on a creature only to have it ignore your advances. Even worse, you must finish a battle before you can find out if it has deemed you worthy. If it doesn’t join you, you must find another one to battle. There are some additional actions you can take to improve your chances, such as “poking” a Yo-kai’s sweet spot and having the right equippable items. While this makes befriending more likely, the mechanic remains a strictly luck-based affair that is more frustrating than fun, particularly for completionists.

yw2_battle
Befriend and build a unique team of Yo-kai.

There are no random battles; you either find hidden Yo-kai with a special lens or engage them in dungeon areas and alleyways. In a clever effort to highlight their role as spirits that affect the world, the game introduces Baffle Boards, in which you must guess the name of a Yo-kai using clues. Once you do so, summoning them to that spot changes the world slightly. For instance, putting a Hungramps in front of the convenience store will bring in hungry customers, allowing the store to provide big discounts on its products. You can fuse certain Yo-kai together, evolve others into stronger creatures, or transform them into equippable souls that benefit their holder. Finally, you can have your favorite Yo-kai follow you around, which is a small but fun feature.

The game is immersive, leading to some of the game’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. As in the first game, most of YW2 takes place in the large town of Springdale. Though many assets are reused, there is still plenty to do and see, even if you played the first game. You can run around the town, rest at the bathhouse, give offerings to a shrine, and even attend a festival. The town of Springdale is alive, filled with interesting people and Yo-kai alike. The addition of two new areas, the rural Harrisville and the port town San Fantastico, bring more variety to the world. The game is sometimes immersive to a fault, most evidently through the game’s train, in which you must wait at every stop until you get to the right one. This is a minor issue, as it soon gets rectified once you can warp. Regardless, the few times you are forced to use the train are a waste of time, considering there is nothing to do at most stops aside from a couple of sidequests.

YW_SanFantastico.jpg
The large world of the first game has expanded in the sequel.

Replayability

There are a lot of Yo-kai to befriend and sidequests to complete. An enhanced map, that both labels landmarks and guides players using arrows, heavily improves the original’s convoluted quest structure, making it more enjoyable to complete the quests. Besides NPC requests, you can also search for hidden Yo-kai Spots, enter Gate of Whimsy challenge rooms, collect new rare Yo-kai using the daily Crank-a-Kai capsule machine, and obtain a large number of achievements. An extensive postgame keeps the game alive long after you beat the 15-20 hour story.

By far, the biggest enhancement to replay value is the new online battle and trade modes. You can take on other players’ teams online in engaging six-on-six battles. Though it’s possible to get competitive, the fact that Yo-kai attack automatically makes battles somewhat dependent on luck. Nevertheless, online functionality is a huge improvement. Online trading also helps for completionists, especially since exclusive Yo-kai are split between the game’s two versions. No matter which version you have, trading makes it easier to obtain a full collection of the 300+ Yo-kai. You can also engage in these social features locally, as well as a bonus game, “Yo-kai Watch Blasters.” This multiplayer-enabled action game, based on the in-game “Terror Time” stealth-esque segment, lets you directly control a Yo-kai to battle evil Oni demons in 2D Zelda-like gameplay. It’s a decent diversion that only adds to the fully-featured package.

YW2_Past.jpg
Battle Yo-kai in both the present and past.

Graphics and Sound

The graphics contribute much to the game’s charm. The Yo-kai are all well-animated with standout designs that speak just as loud as their descriptions, and each Soultimate attack features its own mini-cutscene. The multiple towns, both past and present, are filled with intricate details and add to the immersion. Animated cutscenes look just like the anime.

The music remains as catchy as ever, with upbeat ghoulish and cartoonish battle themes and nostalgia-inducing town themes. The voice acting is fun, and each Yo-kai has at least one spoken line upon befriending, giving it personality. Some cutscenes are also fully voiced and give vibes of Saturday morning anime. Level-5 did a tremendous job with both graphical and sound design, making the world feel alive.

YW2_Banner.jpg
Yo-kai is Why

Conclusion

Yo-kai Watch 2 provides a more fulfilling experience than its predecessor. Although there are still some aspects that could be improved like the befriending system, the game makes many other improvements in story flow and sidequest structure. Battling remains a passive experience, but once you learn how to affect the tide of battle, the system can grow on you. YW2 builds upon the original’s biggest strengths, giving life to an immersive town and hundreds of Yo-kai. The 180+ new Yo-kai add to the charming roster of hilarious souls and spirits, and learning about each one is smile-inducing. The game won’t appeal to everyone, but monster-collecting enthusiasts should give Yo-kai Watch 2 a try. The only question is: will you go Bony or Fleshy?

Score: 8/10

Note: The version used for this review was Yo-kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls.

What do you think of Yo-kai Watch 2? Do you have any experience with the Yo-kai Watch series, whether games, anime, or toys? Which would you choose: Bony Spirits or Fleshy Souls? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below!