This Week in Games - Switch Rumor Roundup

by Dustin Bailey,
After a couple of very slow news weeks—in the world of video games, anyway—the valves have been opened and we're now drowning in a deep, dark ocean of announcements, reports, and rumors. So much so that there isn't even room enough to cover everything big! So there's a couple of bits I'd like to hit before we get to the rest of the column.

First, there's some new Final Fantasy XV footage out there! Some new let's player named Conan—I guess it's a barbarian thing—got ahold of an early copy and posted his impressions in a new video. He really, really didn't like it, and even went so far as to call the game an “aggressive waste of time.” Somehow, some group of people are taking this as the final sign of FF15's terrible quality and that the whole project is ultimately doomed, seeming to not realize that the schtick of the comedian is to clown on things. Take a step back and realize that if you place any element of Final Fantasy in front of someone who's not versed in all our super-dope nerd culture, it will absolutely seem tedious to the point of insufferability. (I'm still looking forward to it.)

Super Mario Run, the first “real” game in Nintendo's upcoming mobile blitz, has a release date! And a price! You'll be able to download it for free on December 15th on iOS. That'll just be a tiny taste, and you'll have to buy the remainder of the game for $9.99. That's ridiculously cheap for a Mario game and ridiculously expensive for a mobile game, so I think that basically evens out.

On a personal note, we're finally putting the finishing touches on our new house, which means that I actually have time to play video games again! I know, you were super-concerned for me, and I appreciate your sympathy. I'm in the early stages of reviewing the new Sword Art Online game—expect that in a standalone article sometime next week—and I'm also chipping away at a level or two of Doom every time the existential dread of life grows to be too much. Nu Doom is good. I've heard it described as the most Nintendo-like game that Nintendo would never, ever make, and it's a really apt comparison for the smart level design and playful (but violent) mechanics that drive the whole thing.

Speaking of Nintendo

Switch Rumor Roundup

I'd planned on just quickly mentioning the Switch rumors in the column's intro, but so many have piled up this week that there just wasn't enough space for them to sit on the sidelines. So we're gonna run it all down here. These reports come from Laura Dale, Emily Rogers, and Eurogamer, all of whom have proven reliable in past reports on Nintendo rumors. Remember two weeks ago when they said the Wii U was ending production, and Nintendo denied it for a few days before announcing they were actually doing it? Remember when we spent a solid year basically knowing that the NX would be a console/handheld hybrid? Yeah.

Still, take it all with a grain of salt as plans are always subject to change, but I'd be surprised if any less than 90% of this were true. Remember—we're only four months away from the Switch's launch in March. That means games for it are deep into development, so while Nintendo hasn't officially announced these details, they will have to be known by many retail and development partners. I don't believe an announcement-to-release time has been this short since the Saturn (feel free to correct me on that), and in this age of digital information if somebody knows something the world knows it.

With all those disclaimers out of the way, let's run things down.

First, the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may not be available on launch day. Multiple reports are suggesting that localization for the game's worldwide release isn't progressing as smoothly as hoped, and won't be finished until the end of this year. Nintendo apparently has a rigorous four-to-six month testing period—minimum—for their software, which would push Breath of the Wild back at least to Summer.

On the Zelda tip, it seems that the Switch version is running more smoothly than the one on Wii U, and that the final game will be a bit more difficult than the demo shown at E3 suggests.

But while Zelda won't be making day one, it seems that Mario game featured in the console trailer is further along than anyone suspected, and it's expected to be a launch title worldwide. It will be a full 3D adventure in the vein of Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy with an open hub and levels with multiple objectives, as opposed to the more linear style of Super Mario 3D World. A co-op mode will allow two players to work together toward completing objectives, with player two tethered to player one's progress.

We've also got reports on price, with leaks through UK retailer GAME suggesting that the Switch will launch a base model at £199.99. Based on current currency conversions, that would mean $249.99 USD. A more expensive model will launch at £249.99 (likely $299.99 USD), featuring more internal storage and a pack-in game.

That pack-in is expected to be a new version of Splatoon. In addition to the features from the previous game, there will be a 1 vs 1 mode—presumably online—where players fight on a single map, switching between weapons mid-match. There will be additional single-player content compared to the first game, and the plan is for a similar level of free updates to be made over the life of the title.

It also seems that the final wave of Smash Bros. amiibo—featuring Cloud and Bayonetta—are being delayed to release alongside a Switch port of the game. No word on whether it will feature any original content, but it will include all of the Wii U version's DLC, and is expected to be available within six months of the Switch launch. Similarly, Mario Kart 8 will feature all of the Wii U game's content along with the DLC. The racing game, however, will feature a bunch of new stuff, including tracks, characters, and an improved battle mode. Expect this to be out within three months of the console's launch—possibly even on launch day.

That Skyrim port that Bethesda won't commit to is expected to be available at launch, with limited mod support similar to that on the PS4 coming down the line.

Again, these are all rumors, but they're reliable rumors from good sources, so take that as you will. If any substantial part of this is true, then the Switch is going to have a very strong first year, especially among the millions (and millions!) who didn't buy a Wii U.

NEWS

THE NES CLASSIC EDITION IS AVAILABLE NOW (EXCEPT IT'S NOT AVAILABLE AT ALL)

Nintendo finally put out the NES Classic Edition this week, and by “put out” I mean “released a tiny trickle to retailers so as to stoke the fires of violent holiday consumerism.” At stores, people lined up far beyond initial allotments, and the time consoles have been available online are measured not so much in “seconds” as much as “how fast is your ping?” The point is, there aren't a lot of these things in the wild. And that's great for Nintendo. Maybe not so great for you and me and anybody who actually wants to own one of these things, but it's great for Nintendo. It makes the story all about how in-demand their product is, and how sexy and desirable they are as a brand.

While I'm sure Nintendo is profiting on the micro-console and will eventually fulfill all that demand, the publicity they're getting from this is far more valuable to them right now. They're looking to launch a new console very soon, and they've got to change the image of their brand. The Wii was astronomically successful, but not in a sustainable way. Now they're trying to create a throughline to the past, reminding all us millenials with our (theoretical) reserves of disposable income that we used to really, really love Nintendo games. There's a marketing storm brewing, one that I suspect will be eclipsed only by the Disney-branded hurricane of Star Wars business that we now live in. Nintendo's going to be everywhere for the next twelve months, and I hope we're all prepared for it.

BIRTHDAYS THE BEGINNING IS A SANDBOX ECOSIM FROM THE CREATOR OF HARVEST MOON

I've been wanting to write something on Birthdays the Beginning since it was announced earlier this year, but the time has never quite been right. Now, however, with a Western release date, details, and English gameplay footage out, it seems that time has finally arrived. This is the latest from Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada, and it shares the farming simulator's cute aesthetics and sandbox goals, but differs in basically every other meaningful way.

You start on a barren square of rock, able to alter the land and temperature to create conditions conducive to the appearance of life. Creatures will slowly take shape, grow, evolve, and populate the planet over time. Its focus on genetic experimentation calls to mind the ancient Maxis title SimLife, but the cutesy looks and garden-like state of the world bears a certain resemblance to the excellent Rare-developed Viva Piñata as well. Harvest Moon, old-school Maxis, and Viva Piñata are some of my favorite things, so I'm watching this one very closely.

Birthdays will be available March 7 on PS4 and and Steam.

LOVE IS OVER: PERSONA 5 DELAYED (AGAIN)

Persona 5 was supposed to come out in 2014. Persona 5 was supposed to come out in 2016. Persona 5 was supposed to come out on Valentine's Day 2017. Persona 5 did not and will not come out on any of those dates. Atlus recently ran an livestream of the English version—check it out if you're looking for footage of the game in your language—and announced that Persona 5 will not be coming out until April 4, 2017. (Somebody get me a sad trombone!)

But hey, on the plus side, they announced that the Japanese voice track will be available as free DLC on launch day, so sub lovers have got a reason to celebrate. This has been a wicked year for game delays, especially big Japanese ones, with Final Fantasy XV, the Last Guardian, and Persona 5 all missing their initial dates. It's like we're in the late 90s again! You probably still have time to learn basic Japanese and struggle your way through the original game, if you're feeling that desperate.

NEXT WEEK'S RELEASES

DRAGON BALL FUSIONS
Developer: Ganbarion
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: November 22
MSRP: $29.99

It's an anti-delay! Dragon Ball Fusions was supposed to come out December 13th, but just got pushed forward to this week. Granted, it's unlikely to make up for the big delay this week, but, y'know, you take what you can get.

You'll create your own character from a variety of races to launch into an original story in the Dragon Ball universe, where you'll work to add different “Super Warriors” to your team, including series favorites. Those characters can then be fused into entirely new forms.

POKEMON SUN AND MOON
Developer: GAME FREAK
Publisher: The Pokémon Company / Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: November 18
MSRP: $39.99

I feel like I've lost the plot on what Pokémon Sun and Moon actually are. That's not due to a lack of information—more the fact that I feel lost in a sea of trailers describing the game's mechanical minutiae in excruciating detail. But hey, it's out on Friday, the pre-orders have broken all of Nintendo's previous records, and the early reviews have been very, very good. This game is going to be huge.

Sun and Moon dispense with the “visit town, get gym badge, repeat” progression of previous games for a more varied series of island challenges, which still culminate in a battle with a gym leader stand-in but offer far more variance along the way. Of course, there are new Pokémon, new forms of old Pokémon, new battle mechanics, and everything else you'd expect from a follow-up to this venerable series. But the fundamental structural changes are what have me most interested.

ALSO AVAILABLE:
Killing Floor 2 escapes the swamp of Steam Early Access into actual release this week, though it has the decided misfortune of releasing into a year with the greatest catalog of new shooters in recent memory.

That's all, folks! Catch you next week!


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