Nintendo Switch Online launched today, and I took a deep dive into it to see what it’s offering and if it’s worth the value.
First things first – There is currently a 7-day free trial, but after that, it’s either $4 a month or $20 a year depending on how you prefer to pay for it. There’s also a family plan if you need to go that route. By signing up, you get access to a handful of NES Classics like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, access to cloud saves, special offers (which there are currently none), and a smartphone app.
Launching Nintendo Switch Online immediately brings you to the NES Classics, which have been updated with standard day features, like the ability to save and online co-op for some of the titles. It also brings up how glaring of an issue not having a D-pad on the console is. It’s always been bothersome, but trying to play these classic games with the joystick/d-pad buttons is horrendous. The smartphone app doesn’t offer much, although this is what you’ll have to use for chatting online with friends. It’s really weird this is the route Nintendo chose, but at least the option exists? Going into your system settings is how you handle cloud saves, where you can choose to back-up old saves and decide if you want this feature to be automaticly on or not. The most baffling part is that most games with online components won’t allow back-up saves, and it’s extremely lazy on Nintendo’s part to take this route instead of having auto-updates for games with online aspects.
Cloud saves are also only supported behind a paywall. You lose access to them if you stop paying for the service, and it truly shows how far behind Nintendo is on the whole online thing (Sony also does this, for the record). The one great thing about cloud saves/downloads is it will finally allow game sharing between you and people you actually trust your account with. They’d have to be logged into your account to use your content, so obviously this feature will only work when you aren’t actively using your Switch.
The most confusing part about Nintendo Switch Online is that previously released games that were free to play online are now also behind the paywall. That’s extremely unfair to those that were enjoying games like Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. This online service either should have been active from the beginning, or should only be affecting games released after its launch. Launching the service with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, or previously with Mario Tennis Aces would have made a lot more sense and is how this should have been handled. It seems very shady to start charging supporters to play games they’ve been playing for a significant amount of time for free.
So is it worth it?
Ultimately, it depends on if you use your Switch as your primary console. If you’re hooked on a Nintendo exclusive that involves online options, of course it is. It’s also great if you have someone who’s willing to game share with you. However, as a service, it is severely lacking in comparison to its peers. Sure, it’s cheaper, but not even having voice chat is ridiculous in 2018. Considering the NES Classics will be updated, it’s probably worth it for those alone, but I’d hold off until they start offering something a bit more captivating… or until Super Smash Bros. Ultime comes out.