Nintendo launching new adjustable stand for the Switch

I love my Nintendo Switch: Until God of War came along it was my go-to gaming console when I wanted to relax with some digital delights.

I have to admit, however, I’ve been frustrated sometimes with the tiny kickstand that props the Switch up when you want to do some tabletop-gaming: It’s never seemed that stable to me (although, I’ve never had any catastrophes of the Switch tipping over type with it).

If only there was a stand of some sort of stand for the Switch that lets you tilt the viewing angle while using the console in tabletop-mode while at the same time letting you charge it.  Well, it’s as if Nintendo has listened to me, because  it’s launching a new adjustable charging stand on July 13. 

Priced at $AU29.95 (so I’m expecting about $NZ40), the adjustable stand has a port for an AC adapter on the side, letting you charge and play at the same time.

Nintendo says that the angle of the stand can also be adjusted to create the best viewing angle.

Nice one, Nintendo.

Nintendo Switch reaches 10 million sales in nine months & Shu coming to Switch, too

I’m putting this out here right now: The Nintendo Switch is my console of the year, despite being woefully under-powered when compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and their Pro and X variants).

With games like Super Mario Odyssey, Death Squared, Doom and Thimbleweed Park on Nintendo’s hybrid console, it really has been one of my gaming highlights of the year. So it’s no surprise to me (or anyone, possibly) that Nintendo has told 10 million Switch consoles in just nine months (the console launched in March this year). The console is a sure-fire success, pure and simple.

Congratulations, Nintendo: You’ve knocked it out of the park with this one!

Sticking with the Switch for a little bit longer, British developer Coatsink (which I have covered here before) is bringing its platformer Shu to the Switch in January, 2018.

Here’s a little about the game: Set across 6 different worlds, Shu combines gorgeous hand-drawn characters and fast-paced action as Shu and companions battle to save their friends from the mysterious and unrelenting storm. Can you outrun the end of the world?

Featuring an original soundtrack, 10 recruitable characters and a plethora of secrets to discover, the Nintendo Switch version of Shu will also include the Caverns of The Nightjars add-on content.

Shu will costs around $NZ15, if my calculations are correct.

 

 

Skyrim on Switch: Take an arrow in the knee, anywhere you like

You can now play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – henceforth known as Skyrim – on the toilet.

Think about that for a second: You can now play one of the most well-known RPG games from Bethesda while sitting on the porcelain throne. Is this the future of gaming?

Skyrim on Nintendo’s machine is the remastered version that was released on consoles in more recent times and it’s the real deal, although if you’ve played the remastered version – or the original game itself – you’re not going to find anything that you have seen here before. Make no mistake, though, this is Skyrim through and through – and it feels like Skyrim.

The Switch outputs Skyrim at 1080p when in docked mode and 720p in portable mode and to my untrained eye, it looks pretty damn good, although you can tell it’s a six year old game, graphically at least, when you look at the character models especially: People look slightly rough around the edges but textures are generally sharp and clear. Again, this is Skyrim in portable format.

The Switch version makes use of the consoles unique control system, too: You can use the Joycons for melee combat, casting spells and firing arrows, like you could in Breath of the Wild. It felt natural when firing a bow but combat felt a little sluggish when using the motion control system, so I tended to use the more traditional control scheme.  You can also use the motion controls for lock picking, and it works extremely well, with a gentle rumble indicating you’re making progress.

Really, there’s not much more to say, though: This is Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch. It doesn’t reinvent the game and doesn’t bring anything new to it. Interestingly, though, I’ve found myself playing more of Skyrim on Switch than I did when I played it on console: Maybe it’s the portability – and being able to play on the toilet if I want. It’s also one of those games that if you’re the type of gamer who likes to explore every nook and cranny, picking up as much loot as you can, crafting armour and weapons and generally poking in every corner of a gameworld, you’ll find hours and hours of content here.

If you’ve played The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim before don’t expect new content in the Switch version because you won’t find it here – and the price for the Switch version is a less than wallet friendly: Sorry, Bethesda, but $100 for a six year old game is crazy money, even if it is on a modern piece of hardware.

Hopefully in time, that price will come down as Skyrim is absolutely worth playing on the Nintendo Switch as it’s a competent and engaging visit to Bethesda’s world, quirks and all, and another example of how strong a platform the Nintendo Switch is.

Thanks to Bethesda’s PR team in Australia for the review code

 

Super Mario Odyssey: Super fun times with Mario

Super Mario Odyssey is the best fun I’ve had playing a video game in a long, long, long time.

In fact, I’ve had so much fun with it could well be my game of the year <thinks about that for a minute>

Yep, Super Mario Odyssey is my game of the yea. Tough luck other games from 2017: You were beaten [soundly, in my opinion] by Nintendo’s long-standing mustachioed plumber Mario who stars in a game that is unashamedly cartoony and dripping in fun.

The Odyssey – from the title Super Mario Odyssey – is the name of the vessel that Mario uses to fly around a planet in search of that dastardly Bowser who has, yet again, kidnapped Princess Peach and intends to marry her. Trouble is, the Odyssey needs moons – which are found hidden around various kingdom – to power its engines so it’s up to Mario to chase Bowser, from kingdom to kingdom, uncovering moons (crescent moon shaped, really)  that can lead him closer to Princess Peach.

“What’s so fun about that?”, I hear you ask (you probably didn’t but it adds effect to my narrative). Well, the fun part comes from the opening kingdom when Mario is introduced to Cappy, as his name suggested a talking hat that at the flick of the right JoyCon allows Mario to possess just about every living thing in the game world: Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Cheep Cheeps, Piranha Plants, Bullet Bills … the list goes on. Imagine the possibilities of that: It means that Mario can navigate the kingdoms so much easier now, using the skills of the relevant world to collect moons and move to the next kingdom. It’s rather satisfying possessing a chain chomp then using it to defeat one of the Broodals that is using it against Mario!

Mario can use Cappy to give him boosted jumps and collect coins dotted about each kingdom, which can then be used to buy anything from health hearts and moons to new outfits and stickers (and not a loot box in sight!!)

Mario starts each kingdom with three hearts in his life bar and there is effectively  no Game Over with this game as when the three hearts are depleted, Mario loses 10 coins (which are used as in-game currency) every time he dies. Keep collecting coins (and they are plentiful) and all is sweet.

Each kingdom is themed very differently from the last: One takes place in a world covered in sand, another takes place in a wooded world, one takes place in a land made up of vegetables and pink boiling lava. New Donk City in the Metro Kingdom is clearly based on New York City and probably my favourite kingdom.

Each kingdom has a show down with one of Bowsers crew – the Broodals  – (hired as his wedding planners) but what I liked about these mini-boss battles is that a) they aren’t difficult and b) they’re generally a three-stage pattern. Even an old man like me had no trouble defeating them. Once you’ve defeated the boss, you can explore the kingdom collecting as many moons as you can find before heading back to the Odyssey to fly off to the next kingdom. There’s one particular boss in the water kingdom that had to be defeated by Mario possessing an octopus that squirts water and uses it to propel itself upwards and forwards. Craziness!

Another really, really nice touch – and a throwback to Mario’s earlier appearances – are the green pipes that we’re all familiar with that transport Mario into an 8-bit, side-scrolling world. It’s so well done that it made me smile.

Until Super Mario Odyssey came along, I’d never really been that taken with a Mario game. Sure, I’d played them but none of them captured my attention like Super Mario Odyssey has. I think the possession ability has had something to do with that – and the fact that the game is just so much darn fun (it also has a really neat photo capture mode). It looks fantastic, too, especially given that the Nintendo is incredibly under-powered when put alongside the consoles from Microsoft and PlayStation.

I’ve pretty much played Super Mario Odyssey every night since I got it and I’ve loved just about every joyous minute of it (it’s not perfect: the camera isn’t the best at times, and can make jumps onto moving platforms difficult at times) .

For me, Super Mario Odyssey is my game of the year already, and frankly, it just cements another reason to own a Nintendo Switch.

A big thanks to Nintendo Australia for providing the review copy of Super Mario Odyssey. Cheers, guys.

 

Nintendo 2DS XL: Big screens & ditch the 3D

Nintendo 2DS XL ($229)

Nintendo’s new 2DS XL could be the best version of its handheld that I’ve ever used.

The 2DX XL plays 3DS and DS games (although it won’t display 3DS games in 3D, of course)  and also comes with a 4Gb microSD card, which handily means you don’t have to buy one like you had to with previous DS models.

Compared with my original version 3DS, the 2DSXL model has some subtle design tweaks, too, which keeping the much-loved clam shell design. Besides the bigger screens, the power button is now on the front edge rather than on top next to the screen; the start and select buttons are physical buttons and the microSD slot and stylus are now located at the front, rather than the back, of unit. The 2DS XL also has new shoulder buttons and a small joystick-like button above the face buttons.

The design is more rounded than the angular edges of the original 3DS, too, with a really nice aesthetic and it really does look smart. It comes in two colour variants: Black and blue, and orange and white. It also has a nice ribbed finish on the top surface when the unit is closed, giving it a more top-end feel to it. If I had to be picky, sometimes I had trouble turning it on as the power button is almost flush to the body of the unit – and I chew my finger nails!

The big selling point for the 2DXL is that with the ability to play games from previous Nintendo DS handhelds, it has a huge back catalogue of games, and it was really nice being able to play 3DS games like Luigi’s Mansion 2 and New Super Mario Bros. 2 and maybe it’s because I’ve got ageing eyesight, but I found the games much more enjoyable in 2D rather than 3D.

Battery life seems pretty good, giving me around 3 to seven hours of activity, depending on-screen brightness and how demanding the game I was playing was. Of course, if you have the brightness all the way up then your battery life will be dramatically less.

Bottom line: Should you buy the Nintendo 2DS XL? If you already own a 3DS and like playing your games in 3D, then probably not. That said, if you’re a gamer that can take or leave 3D and wants a cheaper handheld that can play a humongous back library of 3DS and DS titles, then Nintendo’s latest handheld is hard to beat, although a price point of around $200 would have made it even better value.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch) is a game that can elicit joy and frustration during the same play session.

Heck, it can elicit those feelings during the last 100m of a race – and I love it. I can’t stop playing it.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe isn’t a new game. In fact, it’s an updated and enhanced version of Mario Kart 8 which came out on Nintendo’s last generation Wii U console but it’s a perfect fit for the Switch. Deluxe features all the content from Mario Kart 8 (and tracks from past platforms the racer appeared on) as well as a new Battle mode. Multiplayer offers four-player races, while online player is both single player and two-player.

As you’d expect, the roster of characters includes favourites like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Yoshi to characters like King Boo, Dry Bones, Donkey Kong and Link (from Legend of Zelda fame). Tracks include circuits like Yoshi Circuit (GCN), Rainbow Road (SNES), Koopa City (3DS) and Moo Moo Meadows (Wii).

Right off the bat, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looks superb on the Nintendo Switch. I said to my son while I was drifting around a corner on the Rainbow Road that for a console that is under powered when compared against the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4, Deluxe looks incredibly vibrant and detailed on the Switch. The game looks good running through a TV but because of the smaller screen, I reckon it looks much sharper when using the Switch’s portable mode.

I said at the beginning that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe can elicit both joy and frustration during the same game session and it does. Here’s an example: During a few races, I was leading on the last lap of the last race in the four-race series that would clinch me the victory cup (I tend to race as Yoshi on a motorcycle) when – with no joke of a lie – within the last 100m I’d be zapped by a turtle shell, had oil squirted on my screen by the oil ghost and zapped by lightning, shrinking my race character. Generally, I still managed to win the race but sometimes it would mean I’d come second, losing the cup. It was almost as if the game ganged up on me, not wanting me to win.

Surely not, right?

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the sort of game that’s perfect for when you’ve got a few spare minutes to do a few races. I took it to work one week so I could play during my lunch break.

Look, I love Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and if you’re a fan of the game on other Nintendo platforms, and you own a Switch, you’ve probably bought this already. Heck, if you only buy two games for the Switch, pick up this and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You’ll have enough to keep you busy for a long, long time.

When I first got a Nintendo Switch I said that while it was a fantastic piece of hardware, it was hampered by the lack of games. With the release of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I’ve changed my tune. The Switch is really starting to hold its own in the console space, and that prospect can only get better as the year progresses.

Thanks to Nintendo Australia for the review copy of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

 

 

Oh, look, it’s a Nintendo Switch!

A few weeks ago I was invited by Nintendo to attend a hands-on session with its then-yet-to-be released Switch. Sadly, I had to decline the invitation (it was in Auckland and I live in Christchurch, which is in New Zealand’s South Island) but Nintendo’s PR company in Australia kept in touch over the following weeks.

Last week, I got the good news that Nintendo was going to send me a Switch to look at for review. The console arrived today (after being held up by Customs for a couple of days). It came with a copy of Zelda: Breath of the Wild & 1-2 Switch as well as spare JoyCon controllers (red & blue).

The last Nintendo home console I played was the Nintendo GameCube (which I still own) so I’m looking forward to having a good look at the Switch over the coming days, especially trying out the portable mode. I’ll document my thoughts in the next week or so.

Set up was easy enough and I managed to connect the JoyCon controllers the right way to the tablet body (I read on social media that some people  slid them on wrong, causing them to get stuck). As I write this, the Switch is charging the tablet.

Zelda: BOTW will also be the first home console Zelda game I’ve played (I’m not counting the Nintendo 3DS version) so I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime, here are some images of the un-boxing process.

The tablet of the Nintendo Switch. It’s has a nice reflective screen, as you can see by my reflection.

The rear view of the Switch’s tablet. Note the bananas in the background. Our dog likes bananas, too.

The Switch in docked mode. It’s not plugged in yet, obviously.

The Switch in docked mode, with the JoyCon controllers attached.