Nintendo Switch

Nintendo’s ‘souped-up’ NES Zelda loads you with gear for an easier adventure

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Legend of Zelda, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch, zelda | No Comments

Nintendo has set a strange new precedent with the release of Legend of Zelda SP on the Switch: it’s essentially the original NES game but with Link starts loaded up with good gear and cash. In a way it’s no different from a cheat code, but the way it’s executed feels like a missed opportunity.

The game itself (SP stands for “special”) is described by Nintendo in the menu as a “souped up version” of the original: “Living the life of luxury!” It’s a separate entry in the menu with all the other NES games you get as part of the company’s subscription service.

You’re given the white sword, big shield, blue ring and power bracelet, plus 255 rupees to replace that shield when a Like-like eats it. Basically they’ve given you all the stuff you can find on the overworld (including max bombs and keys), but no items you’d get from inside a dungeon. You also have six hearts, and traveling around a little bit I determined these were awarded by raiding nearby hidden areas, not simply assigned. Secret passages are already revealed, and so on.

Because it skips the title screen and save game selection it seems like someone must have essentially played through the game to this point (or more likely edited the values in game RAM) and then walked to the classic starting point and made a save state that automatically loads when you start or reset the game. This means the only way to save is to use the Switch’s built-in save states, not the rather inconvenient save method the game used.

It’s plain enough that this will be a less frustrating way to explore this famously difficult game, but it seems untrue to Zelda’s roots. I understand perhaps gifting the player some of the impossible to find things like a heart hidden inside a random block here or there. Getting some bombs to start is great too, and maybe even the rings (warping is helpful, and the game is pretty punishing, so damage reduction is nice). But the white sword?

For one thing, a player experiencing the game this way misses out on one of the most iconic moments in all gaming — “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this!” Then the ritual lifting of the wooden sword. And then setting out into the world to die again and again.

And for me, the white sword was always sort of a rite of passage in the game — your first big step toward becoming powerful. You earned it by finding those extra heart containers, perhaps after asking in vain after it before you were ready. Once you have it, you’re cutting through enemies like butter.

To make it the default sword and to skip these steps seems like it causes the player to miss out on what makes Zelda Zelda.

To be fair, it’s not the only version of the game you can play — the original is available, too. But it seems like a missed opportunity. Why not just have a save game you can load with this stuff, so you can continue playing as normal? Why not have the option baked into the launch of the original Zelda — have a couple secret save states ready with differing levels of items?

Nintendo has the opportunity to introduce a new generation to classic NES games here, having provided a rather bare-bones experience with the NES Classic Edition. Why not enhance them? Include the manual, god mode, developer commentary? This is the legacy the company has been stewarding for decades, and what better than to give it the respect it deserves?

I’m probably overthinking it. But this Zelda SP just seems like a rushed job when players would appreciate something like it, just not so heavy-handed. It’s not that these games are inviolable, but that if they’re going to be fiddled with, we’d like to see it done properly.

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A new Nintendo Switch is reportedly arriving next year

Posted by | Gaming, hardware, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

Nintendo’s been known to upgrade consoles with some regularity. It’s an easy way to keep audiences engaged over the long life of a system. Released in March 2017, the Switch certainly seems due for an update.

Sure, the hybrid console has been a runaway success for Nintendo, but after a year and a half and a sales plateau, some revamped hardware could be exactly the shot in the arm the device needs. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal citing suppliers and other anonymous sources, Nintendo has a new version of the console in the works for later next year.

Details are still pretty thin — apparently Nintendo itself hasn’t figured out precisely what such an update would entail. A new screen is understandably pretty high up on the wish of upgrades to the console. After all, the current display was something of an afterthought for a console primarily designed to be plugged into a home entertainment system.

Price is still an important factor here, however. As such, a high-end OLED is probably out of the question. That said, there are still plenty of affordable options that can be pilfered from the smartphone space.

Timing-wise, the new Switch is expected to arrive “as soon as summer.” Nintendo, naturally, isn’t commenting.

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Nintendo is offering an exclusive Fortnite bundle with the Switch

Posted by | fortnite, Gadgets, Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, TC | No Comments

Fortnite has taken the world by storm. In fact, the game is so popular that Epic has released versions for PC, Xbox, PS4, iOS, Android and the Nintendo Switch, making the game about as accessible as possible.

The popularity of the game stems from the general popularity of the Battle Royale genre and popular streamers like Ninja, who have made the game so much fun to watch. But it also comes from the fun, and often fleeting, skins, dances and pick axes the game offers in its Item Shop.

On October 5th, folks interested in the Switch can pick up some extra Fortnite swag.

It’s a bundle royale! A #NintendoSwitch #Fortnite bundle including special in-game items and 1,000 V-Bucks will make the jump into stores on 10/05. https://t.co/5049PRWbjr pic.twitter.com/qoraUQA5DO

— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) September 18, 2018

Nintendo is releasing a bundle that will include an exclusive Fortnite skin, glider and pick-axe, as well as an extra 1,000 V-Bucks. To be clear, 1,000 V-bucks is the equivalent of $10 and won’t get you much from the Item Shop.

Plus, as pointed out by the Verge, Nintendo has offered several different bundles which would allow customers to pick up a Switch for $329 alongside one of a few games. In most cases, those games cost money, whereas Fortnite is a free to play game.

But the Nintendo Switch bundle is the only way to get your hands on the Switch gear that comes with it.

This isn’t the first time that Epic has given out exclusive gear to players using different hardware or services. There is an exclusive Twitch Prime skin, a Sony PS4 skin, and even a skin for Galaxy Note 9 owners.

The Bundle is available for $329 on October 5.

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Nintendo finally announces some new games for the Switch

Posted by | Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch | No Comments

Nintendo is at last (at last!) bringing some new content to the Switch! Yes!

In a Nintendo Direct, the company let fly a number of games and a couple of original titles. The biggest Nintendo-produced titles we had glimpses of are a new Animal Crossing in development for the Switch and Luigi’s Mansion 3.

We learned next to nothing about the new Animal Crossing, other than that it’s coming in 2019, but we did get to see some gameplay from the latest chapter of Luigi’s only titular adventure in the Nintendo world. Luigi’s Mansion 3 seems to follow in the ghost-vacuuming footsteps of its predecessors with the bizarre camera angles and all. It’s also heading to the Switch stage in 2019, setting up a couple of Nintendo titles for us to look forward to next year, possibly alongside Metroid Prime 4 (?).

Other familiar additions to the Switch include a port of the Wii U game New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe coming in January and Yoshi’s Crafted World coming in spring 2019.

Aside from the Nintendo-made titles, fans were served up a big surprise with the announcement that some recent and old-school Final Fantasy titles are coming to the Switch. Final Fantasy VII, IX, X, X-2 HD Remaster and XII are all arriving in 2019.

There are about a dozen other incoming titles (several of which are remasters), including EA SPORTS FIFA 19, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, Diablo III: Eternal Collection, Mega Man 11, Katamari Damacy REROLL and plenty of others that you can jump through in the Direct below.

The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic system, and while it has a lot going for it, I barely have any games to play for it anymore. It’s not all that out of character for Nintendo to delay the hell out of the instant gratification its customers want, but the Switch has had a particularly stuttered content rollout since its launch. Hopefully the company can pick up a little more consistent cadence as it gets more third-party studios onboard.

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Nintendo’s NES Switch controllers activate the nostalgia centers (and wallets) of retro gamers

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, NES, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

The news that Nintendo would be adding NES games to the Switch as part of its paid online service had a mixed reception, but the company has completely made up for this controversial decision by releasing wireless NES controllers with which to play those games. At $60 they’re a bit steep, but come on. You know you’re going to buy them eventually. Probably next week.

The controllers were revealed during the latest Nintendo Direct video news dump, alongside a host of other nostalgia bombs, like a new Animal Crossing and about a million Final Fantasy ports. But first the details of those sweet, sweet controllers.

They’re definitely NES-style down to the buttons, meaning they aren’t going to replace your existing Switch Joy-Cons. So why do they cost so much? Because Nintendo. At least they’re wireless and they charge up by slotting onto the Switch’s sides like Joy-Cons. And they do have shoulder buttons, though, for some reason.

You’ll be able to pre-order a two-pack starting on the 18th for $60, which also happens to be the launch date for Nintendo Switch Online. Yeah, it’s time to fork out for that online play Nintendo has generously given away for so long.

Fortunately, as you may remember from previous announcements, the cost is pretty low; $20 per year, and it gets you online game access and a growing library of NES classics. Ten of those games were confirmed before, but 10 more were added to the list today.

So at launch you’ll be able to play:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Dr Mario
  • Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Donkey Kong
  • Ice Climber
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Tennis
  • Soccer
  • Baseball
  • Double Dragon
  • Excitebike
  • Ghosts ‘n Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Ice Hockey
  • Pro Wrestling
  • River City Ransom
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • Yoshi

The service will also enable cloud backups of saves and possible special deals down the line. It sounds like it’s basically a must-have, although plenty of people are angry that their virtual console games have been essentially stolen back from them. At least we have the NES and SNES Classic Editions.

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Nintendo Switch online service will launch on September 18th

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch | No Comments

Nintendo has communicated quite a lot on its new online service. And the company just shared the last missing piece of information — the service will launch on September 18th.

For the first time, Nintendo will launch a subscription service to access online services. It’ll cost $20 per year, $3.99 per month or $7.99 for three months.

#NintendoSwitchOnline memberships will start on 9/18. You can sign-up for a 7-day free trial from Nintendo #eShop at launch! We will introduce more information during the Nintendo Direct on 9/13.https://t.co/74Hzxk9spt pic.twitter.com/EJVFJH6F4I

— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) September 12, 2018

Subscribers will be able to play multiplayer online games, such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2 and Arms. If you were already playing those games over the internet, you’ll have to start paying.

In order to sweeten the deal, the company is adding new services for subscribers. Your save data will finally be synchronized with Nintendo’s servers. If you break or lose your Switch, you’ll be able to restore your user profiles. Unfortunately, it won’t work with Splatoon 2, Dead Cells, Dark Souls Remastered, FIFA 19, NBA 2K19 and Pokémon Let’s Go.

Subscribers will also be able to play NES games for free. Around 20 games will be part of the library. If you plan on subscribing, Nintendo will offer a 7-day free trial on September 18th.

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Nintendo got it right again

Posted by | Gadgets, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

I worked Circuit City when the PlayStation 2 launched. For weeks, we were sold out, and there was always a crowd around the blue demo unit in the gaming department. It’s easy to see why the PlayStation 2 was a hit looking back. It was powerful, inventive and excelled at local gaming. It was the right system for the time.

If Nintendo’s recent success proves anything, building for the time is more important than making for the future.

Nintendo is coming off a massive quarter that saw 88% year over year operating profit on the back of the Nintendo Switch. The company has sold nearly 20 million Switch systems since its launch, surpassing the total amount of Wii U systems sold and closing in on Gamecube’s tally of 21.7 million units.

The Switch is great. I can’t get over how good it is. Again, like other systems before it, the Switch is the right system for the time. It’s portable, it’s small, and it leans heavily on cloud services. It’s not the most powerful system on the market nor does it pack 4k gaming or VR capabilities. The Switch doesn’t even have YouTube or Netflix. It’s a game system.

The Switch was a big bet for Nintendo. The company was coming off of the nascent Wii U, which besides Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon, was a game system without good games. It seemed Nintendo had lost its edge. The Wii U, in a way, was a trial for the Switch. It brought gaming off the TV and into the hands of gamers — but those gamers had to be in the same room as the Wii U base station. The Wii U didn’t go far enough in all sense of the phrase.

By the time the Switch came out, the looming threat of mobile games seemed to be over. A few years earlier, it appeared that the smartphone was going to take over and eat up the casual gaming market. Even Sony got in on the theme, releasing a hybrid smartphone and game system called the Xperia Play. While the smartphone game market is alive and thriving, it never gobbled up the home console market. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched and gamers settled into the couch. The Switch offers something different and timely.

To state the obvious, the Switch is mobile, and that’s what’s needed in today’s environment. It’s different from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and in the best way possible. Like previous Nintendo products, the graphics are below the market average, and the capabilities are less than competitors. But that doesn’t matter. The Switch’s gaming experience, to some, is superior. I take my Switch on long flights. I can’t do that with a PlayStation 4.

Gamers agree. With nearly 20 million units sold since it launched in 2017, the Switch is nearing the sales amount of the Xbox One, which launched in 2013 and has sold between 25 and 30 million units. The PlayStation 4 is the clear winner of this generation of game systems, though, with nearly 80 million units sold — and an argument could be made that Sony built the Playstation 4 for today’s gamers too, bypassing all the extras Microsoft included in the Xbox One and instead focusing solely on games.

Nintendo has done this in the past, too. Think back to the Wii. It launched in 2006 and went on to sell over 100 million units. In 2006 Sony and Microsoft were pushing heavily into HD gaming with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. And for a good reason, too. Consumers were heavily shopping for their first HDTV at the time, and Sony and Microsoft wanted to build a system for the future. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 went on to long, healthy lives but they never saw the runaway success of the Wii.

The Wii was the must-have Christmas gift for 2006 and 2007. It was novel more than beautiful. Compared to the graphics of the PS3, the Wii looked childish. But that was part of the appeal. First generation gamers were aging and having families, and the Wii was built for all ages. Anyone could pick up a Wiimote and swing it around to hit the tennis ball. To many outside the core gaming crowd, the Wii was magical. It was the right system at the right time.

The next part seems to be the hardest for Nintendo. Now that the Switch is a success, Nintendo needs to maintain it by building and supporting a robust ecosystem of games. And Nintendo cannot be the source of all the best games. Nintendo must court developers and publishers and keep them engaged in the advantages of the Switch gaming system. If it can do that, the Switch has a chance to be a generational product like the Wii before it.

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Nintendo’s profit jumps 88% as it nears 20 million Switch sales

Posted by | Asia, computing, Earnings, Entertainment, Gaming, hardware, mario kart, nes classic edition, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, super smash bros, Wii U | No Comments

Nintendo released its latest earnings report today and the headline is that the company has now sold nearly 20 million Switch consoles. The actual number is 19.67 million as of the end of June, so add July sales and the 20 million milestone is likely to have already been hit. Either way, it has easily surpassed its predecessor, the much-maligned Wii U.

Overall, the business recorded a 30.5 billion JPY ($275 million) operating profit, up 88 percent year-on-year, as revenue grew 9 percent to reach 168 billion JPY, or $1.5 billion.

The Japanese firm sold 1.88 million Switches in the most recent quarter, which is actually down from 1.97 million one year ago, although this quarter tends to be a slow one ahead of the holiday season. That slip was made up for on the software side as sales of Switch games jumped from 8.1 million last year to 17.96 million in the most recent quarter.

Nintendo has a bunch of new titles incoming — including Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and two Pokémon titles — while its Nintendo Switch Online service is due to launch in September so there’s plenty more to come. That said, Nintendo has some work to do if it is to hit its target of 20 million Switch sales during the current financial year.

Elsewhere, Nintendo said it sold 1.26 million of the NES Classic Edition when it was relaunched in June, while it sold 1.39 million Labo kits for the Switch.

The companies mobile gaming business continues to do well, grossing nine billion JPY, $81 million, in the quarter. That’s likely to spike when the company introduces Mario Kart Tour (huzzah!) and new title Dragalia Lost for mobile before March 2019. Although Nintendo suggested that the pipeline for new mobile games will slow once these two new arrivals are released.

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Nintendo’s new Labo Vehicle Kit looks like a buggy full of fun

Posted by | cardboard, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, labo, Nintendo, nintendo labo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

Nintendo has just announced the latest in its Labo series of whimsical cardboard accessories for the Switch gaming console, and this one looks like a must-have. Called the Vehicle Kit for obvious reasons, the flat-pack, assemble-it-yourself add-ons include a steering wheel, gas pedal, “keys” that activate different vehicles, all of which work inside a cool-looking game that comes with.

Frankly this just looks like a humongous bargain. Perhaps the most humongous of all time. $70 gets you a whole fold-up steering assembly with shifters on the sides; a pedal that I really hope stands up to some serious stomping; a joystick for piloting a plane, a weird thing that controls a submarine; and a “key” that your Joy-Con fits into, which itself slots into the various other setups to activate them.

They’re all meant to be used in a game that, despite not having a name, looks insanely cool. It looks like a big island with secrets hidden all over the place that you just tool around in using your buggy, your submarine, and your plane, and whatever other weird vehicles you might come across.

You can race, spray-paint your vehicles, blow up rocks and cut down trees. There’s also a two-player mode where you battle with cars that have extendable arms for some reason. Don’t think too hard about it.

Of course you’ll have to put all this together yourself (I guess either I think kids read TechCrunch or our readers buy Nintendo gear made for kids), but we found Labo to be a delight to assemble and play with so that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a feature, not a bug.

You’ll be able to buy this kit starting September 14 for $70, which, again, is obviously a steal. If any of us gets their hands on one ahead of that date we’ll definitely let you know.

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Oh, the things I would do to get this cardboard-style Nintendo Switch

Posted by | Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, labo, Nintendo, nintendo labo, Nintendo Switch, Switch | No Comments

Nintendo is building on its strange but wonderful cardboard Labo platform with some sweet Mario Kart integration and a truly fabulous limited edition Switch with a faux-cardboard finish. It really is just the greatest thing and I would do terrible things to have it. Unfortunately some smart kid will probably get it, because you have to win it by designing something cool with Labo.

So, first the Mario Kart stuff. If you have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch, and you really should because it’s excellent, you can now use the Toy-Con (buildable with the Labo Variety Kit) as a sort of real-world controller. You twist the right “handlebar” to accelerate and rotate the whole thing to turn.

This is the first game to get its own special Labo support, but the company says more are on the way. Splatoon 2, perhaps?

If you’re a creative type and you have a Labo set, you’re in luck. There are two new contests you can enter, and entry puts you in the running to win the amazing neutral-colored Switch shown up top. I really don’t know why I love it so much, but I do. And if you do too, you should enter. (If you’re in the U.S. or Canada. Sorry, world.)

The first challenge is to create a musical instrument with the Toy-Con pieces and “craft materials.” You’ll have to document its creation and show it working on video; it’ll be judged on “Quality, Creativity, Spirit, and Sound.” Caps Nintendo’s.

The second challenge is to create a game or game-like experience using Toy-Con Garage. Same judgment categories as before, minus Sound.

There will be one grand prize winner and four runners up per contest. Grand prize is that amazing Switch (approximate retail value $1,000?!), plus a cool (?) Labo jacket. Runners up get a pair of cardboard style Joy-Cons and a jacket. Respectable.

If you’ve been looking for a reason to pick up that Labo kit again or use some random pieces you never tried, this is surely that reason. Now get to work!

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