Nintendo Switch Preview: “Nindies” Presentation Rundown
By the time you’re reading this, the Nintendo Switch will have finally launched, presumably to worldwide acclaim, with shrines and monuments being erected in cities across the globe to Reggie, Miyamoto, and other vital Nintendo employees for bringing such joy to the world in these dark times. Regardless of whether that happens or not, though, there is still the year ahead to look forward to, and if you’ve been following the Switch from its formal announcement, to the January press conference and treehouse, to this past week, you’ll be generally aware of two mostly related things. First of all, while the 2017 schedule isn’t necessarily scarce, it’s quite spread out, with only five physical titles for launch day, and big titles like Arms, Super Mario Odyssey, and Splatoon 2 having, at best, pretty vague ideas for release dates.
The other thing, which is pretty much par for the course for Nintendo in the past 15 years or so, is that Nintendo has played everything about the Switch’s release incredibly close to their chest, being very good at only giving up information on their terms, and very scarcely at that. While that’s had the effect of making most media outlets rather cross with them, it’s not without explanation -- it’s probably a lot easier to handle getting slammed by hearsay than have your hard work and decision-making criticized for months on end before your product is even released, something which Microsoft and Sony have had to deal with numerous times in the same span.
On Tuesday, however, the sparse 2017 lineup suddenly started to look a lot more robust when Nintendo held a special live event to showcase the upcoming lineup of “Nindies,” -- independent titles primed for release on the Switch over the next few months. Though it was only a 20 minute presentation, without a whole lot of prior anticipation, the games were plentiful and announced in an almost rapid-fire fashion, building up to what is now looking to be a robust, lucrative, and exciting lineup in the next few months.
Better yet, even more titles were teased in the infographic used to wrap up the presentation, including Portal Knights, two upcoming Wonder Boy titles, Snake Pass, and much more out of a total of 60 set for 2017 that weren’t even shown off. The “Nindies” lineup is diverse, exciting, unique, and, most importantly, often decidedly Nintendo, with many of them boasting Switch exclusivity, Switch-exclusive features, or at the very least, a Switch-first launch. With a bunch of new titles now on the horizon, here is a quick rundown of what we got a look at in the presentation and what they mean for the Switch upon release.
SteamWorld Dig 2
Where Microsoft and Sony could boast Insomniac’s Song of the Deep for their Metroidvania-style adventure last year, the Wii U was, of course, left out in the cold. Though SteamWorld Dig was available on most consoles, and the collection that paired it with SteamWorld Heist wasn’t exclusive to the Wii U either, Dig 2 is listed to launch this Summer on the Switch. It should be noted that at this point, SteamWorld Dig 2 is one title that may or may not be a Switch exclusive, based on the way it was announced, but if it is, it would make a great leg up as a sequel snagged out from under the competition for a solid indie exclusive.
It would have been a surprise if the hotly-anticipated Banjo-Kazooie successor didn’t make its way to the Switch, especially with the cancellation of the Wii U version and the poetic justice that would accompany the project landing on a Nintendo console. Whether or not the platformer will arrive in time with the other versions of the game on April 11 of this year is uncertain from the way it was presented, but it seems that the accompanying multiplayer mode is set to debut first on the Switch, further suggesting that a Nintendo console will be the most fulfilling way to experience it.
Overcooked: Special Edition
Last year’s Overcooked had already been quite well-received for its basis on local co-op multiplayer that the Nintendo Switch is poised to take full advantage of. The Switch’s new special edition of the frantic kitchen sim will include all the previous DLC, and support features like the Switch’s HD Rumble, and of course the variety of multiplayer features that a game like Overcooked was practically made for. Although there isn't a release date yet, it shouldn't be too far off with just those features to work in, and hopefully, just maybe, a physical release like the PS4 and Xbox One received last year.
The Escapists 2
One of the blink-and-miss-it moments from the presentation was the sequel to 2015’s The Escapists. The original prison-break strategy sandbox title was fairly well received, due in large part to the infinite number of exciting ways players could stage their own breakouts. The sequel was touted as boasting up to four-player, drop-in, drop-out co-op multiplayer, though not much else was discussed, and it remains one of the few titles from the presentation that won’t boast a Switch-exclusive time frame or features.
One of the titles that will be a timed exclusive for the Nintendo Switch, however, is the upcoming console version of Gonner. With a style not entirely unlike everybody’s Steam favorite, Undertale, Gonner looks to play like a Contra-esque run-n-gun platformer but with a more simple, artsier look and apparently packs in some rogue-like elements as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the Switch rolls out Steam darlings like Gonner and The Escapists 2 and how they are received alongside bigger independent titles like Overcooked and Yooka-Laylee in the coming months.
Another quick spot as well as another title to boast HD Rumble features in this early announcement was 2D platformer Dandara. The first game from Brazilian developers Long Hat House, the name and character seem to be based on a badass Afro-Brazilian warrior that accounts for the games parkour-like platforming approach and combat. Like SteamWorld Dig 2, it’s got a Metroidvania style layout and progression, with a sense of physics that resembles recent classics like N+. Dandara isn’t set to come out on anything other than the Switch this summer at this point, though it may not be set in stone at this point as it wasn’t presented as a Switch exclusive.
Kingdom: Two Crowns
An update to the 2D strategy/exploration adventure Kingdom is also on the way to the Switch at some point this year. Kingdom: Two Crowns is going to debut a two-player co-op mode that will arrive in the game’s console debut on the Switch and Xbox One. Not much else was said about the game, but it adds another Steam favorite to the mix for the Switch to take on.
While its predecessor, Bit.Trip Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, made the rounds on just about every system at the time, Runner 3 is one of the more exciting exclusives coming down the pipe for the Switch. Set to release this fall, Runner 3’s trailer boasted a gorgeous and surreal art style, vaguely resembling that of LittleBigPlanet, with fast paced action that has become expected of the Runner games. Among other things, the variety of levels and bright, popping graphics has Runner 3 looking great and, while not a system seller (none of these games are, individually), an established series like this makes for a great exclusive on the horizon.
Blaster Master Zero
A well-deserved reboot for one of retro gaming’s classics, Blaster Master Zero looks like a quality retro experience with crisp graphics and diverse level design. Developer Inti Creates’ first dance with the license since acquiring it this past fall is set to be a very early release to add to the Switch’s library on March 9, and will take advantage of co-op features (possibly local) and HD Rumble. Blaster Master Zero will also be released on 3DS on the same day, but is still a Nintendo exclusive and adds to a much more interesting March lineup for the Switch than may have been anticipated.
Developer Zoink Games’s have established themselves with unique gameplay mechanics and a twisted, instantly identifiable art style dating back to their first console title, The Kore Gang for the Wii, and has been developed through their latest indie hits, Stick It To The Man and Zombie Vikings. The Nindies Presentation was a great place to debut the trailer for their next project, Flipping Death, a 2D platformer that looks to base itself on the mechanic of swapping back and forth between the world of the living and the “Otherside” world of death or the underworld or whatever that may turn out to be. Flipping Death looks to take the possession mechanics from games like Geist and humor from Tim Schaefer classics like Grim Fandango, which Zoink Games has developed for themselves quite well.
Flipping Death will likely be another title to land on most consoles despite making its debut during this presentation, but still makes a splash for the Switch via the nature of its reveal, and being only confirmed for the Switch at this point. The given date was, again, sometime in 2017, and may not be until the last quarter if it does make this year, especially as it still hasn’t been put up on the developer’s website yet.
Graceful Explosion Machine
Graceful Explosion Machine is a colorful, free-roaming shoot-em-up coming to the Switch next month. The field of play isn’t quite on bullet-hell levels, but often looks quite packed with enemies and power-ups to keep things busy and exciting. The visuals are somewhat akin to Runbow, with simple but varied and vibrant colors that pop and move around quite nicely. Set for release in April, Graceful Explosion Machine is primed as a timed exclusive for the Switch, and touted as taking heavy advantage of the HD Rumble features.
The delightfully-named Mr. Shifty blends top-down shooter action with stealth gameplay straight out of the original Metal Gear titles. Mr. Shifty’s most unique asset seems to be a cool teleportation mechanic to slip past guards, lasers, and other hazards, while the progression is based on a floor-by-floor heist of a massive building using various strategies, moves, and weapons. Like Graceful Explosion Machine, Mr. Shifty is touted for a timed Switch-exclusive release in April, with hefty HD Rumble support.
One of those games that perhaps looks a bit simple at first glance, but could just as easily become an addicting and deep experience with the benefit of procedurally generated levels and quirky physics and control. Self-branded as “A Rolly Roguelike,” Tumbleseed uses the analog sticks in a delicate balancing act to take a seed to the top of a mountain avoiding obstacles like holes, animals, and other environmental hazards. Though not labeled an exclusive, Tumbleseed’s chillaxing gameplay will be hitting the Switch this Spring.
The highly-anticipated sequel to the glorious retro-fueled escapade, Retro City Rampage, developer Vblank looks to move into 16-bit territory with a follow-up that is equally grounded in old-school GTA-style gameplay as it is in Commando-esque run-n-guns in various jungle locales straight out of Total Carnage and Shock Troopers. While it looks to balance both styles equally, judging by the trailer, the new levels seem likely to add a whole new depth to the gameplay while highlighting plenty of 16-bit tropes to make players feel all warm and fuzzy inside like its predecessor. Another timed exclusive, and a big one at that, Shakedown: Hawaii is set to launch first on the Switch this April.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of playing a Neo Geo Pocket Color has likely tried one of the plethora of fighting games SNK translated to the system surprisingly well, despite the simple, two-button controls and super-deformed, simple color scheme graphics. That same style has been resurrected for easy to learn, hard to master multiplayer fun in Pocket Rumble. The concept seems perfect for the easy multiplayer features and many control options available on the Nintendo Switch, which makes it seem like a perfect exclusive for the system, and a great early title set to release this March. And with Ultra Street Fighter II still TBA on a release date and Super Smash Bros. still unconfirmed, Pocket Rumble can easily carve itself out a nice niche for fighting games on the system.
With a proper Fire Emblem game for the Switch at least a year away, and Advance Wars a viable yet unlikely candidate for a revival, tactical RPG Wargroove from developer/publisher Chucklefish Games seems likely to fill a nice role for the genre and seems to offer plenty of depth and replayability in the absence of the aforementioned series. Boasting 12 campaigns, each with their own character, online and local multiplayer, and even a level editor, Wargroove could easily be one of the deepest titles shown off in the Nindies presentation (were it not for the grand finale) and the type of hardcore-focused, feature-heavy release the system needs. No release date is set yet, and it isn’t set as an exclusive, but the multiplayer options, if nothing else, have it looking like a quality release coming this year.
And finally, Stardew Valley capped off the big presentation, and for good reason. Many people’s choice for the best game of 2016, and the biggest indication of indie gaming’s massive role in recent years, Stardew Valley is supposedly everything Harvest Moon fans have ever wanted over the past few years, and all the more impressive considering its one-man development team (Eric Barone, the gaming world commends you). Stardew Valley had already been basically confirmed for the Switch, and set to release physically this summer on PS4 and Xbox One, but the biggest news to come from Tuesday’s presentation on it was, of course, the new multiplayer features, which will launch on the Switch first most likely in the next few months.
All in all, Stardew Valley may have been expected, but it was easily one of the biggest rabbits Nintendo could have pulled out of its hat of over 60 rabbits coming this year, including some more on their wrap-up info-graphic to close out the program. The only questions remaining are what might come out on physical releases (Stardew Valley, Overcooked, and almost certainly Yooka-Laylee are the ones I’m personally going to hold out for) and, of course what will you (or won’t you) be grabbing for your Switch this year?