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Previous Indie Corner Episode 12: A Break Inbetween
On the 24th of November, 2017, I made a decision that went against every ounce of my better judgement and every fibre of my being: I bought a Nintendo Switch.
“No,” my brain kept repeating over and over to an incessant degree, “What if this is a mistake? What if you regret spending so much money? What if there aren’t any games for it that you’re interested in? How are you going to make use of it if you don’t even travel?”
So many concerns and worries plagued my every thought as I weighed my options. Yet, despite all the doubts in my mind, I still moved my shaky mouse cursor over to the Amazon check-out button, and went ahead with my incredibly risky purchase…
Having been released roughly nine months prior, the Nintendo Switch and its library of games honestly didn’t have much to offer me. By that point I’d already played through Link’s open world high jinks in the Nintendo Wii U port of Breath of the Wild, and I didn’t have any interest in Splatoon 2 either, as I’d already had plenty of fun being both a kid now and a squid now back in the first game. It was an experience that I’d thoroughly enjoyed, without a doubt, but one that I wasn’t quite ready to repeat in a sequel.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 just wouldn’t have interested me, given that the first game —which released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2010— had completely passed me by. This placed Xenoblade sequel firmly in the same basket as Fire Emblem Warriors; The latest spin-off in a series that I’d never paid any attention to. Meanwhile, Arms was yet another Switch exclusive that didn’t interest me in the slightest, and the already huge selection of indie games on the Nintendo eShop weren’t particularly relevant to me, given that I’d already played the vast majority of them on my PC and PS4…
So why the Hell did I choose to buy a Nintendo Switch? I wish I could recall the exact thought processes that went through my mind at the time, but four and a half years later the finer details tend to escape me. I do, however, remember exactly which game it was that I ultimately based my Switch purchase on: The one and only, Super Mario Odyssey.
What’s not to love about a content rich 3D Mario game with over a dozen kingdoms to explore, tons of creative objects and creatures to possess, and an absolute butt-load of colourful and stylish outfits to collect? There were so many little details to be enjoyed in Super Mario Odyssey as I journeyed forth to find all 880 unique power moons hidden throughout the game’s world. It didn’t matter if I was dealing with puzzles or platforming, the experience was never lacking when it came to entertainment, due to just how good the gameplay felt. Jumping, sliding, rolling and somersaulting; Every ability in Mario’s skill set was delightful to use. This only became increasingly impressive as additional ways to combo movements together were discovered, resulting in a huge amount of new and interesting ways to play!
Super Mario Odyssey had been out for roughly a month by the time I bought my Switch, and I really had tried beforehand to scratch the itch and avoid succumbing to just how desperately I wanted to play it. I’d tried a charming little platformer called Poi but it was a little too rough around the edges to satisfy me, despite how entertaining the game was. I also played through A Hat in Time from start to finish, but unfortunately, I was only left wanting more… So yes, eventually I caved in, but at least I ended up enjoying every single second of my brand new Mario adventure.
And then… Nothing. Regret started to boil over in my mind for an awfully long time after finishing Mario Odyssey. I’ll admit that I heartily enjoyed the XCOM-lite experience of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and I did bawl my eyes out revisiting a Nintendo DS favourite of mine when The World Ends With You had its -Final Remix- rerelease towards the end of 2018. Unfortunately though, as someone who never got into the Smash Bros. or Pokémon series, the Switch simply didn’t have anything left to offer me…
“Perhaps it’s time to count your blessings for the experiences you had with it,” proclaimed that tormentful little voice in the back of my mind, “Perhaps it’s time to trade it in..?” No, I couldn’t, could I? An internal conflict was being waged and I felt I was going to lose no matter which side I found myself on. If I traded it in then the the money I spent on it may well have been for nothing, yet if I decided to keep it then wouldn’t I just be letting it depreciate in value as it continued to gather dust?
Taking some much needed advice from my fiancée —still my girlfriend at the time— I decided to take a gamble: I would purchase one last big game for my Nintendo Switch system and I would push myself to play it above all else! Throughout the course of my playthrough, I would then determine whether or not the experience was enjoyable enough to make my Switch worth hanging on to. A fool’s errand? Perhaps, but I would rather have made one last attempt to make use of it than give in to the excessive levels of regret.
So which game did I choose, I hear you ask? Well that would be Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition… One of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played.
My expectations weren’t exactly high when going into Hyrule Warriors as I’d never played a game in the Musō Fighter genre before, and I’ll admit that I already harboured some negative bias towards the title due to it being sold at a AAA price point, despite the fact that it was only a port of a handheld game. Honestly, picking it up felt like a frivolous endeavour; An attempt to excuse the mistake that I felt had been made when I first decided to buy a Switch… Thankfully, these concerns couldn’t have been more misplaced, as I ended up absolutely obsessed with Hyrule Warriors from the very second that I started it! From that moment: The love that I had felt towards my hybrid console had been reignited once more.
Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition wowed me at every turn. Mowing down dozens of enemies with a single attack gave me a level of satisfaction that I hadn’t felt in months; A sensation that I’d be happy to experience time and time again thanks to the wide roster of characters available to me. The environments also caught me off guard as, whilst their graphics may not have been the greatest, they somehow managed to feel both fresh and nostalgic at the exact same time, playing into my emotions well as a long-term Zelda fangirl.
Link’s sword, Sheik’s kunai, Tetra’s cutlass or King Daphnes’ literal boat mast; Once again it didn’t matter what weapon I was using or who I was playing as, because every single attack felt enjoyable and freeing no matter the circumstances. In the end I spent well over a hundred hours in Hyrule Warriors, completing every mission on each difficulty mode, getting every Skulltula collectible I could find, upgrading my characters as much as I could and even grinding through the Adventure Boards in an attempt to complete every single challenge map to boot.
The flame of adoration towards my Nintendo Switch had well and truly been rekindled, but it wouldn’t be long before my console and I would have to bid each other farewell… On the 22nd of December, 2018, I moved many miles across the country in order to finally start living with my partner. Whilst this was a wonderful and positive experience for the both of us, it did bring about a dilemma that neither of us had expected to face. Suddenly: We were the proud owners of two separate Nintendo Switches.
Obviously, it didn’t make much sense to keep two different models of the exact same console, so there was no real reason not to pull the trigger and trade one of them in. At this point in time, most cooperative games for the console could be played split-screen on a single Switch system. Furthermore: Joy-Con controllers have a unique functionality which allows for a pair of them to be recognised as two separate entities, meaning that there was no need to keep both Switches for the sake of an extra set of Joy-Cons, either… After some brainstorming and a little bit of research we decided to trade in my own Switch after all, as my Mario Odyssey Joy-Cons were worth far more money than my fiancée’s Red and Blue ones, due to them being —bizarrely— slightly more rare.
Suddenly I had found myself back at square one… I watched my fiancée play plenty of Switch games from that moment onwards, from full playthroughs of the latest Pokémon releases to the DLC Spirit Boards of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate; Yet I hardly played any Switch games of my own any more. A round or two of Mario Kart 8 would prove entertaining every once in a while, as would a few attempts to enjoy the often forgotten Ubisoft title Starlink: Battle for Atlas, but I never managed to get into the Nintendo Switch in the same way I had before. My Switch was long gone, alongside my Hyrule Warriors save data, and with it; Much of my drive to keep playing the console.
Which very nearly brings us to the present. To recap: I’d purchased a console for the sake of a specific game, only enjoyed four titles on the system since, and found myself spectating my partner’s playthroughs without any desire to get hands on myself. I’d spent years regretting my purchase at some points whilst being grateful for it at others, but I had been worrying the entire time that it hadn’t been surpassing some sort of arbitrary entertainment threshold that I’d subconsciously set for it… So what changed? To pose this article’s title as a question: How did I stop worrying and learn to love the Switch? Well then…
Let’s fast forward to the 8th of May, 2022. After 6 years, 4 months and 18 days since my first referral, (or 3 years and 9 months since my first operation assessment), I was admitted into hospital to finally receive a life-saving surgery that, to spell it out clearly: I had been waiting over a quarter of my life to receive. I’ll of course be avoiding all of the gory and personal details here, this simply isn’t the time or place for it, but suffice to say that by receiving this surgery, I would go on to have my quality of life improve tenfold, with every aspect of my day to day life becoming better.
Given the invasive nature of this surgery though, it would result in me being admitted to hospital on the 8th of May, but not discharged until the 15th. That meant 7 days straight, (with a few hours either side), of lying in a hospital bed with absolutely nothing to do. An entire week that I would have to fill exclusively with whatever entertainment I could get my hands on when packing my suitcase.
Obviously I took a good number of books with me to kill some time. The first thing I had done upon learning my admission date was pack two of Laura Kate Dale’s books, a handful of Junji Ito graphic novels and a suite of classic horror stories, the likes of which inspired three of Mike Flanagan’s recent Netflix series such as The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and his upcoming creation: The Midnight Club. With my small selection of stories to hand I’d have plenty of ways to pass the time, particularly since I’d be needing a few hours here and there to simply rest, recover, and avoid doing anything.
But I have to be completely honest: Going without some form of active stimulation for a long enough period of time can result in me feeling rather irritable. Television shows and movies are usually more than enough to quell my restlessness, but I knew that having my visual media access restricted to live television, (as opposed to streaming services), meant that I simply wouldn’t be able to engage with whatever content was available on my hospital room’s TV.
Stimming devices such as fidget spinners, infinity cubes and puzzle snakes are something that have been very helpful to me over the past few years since I discovered I have autism. They calm me down to no end and keep my hands occupied in particularly stressful situations. I knew they’d help me get through my week-long stay, but as a very passive set of tools they can’t really be considered ‘entertainment.’ Between those and my books alone, I still worried that it wasn’t going to be enough to assuage the tedium. I really can’t stress enough that my stay would last a total of 160 hours! I mean, that’s long enough to watch the extended trilogy of The Lord of the Rings 14 and a quarter times over!!!
No, I needed some video games… And what better way to play them than with my fiancée and I’s Nintendo Switch? With roughly two month’s warning I had plenty of time to prepare: I stockpiled a wide variety of games thanks to a few sales on the Nintendo eShop and a couple of discounts in UK stores such as CEX and GAME. I also had access to a nice selection of titles that we had accrued from birthdays and Christmas celebrations in the past, but still hadn’t gotten around to playing! Ultimately I decided it would be a good idea to deliberately bring way more games than I would have time to play —far more entertainment than I could have possibly needed— because you can never be too careful when confined to a hospital bed.
My Switch extravaganza began the evening before my surgery, shortly after my hospital admission. To get off to a good start, I opted for the critically acclaimed yet criminally underplayed Astral Chain, a colourful Hack and Slash Adventure from 2019, made by none other than PlatinumGames. I’ve always loved Platinum: Though I’ve missed out on a number of their titles over the years, I’ll never forget the phenomenal experiences I had with Vanquish, Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Nier Automata. Hell, I even got a lot of enjoyment out of their recent game Babylon’s Fall, despite its awful “Live Service” presentation and predatory Battle Pass and Microtransaction systems.
Thankfully, Astral Chain didn’t feature any in-game purchase nonsense and was no exception in terms of the usual enjoyability I’ve come to expect from PlatinumGames’ releases. With a fascinating take on dual-character combat and an alarmingly large number of both essential and optional content sections to enjoy; I ended up spending a good 22 hours fighting alongside my squad mates and Legions to stave off the Chimera threat!
I was pleased to find that Astral Chain performed very well in the Switch’s handheld mode —never once dropping below 30fps— all whilst managing to still look beautiful thanks to its authentic anime art style. As such, whether we’re talking about its superb combat or its surprisingly good world-building, it was just the immersive experience I needed to keep me busy through some of the more difficult aspects of my recovery. Whilst I’ll admit that there’s still a lot of optional content for me to play through in the game: A lot of it is content that I actively want to experience, so I’ll be sure to return to it soon now that I’m home safe and sound.
My next port of call just so happened to be another Nintendo exclusive PlatinumGames title in the form of Bayonetta 2, which I played through not long after my surgery had taken place. It was a sequel that had completely passed me by when it first came out due to its original Wii U exclusivity, which rendered it inaccessible to me for a number of years. I’ll readily admit that due to its extremely short runtime and lack of new abilities, Bayo 2 definitely felt more like a large-scale DLC or expandalone than a full blown sequel. Yet despite this being the case, Bayonetta 2’s tight-knit spectacle fighter experience still had so much to offer, and had clearly been given an awful lot of love by its very passionate developers.
With so much to show in the way of environments and enemy variety, all topped off with the same great feeling combat that I knew and loved from the original game, Bayonetta 2 helped make one of my less pleasant hospital evenings absolutely fly by. I found myself playing through it in the course of two sittings, venting my pain and discomfort against a wide array of Paradiso angels and Inferno demons. But of course: Moreso than the combat, it was the story and style of this sequel that really made my day.
Bayonetta / Cereza is an absolutely glamourous character that truly rivals the flippant nature of Dante within the Devil May Cry series. She manages to retain a chilled out and humorous attitude even in the face of unfathomable danger, all whilst presenting herself as a strong and empowered woman whose often sexual lingo serves to intimidate and toy with the characters around her. Narratively speaking, there are a number of more serious and vulnerable attitudes that Bayonetta displays as the story goes on, all serving to enrich the depths of her relationships, each of which are bolstered further by the high quality of the game’s supporting cast.
From Demonsmith Rodin to Umbral Witch Jeanne, with comic-relief undertaker Enzo and the marvellous, magnificent, magnanimous Luka; Every single character has so much to offer. They are completely dripping with personality amidst their exaggerated animations and the fervent performances of their voice actors, helping to bring Bayonetta 2’s style fully in line with its substance. As a result, this ended up being a wonderful journey from start to finish, which raised my mood at each and every moment, even when I was feeling particularly run down.
Honestly I could sit here all day and prattle on about the amazing games I played on the Switch, (particularly Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the single-setting sequel that I never knew I wanted), but I’ve got a point to make and I’ll never get around to it if I don’t move on… So, let’s rapid fire our way through some of the other titles that I got to enjoy within my hospital stay!
I revisited Hell to slay some Cacodemons in a port of the original 1993 Doom. I went on a chibi re-telling of my favourite road trip in Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition HD. I made myself incredibly motion sick in the rather pretty but shockingly disorientating Deep Diving Adventures. I started my time-jumping escapade in the visually astounding Cris Tales. And finally, I fought alongside a mismatched selection of heroes in The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos, a rather funny parody of D&D RPGs.
Suffice to say: I played a lot of different games on my Nintendo Switch throughout that difficult week. I laughed, I cried; I felt cool, smart and strong. I got to feel so many positive, amazing and empowering things whilst in reality I was struggling more than I had ever done in my entire life… I was so weak and in so much pain during my hospital recovery, to the point where I sincerely didn’t know how to cope. I was exposed to a substantial amount of mistreatment and neglect whilst admitted there, and it turned a difficult but typical recovery into a living nightmare that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody…
And now, recovering at home and looking back on the traumatic experience I had, there’s only one thing I can say with absolute certainty… Whilst I credit the vast majority of my endurance to the emotional support I received from my fiancée, parents and a handful of very important friends, I also don’t think I could’ve made it through such an insurmountable horror without the Nintendo Switch system by my side.
Now all of my worries and concerns have washed away. Whilst I once felt panicked and regretful over my Switch purchase, I now feel nothing but relieved and grateful. I cannot, in retrospect, picture myself surviving that hospital stay without the level of entertainment and comfort that having a Switch brought to me. If I were going into hospital again tomorrow and didn’t own a Switch, the first thing I would do is dive into my emergency savings and go out to buy one without a single doubt in my mind…
Because my Nintendo Switch is so special to me now, and I don’t think it’ll ever leave my side again.