Nintendo Switch OLED

Was That the Best Direct Ever – or a Sign That the Switch Is Done?

Nintendo unveiled a lot of remakes and remasters during its recent Direct, but nothing new. Aside from a few trailers for Pikmin and Zelda, what can fans expect for the aging hybrid console this late in the game?
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Nintendo released a surprise Direct presentation on February 8, and it created some strong reactions. It had not one, not two, but three shadow drops that dumped content onto the eShop immediately after the presentation ended it. But, notably, it also focused more on remakes, ports, and remasters than it did on upcoming new games. 

The Direct had new trailers for the already-announced upcoming games Tears of the Kingdom and Pikmin 4. That was about it for upcoming first-party titles–there were no announcements regarding new Nintendo releases for 2023. Normally, the February Direct is the company’s chance to prime audiences for Nintendo’s slate throughout the end of the calendar year. 

So, with a strong focus on re-releases of older games and a waning number of brand-new titles for the six-year-old Nintendo Switch system, does this Direct indicate that the Switch is dying? Or was the crowd-pleasing addition of long-requested remakes and hard-to-find games Nintendo’s attempt to placate players while they wait for a huge holiday season in 2023? Let’s look into the biggest headlines and talk about what they mean for the future of the aging hybrid system.

Game Boy and GBA Emulation

Perhaps the most-requested feature that Nintendo announced in the Direct was the sudden arrival of Game Boy Advance emulation for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass subscribers. This came alongside the addition of original Game Boy games to the baseline NSO subscription. Adding to the excitement, Nintendo “shadow-dropped” these features immediately after the presentation, adding them to the eShop right away.

The selections are a bit thin for now, but they’re still stacked with some fan favorites. The Game Boy Advance selection, in particular, is thrilling. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, WarioWare Inc., and Mario Kart Advance are all highly sought-after GBA games. 

The Game Boy collection is also respectable and includes some outright surprises. Metroid II and Link’s Awakening are both considered some of the best original Game Boy games, and each has been recently remade for modern consoles. As such, their inclusion in the baseline NSO subscription is a welcome surprise. 

Metroid Prime Remastered

Another “shadow-drop” also landed during the presentation: a remake of the beloved Metroid Prime. The first game in the lauded spin-off series first hit the GameCube in 2002, and it has stood the test of time as one of the most beloved video games ever made. The remaster doesn’t really tweak the original; it just polishes the graphics and reworks some of the clunkier elements of the original control scheme.

Console first-person shooters have come a long way since the original Prime landed over 20 years ago. Modern gamers are used to dual-stick controls for their first-person titles, and Nintendo thankfully relented with this remake and gave players what they wanted instead of sticking to Prime’s downright archaic lock-on targeting system. 

Notably, players can choose to use the old-school control system if the modern dual-stick controls are too strange for them. However, there are two more options for players, too: a Wii-inspired pointer-based control scheme and a hybrid system that enables motion-controlled aiming alongside some classic-style control options. In any case, this remaster is a huge win for fans and only retails for $40, a surprisingly reasonable price for a first-party Nintendo release.

Advance Wars

Another welcome surprise from the Direct came in the announcement that Advance Wars 1 + 2: Reboot Camp finally has a release date again. The game was originally slated for release in December 2021 before getting pushed back into April 2022. That second release date was scrapped after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as Nintendo didn’t want any publications linking the cartoony war-based game to real-world events.

Now, the game is slated for release more than a year past its delayed release date. It should be on store shelves on April 21, 2023. That being said, gamers probably won’t trust this release date until they see the game actually running on their Switch consoles. After all, the Advance Wars series often struggles to hit its release dates. There’s always some scary real-world war happening that makes Nintendo hesitate to release the games.

Advance Wars is a beloved Game Boy Advance title that first hit the scene way back in 2001. It’s great to see Nintendo finally showing this series the light of day again after over a decade of ignoring it. One minor quibble is that its presence as a full-priced remake on the Switch might convince Nintendo not to release the original version on the GBA emulation service, but that’s the price we pay for gorgeous new graphics.

Even More Remakes and DLC

So far, we’ve just mentioned a lot of remakes and re-releases of games from over 20 years ago. And, strangely enough, that could describe a sizable chunk of the games Nintendo announced during the direct. Tales of Symphonia Remastered, Baten Kaitos 1 and 2 Remastered, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland Deluxe, and Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection are all coming out this year, and all contain remakes of games that came out for the Game Boy Advance or Nintendo GameCube. 

Even the announcements for first-party content weren’t necessarily showing off anything new. Nintendo also showed plenty of DLC for existing titles, like the recently release Splatoon 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 3, and Fire Emblem Engage. Each of these flagship games will continue to receive new content through Expansion Passes that will doll out drip feeds of levels, characters, and missions. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also continues to receive new tracks and characters through the Booster Course Pass, which promises to keep the game loaded with new content for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, it’s not all remakes and DLC, though: two genuinely new upcoming first-party games stole the show. The first one, which opened the presentation, is the delightful-looking Pikmin 4.

Pikmin 4

It’s been a long, frustrating road for Pikmin fans. Pikmin 3 came out way back in 2013. In 2015, series director Shigeru Miyamoto told reporters that the fourth entry in the series was “nearly completed” and expected it to come out shortly. Now, if you’re capable of doing a bit of quick math, you can see that Miyamoto either told a fib or completely missed what “nearly complete” meant.

All ribbing aside, Pikmin 4 will finally land on the Switch in July of this year. This Direct showed fans their first real look at the new title’s gameplay, including a new type of Pikmin and an adorable space dog who will help the player this time around. It looks like more bite-sized real-time strategy goodness that is sure to please fans of the first three games in the series. 

Fans have given Miyamoto a bit of grief about his “nearly complete” statement, but it’s all in good fun. It’s always great to see the director working on something he’s passionate about, as he’s truly a visionary. What’s more, another franchise he created is shaping up to be the biggest game of the year. And fans finally got an extended look at the next Legend of Zelda in this latest Direct.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Believe it or not, Tears of the Kingdom is almost here! If you’ve been living under a rock, you might have missed that Breath of the Wild was the biggest video game ever and redefined how The Legend of Zelda works. Needless to say, Nintendo fans have been anxiously waiting for the sequel to the era-defining Switch title.

It’s somewhat strange that we’ve seen so little of Tears of the Kingdom up to this point. Nintendo is famously tight-lipped about its first-party titles, but its treatment of Tears has been downright precious. This has led some fans to speculate that the game isn’t living up to its reputation internally and that Nintendo is scared to show too much to fans before it’s able to pre-sell enough copies to recoup its development costs.

Whatever the case may be, the company has been playing its cards close to its vest. Tears will apparently be the first Nintendo Switch game to retail for $70, according to a new leak, so the company is obviously riding on it to make some money. The trailer, as always, looks great. But is this going to be the end of the line for the Switch?

What the Future Holds for the Switch

The Switch hit stores back in March 2017. That means it’s six years old, and its latest titles are struggling to hit consistent framerates on the aging technology. With only two more first-party games announced through the first part of 2023, could Nintendo finally be slowing down with its hybrid console?

Well, according to the company, that’s a big “no.” President Shuntaro Furukawa says the system still has games in active development, writing, “new titles will continue to be proposed going forward.” Still, the Switch’s hardware was looking a bit creaky when it came out, and it’s downright antiquated now. Surely the company has plans for a successor by now–otherwise, it’s going to continue to fall behind its competitors.