Nintendo’s Cardboard Toy Builder: Labo

Nintendo announced a collection of do-it-yourself cardboard construction kits and games for the Switch today, they’re called Labo.

They’ll be available in two different kits, each one holds the Switch and Joy-Cons to make something new.

Toy-Con 01 is the Variety Kit for $70 and includes 5 different cardboard projects for building a house, RC cars, motorcycle handlebars, a fishing rod, or a piano.

Toy-Con 02 is the Robot Kit and is entirely focused on building a cardboard mech suit for some smashing mech games. This set will be $80.

Labo looks like a lot of fun for anyone interested in building fun toys, and both kits will be out on 4/20/18 here in the US, and 7 days later in Europe.

Nintendo also has some trials set up in New York City and San Francisco for parents with kids 6-12. Check here for details.

Keza MacDonald got to check these kits out early:

The more complex constructions are a telescopic fishing rod with a working reel, attached to a base with elastic bands and string for realistic tension; a cardboard model of a piano with springy keys; an abstract motorbike, with handles and a pedal; a little house. Each contraption is made out of cardboard and string, and transforms into a digitally augmented toy when you slot Joy-Con controllers and the Switch screen into it. The piano, especially, is quite amazing, and takes about two hours to build. The infrared camera on the Joy-Con controller can see reflective strips of tape on the back of the keys, which come into view when a key is pressed, telling the game software to play the right note. Cardboard dials and switches modify the tone and add effects to the sound.

The principles behind each construction – Toy-Cons, as Nintendo calls them – are explained by cartoon characters, putting a child-friendly spin on coding and engineering. On the Switch screen, you can view a cross-section of each model that illustrates what the Joy-Con camera can see and how it works. This educational element is geared towards curious children, but it’s also illuminating for an adult – seeing how these toys work only increases your appreciation of their ingenuity.

The most complex construction, which will be sold separately, is a cardboard mech suit that transforms your entire body into a Transformers-style robot in the game, translating your punches and kicks into building-levelling virtual smashes.

It’s great that some of these kits can take two hours to build, that’s on the order of some of the more difficult Lego sets. Although, the Switch’s battery might be very low after getting through construction.

The video ad also includes some projects that Nintendo hasn’t talked about yet, like a camera, maybe those will be in future sets.

I’m pretty psyched for these kits, but it’s going to be a few years before my son is ready for playing with the finished projects.

Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch) Review

Odyssey

1996’s Super Mario 64 was the first, and the last, 3D Mario game I completed before playing Super Mario Odyssey. 21 years separate these games but they are inexorably linked. I will never forget the first time I saw Mario 64 in motion on a Nintendo 64 kiosk at a major league baseball fan appreciation day. It was an unbelievable triumph of translating the 2D Mario games into a 3D world, even for someone who was in the process of turning into a jaded teenager,

Super Mario Odyssey is a complete continuation, and improvement, on that same exuberant, fun, platforming that impressed everyone, even that horrible teenager, in 1996.

It isn’t perfect, but there are very few meaningful caveats in recommending Odyssey.

The first issue is that while the story is told in fun cutscenes that don’t wear out their welcome, it is just a slight variation on the same tired plot that Bowser has captured Princess Peach, again.

This time Bowser wants to force Peach to marry him, and he has a crew of unlikable rabbits (the Broodals) working as his wedding planners. They’re the mini-bosses scouring every kingdom on the planet for flowers and everything else Bowser wants at the wedding with Peach. Mario has to stop the wedding with his new friend in Cappy, your living hat guy from a kingdom of living hat people. Cappy ends up replacing Mario’s iconic hat, and most of the ranged attacks that Mario would otherwise acquire via pick-ups. When Mario launches Cappy he’ll possess any enemies that aren’t wearing hats (and the occasional bystander frog) in the kingdoms that they travel to.

Mario and Cappy travel onboard a cap-shaped flying machine, the titular Odyssey. It acts like a flying RV on their journey to each kingdom where they will try and cut off Bowser’s minions before they can get everything ready for the wedding.

The Odyssey is powered by collectibles, moons, they’re hidden in each kingdom just like the stars were in Mario 64, except there are hundreds of the moons scattered everywhere. Just like in Mario 64 It’s still a delight to find each moon. My almost-2-year-old son absolutely loves the music and animation that plays each time Mario collects one. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it, but that reaction epitomizes the Super Mario Odyssey experience. It’s almost all fun, mostly all of the time. You’ll only need a very few per-kingdom to move on but I constantly found myself collecting “just one more,” and before I knew it I had collected dozens to hand in to the Odyssey.

Mario is still on the hunt for coins, of course. Each kingdom that Mario and Cappy visit also has a purple currency specific to it. The inverted pyramid desert level has inverted purple pyramid tokens, for example. You can spend these at the shop in each kingdom and get new costumes, gear to decorate the Odyssey inside and out, and some power-ups. All of the costumes are charming and wonderful like the old Doctor Mario outfit, or more appropriate for the kingdom you’re in like the sombrero and poncho outfit pieces. In each world one of the costumes will unlock a special area with at least one moon, but you can also skip the stores if you’re not interested in Mario Teaches Capitalism Jr. It’s 2017 so I should say there are no loot boxes, premium currencies, DLC, or anything with real money besides purchasing the game.

The worst problem for Odyssey is that the motion controls are abysmal. You have to wiggle the controllers in a circle to get your cap to spin in a circle and slam into every enemy around Mario when he’s surrounded, or just aggressively shake them to get Cappy to home-in on a slightly distant target after launching it.

It’d be different if the controllers that come with the system, the Joy-Cons, weren’t attached to the sides of the Switch while you’re playing in handheld mode. But they  are, and it definitely doesn’t feel like you should be shaking the entire system. There is a work-around for the motion controls most of the time. You can spin the left analog stick in a circle, before launching Cappy, to get that spin attack without shaking your system. This takes a bit longer to perform the action but it still gets it done and is more reliable than the motion controls. Although the homing action is only necessary for some of the more advanced platforming areas, there isn’t any work-around for it that I’ve found.

This is one of the few games that also rewards exploration to the extreme. Launching Cappy enables Mario to perform a series of dives and jumps that can be used to ascend to places he wouldn’t normally be able to get to. I’m not that great at doing this, but if you are then you will find that Nintendo stocks all of these off-the-beaten-path areas with coins. The harder it is to get somewhere the more coins you’ll find, and it’s absolutely great that they do this.

More minor explorational feats are rewarded with moons, but you always feel smart just for finding one by instinct, even if it is really just good game design that lead you there.

Most of the kingdoms Mario and Cappy visit are terrifically designed, a few are bizarrely unexpected in a Mario game, and New Donk City ended up being my favorite. It’s very strange seeing Mario interact with a city of humans that look very different from his bizarro adult toddler form, but that level also goes places that I absolutely didn’t expect. There are things in many of these kingdoms that I wish I hadn’t known about going into them, because they’re so incredible and unexpected that I felt like the surprise was spoiled. I’ll say that even after rescuing Peach there is still more to do in the game, and I definitely have spent more time with it, and leave it at that.

I don’t feel like anyone else could have made Odyssey, there just hasn’t been another 3D platforming game that achieves half of what Odyssey does in the 21 years since Super Mario 64 was released. Almost every kingdom has unique enemies to possess and delightful puzzles to complete. I’m not the first person to say it, but, each kingdom feels like it could be the basis for an entire game that another developer would make and drive the mechanic into the ground before the game is finished. Super Mario Odyssey is a wonderful adventure that really made me happy to have the Switch. As a parent it was a fun game I could share with my son around. As an adult human in 2017 Odyssey is some fantastic sunlight brightening up a terrible year.

5 out of 5 musical Marios for Super Mario Odyssey

Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017 Notes

Nintendo is here to finally tell us the backstory about Walugi and Wario. Are they really just old versions of Mario and Luigi that got really shitty?

Nevermind, Reggie has been hiding in our apartment to jump out and tell us about games.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Xenoblade Chronicles is getting a sequel and it’ll be out for the Switch later this year. The voice acting is real strange in this trailer.

Kirby

Kirby is still Kirby as heck. He’ll be out on the Switch in this sidescroller next year.

Pokemon coming to the Switch

Nintendo paused the trailer storm to let us know that Game Freak is working on a “core Pokemon” game for the Nintendo Switch. No release date but it probably won’t be out for over a year.

Metroid Prime 4

Speaking of games that are in development and don’t have anything to show. Metroid Prime 4 is being developed by a different team, not Retro. I’m pretty excited to hear that, I just got the Prime Trilogy set for the Wii and am looking forward to exploring some good Metroid-ass Metroid games.

Yoshi

Everyone’s friend that they don’t mind dropping into a pit at the end of a Mario level is back to scroll sideways some more. He’ll be on the Switch in 2018.

Fire Emblem Warriors

Where the hell is Advance Wars? This anime bullshit will be out on the Switch this Fall.

Skyrim for the Switch, Zelda: Breath of the Wild DLC

Eiji Aonuma showed up to remind us that Skyrim will be on the Switch with Link’s gear and then to start the trailer for Breath of the Wild’s upcoming DLC:

The Master Trials are coming out June 30th, and The Champions’ Ballad will be out late this year. I’m playing through BOTW on the Wii U and loving it.

Aonuma returned to tell us about more Amiibo coming out based on the champions in Breath of the Wild.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Why the hell does Mario have a gun? I am kind of surprised at how good this strategic and very weird Mario crossover looks. Even if the Rabbid characters are insufferable, it isn’t the kind of game you’d expect. It’ll be out on August 29th for the Switch.

Rocket League

Handheld Rocket League sounds like fun, and it’ll be cross-networked with the Xbox and Steam versions. It’ll be kind of interesting to see platform-exclusive customization items like the Mario hat in this trailer, if they’re displayed on other platforms.

Rocket League will be out on the Switch late this year.

Super Mario Odyssey

Mario‘s Hat being alive is kind of disturbing if you think about it too much, especially when Mario is using it to possess everything in this game including PEOPLE in New Donk City. You can inflict horrors upon the many kingdoms on October 27th if you have a Switch.

Overall

I kind of miss the spectacle of a stage show and seeing people speak live  when this entire video is just pre-recorded and made available online. It’s good that Nintendo is putting out games with a perspective and style that you might expect from their 3DS handheld on the Switch, like Yoshi, and I don’t think they have entirely abandoned the 3DS either, which is good because I recently traded my old 3DS in for a New 3DS and don’t have a Switch yet.

Of course, I’m sure anyone with a Switch who didn’t have a Wii-U is ready for something big to play that isn’t Zelda, it looks like they won’t have long to wait.

Xbox Game Pass Announced

Microsoft recently announced their Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

Most people are comparing it to a Netflix for games, it’s not a bad comparison excepting that while Netflix streams, the games with Microsoft’s service will download to an Xbox One.

The selection of games available will be pretty small, “over 100” when the service becomes available later this spring for $10 a month. The games will change every month, and once the game is cycled out you lose access to it. You do get a discount for purchases of games in the Game Pass library. The Xbox Game Pass games are mostly older from the Xbox One and 360, no real newer options though there isn’t a final list of what will be available.

There’s nothing exactly comparable to this from Sony, their Playstation Now service on the PS4 and Windows is $15 a month at its cheapest (3 month subscription), only streams older Playstation 3 games. The PlayStation 4 has no backwards compatibility with the PS3 otherwise.

Both Microsoft and Sony include “free” games every month with the subscription they charge for online play. I dropped my Xbox Gold subscription because I wasn’t playing online regularly, and the games they were offering weren’t as good as the Playstation Plus games.

Nintendo is going to include free games with their online service for the Switch, but final pricing is unknown, and they’ll all be swapped out every month.

There’s nothing at all like it from Valve on Steam or Windows, though the third-party Humble Bundle has a monthly subscription for $12 that acts like a blind box. Subscribing to that only gives you access to the next month’s games.

There are a lot of questions left to be answered. Games are different from movies, you might take more than a month to play through something and even some games could stick around for multiple months you might be coming up on the end of the month wondering if the one you’re playing is going to cycle out.

Nintendo Switch Launch Day

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Nintendo of America

Nintendo launched their new console, the Switch, today. The console plugs into a TV but can also be taken on the go with the built-in screen.

Kyle Orland at Ars has a review of the system. CNET’s Jeff “Autoplaying Video” Bakalar also has a review.

I have some concerns with the system’s a lack of games at launch, the two hardware flaws that we know about, it’s regressive online features, and the price.

The only major games available at launch are The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Dan Ryckert’s 5-star review) and the 1-2-Switch fifty dollar minigame collection that isn’t that great (Alanah Pearce’s 6.2 out of 10 review w/ autoplaying video) and should have been included with the system. 1-2-Switch seems to be the only game that makes use of the Switch’s full functionality by using the gyroscope and other sensors in the Joy-con controllers. Zelda sounds fantastic, but I’d understand why people are skeptical if they have read any of the reviews for console Zelda games in the past ten years. The reviews have been overly positive for games that aren’t that impressive.

Anyone that owns the Wii-U and is considering buying the Switch for Zelda would probably be better off just getting the Wii-U version of the game.

More games are coming, and Nintendo recently announced that a lot of independent developers have signed up to deliver their games to the Switch as it takes over the indie portable role from Sony’s now defunct Vita, but those are the only big games available today.

Those Joy-con’s have had two major issues already reported by journalists who have had the system early. One is that the left Joy-con’s wireless signal to the console isn’t great and disconnects or gets out of sync sometimes. Nintendo’s response was not very helpful. The other hardware issue is that the rails the system uses to hold the Joy-con controllers onto the system aren’t very sturdy.

When you’re holding the Switch in portable-mode, that connection rail mechanism is the only thing preventing it from falling onto the floor.

The Switch’s operating system is also woefully outdated at launch compared to its competitors. It is not possible to back-up saved games anywhere. They aren’t saved on Nintendo’s servers and Nintendo doesn’t let you carry them on an SD card to back them up. Sony and Microsoft both automatically back up saved games to their servers, though they do that with a paid subscription to their online service. Polygon’s article linked above incorrectly indicates that only Sony requires a paid subscription.

Finally, I don’t feel like the $300 price for a Switch is entirely fair when you can get an Xbox One for around $200 (on discount) or a PlayStation 4 for a little bit more.

The comparison may seem a bit more fair later this year when the Xbox One Scorpio is announced and released, I expect the Scorpio’s price to be comparable to the only PlayStation 4 anyone should be buying which is the $400 Pro model. However, even the base models of those systems have games that look better than the Switch’s whose leg-up is portability with a built-in screen and Nintendo’s exclusives like Zelda and Mario.

I wouldn’t let these caveats stop me, those games would be enough reason to own a Switch, but they may not be for many people.

Early Switch OS Videos

The internet has provided us with an early look of the operating system on the Nintendo Switch and it looks much better than anything Nintendo has provided us with previously.

I recently spent about two hours inside a Game Stop trying to do a system transfer from one 3DS to another, which failed the first two times and worked the third for no apparent reason. Unless the Switch literally kicked you in the crotch it couldn’t be worse.

The Switch will be out on March 3rd.

Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017 Notes

NintendoSwitch_hardware_box_01_final.jpg

Nintendo Japan had a live-streamed presentation revealing new details about their upcoming console, the Nintendo Switch. Here are my notes.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 7.00.55 PM.pngIt’ll be available March 3rd 2017 in Japan, US, Canada, “major Euro nations.”

29,980 JPY

$299.99 USD

It’ll be up for pre-order in Japan on the 21st. No word on the US.

The system will include the tablet console, the dock, Joy-con controllers, wrist straps, the grip that can hold both Joycons into a Voltron-like regular gamepad, an AC adapter using a USB-C cable and an HDMI cable. There are two different versions of the console bundle, one with the regular Joy-cons and one with differently-colored Joy-cons as depicted below.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.56.30 PM.png

Switch online services will have a free trial at launch, and then cost money this Fall, like  Xbox Live and Playstation Plus.

“In general we will not apply region locking to Nintendo Switch software”

Nintendo highlighted three modes, TV Mode for typical console gameplay with the Switch docked, Tabletop mode where you can play with friends using the Joy-con controllers disconnected from the tablet for multiplayer or single player, and handheld mode where it’s just a tablet with two controllers attached. The switch is supposed to have 2.5 to 6 hours of playtime when it’s not connected to power.

For the first time, Nintendo highlighted that there is an NFC reader in the Joy-con controllers for Amiibo support.

You can get the Joy-cons in multiple colors. The Switch will include a wrist strap that slides on the rails that connect the controllers to the tablet. The Joycon controllers also have an IR sensor on one end to detect distance from objects and hand motions, similar to my old employer Leap Motion’s technology. The Joycons also have “HD Rumble” to convey different sensations. Nintendo oddly chose to highlight this through the idea of holding a glass and feeling ice cubes and then water being poured into it.

 

This was taken to a gaming context through a new multiplayer minigame collection called 1-2-Switch that started out with wild west gunslingers drawing the Joycon controllers. 1-2-Switch, will let you play these minigames without looking at a screen, and instead follow the action by observing your opponent, the rumble feedback, and occasionally the screen of the tablet.

Nintendo also introduced Arms, a fighting game that resembles punch-out at first but looks closer to a more traditional fighting game except with a third-person behind-the-back camera and fighting by swinging the Joycons.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.29.13 PM.png

Nintendo also introduced Splatoon 2, with 4 on 4 multiplayer, and a new akimbo weapon. You can play with gyro features or traditionally via the pro-controller. It’ll be out this summer.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.35.02 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.33.14 PM.png

A new 3D platforming Mario game in the style of 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy, is coming out, featuring Mario in a bizarrely alternate version of our world, Super Mario Odyssey.  It’s very weird seeing Mario interacting with a realistic-ish urban environment and humanoid people. It is supposed to have the excitement of visiting new places. Weird. It’ll be out at the end of the year.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.36.15 PM.png

Monolithsoft is putting out Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

Team Ninja is working on Fire Emblem Warriors.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.41.32 PM.pngNintendo assures us that 50 companies are working on software and 80 games are in development.

Square-Enix is working on Dragon Quest 10 and 11 along with Dragon Quest 1 and 2 for Nintendo Switch, remakes.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.41.45 PM.png

Atlus is working on a Shin Megami Tensei game in the Unreal Engine.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.43.22 PM.png

Square-Enix also has a new game called Project Octopath Traveler.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.44.32 PM.png

Sega appeared on stage to show us their logo and say how interested they are in developing for the Switch without any commitment.

Skyrim was finally officially announced for the Switch after being in previous videos without a commitment.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.46.27 PM.png

Suda51 from Grasshopper made a very awkward entrance to let us know that Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes will return. He basically broke the translator who was so bored he sounded like he was about to commit suicide.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.49.09 PM.png

EA showed up to get translated into Japanese live, doubling their on-screen time, and announce EA Sports FIFA for the Switch.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.52.57 PM.png

Nintendo closed with a video highlighting the software available, including quick hints of Street Fighter 2 and other games that haven’t been announced.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 6.53.50 PM.png

Nintendo then actually closed with an announcement that Zelda will be available March 3rd, launch day.

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 7.05.13 PM.png

In a quick follow-up press release Nintendo also announced Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which has all the DLC from the regular Wii-U version and a few new characters and courses.

Reggie's Gaping Maw

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 7.05.56 PM.png

The NX is the Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch

Nintendo teased that the NX would get revealed in a short video today and here it is. The device codenamed NX now has an official designation, the Switch, a docking combination of home-console and portable device with a detachable controller that splits off of the main tablet-style unit to become two smaller SNES-style controllers for multiplayer.

This is a path that Sony had been going on with the Vita, which was the first major console to bridge handheld and console play. You could remotely play games from a Playstation 4 to the Vita. Some Playstation 4 and Vita games could also be purchased digitally for one device and that would provide players with both versions.

The Wii-U has not sold well and I don’t imagine many people were going to buy one as a gift later this year, but if anyone were going to they might want to consider waiting for the March release of the Switch. The Switch looks like it’ll run many games that people might have missed out on if they didn’t get a Wii-U like Splatoon and the Wii-U‘s iteration of Mario Kart.

In comparison to the 3DS, the Switch is a portable that is explicitly designed for and sold to adults and perhaps will not so much replace the 3DS as exist alongside it. You can’t put the Switch in a pocket, the tablet center of the device is too large. Nintendo handhelds have always been a little bit more durable than other companies portables and iPhones, but the Switch looks more fragile than the 3DS and comparable to an iPad in that respect.

Like the Wii-U and Wii before it, there will be a more traditional Pro controller available for the Switch.

Nvidia announced that a custom version of their Tegra system is powering the Switch. This will mean it has performance capabilities closer to a high-end tablet than modern x86-based home consoles. While a Tegra-based system will be easier to develop for than previous Nintendo hardware, it will still be more difficult for third party developers to bring Xbox One and Playstation 4 games to this hardware. However, 48 developers, publishers, and middleware providers announced support for the Switch. You can even see Bethesda’s Skyrim in the video above.