Reflecting on the past 5 years of Nintendo Switch and what it’s missing compared to Nintendo’s hardware from the past.
Nintendo Switch has been on the market now for 5+ years and while its first-party offerings have been stellar, its third-party output and exclusives have been less interesting compared to previous generations. Due to the unique hardware capabilities of the DS/3DS, Wii and Wii U, 3rd-party studios were able to capitalize on each platform’s unique offerings. On the DS/3DS, you had the second screen which many games utilized for maps or touch screen inventories like in Castlevania and Etrian Odyssey, for example. The Wii Remote/Nunchuck offered motion controls and the success, popularity and impact of Wii Sports speaks for itself. Affordable Space Adventures on Wii U, for example, used the Game Pad exclusively and provided an experience you couldn’t find anywhere else at the time.
Nintendo Switch is one of the best selling consoles to date and it continues to sell extremely well, but outside of the fact that it’s a home console/portable hybrid, does it really offer anything else that you can’t find on other competing platforms, especially now with the Steam Deck? While there are some exceptionally impressive third-party ports (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, DOOM Eternal and NieR: Automata, just to name a few) and if you exclude some extra content added to various indie releases, what makes playing third-party/indie releases special on the Switch? The more esoteric side of Nintendo’s hardware legacy this generation seems to be delegated to external “add-on” products like Nintendo Labo and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. These products feel more in-line with Nintendo’s more “gimmicky” console features from previous generations, but they feel more detached/distanced from the Switch itself compared to other accessories/peripherals that accompanied Nintendo hardware in the past.
Now that we’re 5+ years into Switch’s life cycle, we’ve also been seeing the bite-sized 1st-party titles that Nintendo would have historically released on the DS/3DS alongside their “main course” on the consoles. Dream Buffet is certainly an example of this and it makes me want to see more smaller games from Nintendo’s core properties. Are there teams that could be making DS/3DS-sized equivalents for Switch that could accompany the bigger releases? I’d like to think so. Dream Buffet also feels like the perfect example of Nintendo’s unwillingness to commit to a fully online, live-service experience (for better or worse). The game is just missing a proper battle pass with seasonal updates, but is Nintendo’s user base looking for these types of online-only experiences? Splatoon 3, however, does have a battle pass-like feature in the way of the “Catalog“, so it’s interesting to see how some Nintendo games embrace the idea while others don’t. Dream Buffet is also the first time I’ve thought about HD Rumble on the Switch in years. The HD rumble here is subtle, but it’s the first thing I noticed while rolling around in Dream Buffet. Unfortunately, it was also a reminder that the tech here is old and has been outclassed by PlayStation 5’s DualSense since.
There’s clearly something for everyone on the Nintendo Switch, but for those of us who have grown-up with Nintendo and their numerous portables/consoles, there’s just something missing with the Switch and it’s not just the fact that there’s still no eShop music or the Wii U Zelda ports everyone keeps asking for.