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.