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.

Powered by WPeMatico

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.

Powered by WPeMatico

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.

Powered by WPeMatico

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.

Powered by WPeMatico

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.

Powered by WPeMatico

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!

Powered by WPeMatico

Microsoft and Nintendo release Minecraft trailer focused on cross-play

Posted by | Gaming, Microsoft, Minecraft, Nintendo, Sony, Startups, Switch, TC, xbox | No Comments

In the world of gaming, cross-compatibility between platforms has always bene a bit of a white whale. While most players hope for it, console makers and game publishers haven’t always been so willing. Until recently.

Microsoft, Nintendo and PC game makers have started making games more cross-compatible. Most notably, the companies have made Fortnite Battle Royale, the biggest game of the year, cross-compatible on the Switch, Xbox, iOS, and PC. Yes, there is a big name missing from that list.

Sony has yet to budge, forcing PS4 players inside of a walled garden. Obviously, players have been outraged.

But today, Microsoft and Nintendo are seemingly putting salt in the wound with a new trailer for Minecraft.

Rather than focusing on the game, the trailer’s entire thesis is centered around the fact that it offers cross-play between Xbox and the Switch. In the video, you can see a Switch player and an Xbox player gaming together in the wonderful world of Minecraft.

The tag line at the end reads “Better Together.”

Long story short, cross play is happening in the gaming world. Finally. Whether or not Sony chooses to catch up is anyone’s guess.

Powered by WPeMatico

Nintendo Switch Online costs $20 per year and comes with 20 online-playable NES games

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

Nintendo has finally revealed the details of its paid online service after months of speculation by fans. The pricing is pretty much as expected ($20 per year), but the additions of online save game backups and NES games with added online multiplayer sweeten the deal.

We first heard the pricing last June, including the $3.99 monthly and $7.99 3-month options, but the announcement then left much to the imagination. This one makes things much clearer, but there are still a few mysteries it will perhaps clear up at E3 or closer to the September launch.

Save data being backed up online is perhaps the most asked-for feature on the Switch, and one other platforms have provided for years. So its official announcement will surely be greeted with cries of joy. The exact details are coming soon.

But it’s the online play for NES games that really caught my eye. Officially called “NES – Nintendo Switch Online,” it will be a collection of 10 games to start and 10 more to come, all of which can be played in both single- and multi-player modes online. How that looks exactly isn’t quite clear; the Nintendo release says “Depending on the game, players can engage in online competitive or co-op multiplayer, or take turns controlling the action.”

Does that mean we’ll have leaderboards? Ghost runs in Super Mario Bros 3? Low-latency battles in Balloon Fight? No clue.

At least the first 10 games are confirmed: Balloon Fight, Dr. Mario and Super Mario Bros. 3, Donkey Kong, Ice Climber, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Bros., Soccer, Super Mario Bros. and Tennis. The other 10 will supposedly be announced soon, with more added “on a regular basis.”

Those are of course all Nintendo-made games, suggesting licensing negotiations are still underway for classics like Final Fantasy and Double Dragon. For now it’s a package deal, you can’t just buy Soccer and play it unless you go for the full online experience.

The $20 per year subscription will also be necessary starting in September for online play. It might be a bit much to ask if you don’t play a lot of Splatoon or Mario Kart 8 or aren’t so into retro NES games, but it’s sure cheaper than the competition.

If you want to talk with your friends while trading off Zelda dungeons, you’ll still need the smartphone app, though. Perhaps a chat service will be announced another time.

A couple technical notes: the subscription is tied to an account, not the hardware, so if you and I shared a Switch and only I paid for the online aspect, you don’t get it when you log in. On the other hand, when I go to a friend’s house, I can log in to their device and use online services there. There is a $35 yearly option that lets you authorize up to 8 accounts though, for families with multiple users.

The Switch Online service isn’t needed for system updates or buying games online or anything — just online play, the NES games, and save game backups.

Powered by WPeMatico

Unstoppable exploit in Nintendo Switch opens door to homebrew and piracy

Posted by | Developer, Gadgets, Gaming, Hack, Homebrew, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Security, Switch | No Comments

The Nintendo Switch may soon be a haven for hackers, but not the kind that want your data — the kind that want to run SNES emulators and Linux on their handheld gaming consoles. A flaw in an Nvidia chip used by the Switch, detailed today, lets power users inject code into the system and modify it however they choose.

The exploit, known as Fusée Gelée, was first hinted at by developer Kate Temkin a few months ago. She and others at ReSwitched worked to prove and document the exploit, sending it to Nvidia and Nintendo, among others.

Although responsible disclosure is to be applauded, it won’t make much difference here: this flaw isn’t the kind that can be fixed with a patch. Millions of Switches are vulnerable, permanently, to what amounts to a total jailbreak; only new ones with code tweaked at the factory will be immune.

That’s because the flaw is baked into the read-only memory of the Nvidia Tegra X1 used in the Switch and a few other devices. It’s in the “Boot and Power Management Processor” to be specific, where a misformed packet sent during a routine USB device status check allows the connected device to send up to 64 kibibytes (65,535 bytes) of extra data that will be executed without question. You need to get into recovery mode first, but that’s easy.

As you can imagine, getting arbitrary code to run on a device that deep in its processes is a huge, huge vulnerability. Fortunately it’s only available to someone with direct, physical access to the Switch. But that in itself makes it an extremely powerful tool for anyone who wants to modify their own console.

Modding consoles is done for many reasons, and indeed piracy is among them. But people also want to do things Nintendo won’t let them, like back up their saved games, run custom software like emulators or extend the capabilities of the OS beyond the meager features the company has provided.

Temkin and her colleagues had planned to release the vulnerability publicly on June 15 or when someone releases the vulnerability independent of them — whichever came first. It turned out to be the latter, which apparently came as a surprise to no one in the community. The X1 exploit seems to have been something of an open secret.

The exploit was released anonymously by some hacker and Temkin accordingly published the team’s documentation of it on GitHub. If that’s too technical, there’s also some more plain-language chatter about the flaw in a FAQ posted earlier this month. I’ve asked Temkin for a few more details.

In addition to Temkin, failOverflow announced a small device that will short a pin in the USB connector and put the device into recovery mode, prepping it for exploitation. And Team-Xecuter was advertising a similar hardware attack months ago.

The answer to the most obvious question is no, you can’t just fire this up and start playing Wave Race 64 (or a pirated Zelda) on your Switch 15 minutes from now. The exploit still requires technical ability to implement, though as with many other hacks of this type, someone will likely graft it to a nice GUI that guides ordinary users through the process. (It certainly happened with the NES and SNES Classic Editions.)

Although the exploit can’t be patched away with a software update, Nintendo isn’t powerless. It’s likely that a modified Switch would be barred from the company’s online services (such as they are) and possibly the user’s account, as well. So although the hacking process is, compared with the soldering required for modchips of decades past, low on risk, it isn’t a golden ticket.

That said, Fusée Gelée will almost certainly open the floodgates for developers and hackers who care little for Nintendo’s official ecosystem and would rather see what they can get this great piece of hardware to do on their own.

I’ve asked Nintendo and Nvidia for comment and will update when I hear back.

Powered by WPeMatico

Nintendo’s Switch took just 10 months to outsell the Wii U

Posted by | Asia, Earnings, Gaming, Nintendo, Switch, Wii U | No Comments

 Nintendo’s Switch has only been on sale for 10 months but already it has outsold its predecessor, the Wii U, the flop that heralded Nintendo’s first step into hybrid gaming. The Japanese tech giant shifted a little over 13.5 million Wii U consoles across its entire lifecycle, and today Nintendo revealed that the Switch has reached 14.86 million sales to date. Business was so… Read More

Powered by WPeMatico