Whenever Nintendo Switch Online comes up as a topic, it’s normally people demanding to know why Nintendo 64 and GameCube titles haven’t arrived, or a laugh at another trailer reupload getting downvoted to oblivion. Despite Nintendo packing lots of retro games and some exclusive ’99’ titles with the service, and with options to get a year’s access very cheaply with the family pass in particular, it’s often compared unfavourably with rival services from Sony and Microsoft.
Nintendo, it must be said, isn’t the sort of company to be overly benevolent in terms of giving away content, even when we’re paying admittedly small sums for it, but the debate around Switch Online can get rather feisty. It’s also worth pointing out not everyone thinks we should get a bunch of N64 and GameCube classics through the service, some just want the chance to buy the games. Yet one hope for the service that doesn’t come up often is for classic portable titles, which is strange as the Switch is a portable that happens to dock with a TV.
We’re talking, of course, about Game Boy – and, if we’re being greedy, Game Boy Advance. From a personal perspective, I didn’t have either system growing up, so playing some of these titles on the 3DS was an eye-opener, albeit GBA on the system was limited to the ‘Ambassador Program’. Surely there’ll be a number of Switch owners, among the tens of millions out there in the world, that haven’t experienced these classics either?
It’s not like emulation should be a technical hardship, albeit the NVIDIA Tegra architecture of the Switch means Nintendo cannot simply dump its 3DS or Wii U emulators onto the newer system without some work and testing. Ah yes, remember the Wii U had GBA games. It was an odd arrangement, maybe to try and make the Wii U a little more desirable as it struggled for sales; you could only buy Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles on the 3DS Virtual Console (aside from the aforementioned Ambassador Games), while the Wii U only had GBA games on the portable front. With Wii U Virtual Console games Nintendo’s own blurb makes a point of highlighting off-TV play on the GamePad, so that of course is a good match for Switch.
We’d wager that titles from all generations of Game Boy could really pop on the Switch screen
There are some fun possibilities unique to having these old portable titles on Switch, too. In handheld the options are obvious; like with NES and SNES you can offer players the chance to stretch or have pixel-accurate presentation, along with filters to have the beige or pea-green look for Game Boy screens. We’d wager that titles from all generations of Game Boy could really pop on the Switch screen.
For docked play, perhaps Nintendo could cross the Switch Online streams and have some ‘Super Game Boy’ versions of classics, emulating the effects from that famous bit of hardware. It would be clever, it’d get attention from retro fans on social media, and would make for some entertaining marketing. We’re not saying deprive portable players of Super Game Boy access, of course, but it’d be fun marketing to joke about it being a TV version of Game Boy classics.
There’d also be the chance to tie-in with prominent franchise anniversaries, too. Pokémon, Metroid and The Legend of Zelda have iconic and popular portable entries on Game Boy and GBA (albeit one has been remade already), which could all raise awareness for other inevitable celebrations and tie-ins on the system. Nostalgia combined with anniversaries can be a powerful combination.
As we’re in a post-Virtual Console age, we likely are close to the point when Nintendo enhances and improves Switch Online, at least to some degree. There’s been movement in making My Nintendo a little more desirable as well, though our expectations should also be kept in check. Nintendo, very much like Sony and Microsoft, tend to be relatively cautious when ‘winning’ in a generation, before reacting and trying bold moves when on the back foot. Nintendo is undoubtedly winning right now, which means grand gestures and surprises have been relatively rare, in recent times at least.
Considering the capabilities of the hardware, though, it should be a simple task to give us the best of Game Boy and Game Boy Advance on the Switch, and I for one would be excited about revisiting them.
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