Bits & Bytes: Enough With the Lazy Switch Online Ports

Hire a translator for crying out loud!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 10/29/2023 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

I don’t think I’m alone in complaining that the Nintendo Switch Online catalogue of games expands at a glacial pace. What’s more, not only is the expansion too slow, it’s also missing titles that many diehard fans would love to see. For me, however, I think the most frustrating aspect of the subscription service of late are the lazy rereleases of Japanese software that feature zero localization.

I had fired up Kirby’s Star Stacker in the SNES app on my Switch and tried to get through a round of the game. I couldn’t understand any of the menus, didn’t know what my objective was, and gave up after I eventually lost my first match. Exactly what value does this add to my subscription? Sure, some of the games are easier to figure out than others despite the language barrier, but even then I would like to know exactly what I’m clicking on and get the full experience. Instead, I find myself poking around in the dark hoping everything will work out.

Yes, I do appreciate getting a chance to try out titles that never left the shores of Japan, especially the ones made by Nintendo, but it doesn’t go beyond being a curiosity when I can’t fully engage with the software. It feels like Nintendo being as cheap as it can in order to be able to say, “Look, see? We gave you some games! That’s what you want, right? Well, there you go.” To which I say, no, this isn’t what I want. If these games are going to be released here in the West, at least give them some kind of localization or in-game pop-up manual that can guide me through in real time.

This is all to say nothing of the barebones feature set in Switch Online. The service continues to lag behind virtually every other retro gaming offering out there. From presentation options to button remapping to even something as basic as getting rid of that awful border around the screen, Switch Online comes across as budget, not premium. With the wild success of Switch and Nintendo as a whole, that’s a bad look.

As it stands, the current state of the Switch Online catalogue is fairly underwhelming. Which begs the question, is this subscription service even a sustainable model? One can’t help but wonder if returning to direct ownership of software like in the good old days of the Virtual Console would help to yield greater results for Nintendo. Sadly, the endless loop of renting media is the proverbial wet dream of every corporation in the world, so it’s doubtful Nintendo will give up on its current setup with Switch Online. Regardless, I hope that if nothing else someone starts putting some effort into the service that doesn’t come across as lip service.

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