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Nintendo's new Netflix-like service for classic games is a shattering disappointment, but it's so inexpensive that ...

September 25,2018 20:27

Nintendo is the Disney of video games. There are plenty of arguments for why this is the case, but the most obvious parallel is Nintendo's vast library of classic games. Starting with the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the early '80s ...

Nintendo is the Disney of video games.
There are plenty of arguments for why this is the case, but the most obvious parallel is Nintendo's vast library of classic games. Starting with the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the early '80s and going all the way up to the Nintendo DS and Wii in the early '00s, Nintendo has a wealth of classic games that people still want to play.
And, for years, people have clamored for a way to access that library. "Why not offer a Netflix-style subscription service?" they shouted, while throwing money in the general direction of Nintendo's Kyoto, Japan headquarters.
Last week, on September 18, Nintendo finally offered just such a service ... sort of.
Behold: Nintendo Switch Online!
Nintendo Switch Online has 20 NES games available at launch, including three starring Super Mario.
NintendoBut after a week of using Nintendo's Netflix-like subscription service, I'm left wanting much, much more than what's currently available.
Allow me to explain.

1. The list of games is paltry.

Unbelievably, over 30 years after it was first released in 1985, "Super Mario Bros." is still shockingly fun to play.
20 games sounds like a lot of games, but we're talking about original NES games here — outside of "The Legend of Zelda" and "River City Ransom," these aren't very lengthy experiences.
There are somewhere in the realm of 700 NES games. Starting with just 20 — and no games from Super NES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Game Boy, etc. — is underwhelming to say the least.

2. The games that are included aren't especially thrilling.

You might remember loving "Excitebike." You should try playing it again in 2018.
The list of launch games on Nintendo Switch Online is padded out with stuff like "Soccer," "Tennis," and "Ice Hockey." Nothing against sports games, but these aren't particularly iconic choices for the launch list.
The inclusion of the original "Mario Bros" is similarly puzzling — the series didn't take off in popularity until "Super Mario Bros." (seen above). "Mario Bros." is ... it's not very good. There's no nice way to say that: It just isn't very fun to play.
Nintendo fans are better served by the other two "Super Mario Bros." games included on the list ("Super Mario Bros." and "Super Mario Bros. 3").

5. The service otherwise operates almost exactly like Nintendo's "Classic Edition" consoles do — for better and worse.

Each game in the Nintendo Switch Online classic games library has four "save state" slots. What that means in human speak is that you're able to save at any spot in any of the games, with four different saves per game, and return to that same spot later on exactly as you left it.
Think of it as a way to save a paused game. It's very useful!
Nintendo's first use of the save state concept was in its miniaturized "Classic Edition" consoles, starting with NES Classic Edition. In fact, much of the Nintendo Switch Online classic gaming library operates exactly like the Classic Edition consoles do.
As you can see above, there are options to select different display resolutions for the games — since the NES is from a time where TVs weren't high-definition, ultra-wide affairs, it has a few different display options. It's a nice inclusion alongside the save states.
What would be even nicer would be some nod to the "classic" nature of these games — original instruction manuals, access to their soundtracks, and original artwork to name a few things.
This is all the information you get:
None of that stuff is required, but just imagine if Nintendo treated this service like an interactive museum for classic games!

All that said, if you own a Switch, you obviously should pay for this service for one reason: It's incredibly inexpensive.

Don't believe their lies: "Mario Bros." hasn't aged well.
At just $20 for a full year, Nintendo Switch Online is a pretty big no-brainer. If it were just $10 more, it would be a much harder sell.
But, at $20 annually, and with a 7-day free trial, it's hard to say no.
That's just $1 per game, and that's before Nintendo adds more games to the service — the company says it's adding three NES games per month through the end of the year, bringing the total up to 29 games by 2019.
What about Super Nintendo games? Game Boy games? Perhaps Nintendo 64? None of that has been announced thus far. Nintendo is certainly capable of releasing digital versions of those platforms — the company previously sold classic games a la carte through its "Virtual Console" service on several different Nintendo platforms. Whether or not it will is another question. It remains to be seen.

Get a closer look at Nintendo Switch Online from Nintendo directly in this brief video:


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