Nintendo indicated that the company will continue to work on the Switch Online Service in their latest investor meeting.
It has now been a couple weeks since Nintendo launched the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. It seems that the reactions to the service has been mixed, with most of the reviews being negative. Most gamers agree that the convenience of being able to play N64 titles on the Switch is really cool, but the emulation leaves something to be desired. Most gamers probably won’t notice the issues, but there are some graphical glitches in some of the games and input lag on a couple titles.
There are countless articles and videos on the internet addressing the complaints that users have had with the service. And while Nintendo makes some questionable decisions, I’m sure they are aware of user experience issues that gamers are having with the service. The big questions is whether Nintendo will think it is worth it to fix the issues or not. With 32 million subscribers to the service (including both tiers), I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo were to consider it a success in spite of the noticeable problems.
However, in Nintendo’s latest investor strategy meeting, the company indicated that they will continue to improve theonline service. Nintendo wrote, “Going forward, we will continue to improve and expand both Nintendo Switch Online and Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack striving to provide services that satisfyconsumers.”
It is nice to know that Nintendo hasn’t forgot about their customers, but I think they will really have to prove it to their user base. Nintendo has such an amazing legacy, but they have lost faith with some of their customers in recent years. Let’s hope that Nintendo will fix the issues with emulation on the Switch and continue to listen to their customers as we move further into the Switch’s lifespan.
The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack launched last week and customers have not been shy about voicing their opinions. The N64 emulator that Nintendo built for the Switch has been having a lot of issues. The games are all playable, but are experiencing graphical glitches and slowdown at times. Not to mention the strange button layout that the application forces on you without providing a way to remap the buttons.
But in spite of all of that, we are all still curious about what other games could be added to the service down the road. There have already been some great titles confirmed. Among them are Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask and Banjo Kazooie. The inclusion of Banjo Kazooie surprised people because Rare, the studio that developed the game, is now owned by Microsoft. People have been under the assumption that either Nintendo and Microsoft wouldn’t be willing to work together or Nintendo wouldn’t be willing to put the effort in work something out with Microsoft. Needless to say, Banjo Kazooie is a welcome addition, and it has people excited about other possible additions from Rare.
The thing about the N64 library is that there are a lot of good games made by other dev studios like Rare, and there a lot of good games that would run into heavy licensing issues if they were to be rereleased. The big game that everyone wants to come to the Switch Online Service is 007 Goldeneye. This was a great game that was not only made by Rare, but also based on a movie. There are multiple actor’s likenesses used in the game. Typically that would mean that its more trouble than its worth to release the game again and have to deal with all the licensing fees. It is for this reason that everyone has assumed that Goldeneye will not make its way to Switch Online.
However, there is a recent clue that suggests that we may all be wrong. When Goldeneye was released, it was banned in Germany. It was placed on a list of Media that is considered harmful to minors. Generally, after 25 years, these pieces of media are subject to automatic review. It was just announced that Goldeneye is officially unbanned in Germany. The thing is… that its only been 24 years since the game’s release. This would lead us to believe that Nintendo requested a review of the situation. The only reason they would do that ahead of its automatic review next year is if they are planning on doing something with the game.
We don’t really have any idea what Nintendo could be planning for Goldeneye. Is there a remaster in the works? It is probably safest to assume that Goldeneye may end up coming to the Switch Online N64 library after all. Maybe that is why the Expansion Pack price was priced higher than everyone expected. Maybe Nintendo is paying licensing fees. This is no guarantee, butit is potentially a good sign.
Overall the launch lineup for the service is solid. We all know how subscriptions work. They weren’t going to give us all the great games right out of the gate. Releasing these games throughout the year is the best way for Nintendo to retain our subcriptions. Still, the virtual console would probably be a better option for users, but it is awesome to have access to games I’ve never played… games that I wouldn’t buy on the virtual console.
But still, they are giving us some really good games right out of the gate. On the N64, Mario and Zelda will be great single player experiences. And Mario Kart will be a blast to play with friends. For the Genesis, Golden Axe, Phantasy Star 4, Ecco the Dolphin, and Castlevania: Bloodlines will all be a great time. Though in general it seems like people are a lot more excited about the addition of N64 games than they are about Genesis.
At first glance these games all play great and look great. The higher resolution really helps the look of these games while still retaining the visuals that we remember. Playing N64 games this way is a lot easier than messing with emulator settings just to get the game to play correctly. But there have been some problems with the emulation on the Switch. I haven’t seen anything game breaking, but there are some visual glitches. It seems like Ocarina of Time may even run better on the Wii U virtual console than it does on the Switch. Another problem that has been found is in Mario Kart. When you slip on a banana, the music lowers in volume, but doesn’t return to its original volume.
How can a company with the resources of Nintendo be so lazy with their emulation on the Switch? These games should be running flawlessly, but it just really feels thrown together. If you REALLY want to play these games on the Switch, these games are still playable, but if you have the aptitude, setting up an emulator on your PC may honestly be a better option.
Playing these games on the official Nintendo N64 replica controller that was just released is definitely the way to go. It looks and feels way more authentic to how you remember playing these games. While modern controllers may be more comfortable, playing these games with a dual-stick controller can feel really awkward. The N64 controller had the ‘C’ directional buttons. Sometimes they functioned like the second stick to control the camera, but other times they were used for item selection like in Ocarina of Time. To use the ‘C’ controls for Ocarina of Time, you have hold down ZR and use the A, B, X, and Y buttons. This can feel a little bit janky. And in Mario Kart, the ‘L’ shoulder button lowers the volume of the music, but there is no way to turn it back up that I found. This is a really bizarre choice for the button mapping.
Some users are having some issues with input lag. I haven’t personally experienced this, but I have seen other players talk about it. A bigger problem is that in Mario Kart you can’t save ghost data on the time trials. This is because the game looks for a controller pak and Nintendo didn’t build this into the emulator.
The online play feels really good and fluid if everyone you’re playing with has good connection. Otherwise it is laggy and hardly playable. Its not always easy to find friends to play with. The lack of match making is really what holds back the experience of the Switch Online Expansion Pack. When people heard that we’d be able to play Mario Kart 64 online they immediately dreamt of real match making with strangers. That would have really elevated the experience. Only being able to play with friends really holds back what would be a really cool feature.
Conclusion: Is it Worth it?
To me, having these games in the same place as my Switch games is really awesome. Even with the problems, that alone makes this price worth it. The higher resolution makes these games look better than they would on a physical N64. You could make them look even better with emulation. But I don’t like messing with emulators and I want to support Nintendo for providing a service that I’m interested in. I mentioned ways that Nintendo could improve the online service in a previous article. If they had done these things, this would be a much better experience.
The game selection is good and the games are as fun as ever. For the best experience, play these games on the N64 replica controller, but they are still fun on Joycons or a Pro-controller. The lack of public matchmaking really holds back what could be a really fun gaming experience. It is really difficult for me to recommend that other people buy this service because of some of the issues with the emulation. For this price, I think we were figured these games would be perfectly emulated, but they’re just not. The games are still fun and playable. If thats enough for you, you may be interested in the Switch Online Expansion Pack, but if you will be bothered by less-than-perfect emulation, I would wait and see if Nintendo will fix any of these issues.
There’s really no way around the fact that at $49.99 annually, the Switch Online Expansion Pack feels really expensive. This is based on our experience with Nintendo’s online service on the Switch up to this point. However, there are things that could be done to make this price feel more appropriate.
Here are 4 things we want for the N64 Collection on the Switch Online Expansion Pack:
The N64 doesn’t have a very big library of games overall. In North America, there was only 296 games that were released. The Playstation had more that 4 times that many. However, even with its smallish catalogue, the n64 has a lot of really fun games.
This means that it should be no problem to actually put quality games on the online service. When the NES and SNES services were launched, the lineup of games was decent at best. Even with a few important games still missing, the game selection has improved a lot.
Here are all the N64 games that have been announced:
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Super Mario 64
WinBack: Covert Operations
Dr. Mario 64
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Sin and Punishment
Mario Kart 64
Star Fox 64
This is a solid lineup of games. Its a great sign that Nintendo was able to work something out with Rare to get Banjo-Kazooie added. If there was any way that Goldeneye could find its way onto the Switch Online service, that would be amazing. However, I bet that we will have to “settle” with Perfect Dark, which some people prefer anyways.
This is a good start for the N64 lineup. Here is my personal list of games I would like to see added down the line:
Toy Story 2
Snowboard Kids 2
Shadows of the Empire
Diddy Kong Ramsey
Harvest Moon 64
Road Rash 64
Space Station Silicon Valley
There are some other solid games that could be added in addition to these, but this would be a good start to making the price of the Expansion Pack more worth it.
When the NES and the SNES collections were first launched on the online service, the games were regularly updated. As time has gone by, the games have been coming less and less frequently. So not only are the games not always among the best of the system, but we rarely get new games. It begs the question: What exactly are we paying for?
We have already talked about how important it is that the N64 collection has quality games. But it is just as important for those games to come on a consistent basis. Nintendo has been very vague about the interval at which new games will be added. Ideally new games would be added once per month.
Anyone that has played online games on the Switch could tell you that it suffers from lag a lot more than Sony’s or Microsoft’s online services. Nintendo has never really used their online service as a big marketing point to sell consoles. Apart from Super Smash Bros, they don’t really have any huge online multiplayer IPs.
For that reason, Nintendo has probably not invested as heavily into the infrastructure of their online platform. That fact of that matter is, if we are going to be paying the same amount for Nintendo’s online subscription as we do for Sony’s or Microsoft’s, they need to invest more into improving the online experience.
The last thing that would make the retro game selection that Nintendo has brought to their online service more fun, would be for them to implement proper match making. Especially with the N64 games coming to the system.
Playing with friends is fun, but once your an adult it can be hard to always sync up with your friends to play. I would still like to be able to hop on and play Mario Kart 64 online, even if it’s with strangers. Being able to play these classic games with a modern matchmaking system would be an awesome experience to offer the fans.
These are the things that I think would help to improve the experience of the Switch Online Service. If these things were implemented, maybe the $49.99 price point wouldn’t feel so expensive.
What would you add to the service to make it a more appetizing purchase?