Editorials Nintendo

How The Nintendo Switch Helped Me Love Video Games Again

It wasn’t an impulse buy, but it was pretty close. Black Friday in 2018 had come and gone, and a missed deal on a Nintendo Switch console haunted me. I was on the hunt for deals but wasn’t thinking about any video games until the Switch caught my eye. My personal rule has always been that if I walk away from it and keep going back to it, I have to eventually get it. I kept checking for deals afterward, thinking about waiting for a Christmas sale. Then I got impatient. After about a week of waffling whether or not to get it, I pulled the trigger and finally got my hands on a Switch. Ordered it in gray since I preferred the muted color over the neon joy-cons.

I celebrated the occasion with friends online as I opened the packaging for the first time. The experience of opening the box of a new console is like magic. Like getting ready to embark on a new journey. The problem this time? I wasn’t well-equipped. The only game I bought with it was FIFA 19.

This was the start of something beautiful, but I had to give it a chance first.

A fine sports franchise when playing on Xbox One, but on the Switch? Underwhelming. Not how I expected to react to a new system, although it wouldn’t be a first. I once bought a PlayStation 3 because I wanted to play MLB: The Show. I played the system for about four hours that night and then packed it up and returned it the next morning. This felt like deja vu, that I was once again bringing back a system I had just bought. I didn’t know what the hell was wrong with me. It wasn’t always this way.


 

My family’s housewarming party in 1988 doubled as my brother’s birthday party. His biggest birthday gift was the Nintendo Entertainment System Action Set, which included Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. What I remember most vividly was watching my brother play Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, surrounded by our cousins as we huddled near the TV. The Atari 2600 was my first video game system, but the NES was my first love of video games. That system was his gift, but much like many of his toys while growing up, it would eventually be mine.

Soon I was the one getting rentals on weekends and new games on special occasions. I got the original Game Boy for Christmas the year it came out, and the Super Nintendo for my birthday when that came out as well. I routinely snuck GamePro magazines into my Trapper Keeper in school. I woke up early Saturday mornings to catch the Super Mario Bros. Super Show while eating a bowl of Nintendo Cereal. One time when I was 11, a girl tried to insult me by referring to me as a Nintendo freak. I wore it like a badge of honor and couldn’t relate to anyone who didn’t love video games as much as I did. But it was also around this time that I developed a love for sports, another thing that I picked up from my brother.

As I played sports, I started following their professional leagues and then soon after, incorporated that into my video games. Before I knew it, I was playing a bunch of baseball, basketball, and football video games. My brother got Madden every year, and I got NBA Live. I loved playing Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball on SNES. I was so particular about roster accuracy, that I once borrowed a baseball almanac from the library so I could manually edit the real names of the players into the game (I’m still pretty OCD about roster accuracy in my sports games to this day, including wrestling titles). By the time I owned a Nintendo 64, my preference for sports games was getting pretty lopsided. I still loved fighting games like Street Fighter II and Killer Instinct, beat ‘em ups like Final Fight and the TMNT arcade games, wrestling games like WrestleFest and WCW/nWo Revenge, and racing games like Super Mario Kart and Cruis’n USA. But I feel I was pretty limited as far as what type of games I was willing to try. It was a lot different than my NES days, where just about any title was fair game.


 

That first night when I debated returning my Switch, I felt really stupid. What else did I expect when the only game I had was FIFA, the only series I had been playing on my Xbox One for the previous few years? I loved the idea of playing video games on the go, but the sports options on the Switch were lacking and I wasn’t feeling satisfied with the one sports game that I had. I knew I still loved fighting games and saw that I could get Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Dragon Ball FighterZ, both of which had sales going on. So I made the executive decision to double-down on my Switch purchase and see if those other titles could draw my interest. I downloaded demos and kept my eye out for sales. My first digital purchases were from a year-end sale on Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse and Shantae: Half-Genie Hero. I heard about Shantae in the past and was curious to see how the games played.

If at first you don’t succeed, fight, fight again! Or something like that.

Before I continue with my story, let me tell you… buying the Switch –and then keeping it— was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

The Switch is the most versatile gaming system I’ve ever owned and was the main selling point for me. I’ve owned stationary consoles as well as portable systems but never one that does both and does them extremely well. My Xbox One is too bulky to bring with me, but the Switch fits in a small carrying case and I can play it almost anywhere. It’s what I wished my Game Boy could have been. The graphics won’t compare to the monsters that PlayStation and Xbox are, but are still pleasing enough for me on both big and small screens. The joy-con integration is actually really neat and has allowed me to play in various, creative ways. The Switch keeps finding ways to delight and surprise me. It’s a modern system that still touches my nostalgic heart.


 

As a kid, I loved playing video games so much that I tried as much as I could to play them even when I wasn’t home. I usually brought my Game Boy with me whenever I expected to be away from home for an extended period of time. Whenever I visited anyone’s house, the first thing I looked for was what video game system they had. If I knew I was going to someone’s house who had a Nintendo or Sega, I tried bringing whatever games I had along with me. In some cases, I even unplugged my system and put it in a bag to hook up wherever I ended up going. I’ve brought my Genesis and N64 with me on family trips to Puerto Rico, Miami, and Las Vegas.

I had an uncle living in Miami, along with his wife and two daughters, that we would visit occasionally. My cousins had their own NES, and the game I played most of was Super Dodgeball. It reminded me of River City Ransom (which I later learned was made by the same company). I was never any good at River City Ransom, but I still enjoyed playing it. Very much like the Double Dragon series. I like that I can still play it on the Switch through their Nintendo Switch Online service.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been a fan of beat ‘em ups. I remember my friend Jeff first recommending River City Girls to me. He’s a Facebook Gaming Creator and runs the site for X-Bit Gaming. I’ve been friends with him for the past three years as we used to work at the same place together. We always talk about pro wrestling, but I also enjoy watching him play video games. It’s what he does for a living nowadays, and he’s awesome at it. I have half a year on him age-wise but in some ways, I look up to him. So when he recommends a game to me, I listen.

A kick-ass beat ‘em up that keeps kicking MY ass!

I had the pleasure of playing River City Girls at length recently and I have to say it handles similarly to its NES predecessor. Took me forever to beat the first boss, and I’m still trying to get a hang of running on demand. But I love how vibrant the game is, with all the colors and the music and the voice acting and how pounding the tar out of the enemies makes me chuckle just like the original River City game did. I enjoy it much more than the original, but it also gives me that subtle warmth of my Miami visits. Also, much like the original, I still suck at River City Girls but that’s a “me” problem. It’s still a great game. You can say that I begrudgingly adore it.


 

I want to emphasize how clutch the Switch has been as a portable gaming system. Prior to that, the only portable systems I had were the Game Boy, those Tiger electronic LCD games, and a PSP that I bought at a flea market about 12 years ago. The Game Boy got the most mileage out of me and was a hit with my cousins in Miami. The problem I had with all of those systems was that they were designed to be played by one person at a time, which meant sharing and waiting turns. Not as much fun as playing multiplayer. The only time I got to experience “portable” multiplayer was bringing stationary consoles with me anywhere that I can hook up to a TV or projector. There was one time that somebody else took this initiative, and it led me to buy my previous Nintendo console.

In 2004, I was at the Anime North convention in Toronto with some friends I had met online. One day we packed a bunch of us into a hotel room and someone brought their own CRT TV and a GameCube. They played Super Smash Bros. Melee and Naruto: Gekito Ninja Taisen 2. The latter game caught my attention, as Naruto was my favorite new anime at the time, and I was even at the convention cosplaying as one of the characters from the series. After I flew back from that trip, one of the first things I did was buy a GameCube on eBay and the Naruto game as well as a region unlocking boot disc at a site that sold imports (the North American release didn’t come out until two years later). That game ended up being the killer app for me, as that and the third release were the only two games I ever got for that system. It was hard to find anyone else available and willing to play with me. I even brought it with me to my old job once to play it with a friend who I knew was into Naruto also. It really is funny seeing the parallels here, how I almost made FIFA 19 my killer app for the Switch, and how that would’ve wasted another Nintendo console for me.

Fast forward to 2019. It’s the night before WrestleMania, and I’m in town with four of my friends, including WrestleCast colleagues Richard and Dana. As the person who organized the trip, I wanted to have our own pizza party in the hotel room. I brought my Switch along with my pro controller and four joy-cons. There was enough for all five of us to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate together. It may have been my favorite night of the whole trip. Dana still gives me crap for winning so much at Smash that night! I have so many fond memories of that trip, being with my friends at a bunch of wrestling shows, and the one night we didn’t go to any wresting, we still had a blast thanks in large part to the Switch. It enhanced an already great trip to an unforgettable one. I wish I could experience that more often. I did get to play Smash with others a little more while at PAX, and this time it was using my Switch against other people’s Switches. While waiting in line for a panel, I played a couple of games against people seated next to me on the floor. I got massacred quickly! But man, it’s so cool to be able to play a multiplayer game on the fly just like that.

Speaking of fighting games, I want to mention Dragon Ball FighterZ real briefly as that was the first game I purchased after FIFA and ended up being the game I logged the most hours on until another challenger approached. This has been one of my favorite fighting games of all-time, rivaling the classic Street Fighter II games I played as a kid. One thing I loved was being able to play some quick battles with my colleague at work when we were on break. They were intense and so much fun. I felt I already got my money’s worth just from that game alone, but there was so much more for me to play later on that really tipped the scale in my favor. I’ll get into those shortly.

From one of our many epic Smash showdowns.

Another example of things coming full circle happened to me earlier this year. I attended a baby shower for one of my cousins. Baby showers are not really my thing, and because I knew I would be bored at some point, I brought my Switch with me in a bag. When there was some downtime, I pulled the Switch out and placed it on the table I was seated at. I don’t have any kids of my own, but my brother does. Seated next to me was my oldest niece. I started playing Super Mario Kart, which is available on the SNES app with Nintendo Switch Online. She looked interested so I handed her one of my joy-cons and we started playing Super Mario Kart together. She was laughing every time one of us got hit with a shell or slipped on a banana peel. We had so much fun and it was the highlight of the night for me. It was so cool to be able to play a game I did as a kid, and share in that experience with my brother’s daughter, the same brother who first got me into video games as a kid. That was special and I feel like this system keeps giving me those special moments, even when I’m not expecting them.


 

The Switch is more than just a conveniently portable vehicle for indulging in old classics. It’s also been a gateway for me to discover new favorites. Take for example the aforementioned Shantae. When I started building my Switch game collection, I wanted to try a game that didn’t fall under the sports or fighting genres. I heard great things about Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, so I dove right in to see how it would appeal to me. I remembered playing the Mega Man series back in the day, and boy did I suck at it, so I was hoping this wouldn’t be another game that I’d give up on.

Quite the contrary. I got addicted very quickly, and with the help of some maps and tips online, I was able to play through the entire game. It was a very challenging, sometimes frustrating, and always fun experience. The soundtrack carried me throughout my time playing the game and will always be synonymous to me with that time period, along with the New England Patriots winning their sixth Super Bowl title. Pretty sure I played Shantae at halftime of the AFC championship to distract me from the stress of the football game. Nintendo Switch and fond memories: name a more iconic duo.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse: the non-sports, non-fighting game that really got the ball rolling for me.

After Pirate’s Curse came Half-Genie Hero, which was a different type of Shantae game but still a load of fun. It had a cleaner HD look with 3D platforms and backgrounds and had extra DLC modes that allowed me to replay the game in different ways. It wasn’t perfect but I had a blast. Through Shantae, I was able to discover another series I enjoy. The DLC mode I liked playing the most was called Officer Mode, which was based on another WayForward game called Mighty Switch Force. It’s a puzzle game that focuses on timing your jumps. I loved the little siren sound when you switched between blocks coming in and out.

I wanted to play this game and I eventually got to via the Mighty Switch Force Collection which came out for the Switch last summer. What a treat! Four Mighty Switch Force games in one, so that’s even more for me to play. It took me forever to beat the last bonus stage, but after many attempts and many curse words, I eventually did it. It was so satisfying. Probably my proudest moment since that time I finally beat Jaquio in Ninja Gaiden for NES (which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible without the Switch’s SP version…thank you Nintendo)! And of course, there’s Shantae and the Seven Sirens, yet another game I loved and did an in-depth review of which you can check out here. One game led to many more.

YES YES YES I finally beat this godforsaken level!!!


 

Perhaps my greatest discovery was for one of the system’s inaugural releases, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This one’s getting its own section. For the longest time, I dismissed the possibility of playing it due to my biases against the Zelda series. I struggled with The Legend of Zelda 1 and 2 on the NES, and while I did somewhat enjoy A Link to the Past on SNES, I didn’t have the patience to finish the game. After pouring through numerous reviews, all glowing in favor of Breath of the Wild as an instant classic, I eventually decided to put it on my watch list. It took me a year after getting the Switch to finally buy the game, and only after it came at a ridiculous discount on Black Friday. Even after buying the physical copy, I put off opening and playing it until one Saturday afternoon when I was bored and had nothing else to do.

Over the next two months, that game had me under its spell. I had no idea what I got myself into. My goodness! What a freaking amazing, astounding, incredible, I-need-more-adjectives…just wow…game!

I can probably write a whole article just on my experience playing Breath of the Wild, and maybe someday I will. I’m actually still in the process of playing through the DLC. But what I want to convey is how visually gorgeous the game is, even given the technical limitations of the Switch. I loved how the ambient music — which was fantastic — was important to anticipating what was ahead of you, or sometimes behind you! The map in the game is enormous and tempts you for further exploration. I see a bridge ahead but oh look, a shooting star just landed in the distance, I wonder what’s over there. The speed of time in the game is almost like in real life playing it because before I knew it, 30 minutes became two hours became five hours became I better start setting an alarm for myself or I’ll never sleep.

Indeed, Nintendo. Indeed.

Breath of the Wild has become one of my favorite games ever. An absolute masterpiece. I was emotionally invested in the story and its characters. I felt constantly rewarded for the risks I took, the lands I discovered, and the calculated decisions I made based on the inventory I built up for Link. It was bittersweet when I defeated Calamity Ganon because it felt like the journey ended. But I since then bought the DLC and have been right back at it with new challenges. Whatever excuse I can muster to go back to Hyrule is a good one in my book.

Remember earlier how I mentioned another challenger approaching when talking about the time I spent playing Dragon Ball FighterZ, which I did for most of 2019? Within just the first month, Breath of the Wild blew it away and took the crown of most hours tallied. As of this writing it’s still on top, but another game has been quietly racking up the hours and is on the verge of surpassing it.


 

While the world of Hyrule seemed to get bigger every time, the world around me closed in and got smaller this past March. The outbreak of COVID-19 reached a critical point and was declared a pandemic. It was the start of a new, terrifying reality for all of us. With social distancing, I could no longer visit my friends or relatives. I started working from home. I ordered delivery a lot more to avoid going to the supermarket. Almost anything you could touch with your bare hands suddenly seemed dangerous. Unsettling times all around. I’m so glad that Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out when it did because it’s the game I needed for this quarantine.

The first I had ever heard of the series was when playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and wondering what game Villager and Isabelle were supposed to be from. I dismissed Animal Crossing as another Sims type of game, which didn’t interest me. Then I went to PAX East earlier this year and noticed the big Animal Crossing display at the Nintendo booth. It was very popular, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the appeal was. I kept hearing about the series in gaming circles. I remember seeing memes pairing Animal Crossing with Doom Eternal since their games were being released on the same day (I got a kick out of this video in particular). Then I saw some of my friends got the game on release day. That was enough for me to muster up the courage to put on a mask and walk to my nearest Target to buy the game. Did I play it right away? No. Have I played it every single day since first starting? As the Nooklings would say, “Yes! Yes, of course!  …of course!

Me and my squad residing in Isla Bonita. Clockwise from the top: Pinky, Kid Cat, Fang, Lucha, Lily, Bam, Hopkins, Fauna, Octavian, and Bob.

It’s taken me a few months to slowly build up my island paradise, and there’s still much work to be done, but I’m happy with all the villagers I got. Everyone has their own personalities and their own charm. I love them all. New Horizons is so damn cute. Some of the routines can be tedious but the island inhabitants make it worth the daily visit. It’s especially satisfying seeing them wear the custom shirts I made. That’s been one of my favorite features of the game. You can make custom clothes and patterns, and I made a lot of sports, wrestling, and gaming apparel in the game. Such a wholesome game. It’s been great to exercise my artistic side, while also expressing my different passions.

Speaking of exercise, another rewarding game for the Switch is Ring Fit Adventure. This was another game, much like New Horizons, that came to my attention due to hype during the pandemic. It keeps going in and out of stock because scalpers keep creating scarcity and selling them at huge markups. I was lucky to get one at Target when it restocked one Monday morning. Like seemingly every new Nintendo-made game, I didn’t play it right away. Took me about a week before I opened the box and finally started playing. I’ve always hated exercise even if I knew the benefits were worth it. But I also didn’t have a routine nor anyone who could coach me. Ring Fit Adventure does some measure of that for you, as it provides you with exercises that work different parts of your body and guides you along to make sure you’re getting properly challenged. Early on I’ve gotten 15 solid minutes of cumulative activity and would be soaked in sweat afterward. You need to sweat to know that it’s working. I’ve fallen a bit behind recently, but I’ll get right back on it and continue making it part of my daily routine. Among the many things the Switch does, it made exercise fun for me.


 

I want to go back to late February, when I attended PAX East 2020, the last big event in Boston before everything shut down. On the first day, I participated in the Dragon Ball FighterZ for Switch tournament. It required using your own Switch, which thankfully I had on hand. I had no intention of actually entering the tourney until I noticed it on the schedule that day. I can only remember two times that I had entered a gaming tournament, both times were at a local Blockbuster Video for fighting games (ClayFighter and TMNT Tournament Fighters). Both times I was eliminated in the first round. But I remember a couple of times when I battled others at conventions and had success. At Anime North 2008, I brought my laptop with me and played Melty Blood, an Arc System Works anime fighting game. I brought it to an open table and beat a small handful of random people for about a half-hour or so.

Also at last year’s PAX, I went to a console free-for-all section and sat down at the SNES table where Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting was available. I played against random people and beat them all, nine in a row. To be fair, just about all of them appeared to be younger than me, so maybe it was a generational thing. But I felt good about myself then and thought maybe I could continue my luck at PAX with this Dragon Ball FighterZ tourney this year. The rules were best-of-three, and in the first round I lost the first match, almost lost the second match but came back to win it, then won the rubber match to advance in the tournament. I was relieved to finally get past a first-round and anything that happened after was gravy to me.

My all-time favorite anime series in an excellent fighting game and I can play it anywhere. It doesn’t get any better than this.

I ended up making it to the finals, where I was defeated in convincing fashion. I wish I had brought my pro controller with me since I was never as comfortable with the joy-cons. It may not have mattered either way since the other guy was very much in control the entire time and Z-Assisted me to oblivion. Still, we were announced in the top 3 in the hallway lounging area, and that was a small but proud moment for me. Finishing second place was a hell of a lot better than getting knocked out in the first round again. Hearing the cheers for us from random people, it really brought me back in time. It reminded me of being a kid and beating the Street Fighter II: Champion Edition arcade with a small audience around me and having them applaud me, and my uncle taking me back to my parents to share the news with them. So much of my childhood is tied to video games, and it’s always great to be able to relive those moments as an adult, even in little ways.


 

If there is one thing I am critical about, it’s that I was not able to get my original Nintendo Switch repaired properly. Yes, original Switch, because I ended up selling the first one to a friend and buying a new one. There was one time where taking the Switch with me everywhere backfired. On my flight back home from visiting my sister in Los Angeles, the flight attendant prematurely grabbed my Coca-Cola can, which was still full at the time. The soda spilled all over my phone. I cleaned it up quickly and everything seemed fine afterward. But I didn’t notice that it had also gone onto the Switch. Not until days later did I notice the Switch was sticky in some parts and the handheld mode wouldn’t work. I contacted Delta Airlines about it but got ignored. I had to send the console out to Nintendo twice. The first time the repairman only worked on the joy-con itself and not the rail and connectors that the joy-con slides on. The second time it seemed like the rail on the right side was done too tightly, which made removing the right joy-con a pain in the butt to do.

The timing was perfect when I bought the newer Switch because this was right before the lockdown when Switch consoles started selling out everywhere. I have a friend who had been interested in one and I sold it to him at a considerable discount. He didn’t care that much about playing it in handheld mode since he was going to treat it as a stationary console anyway (it still works in TV mode). This time, I took the opportunity to buy the neon version of the console, so I had the left joy-con blue and the right joy-con red. I had already bought the opposite neon joy-cons separately and then decided to buy the gray ones separately this time to give me three pairs of joy-cons. When I first bought the Switch I wanted the muted look of gray, but this time I embraced the more fun look of neon. It was symbolic in a way of how my outlook toward the Switch had shifted. It meant being an adult didn’t have to mean being boring. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the sleek look of the gray joy-cons, but the neon look is more inviting to me. It speaks out to the younger version of me, the one who still had consoles in muted colors back then but had so much energy and happiness toward playing video games.

It’s a whole different sort of feeling than what I had in my young adult years. Back then I had a PlayStation 2, a GameCube, and then years later an Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Almost all of the games I owned for those consoles were either sports games or fighting games. Not much variety. I look at the Switch and the collection of games I have now, and it’s a dramatic difference. I’m not totally without my sports or fighting games either. On top of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Dragon Ball FighterZ, I also have NBA 2K19 (which I don’t play much…it was on sale for $3 last year) and Pro Yakyuu Famista Evolution, an officially licensed Nippon Professional Baseball game with 2018 season rosters available only in Japan. It’s from the makers of the original R.B.I. Baseball for NES, another game I loved to play with my brother. I prefer this game to the modern R.B.I. series, even with the language barrier. The best part is no boot disc is needed; every Switch game is region-free. As for my copy of FIFA 19? I traded the game in for the same amount I paid for it.

Screenshot from playing Super Mario Kart with my niece. Glad to see I hadn’t lost my touch with Yoshi.


 

Looking back on everything, I’m just so happy I decided to buy a Nintendo Switch. It’s not perfect by any means, but the Switch has something for just about everyone. I prefer to buy physical when available, especially after what happened with the Wii shop and everyone losing access to their digital purchases. I still have a digital copy of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game on my Xbox 360, which is hard to find ever since the game got delisted due to the license expiring. I rather not see that happen with my Switch games. But then again, some of the best values are digital. It’s a debate with no right side, it’s all a matter of preference. I love having the option to choose how I want to play.

You can say this is something of a love letter to Nintendo as well as all the publishers who have allowed me the opportunity to play their games on this revolutionary console. Right now I’m living in a timeline without professional sports, and I can honestly say I don’t miss them that much. The Nintendo Switch and its assortment of games have been more than enough to entertain me in the worst of times as well as the best of times. It’s introduced me to fascinating new stories, worlds, and characters. It’s encouraged me to use this platform, as small as it may be, to share in the joy that video games provide me. It’s allowed me to share that joy with friends and family in person as well as through social media. I can’t seem to stop myself from constantly hitting Like on Animal Crossing and Shantae related social media posts. It’s all so wonderful.

I won’t call it a life-changer, but I can certainly say it’s a game-changer. I can’t thank Nintendo enough for making the Switch, and in turn, helping me make the switch back to loving video games all over again. I’d say the Nintendo freak is back, but it feels like I never left.


 

Please share if you have a favorite system or game that made you a fan for life or one that brought you back. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!

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