Monday, November 27, 2017

Game Diary - My Switch Runneth Over

I still don't know where I've landed, on the Switch.  I know what I want from it - I want a worthy successor to the Vita, a platform that keeps the promise of the Vita - triple-A games on a handheld, and one of the best indie console libraries, period.

What lets it down, at this point, is the fact that third-party games can't actually compete with Nintendo's first-party offerings.  Nintendo's games control very, very well for the most part.  Aiming and shooting in Zelda works great, with a touch of tilt for fine-tuning.  Moving and jumping and pulling off crazy shit in Mario Odyssey becomes fairly second-nature, after a while, and Mario Kart controls equally well - but the control sensitivities that Nintendo nailed in Zelda don't translate, or haven't been adequately adapted to, Bethesda's wondrous ports of Skyrim and DOOM.

DOOM is basically unplayable in handheld mode - not even close to how it should feel - and using bows in Skyrim is an absolute non-starter.

I'm hoping these two early attempts will be growing pains on the road to a platform that could totally run a definitive portable last-gen third-party library with the likes of Max Payne 3, Dead Space, Valkyria Chronicles, Grand Theft Auto IV, BioShock and Resonance of Fate - but I don't know... I don't know.

I feel like that right joycon just fucks up the deal.  It's just so goddamned uncomfortable if you need to use that analog stick while playing a game.  I have trouble understanding why what works in Zelda works in nothing else.  Probably because you spend relatively little time shooting your bow.

...which is why I don't have a copy of Splatoon 2, perhaps.

For some reason, I keep buying games for it. So far I've got...


  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Super Mario Odyssey
  • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
  • Skyrim
  • DOOM
  • Sonic Mania (I feel like it counts as an indie)
  • The Flame in the Flood
  • Moon Hunters
  • Wulverblade
...and yet... I don't feel like the thing has a killer app.  At least, not for me.  Flame in the Flood is good, but it's no Don't Starve or Darkest Dungeon or even Rogue Legacy.  Maybe it is, actually - Roguelikes tend not to reveal their brilliance until after the fiftieth hour or so, and Flame hasn't drawn me in that deep (so far). 

Moon Hunters' combat and meaningful player choice is anemic.  Wulverblade can't hold a candle to the 2D combat (or presentation) of Shank 2 (or even Shank) and Sonic Mania is just a sequel to games I played back in the 90s.  

...maybe I should check out Stardew Valley.  Alex has had good things to say on the subject, recently...

I played Koopa Troopa, back in the day.  Strangely enough, I landed on Donkey Kong for 8.  

Mario Kart I picked up on Saturday, and... I haven't really poured this much time into a Mario Kart since the original game, back on the SNES - when blue shells didn't exist, and you picked up items by driving over boxes on the road instead of driving through shimmering cubes. 

I love its tracks, I love all the little animations and gleeful tricks the roster will perform, I love the music and I fucking hate the fact that on 150CC I can rely on every AI in the game to fire lightning and red shells and blue shells and God-knows-what-else at me as soon as the third lap starts.  I can drive the fuck out of those tracks and lose first place just because the AI rolled the dice and they came up "fuck this guy."

I stuck to 100CC and cleared all the tracks, but even there, it doesn't feel... fair.  At all.  It feels like you're playing well, doing everything you should, and also fuck you, buddy, fifth place in the last eighth of the last lap after being in first all race.  

I enjoyed my time with it (frustration aside), but outside of just puttering around in 100CC and absent anyone I could be doing multplayer with, I don't know when I'll feel compelled to pick it up again.  7.5 out of ten, knocked down from an 8.5 because of bullshit asshole AI.  

It's different, when a human shoves a red shell up your ass.  You expect that.  Perhaps the Mario Kart experience requires it, in fact, but when the AI does it it just feels like you were robbed for no reason.  
Zelda I haven't finished, but I'm generally positive on it so far.  No, really, the game I've enjoyed the most and put the most time in to on the Switch is Mario Odyssey.  Which is a really strange thing for me to say. 

I haven't loved a Mario game since Super Mario World - at first I blamed the shitty 3D controls that were just being discovered with the N64, then I blamed the weird day Nintendo had designed its controls on the Wii, and I believed that Nintendo and I had simply grown apart. 

Why Odyssey mostly works for me where Mario 64 and the Galaxies failed, I'm not entirely sure.  Perhaps it's just that the analog sticks on the Switch are better than that stupid nubby things on the Wii, or perhaps it's that the need for waggle is greatly reduced, but it works and I like it... 

...but I don't love it.  It's more powerful, it certainly has more first-party support, but the Switch has not succeeded or surpassed the Vita, in my eye.  There isn't a game here like Gravity Rush or Killzone Mercenary or Odin Sphere or Dragon's Crown or Muramasa or Trails of Cold Steel that I can point to and say "you have got to try this."

There isn't a robust library of indies that you have got to play.  There's no Guacamelee.  There's no Bastion or Transistor, Dead Nation or Super Stardust, Olli Olli or Hotline Miami, Limbo or The Swindle... 

...which may just be on account of the platform's relative youth.  A definitive indie library doesn't spring up overnight.  Serial Cleaner's coming out soon, and so is Xenoblade Chronicles 2... 

I don't know, Nintendo.  I just don't ooh Overwatch fan art!

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