Earlier this week, the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack was released. With this new online service tier, subscribers will have access to not only the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise DLC but a select number of Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64 games. It didn’t take long for critiques to flood in, particularly concerning the Switch N64 offerings. In fact, one may argue that it’s these very offerings that are indicative of Nintendo’s problems concerning its legacy content.
The Nintendo Switch N64 Offerings & Legacy Content
Nintendo – A Brief Overview
Nintendo has been in the home video game console industry since 1983; even earlier if one counts the company’s Color TV-Game series of systems. In any event, the company in question has been part of every major console generation, from the humble 8-bit years to the jump to 16-bit gaming to the game-changing leap toward 64 bits, and so on. During the company’s odyssey, many iconic series were brought to life. Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Metroid, Kirby – without Nintendo, beloved franchises such as these are nonexistent.
Furthermore, Nintendo hasn’t been shy about going against the grain. For better or worse, they’ve been able to provide gaming experiences in their own way. For example, while the original PlayStation utilized compact discs, the Nintendo 64 maintained the utilization of cartridges. Whereas the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 boasted power and high-definition graphics, the Wii prioritized motion controls and ease of use. Not all of these decisions were positively received, but one detail is certain: Nintendo has stuck to its guns. This approach hasn’t failed to raise the ire of longtime fans, however, which brings us to the aforementioned Expansion Pack and the Switch N64 offerings that come with it.
The Lukewarm (At Best) Response Toward the Switch N64 Offerings
With a subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, access is granted to a series of Nintendo 64 titles. The titles in question, as of this writing, are Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart 64, Mario Tennis, Yoshi’s Story, Star Fox 64, Dr. Mario 64, Sin and Punishment, and WinBack. On the surface, this is a modest selection, featuring a few of the console’s most notable games in addition to a few lesser-known titles. However, it’s once the Switch N64 offerings are experienced that shortcomings become evident.
For proof of this, look no further than The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. A cursory search on social media will see that the version emulated via Nintendo Switch Online is inferior in a number of ways. Not only are there certain graphical effects missing, from the starting point in Kokiri Forest to the Water Temple and beyond, but many have reported noticeable input lag, the latter being prevalent across various Switch N64 titles. Given that Ocarina of Time has been properly emulated on prior Nintendo hardware, as well as playable and heavily modifiable by way of PC emulation, Switch Online’s N64 performance is a tremendous step backward.
Matters become even sourer when online play is brought into the mix. In select Switch Online N64 titles, friends can play online cooperatively and competitively. Mario Kart 64 is one such example, and while playing online with friends in one of the most influential racing games sounds novel, performance problems reemerge. Slowdown during races and audio interruptions throughout have been just a few problems reported. Such issues are consistent across other compatible multiplayer titles, Mario Tennis and Dr. Mario 64 included. It can be argued these issues can be remedied with a future update. However, seeing how online play performs, especially at the “upgraded” service’s higher price point of $49.99 per year for one user, I can’t help but wonder why Nintendo bothered to release the Switch N64 offerings in this state.
Nintendo’s Issues Regarding Legacy Content
Given the current state of the Switch Online N64 offerings, it’s easy to see how this is an extension of Nintendo’s issues with legacy content in general. Make no mistake: the state in which these Nintendo 64 titles were released, on the company’s current platform, is pitiful for the price point. Keep in mind that these games were originally released during the Clinton Administration; in plain terms, these games are old. Furthermore, they’ve been emulated elsewhere with far better performance, even beyond the technical boundaries of the original console, meaning that Nintendo’s offerings are that much more inferior. However, this is just a symptom of a more serious concern.
Nintendo’s lineage is the richest of the major players in the video game industry. However, one wouldn’t know this based on what the company provides on its active platform. By subscribing to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, only Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 games can be played; Sega Genesis titles serve as a collective bonus of sorts. This ignores the various other platforms that couldn’t have been added instead. With rumors of Sega charging more money for Nintendo to license games, wouldn’t it make more sense for the latter to implement more of its own titles? Sega’s classic games are available in other forms on Switch, so why not forgo Genesis games in favor of, say, Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles? This hypothetical scenario creates an alternative that’s not only more affordable than the Genesis titles but gives less accessible games more visibility.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on titles from heavily demanded consoles, including the Nintendo GameCube. Released in 2001, the GameCube has not seen a “collection” or “service” released by Nintendo. This feels like money being left on the table, especially given the aging audience. To expand on this, someone born in the late 1990s most likely grew up playing GameCube, PlayStation 2, or original Xbox games; now, that person would be at an age where they’d want to relive such games from their childhood. They’re more likely to care about Metroid Prime and Luigi’s Mansion for GameCube than Wrecking Crew and Clu Clu Land for the NES. Nintendo would be wise to focus on preserving GameCube and subsequent platforms instead of leaning so heavily on consoles from previous generations.
The Last Word on Gaming Viewpoint
While it’s easy to critique the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack in a vacuum, one shouldn’t overlook the larger issue at hand. Simply put, Nintendo has done a poor job of honoring its legacy content, not only recognizing it but making it more readily available to a wider audience. This is one of the reasons why the debate regarding emulation has been heated. While emulation itself is a topic for a different day, it can’t be denied that its prevalence is, at times, a response toward scarcity. In other words, if the user can’t access content one way, they’ll do so through other means.
Even with critiques such as this, the Switch N64 offerings and the online package they’re part of will still be popular. In fact, in a few months, who’s to say that the performance issues discussed earlier won’t be patched out? It’s evident that the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack model is one that Nintendo is banking on. Thus, it would behoove them to invest as much into its moderation and improvement as possible. Even so, it can’t be denied that a legacy content problem exists and it’s one that the user, more than anyone else, suffers as a result of.