My Favorite Switch Games

Whether it’s me getting older or my priorities shifting, I don’t play quite as many video games as I used to. So when I’m asked by Johnny, a Patreon sponsor, about what my favorite Nintendo Switch games are, I actually don’t have a lot to choose from. The other side of this is that I’ve played the few games I do own fairly extensively, speaking to their longevity.

The first game I have to mention is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The single-player story mode, World of Light, drags a little at the start, but by the time I reached the endgame, I fell in love with it. The multiplayer successfully finds a balance between the pace of Melee and the desire to make even more complex areas of the game accessible. With all of the new characters announced and the clear love and care that goes into them, Smash in a way transcends the act of gaming itself and enters a realm of shared memory, interacting with nostalgia and the thrill of discovery (learning about new characters you never knew about) to become a phenomenon.

Splatoon 2 is pretty much what I expected—a refinement of the first Splatoon—and it makes for a fun and diverse game where I’m eager to try out whatever the game tosses at me. The simple idea of weapons that both attack and claim territory makes Splatoon as a whole always refreshing, and the weakening of the special moves to put more emphasis on the basics is smart. I recently beat the single-player mode as well as the Octo Expansion DLC, and it provided some of the most engaging (but also frustrating) boss battles ever.

The last game I want to mention is Super Robot Wars T, the first SRW game for the Switch. It’s not especially different from previous entries that I’ve played, but the thrill of seeing my favorite characters from anime working together, as well as the challenge provided as the story grows on a cosmic scale, makes it hard to get tired of. Having Magic Knight Rayearth in an SRW game is like a dream come true, and I’m hyped that they’re actually bringing SRW V and SRW X to the Switch as well. Who knows? I might end up liking this more.

I’ve been thinking that it’s time for me to play more Switch games, and this might be the impetus for me to do so. I wonder if this list would change in any major way in a year’s time.

Are You as Excited as I am About Mega Man in Smash Bros?

Nintendo just revealed the new Super Smash Bros. today at E3, and the Villager from Animal Crossing as well as Mega Man have been confirmed as characters.

Next to NiGHTS, Mega Man was my #1 wish for Smash Bros. (and putting in a character more flight-themed than even Pit is a tall order), so I am super, super hyped. Sure, the Sonic reveal from Brawl was cool in that we got to see that console rivalry materialize in a way which was not some game about the Olympics, but Mega Man is a bigger deal to me.

We know nothing about the balance or the depth of the game outside of the fact that it seems to not be wildly different from its predecessors, so obviously this isn’t based on how great the new Smash Bros. is. Rather, it’s because Mega Man as a series is very precious to me, a piece of my childhood.

While NiGHTS into dreams… and Pokemon taught me all about being a part of a fandom, I think it was actually Mega Man which first taught me how to be a fan. By providing an exciting world with a clear template for personal input, the Robot Masters, the series allowed me to exercise my creative imagination as young as the age of 4. I still remember Cockroach Man and Glue Man to this day.

There’s a bit of information about his moveset from the trailer: He has his slide, Charge Shot, and Rush Coil, as well as the ability to access moves from a variety of Robot Masters from his own franchise. Exactly ow many weapons are available is unclear, but it looks to be quite a bit more than, say, his entry into Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Even if we didn’t know that, however, there’s something about Mega Man which makes him easy to imagine in Smash Bros., even more than in his other fighting game appearances. The run speed, the jump height, the various interactions of his attacks, it all makes sense. Perhaps the only disappointing thing is that he can’t absorb other characters’ powers it seems, so no Mega Kirby vs. Kirby Man.

I don’t have a Wii U or a 3DS yet, but this may be my incentive. Well, that and Pokemon X/Y.

Miyamoto Shigeru Continues to Amaze Me

I recently wrote a post about “Mr. Mario” and his interview regarding New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I decided to take a look at other interviews he’s given, particularly the ones on the Wii’s Nintendo Channel, and as I watched them I realized just how different his mindset is compared to everyone else in the industry at this point. Yes, the fact that he’s a genius who has given birth to many of the great franchises of video game history isn’t anything new, but when you listen to him talk about games, it’s like he’s discussing an entirely foreign subject compared to his peers and contemporaries.

Everyone else is working from the mindset of “how do I foster competition,” or “how do I make this a more enjoyable experience,” or even “what is interactivity and what does it mean,” and they’re all valid questions worth answering, but in contrast the most important question that seems to pop up in Miyamoto’s head is “how do I make life better?” It’s not a matter of him being “better” than anyone else in game design so much as the fact that he’s playing another game entirely.

It’s as if when everyone else is trying to bring guns to a sword fight, Miyamoto brings a cup of tea.

Miyamoto Shigeru Agrees with Me

I previously made a post positing that one of the big changes that occurred in video game graphics around the NES era was that character’s began to have faces. Their eyes and mouths (or approximations thereof) made the characters more relatable.

While I thought it made perfect sense, I realize that aside from my visual analysis there wasn’t a whole lot of record and evidence to back it up. But then recently while reading the New Super Mario Bros. Wii interview, the creator of Mario himself Miyamoto Shigeru said something which helped support my theory immensely.

Iwata
Mario’s trademarks are his moustache, his hat and his overalls. Why did you decide to give him this look? I have no doubt you’ve spoken about this many times before, but I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you to tell us about it one more time.

Miyamoto
Certainly. The original Mario was a 16 X 16 pixilated image. At that time, when games made overseas used human characters, they were always rendered with life-like proportions.

Iwata
It felt as if the developers weren’t happy unless they’d drawn a figure that was eight-heads tall.

Miyamoto
Or sometimes it would be six-heads tall. But actually, the number of pixels we were able to use was so limited that, if we did that, we’d only have had a couple of pixels for the face.

Iwata
With two pixels, you wouldn’t even have been able to draw eyes. You’d basically have ended up with a matchstick figure. In early video games from overseas, that kind of figure often featured.

Miyamoto
And as they just didn’t resemble human figures, I was absolutely convinced that they’d been designed by people who couldn’t draw!

Iwata
(laughs)

Miyamoto
I thought it was most likely that it was the programmer who was drawing these figures. But I thought: “I know how to draw!” I mean, I’m not saying I can draw as well as an artist, but I was confident that I was better at drawing than a programmer. That’s why I started by saying: “Right, let’s draw something that actually looks like a person’s face!” So I drew the eyes, the nose, the mouth and…
Miyamoto goes on to talk about how in creating the face, it left him with very few pixels to actually design a body, and that Mario’s look was essentially dictated by function (Mario has a mustache so that they didn’t have to draw a mouth). What’s important in Miyamoto’s words is that he saw how most of the characters in games abroad were attempts to replicate a “realistic” human figure, and he still made an effort to give his character Mario some semblance of a personality by giving him facial features, even if those features were the result of limitations.
Certainly it wasn’t impossible or uncommon for games prior to Donkey Kong to have personality of their own, and Miyamoto certainly wasn’t the first to give facial features to his characters (Pac-Man being the most obvious example), it does show the kind of thinking that would go on to implicitly influence generations of gamers.

Relating to NES Sprites

Whenever I say there’s something special about video game graphics during the NES/Master System era, some will believe that it’s simply due to nostalgia, while others will agree with me, but won’t be able to explain why. Sometimes those who agree with me will even chalk it up to nostalgia themselves. I however believe that there are concrete reasons as to why the level of graphics that the 8-bit systems achieved for home consoles holds such significance, and I’d like to discuss one of them here. I’m going to be using mainly NES graphics and not Master System ones, because 1) the NES was more popular and 2) the Master System actually had better graphics overall, and we want to look at the less-good.


From left to right: Berzerk, Robot from Berzerk, Circus


From left to right: Mario, Megaman, Karnov

What is the significant feature that the characters below all have in common that the characters above do not, aside from obvious graphical quality improvements?

Answer: They have faces.

This makes it easier to identify with them as characters, and gives them a sense of personality. In the NES era, the graphics were strong enough on the popular consoles to portray characters’ faces and to give them facial expressions, even if it’s the same expression all the time. This is important because we as humans tend to see ourselves in our surroundings. Scott McCloud talks about this a good deal in Understanding Comics, but it really is something fundamental. Two dots and and a line becomes a face. A semi-circle shape can be a smile or a frown depending on which way it’s facing. It allows players to identify with the characters.

While this does not take into account those games which feature primarily vehicles or objects inanimate objects, my focus is not so much on them, as I believe they have a somewhat similar appeal, only focused on their fantastical realism rather than their human quality.

Even those characters who practically had no eyes, noses, or mouths still benefited from the 8-bit graphical quality, as it allowed the games to clearly delineate an area of the body as the head.


From left to right: Simon Belmont, Bill Rizer, Ryu Hayabusa

This was especially useful in portraying characters with more human proportions as opposed to the big-headed cartoonish sprites from before, as it allowed the characters to seem realistic on the NES while again still giving them some sense of personality.

That is not to say that faces on sprites were a wholly unique experience to the 8-bit era. The NES and the Master System were not the first consoles to regularly portray characters with faces, with that honor probably going to the Colecovision in 1982. However, the difference here is a matter of timing, as 1983 was also the year of the North American Video Game Crash, and so in the minds of most people, graphics went from Atari to Nintendo, and if you look at the graphics of that era, they more often than not could barely differentiate a head from a neck, with one notable exception being Pitfall for the Atari 2600. Hey, it’s not all art and discovery.

The 8-Bit NES era was when graphics were good enough so that almost anyone who made a game for the console could give a sprite a face (and in essence, a personality), and thanks to good timing also was when video games were again popular enough to be a common feature in households. Graphics were certainly not the only factor in endearing the NES (and to a lesser extent the Master System) to young gamers, but as humans are visual creatures, graphics played a significant role in implanting the memories of these games into their minds.