Episode 408: The Switchcourse

I honestly don’t think many (if any) games on Switch are actually designed for traditional handheld use. Except maybe Pokemon, or similar series where handheld design is so baked into their formula that it can’t be separated out. Because the point of the Switch is that it isn’t a handheld — and thus doesn’t have the limitations that say the 3DS had. It’s not a handheld; it’s a TV console you can hold in your hands, that you can take with you, or just play on your bed (which, tbh, is where I’m usually playing it). Which is why you have a lot of people on say r/3DS who really dislike it. Design-wise it’s not trying to be a handheld console, and it really never has. I think, at this point in time, the “traditional handheld game design” space is mobile games, Apple Arcade, etc. Not the Switch.

But if you want what’s basically a low-end PC you can hold in your hands, there’s really nothing that comes close. Because that’s what the Switch is for me; it’s an indie machine, a much more comfortable way to play things like metroidvanias and platformers and weird little projects that would otherwise only exist on Steam, where I’d have to be sitting at my desk and staring at my monitor to play. It’s not a replacement for my other TV consoles as much as it is a) a replacement for the lower-end stuff I’d play on my PC and b) the thing I need to play Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, etc. I think it’s the best way to play Hollow Knight, or Hades, or Celeste, and the fact that it can also run Doom 2016 is like… really really cool, but not its main appeal.

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The portability is definitely where the Switch shines, I can take it with me on commute, work or at a family visit, and it’s as easy as plucking it off the stand and bring a usb-c just in case, although much like Wazanator experiences it often just collects dust until there’s something I wanna play on it, where BOTW and MonHun GU / Rise are its biggest gets for me.
Nintendo has just never really been my company, I don’t like most of their past game catalog or decisions, but I’m happy there’s been a few that have clicked for me and I’m looking forward to playing Metroid Dread in just a few months.
It’s games like that that don’t require a beefy console or pc that I’m looking forward to the most.

And yeah the joycons are bad and the pro controller feels mushy and loose when compared to other modern controllers, it felt necessary to get after a while tho because the portable bluetooth capability, whether it’s headphones or other controllers is very lacking…

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Don’t want to splash water on the DLSS for Switch games hopes but currently, the better Tegra that we know of has “Tensor Cores”, the thing that allows DLSS to work, is the Xavier but it only has 48 Tensor Cores for 11 TFLOPS of the Deep Learning resources for DLSS. The RTX 2060 has 240 Tensor Cores to allow for 52 TFLOPS.

These Tensor Cores are for AI stuff which DLSS is just that but the Xavier was built for AI autonomous machines like assembly line arms and robots and I wouldn’t bet on the Tegra line of SoC having the Deep Learning horsepower for DLSS within the next few years. Even then, DLSS isn’t an easy switch you just activate and any game looks better. It’s software level, every developer would have to build it from the ground up for each game, and even now on PC that list of DLSS supported games is pretty short.

Perhaps there will be more universal application tools for DLSS in the future but as it looks right now it’s not a thing that really suits ARM systems and when it does there’s no evidence to suggest it will be widely utilized without Nintendo forking over resources to developers to do it.

If you want something DLSS equivalent for a Switch it might very well come with a… switch… to an AMD SoC for the next-gen Switch if AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) makes it into the “Embedded” line but that could cut off backward compatibility at the knees, that said I’m not sure they care about that any longer TBH.

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I’m not sure what you’re classifying as “traditional handheld game design” here? When I think of the Gameboy, it’s all either platformers or janky jrpgs (and pokemon). When I think of the GBA (apart from SNES remakes), I think of metroidvanias and tactics games. Puzzle games might be an exception, but I’ve seen people who call their switch their Picross box.

One big difference I notice how many of the games for portable consoles were made by small studios in the B game space, and small scale licensed games, both of which have largely gone extinct at this point (though I guess licensed gatchas are frustratingly common in the mobile space, if that’s what you were referring to?) It makes me wonder if traditional portable design has actually moved to the indie space, and it’s just a stroke of luck that nintendo is letting them on its semi-portable console…

So I was responding mainly to the second part of @NightDuck’s comment, talking about games being specifically designed in a way where they can be played for very short periods, with probably less sophisticated controls, and still give a sense of progress. The example that works in my brain best is Pokemon, because you can play Pokemon 10 minutes at a time and still progress pretty steadily through the game. It was made for that kind of play. Same with platformers that continually save progress. It’s a definition of handheld games that really explicitly accounts for the way people will often be using the consoles (though I think it’s a bit restrictive).

Maybe I was being reductive, because actually Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild have some of those design elements too. But I think by and large Switch games aren’t designed with that in mind, as much as like stuff on Apple Arcade is clearly made to be picked up and put down in tiny intervals.

Also though, I could just be completely wrong! That happens often haha

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I agree with everything you said! I was pointing out aspects of handheld design to make sure people knew what I meant, but I agree that most games on the Switch aren’t designed like handheld games, and that mobile games have basically replaced handheld games. I guess I’m one of the r/3DS people that doesn’t like the Switch for that reason. The Switch is too heavy for me to hold in my hands and play in bed for long, so I can’t use it the same way you do, but I agree that that seems like a great use case.

Also, I guess I should mention that I’m the weirdo who uses the Switch in tabletop(?) mode frequently. Hotel TVs have screen tearing with the Switch and I (used to) travel a lot for work, so I can’t use it docked. Also, that way I get to use a real controller instead of the joycons.

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Oh, completely get you now! I’m the one who misunderstood!

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Personally my reaction was along the lines of “thank god I don’t have to buy new hardware to play switch games in the near future”.

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Just realized I kinda accidentally predicted the Steam Deck a few days early.

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