While the portability of the Switch is a big drawcard, and the lineup of released and announced first-party games is looking good, the platform is still missing something massive.
There’s been enough good, if not great, games for the Switch that it’s almost easy to ignore the ones that have failed. I’m talking primarily 1-2 Switch here, the collection of Joycon-centric powered minigames involving pistol duelling, aural-based table tennis, and don’t forget, competitive cow milking.
Hard to imagine why this didn’t take off, really
When I tried the Switch for the first time, it was surprising how effective the HD rumble in the Joycons was. But it’s also been completely underutilised since then, or undermined by the presence of equally good, if not better, analog controls. ARMS is a case in point. The motion controls work well, but it requires a lot less stamina to not punch for hours on end. Mario Kart‘s a similar situation. You can stick the Joycon into a wheel accessory if you’d like, but you’ll get just as good a result, if not better, with the regular controls.
The games that do take advantage of motion controls do so sparingly, or in ways that aren’t immediately intuitive. Splatoon 2 is a good example: you can get real fine control by combining analog sticks with motion controls, but it takes some getting used to before you stop aiming at the floor. Breath of the Wild blends motion aiming in-game nicely, but it’s a nice cherry atop the rest of the Zelda cake.
Also, Zelda isn’t the kind of game your Mum could easily play. It’s not the kind of game you could just hand to someone without instruction; it’s not the kind of game that immediately draws people in from all ages, all backgrounds.
That’s Wii Tennis.
The Switch is already getting a proper Pokemon title in 2018, Mario Odyssey is out soon, there’s a new Fire Emblem due next year, and EA are testing the Nintendo waters once more with FIFA. Even two of the Jackbox packs have made their way over, and Ultimate Chicken Horse is coming as well.
But the Switch is still lacking the game that made the Wii so successful, that experience that you couldn’t replicate on any other platform. Mario Kart works for a lot of people, but the physicality of Wii Tennis, and the rest of Wii Sports, struck a chord in a way that dodging blue shells simply can’t. People know how to physically swing a racket. Even if they’re not especially coordinated, people get the idea, and they get it pretty quickly.
It’s also insanely addictive, despite how physically draining waggling a Wii remote in real life can be. Matches are over relatively quickly, even with the most absurd of rallies, and it doesn’t take long to get into a game either. It’s the perfect party game in a lot of ways: easy to understand, easy to play, and quick enough that the experience can be shared by multiple people over a short timeframe.
I can understand why a Wii Sports or Wii Tennis replacement hasn’t appeared. 1-2 Switch was specifically designed to make players play while facing each other, rather than a screen, something Wii Sports doesn’t do. There’s a portability problem as well: if you want people to play with motion controls, what do you do when the Switch is undocked? Do you have a separate control scheme for the Joycons or the Pro Controller? Do you just say upfront that this is an experience meant to be played in a living room?
That doesn’t seem like an insurmountable problem, though. And right now, for all the indie games, NEOGEO ports and the gems like Zelda, the Switch lacks that truly addictive Nintendo-like experience. I’m not talking about the kind where kids and adults can enjoy the same game together, like Mario Kart or Pokemon, but the sort of thing that leaves you a little short for breath and a serious cramp in your wrist and forearm.
The Joycon controllers were built for this, and the Switch is crying out for that kind of experience. Arms is cool, but it ain’t no Wii Tennis. Come on Nintendo.