We are fast approaching the launch date of the Nintendo Switch (March 3).  I have had my mind made up for some time now.  I think I will be skipping this console.  Nintendo was once THE powerhouse in the video game world.  The NES and SNES were incredible systems.  I had to do grown-up stuff during the N64, and bought an XBox original in lieu of the Gamecube. I did try the Wii, but found it too gimmicky for my taste.  I missed the awesome (relative) graphics of the XBox and XBox 360.  I completely skipped the Wii U, as did most of the world.  Handhelds aside, I am done with Nintendo.

From what I’ve seen of the Switch, it looks like another gimmicky console.  While I’m glad to see the motion controls go, as you can see on the picture on the right, the controllers, when used separately, are tiny and will only be usable in short bursts of time.  My hands are cramping up just watching it.  And when paired into the larger controller, it doesn’t look any more comfortable.  I like the idea of the removable tablet, but that’s not near enough to get me to buy this.

It’s probably a neat party item, but as a more serious gamer, the games just aren’t there.  As with the Wii, it appears geared toward Mario, Zelda and kids.  Check out the game launch chart below.  There are the usual players (Zelda, Mario Kart, Pokemon), but otherwise, there’s not enough there to make me want to spend money on this system.  There are many games that you can find on other systems such as Shovel Knight, Tetris, Cave Story, Stardew Valley, Rayman, Minecraft, etc.  I think I’ll stick with them on those systems for now.


The New Nintendo 3DS XL

New 3DS

I should probably have posted a review of the original Nintendo 3DS XL first, but I don’t think it will matter much.  Here’s a bit of history:

Once upon a time, Nintendo, a Japanese company, invented a new way for gamers to play their games wherever they went.  This was the Nintendo Gameboy, and it made its way into many homes (though not mine) in America.  It was big, blocky, monochrome and not backlit, but it played Tetris dammit!  Next came the Gameboy Color, which introduced basic colors to the game.  Then came Gameboy Advance, which finally had a back-lit screen and new shoulder buttons.  Then they put that in a clam shell case and called it the Gameboy Advance SP.

That was the end of the Gameboy era.  They had some great games, but the best was yet to come for Nintendo’s handhelds.  The Nintendo DS was a revolutionary device with dual screens, one of which was a touch pad and worked with a stylus.  The developers really went creative with what it could do.  Next came the DSi, which added a camera and some other features.  Many, many awesome games came out for the original DS and DSi.

Then came the Nintendo 3DS.  This introduced 3D gaming without the need for glasses.  It was headache-inducing because you had to keep your head just right to keep the 3D correct.  Next was the 3DS XL, which had a much larger screen.  After that was a 2DS, which was the 3DS but without the 3D part and it wasn’t in a clam-shell case.

Finally, we come to the New Nintendo 3DS XL.  So what is so new and special about this over the 3DS XL?  More than meets the eye, actually.  First, they have drastically improved the 3D ability.  It now tracks your eye movement and adjusts the 3D as you move, which has decreased headaches significantly.  They also added a second set of shoulder buttons, a circle pad on the right and a nub on the right.  The nub is a lot like the red mouse nub on IBM Thinkpads.  I’ve only played one game that uses it, and it’s for camera control in game.  It also has a lot more oomph under the hood, which means it can play bigger and better games.  My biggest problem with this new model is they moved the cartridge spot to the bottom edge of the device.  I play with a rubber comfort grip, so I have to take that off to swap games.  Minor, really.

So is it worth it?  I think so.  There’s only one exclusive game out for it still – Xenoblade Chronicles, which is a very good game.  However, it plays all DS and 3DS games like a champ.  The 3D fixing alone has been worth it for me.  I would recommend it for the big fans of the Nintendo handhelds.

GCW Zero -The best handheld you’ve never heard of

GCW Zero

I was looking for a handheld that could play multiple emulators and I stumbled upon this little gem.  Sure, there are other handhelds that you can hack to play emulators – NVidia Shield, PSP, Dingoo A380E – but this one seemed like what I was looking for.  I was correct.

This device is the result of a Kickstarter campaign, which I did not contribute to, but would have.  I found mine on ThinkGeek.com, but it appears that they are very hard to find now.  A quick Google search showed a couple on Amazon and one on Ebay.  They are made by one guy at his home, so stock is very low.  I feel lucky to have gotten one.

The GCW Zero is an awesome emulation device.  However, it’s not for the novice.  It took me hours and hours to get it set up the way I want.  It runs on the Linux OS and it’s open source, so if you have experience there, you’ll be at home.  Fortunately, I already had a lot of ROMS, but I also found some online and now have just about every Atari, Commodore 64, Gameboy Advance, NES, SNES and Sega Genesis game ever made on this thing.  The games play really well and the graphics are authentic.  The screen feels a lot bigger than it looks.  The control buttons are responsive.


There is also a very active community (forums) that actively develop new emulators and are quick to answer any questions you have.  They also develop games specifically for the GCW Zero and are typically clones of better-known games.  If you don’t mind a little work (that was the fun part for me), see if you can find one.