Bye Bye Backward Compatibility
For a couple generations, Nintendo was the king of backward compatibility. The Wii included four GameCube controller ports and two memory card ports. This allowed gamers full backward compatibility with their GameCube collection. The Wii U could play every Wii game, including using all the Wii accessories. The only caveat was the Wii U wouldn’t port over every Wii digital game, and for those that could be ported required a small fee to buy the “updated” Wii U version. Since the Wii didn’t sell full retail games from their digital store, this only affected gamers with Virtual Console games and the WiiWare games. It wasn’t optimal, but it was still better backward compatibility than the competition was offering. Then the Nintendo Switch released. The most obvious reason for the lack of backward compatibility is the change from discs to cartridges, however, that would only affect physical purchases – consumers who opted to buy digital, like me, should still be able to transfer them from the Wii U to the new Switch. There is no reason why Wii U games couldn’t work on the Switch. The Switch Joycons could easily simulate the Wii Motion Controllers and attached to the screen, they could easily simulate the Wii U Gamepad (save for a few differences such as no microphone or camera). To make matters even worse, they opted to re-released a handful of their Wii U games, with minimal additions and improvements, at full price. This leaves supporters of the Wii U with the choice of either paying full price again or keeping their Wii U hooked up (something that I’ve personally opted to do). With these Wii U re-releases, they could have at least compromised and provided Switch owners who owned a digital copy of the original release a discount. For example, if you purchased Mario Kart 8 digitally on the Wii U, they could have knocked 50% off the purchase price of the Switch “deluxe” version. At any rate, it’s a shame Nintendo has opted to drop backward compatibility. Hopefully, Nintendo’s next console will provide backward compatibility with the Switch.
Virtual Console No-Show
Another disappointment with the Switch is the lack of Virtual Console. Nintendo has since released the Classic NES Mini and Classic SNES Mini, giving consumers an option to play a selection of classic games in a fun, nostalgic way. However, this really shouldn’t be a substitute for a proper Virtual Console service. When you consider the Virtual Console on the Wii and Wii U, there’s really no reason those games couldn’t be ported over to a Switch Virtual Console. To offer a more retro feel, Nintendo could offer a collection of retro controllers that are compatible with the Switch. Especially now that Nintendo is pushing back against online ROM sites, Nintendo should offer consumers a legal alternative to buy these games. And while I understand not every game may be available on Virtual Console due to licensing issues, every single Nintendo published game should be available, along with the majority of 3rd party developers that are still active.
Nintendo is the king of game franchises. They have a boatload of franchises, many of which are among the most popular in gaming today. Some of these franchises, such as the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario have appeared on every Nintendo home console, many franchises have skipped entire generations. Metroid skipped the N64 and Wii U, Kid Icarus hasn’t been seen since the NES (with the exception of some handheld titles), Punch-Out skipped the Wii U. While part of this could be due to not having the staff to handle each project, there are ways to rectify this, such as acquiring existing studios, allowing third parties to develop Nintendo franchises, or building new studios. Nintendo has also criticized for having long periods of time between big releases on pretty much every game console since the N64. Had they proactively released a new title for each of their franchises for each home console, this would have easily helped fill in some gaps. My hope is that we see franchises like Kid Icarus, Star Fox, Punch-Out, Sin and Punishment, Animal Crossing, and all of Nintendo’s other franchises appear on the Nintendo Switch – beyond their characters appearing in games like Smash Bros Ultimate.
Make no mistake about it, I could easily write a list of all the times Nintendo made me happy and it would be substantially longer than this list of disappointments. While it disappoints me that we don’t always get a new Metroid game with each Nintendo home console, the Metroid games we do gets, such as the Metroid: Prime trilogy, is phenomenal (of course, there are exceptions – see Metroid: Other M). While motion controls, for the most part, are awful, I have some incredibly fond memories of playing Wii Sports with friends and family who don’t normally game. And while I’m disappointed in the lack of proper Switch Virtual Console, it appears we’ll be getting a solid selection of Virtual Console games, with added online capabilities, when Nintendo’s online service launches (albeit for a fee). And while writing pieces like this can come off as sounding entitled – I look at it more as providing constructive feedback to a company I love and support because I want to see them successful.