The Nintendo Switch has been out for one and a half years and Nintendo has finally launched an additional online service, Nintendo Switch Online. This service enables online multiplayer, cloud storage and access to classic games, just like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold do for their consoles – at a third of the price. But the way in which these functions are enabled, together with the complicated voice chat system, makes Switch Online incomplete and sometimes completely retarded. You need this subscription if you want to play online Switch games, but the service can use more time in development and Nintendo should reconsider different deployment options.
Nintendo Switch Online is available for $ 3.99 per month, $ 7.99 for three months and $ 19.99 per year. Households can also get 12 months of the Nintendo Switch Online family plan for $ 34.99, extending the service to up to eight users.
Multiplayer and Cloud Saving
Nintendo Switch Online consists of various components spread over the Switch menu system, an optional smartphone app and an optional Switch app. Online play and cloud saving integrate into the Switch itself with all compatible games, voice chat is accessible with the Nintendo Switch Online Android and iOS app and for playing classic NES games on the Switch the Nintendo Entertainment System – the Nintendo Switch Online app to your comfort. All these functions have a number of very different and frustrating shortcomings.
Let's start with the most basic aspect of the service: online multiplayer. With Nintendo Switch Online you can play online Switch games with friends and strangers, as well as the premium services from Microsoft and Sony on their respective consoles. All three services require paying for a subscription to enable that online multiplayer, and for the Nintendo Switch Online credit, it costs about a third as much as the other two for that function.
The hitch is that online multiplayer has been available for free for a year and a half on the Nintendo Switch and that online multiplayer since the Wii is available for free on all Nintendo consoles and handhelds. When the Nintendo Switch Online service was fully launched, Nintendo began to pay for online multiplayer that was open to all owners of the Switch. This change is especially unfortunate because Nintendo has not upgraded the service in any way. The actual structure of online multiplayer has in no way improved significantly since it was free, and each game depends on its own matchmaking and competitive game process.
According to IGN, there are some exceptions to the Nintendo Switch Online requirement for online multiplayer. Online games including Arena or Valor, Fortnite, Paladins, Warframe and the Jackbox Party Pack 1-5 can be played over the internet without a subscription.
Although the online multiplayer service has not been upgraded, Nintendo Switch Online offers another important online feature: Cloud Savates. For compatible games, you can upload your storage data to the Nintendo servers so that you can restore your saved data if your files are damaged or your system is stolen. You can also transfer your storage to a new system. It is a simple process that you can access by selecting your game from the main menu of the Switch and pressing the plus button. Select Cloud Deposits to back up your data online. It is functional and works well with compatible games.
However, there are two reservations for this function. The primary problem is that not all Switch games are compatible. Cloud saving does not even work with all first-party Nintendo games. For example, Splatoon 2 does not support cloud saves and the upcoming Pokemon: Let & # 39; s Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let & # 39; s Go, Eevee! will not. These are mind-boggling omissions, as both games depend on a steady progression over many hours of playing time. According to Nintendo, cloud save data is not enabled in these games to prevent cheating.
The other caveat is less of an issue with being specifically cloud-related and more of a problem with how the Switch handles storing game data. To date, you can still not back up your storage files or transfer them to local media. Even after saving in the cloud is enabled, it is not possible to simply copy your saved data to a USB key or SD card to keep them safe in case something happens to your Switch. Because the switch can be used both as a portable system and as a home console, the chance of it being damaged, lost or stolen is much greater than that of a game system that only stands for your TV.
The most uncontrollable voice chat
If you subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online, you also get access to voice chat with your online multiplayer. However, it implements voice chat in perhaps the most baffling, complicated way possible. You can not talk to other players online via your switch (via Nintendo Switch Online and supported games; Fortnite has a built-in voice chat and can work with any wired headset with a 3.5 mm connector connected to the system). Instead, you must download the Nintendo Switch Online app for Android and iOS and use your smartphone for voice chat.
It is an incredible log system that requires juggling with two separate devices with two separate audio sources. You can use a mono headset (or just one earphone) connected to your phone and listen to the audio of the game through the switch's speakers or another set of earphones. Alternatively, you can use the splitter adapter supplied with the Hori Splatoon 2 Splat N Chat Headset to listen to both simultaneously on the same headset (the slowness of the process is why the headset is not on our list with the best Switch accessories). This of course assumes that your phone has a headphone connection. If not, you must add Bluetooth or a lightning / USB-C adapter to the equation. All this to load a separate voice chat room into a smartphone app, so you can talk to other players in your game.
In addition to these features, Nintendo Switch Online provides access to the Nintendo Entertainment System – the Nintendo Switch Online app on the Switch. It is a Netflix-like library with classic video games and the closest that the Switch has with a virtual console of first parties. In theory, it is a fantastic concept that the subscription price is worth in itself. In execution it is a stream of old games with the same nonchalance as Virtual Console games on the Wii U and 3DS.
As the name suggests, you can only play NES games with Nintendo Entertainment System – Nintendo Switch Online. Super NES, Nintendo 64 and GameCube games are completely absent from the system. The selection at the launch of Nintendo Switch Online includes only 20 games, compared to the 30 games on the NES Classic Edition and the 94 NES games released on the Wii U Virtual Console. Half of the games are black box & # 39; titles from the first years of the NES such as Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. and Tennis. The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. 3 are the highlights on the list, with a few unexpected but welcome classics like Dr. Mario and River City Ransom also present. However, there is no Kirby, no Metroid, no Mega Man and no Castlevania.
Nintendo plans to add three NES games to the service over the next three months, with Metroid in November and Ninja Gaiden in December. The selection is still anemic and unfortunate incomplete, even only for NES classics. The complete absence of SNES games is still baffling, given the number of excellent first-party games that have been released on that system.
The game emulation is capable and reacts, which is reminiscent of the emulation of the NES Classic in feeling and image. The sprites are clear and colorful, the image is clear and the options are very limited. You have a choice of three different display modes: 4: 3 (a slightly wider than originally constructed view with pillar boxes without filter), pixel perfect (a narrower view with pillar boxes that counts the native aspect ratio per pixel), and CRT ( a heavy scanline filter in the 4: 3 view). That is it. You can not reallocate your controls in some way from the standard layout, choose between different regional versions of the games, or look up additional material (even the manual of a game, apart from a short summary of the text and a screenshot).
Support for multiple players is surprisingly robust for a collection of NES games. You can play locally with one or two players with Joy-Cons or you can play online with friends.
Works well, but limited
For all mind-boggling decisions and disappointing limitations of Nintendo Switch Online, all functions of the service work exactly as intended. I played some Super Mario Bros. 3 online with a colleague via voice chat via the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. Although setting the voice chat was inconvenient due to the need to balance the chat audio of my phone with the Switch itself, actually setting up a NES game for two players online was as easy as opening the game in online mode and wait until my colleague saw it on his Switch.
After the game was loaded, I could communicate with it as the first player and my colleague could communicate with it as the second player, as if he had connected a controller to the second port of a NES. We can also control pointers on the screen with the help of the right analog joystick, indicate things on the screen and perform a clapping action when you click on the stick. It is a friendly gesture that limits the negative interaction in theory, but I see a condescending applause for every embarrassing mistake you make when playing with a friend. Super Mario Bros. 3 felt very well on both systems.
Despite the implementation problems, voice chat also worked very well. Audio sounded clear on both sides, with less than a second delay, allowing a consistent conversation. I used the app with a set of Bluetooth earphones, while using wired earphones. Of course, exactly the same dynamic, perhaps with better performance and many more configuration options, could just as easily be achieved with Discord, Google Duo, Skype or any other VoIP or voice chat app; using the Nintendo Switch Online app is not necessary for communication, because you will use your smartphone regardless. Integrating voice chat into the switch itself and using the headphone jack or Bluetooth would have been much easier to install and use.
Necessary and yet frustrating
Nintendo Switch Online succeeds in everything it tries to do. The problem is that it does not try to do enough, and the things that it tries to do are perplexed enough or so complicated that they are useless. Online multiplayer is good, but Switch owners had it free for a year and a half before Nintendo started paying. Cloud saves are good, but not all games support them. Voice chat works, but requires a smartphone instead of going through the switch. And the classic NES games could be the start of an attractive Netflix-like library with classic games, but at the moment the selection is so small that it is almost unusable.
The key to Nintendo Switch Online is the annual price tag of $ 20, which is much easier to swallow than the $ 60 prices of PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold. If you want to play online multiplayer on the Switch, you have no choice but to subscribe. But for voice chat you have to stay with Discord, and for classic NES games you have to stay with the NES Classic or dust your Wii U or 3DS. Nintendo Switch Online is a very Nintendo-like mess, where a number of interesting ideas are combined with astonishing execution.