Third Time’s the Charm: My Nintendo Switch Story

Yesterday, as I mentally planned what games I was going to play after my short commute home from work, I realized that most of the games I’ve been playing these past few months have been almost exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. In fact, I’d prefer to have every game, ever, period, come out for it, just like Paul Tassi said in his article for Forbes. My love for Nintendo is strong right now, but I remain acutely aware that it hasn’t always been.

Nintendo and I have a history that goes back all the way to when I was kid. I used to watch my sisters play an original NES and black-and-white GameBoy when I was too little to understand what those things even were, and I went on to become a proud owner of nearly every single handheld Nintendo released thereafter, including niche revisions like the GameBoy Micro. I dabbled in Nintendo’s home consoles here and there, but didn’t really try to get serious about them like I did with their handhelds until the Wii. The only thing this did for me, though, is highlight Nintendo’s overarching struggle to balance their past, present, and future in one form or another, and it’s a struggle which continues to this very day.

Nostalgia, after all, keeps a lot of people loyal to Nintendo. Just look at the public outcry for a Virtual Console on the Switch, which seems to be the only thing making people excited about Nintendo’s online service. Most of the games I still play on my white New Nintendo 3DS are remakes or remasters of classics that I grew up with, and because, of course, of my undying devotion to The Legend of Zelda. It’s a testament to the many adventures Nintendo has shared with us all over these long years, and to the memories we continue to make today; but they’re also an example of the many ways in which Nintendo has struggled to remain relevant. This struggle came to a head in front of our very eyes with the Wii U, a product that has been widely called Nintendo’s biggest flop to date, and a console that spiraled Nintendo and I into an on-again, off-again that’s unlike anything I’ve experienced with any console before or since.

It began in March of 2014 during an impromptu visit to my local Best Buy. I told myself that I was only there to pick up something silly like batteries or a movie, but deep down I knew that these were obvious excuses to browse and entertain my inner spendthrift. I was waiting tables at the time, which gave me more money than I needed, and I was going to college, which made me more bored than I was even aware, so that when I wandered into the gaming aisle, as I knew I would, I was more than ready to make a poor decision. And then I saw it: a gorgeous, black-and-gold Zelda-themed GamePad on the box of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Deluxe Nintendo Wii U.

I knew before I even walked through the door that an HD remaster of the GameCube classic was a thing, and I also knew that a special-edition console had been released to celebrate it. But the Wii U had been out for almost two years at that point, and I hadn’t felt the least bit tempted, because I didn’t feel like a remaster—the only thing that excited me about the console—was worth the jump. Breath of the Wild (known simply as The Legend of Zelda Wii U at the time) was a game that had been promised for the console since its inception, and even though it had been announced and teased for almost a year, a release date was nowhere in sight, and I failed to see the point in looking forward to it when it didn’t have so much as a name yet. And yet, for whatever reason, all of these hesitancies flew out of the window the moment I laid eyes on the console that day. I became so excited for “the Zelda that was promised,” and the Wind Waker remaster that was its precursor, that it was love at first sight. In that moment, I convinced myself that I needed a Wii U and an HD Wind Waker in my life, so I picked up the system against my gut and against my better judgement.

Needless to say, the honeymoon didn’t last long, and was only the start of a confusingly long and tumultuous back-and-forth.

In the two years following that ill-conceived purchase, I owned and traded in two different Wii U consoles. I only kept that Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Deluxe Nintendo Wii U for about six months, but I held on to my second regular black Wii U for a little more than a year. Don’t get me wrong, the games weren’t bad and the system wasn’t all that flawed, but the gaps between releases and the subsequent bare-bones library was glaring, especially when compared to the onslaught of content I was getting from my PS4. If I’m being honest with myself, nostalgia and the agonizing hype for the “the Zelda that was promised” was what really kept bringing back to the Wii U. Outside of Twilight Princess and Wind Waker, I remained largely indifferent to any of the other games that were announced for the system—even AAA titles like Star Fox Zero, Pokkén Tournament, and Super Mario Maker. I tried Xenoblade Chronicles X, but hated it so much that I returned it a few days later; I played Hyrule Warriors all the way to the end, but that game is so far away from being a real Zelda that it was really only good for passing the time; I played Mario Kart and Smash Bros. with my friends as often as they’d allow, but these games aren’t life-changing, and neither one has really changed all that much since their debut on the SNES and Nintendo 64 respectively (besides their graphics, of course); but I genuinely fell in love with Splatoon, its quirky, fresh style, and its insanely addictive gameplay.

Eventually, a few rounds of Splatoon and a consistent google search for more rumors and info about the new Legend of Zelda was all that became of my relationship with the Wii U. “The Zelda that was promised” was delayed twice, out of both 2015 and 2016, and even though rumors circulated all the while that Nintendo was developing a new console (tentatively referred to as the NX), I remained dedicated to a vow of stubbornness. This was easy to do once the new game was officially revealed as Breath of the Wild during E3 2016, because it allowed me an excuse to ignore the rumors about the “NX” by watching and rewatching the hours of gameplay that was on display directly after the game’s subtitle announcement. The hype was more real than it had ever been before following the reveal of those many different aspects of the game, but for the third year in a row we didn’t have a definite release date. This was bearable, of course, after such a long wait, but when talk began to circulate about the game being a launch title for the enigmatic NX, I began to feel frustrated. How many consoles was I going to have to buy to finally play this game? And is it even going to be good? All questions aside, I regarded the rumors about the “NX” with a pessimistic skepticism that I now recognize as utter denial, and I focused my energy and attention instead on Splatoon and the slow trickle of information about Breath of the Wild.

But before I knew it, reality caught up with me: the Nintendo NX was announced as the Nintendo Switch, with Breath of the Wild as its launch title, for release on March 3, 2017, a little more than one year after I purchased my second Wii U.

I remember going in to work the day after the announcement and telling anyone who would listen that I was done with Nintendo. I swore that I wouldn’t be tricked again, that I would be keeping my Wii U only to play Breath of the Wild and then never touch another Nintendo console or game ever again. I was angry, both at Nintendo and at myself, because if I hadn’t traded in my first Wii U to begin with, I might not have felt so betrayed. Because the truth is that there were several reasons I should have seen the Switch coming from a mile away.

First, it’s no secret that the Wii U was generally considered a struggling system long before I purchased my first one, not to mention that by the time I got my second one, it was declared as dead or dying; and second, the console was five-years-old when the Nintendo Switch was announced, an age that for any modern console should have been proof enough that it was time either get cautious and wait, or be ready to move on. Nintendo even personally admitted, in a very public way while promoting the Switch, that there were clear and irreparable missteps and failures with the Wii U, and that they were working very hard to ensure that the same mistakes didn’t carry over to the Switch. But it wasn’t until GameStop announced a promotion that made the Nintendo Switch practically free when trading in a Wii U that I even remotely considered getting one. Ultimately, I reluctantly made the Switch (pun intended) because I knew that if I didn’t buy it then, I would probably buy it later. I mean, I bought two Wii U’s for little more than two different Zelda remakes, for crying out loud, so I took one last leap of faith with Nintendo, and abandoned the Wii U for the second time in the hopes that this new console would be different.

And boy, am I glad I did.

It’s August now, and the Nintendo Switch just turned five-months-old with a library that far surpasses anything the Wii U ever had in its entire lifetime. It has Breath of the Wild (which, I’m sure you already know, has been called one of the best games of all-time by several different reviewers), Minecraft, ARMS, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Splatoon 2, with Super Mario Odyssey, Pokkén Tournament DX, Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Fire Emblem Warriors just around the corner, and Metroid Prime 4, as well as a full-fledged Pokémon on the horizon.

All games aside, though, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the Nintendo Switch and its concept of a handheld-console hybrid. The build quality far surpasses the glossy finish and light plastic of the Wii U’s GamePas, and the fact that so many beautiful games can be powered by such a tiny device still continues to blow me away. I never really knew how much I’d love being able to take my games wherever I want, with the option of playing them on my TV, on the couch, in the bathroom, on the train, in the break room, at a restaurant, or on vacation. The Wii U had this flexibility too, to a far lesser extent, but it was always one foot in, one foot out, with a complicated system of only sometimes being able to rely solely on the GamePad, playing anywhere in your home, with other, weird exceptions like Splatoon and system menus requiring that you connect and play on the TV.

When I really think about it, Nintendo has been heading this way for a long time, and it makes a lot of sense that their next move was to abandon the concept of games that are solely played at home. All I have to do to play the Switch is pick up the console, and then I’m playing a round of ARMS, Mario Kart, or Splatoon 2 wherever and whenever I want. Coming from the Wii U, the Switch has been a complete 360-degree course correction for Nintendo, to the point that I find it almost funny that I almost didn’t allow myself to buy in to Nintendo’s comeback console. But it makes sense that this would be the console to win me back. The Switch isn’t comfortable with labels like “home console” anymore, and I’m so down with the way it’s blurring the lines between what I want to play and what I actually take the time to play.

As I mentioned before, Nintendo’s handhelds have never let me down, and just like the GameBoy Advance, I cant wait to see what kind of adventures the Nintendo Switch will bring me as it settles into its role as near constant companion through these next few brave and boring young adult years.

Let’s just hope Nintendo can keep it up.

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