Super Mario Run makes me think maybe a Switch isn’t worthwhile

I’m not a happy bunny with Nintendo right now.

The main reason is that I pre-ordered a mini NES months ago and despite having paid, Nintendo won’t dispatch until an issue is resolved yet their support team won’t investigate it. It has gotten me quite enraged! Grrr etc…

However whilst I was getting very angry about this I saw a video with Jimmy Fallon, a hyperactive man child in the America, that got me excited by Super Mario Run and the Switch. Wanting to keep my buzz for Nintendo alive I downloaded Super Mario Run. Sadly it wasn’t all that great.

The game took surprisingly long to get going. After downloading I had to download again. This is something that I’ve seen in a few Japanese music based games but not a platformer. Having finally reached the start of the game there were tutorials. This is for a runner with ONE action. Its Mario. We know we need to jump, collect coins and jump on bad guys. It has run in the name so we know it will run automatically. It was a redundant exercise really and only slowed down access to the game.

Once in I kinda enjoyed the first few levels. They were pretty decent, not mind-blowing amazing but it had the feel of a decent runner / platfomer that was very well polished. The first concern was that the game was orientated portrait. This seems a little abnormal for a runner as it doesn’t give you a great view of what is ahead.

Super Mario Run did feel a little forgiving as well. My memories of Mario were the challenge of making it through the levels alive but in this game you never really die. Given there are only short stages and dying wouldn’t send you ALL the way back to the start of the game, just the stage, I felt this had a negative impact on the game. I get removing lives and you want players to be able to be successful and complete the game but this was a bit much.

I may be wrong but even enemies have been dumbed down. I’m sure I remember that Mario automatically jumps over them. This seems a little… bizarre. The only real challenge in the game is collecting as many coins as possible, which in the levels I played was mainly challenging because I couldn’t see far ahead (like with a normal runner…). Rather than trying to “beat the level” the game is simply a case of trying to collect coins.

I was a little surprised to be prompted to pay after just 3 levels to unlock all levels. It was still relatively early (ignoring the slow start) and at this point I wasn’t convinced it was worth buying all levels for £8. That isn’t a huge amount of money for a great Nintendo game, but this isn’t a great Nintendo game, nor is there a lot of content. There were only about 20 short levels to unlock. Not great value really.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting everything for free and I do like the model of trying a chunk of the game before asking for money but I just feel the quantities were off. The free portion isn’t enough to keep the game on my device having played it (therefore losing me as a potential customer) and £8 is a lot to ask for to keep going. I would have thought £1 or £2 to unlock the next “world” would have been much better as you could pay a small amount to try out a bit more.

On that note, I did only play the first “world” but it didn’t feel like a world at all. There were three very distinct levels. Personally for an introduction I feel that is fine but I hope that for the remaining worlds that there is a lot more consistency in levels between stages in a world.

The inability to play it offline hasn’t bothered me yet as I’ve only got my iPad which stays at home on wifi but I am surprised and disappointed that Nintendo have went this way. I strongly believe that unless a game HAS to be online, for example a server based strategy game or one with competitive/co-operative play, then offline gameplay should be an option. Super Mario Run feels like the sort of game that would be great for on bus or train journeys, yet by requiring data access they are limiting that somewhat.

The final note is that the tutorial introduced me to me kingdom, except I missed the point of it. I figured out that I could build little toad houses but not why. It seemed a pointless addition, no doubt tied to some micropayments. I’d be curious to know if there is a point.

Anyway, griping about the game over. It is kinda fun and if you’re happy throwing away cash on a Mario game, you could do worse. Moving on a little, the game and my recent issues with Nintendo support has got me thinking…

I’ve been very excited about the Switch. Given I’m loving Pokemon Go (despite its flaws), even enjoying Pokemon Red at the moment and seeing the mini NES trailer got me all sentimental, it seems perfect timing to get a major Nintendo console in the flat. The Switch just seems great and will hopefully be an excellent console for me and my wife.

However I now have huge concerns. Super Mario Run isn’t great. Maybe this is Nintendo just getting it wrong in the mobile market (Pokemon Go of course is NOT Nintendo). Or maybe I’ve just looked back with rosy tinted glasses (with CRT scan lines) and Nintendo aren’t quite as special. I’m not saying they are crap, but maybe the fact that when I was younger I had one home console at once and a limited number of games (compared to now) made Nintendo feel special. I know I’ve had a similar realisation about Sonic.

Also I’ve been thinking about the hardware. Particularly the detachable controllers look a little flimsy and breakable. When dealing with my support issues I’ve looked about and it seems like Nintendo Support is always this terrible.

Is the Switch just going to be more disappointment? Perhaps Nintendo is better being a memory I can look back on fondly thinking about better days when we were young, carefree and I loved every game that I got to play.

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