Nostalgia can be a great thing. We look back on games with a deep fondness, and think “they don’t make them like they used to”. However, we forget is that, sometimes, those games were good when they released, but are they still good now? The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack aims to answer that question, but the answer isn’t positive.
Nintendo’s online membership was previously the cheapest among consoles, and in addition to online play, also provided a variety of playable NES and SNES titles. Switch Online certainly doesn’t offer regular updates like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold. Fortunately, it did feed the nostalgia for older titles, at least, a little bit.
Nintendo Switch Online players have been asking for the inclusion of Nintendo 64 titles for some time now, and have finally got their wish. However, there’s a catch. It has doubled in price and introduced a flurry of issues that definitely don’t feed the nostalgia train.
The Expansion Pack introduces some much-loved titles, including Super Mario 64 and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. But right now, it just doesn’t seem like there are enough quality titles to justify the price increase. Maybe in the future, but just not right now.
First and foremost, the controller setup is appalling. To add insult to injury, buttons can’t be remapped either, so you’re stuck with it as it is. When the game tells you to press a button (“B” for example), you find yourself hunting for the correct button that is mapped to the Switch controllers. Games like Starfox 64 have roll buttons on the shoulders, but to roll left, you must press ZL, but right is just R. The same issues apply to Ocarina of Time too, making the game very difficult to control.
Bugs and Glitches
On Sin and Punishment, a game I had previously never played, you can only use the DPad to move your character. Instead, the left and right sticks both control the aiming reticule. Having not played the game before, I thought my movement was locked before discovering I could actually dodge incoming projectiles. By far the worst culprit was Operation Winback. I can’t comment on the original as I haven’t played it. However, as it stands, it’s completely unplayable on the Switch.
On top of all this, the games also suffer from countless glitches. I experienced odd musical effects in Super Mario 64, with music tracks changing partway through levels. Judging by other reports, the issues don’t stop there either. With issues saving games, framerate drops, and other technical glitches, the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack is not off to a great start.
What About the MegaDrive/Genesis games?
In line with the SNES and NES titles already on offer, the addition of Sega’s games are welcome. Fortunately, due to the simple controls, they actually work much better when you compare them to the Nintendo 64. Furthermore, I encountered no bugs during my time with the games. Sonic 2 is just how I remember it and even Golden Axe brought back some fun memories. Graphically, the games hold up just fine due to the original design being tailored for a smaller screen. Overall, these games are perfect in handheld mode on the Switch.
It’s great to have nostalgia finally in the palm of our hands. However, a lot of these games have not aged well. Sure, they were great when they came out, but gaming has come a long way since. Something about the side-scrolling action of Sonic is truly timeless and still works in today’s world. But, comparing Ocarina of Time with its static camera and awkward controls to the likes of Breath of the Wild suddenly reminds you how old these games are.
The 3D platforms just don’t stack up against more modern titles. Even Super Mario 64 just feels clunky and old now, and this is probably the best of the games on offer here. There’s a market for retro games, and some still hold up. Though the Nintendo 64 games just don’t feel right when played next to their more modern counterparts, especially with a new controller set up.
That being said, there wouldn’t be much room for complaints if these games were included as part of the standard Nintendo Switch Online membership. In fact, it would have been a great addition, marred by poor controller layouts and aged games not being quite as good as we remember. But still, it would have been free and no one can complain about free stuff. So, the biggest issue is that the Expansion Pack costs double the original online membership fee.
Buying the full pack now brings the price up to nearly the same as PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, and these services offer much better free games, with PlayStation Plus offering up two PS4 games and a PS5 game free every month.
Overall, the Expansion Pack is currently a massive letdown. Poor controls mixed with a high price point and lack of games have ruined what could have been a fantastic new addition to the Switch’s lineup. Hopefully, future updates will allow for custom controller mapping and a larger library of games. For now though, if you were on the fence about purchasing the expansion, I wouldn’t waste your money.
The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack is available now.