Nintendo recap: Finally, N64 games and a big Animal Crossing update come to Switch this month
Welcome back everybody to yet another Nintendo recap. This week we finally finally learned the price and release date for the N64 and Sega Genesis emulator service known as Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack during the Animal Crossing Direct of all places. Speaking of, several huge updates, including the game's first paid DLC, are coming later this year. We also learned about some changes to the Pokémon Gen IV remakes. Spoiler, not all of them are good. Lastly, we get to discuss why emulating brand new games is bad for everyone. Let's-a go!
Animal Crossing: New Horizons finally gets the update we deserve
Friday's Animal Crossing Direct was an absolute waterfall of upcoming content that will come to the games on Nov. 5. Some of the biggest announcements are that two characters from previous games, Brewster and Kapp'n, are coming to New Horizons, bringing with them The Roost cafe and Boat Tours. Plus, a slew of new items, customization abilities, functions, and even new villagers should give this game the update many of us have been hoping for the last several months.
We also learned that the game's very first paid DLC, known as Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Happy Home Paradise, is coming on Oct. 29. This DLC gives players a job as a vacation home designer. Upon purchasing the Happy Home Paradise DLC, you talk to Orville at the airport and he can fly you to a special archipelago where you take on clients and design their dream getaways. You can even create facilities like restaurants and schools. When you've created the ideal location, you can sign on a new client with different decorating preferences.
Happy Home Paradise can be purchased separately for $24.99 or can be accessed via the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription (more on that to come).
It's been entirely too long since New Horizons got a decent upgrade, and while both the free and paid DLC are rather extensive, it's possible this news comes far too late. Surely some people will be dusting off their islands and jumping back in to experience the new fun, but for many people, the fad has passed. For those of us who have continued to play through the last few months, our dedication has been well worth it. It definitely seems like these new functions will keep us busy for quite a while.
Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack price and release date revealed
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the release of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, a subscription that will bring N64 and Sega Genesis games to the Nintendo Switch. In a surprise move, the release date and price for this service were announced near the end of the Animal Crossing Direct on Friday — not at all where we expected to see this information.
The service will launch on Oct. 25 and there are two purchasing options. Individual Memberships are $49.99 per year while Family Memberships are $79.99 per year.
That's quite a bit of money and will certainly have some people thinking twice before committing to the subscription. However, to put it another way, the Individual Membership costs less than Super Mario 3D All-Stars did, which sold for $60 and offered three retro classics. Paying a little more than that for multiple people to be able to access these games in the Family Membeship is still cheaper than buying two new Switch games. In that way, it could be a really good deal if you take the time to actually play through the library before it's time to renew.
Not to mention, older games aren't nearly as long as some modern ones, so you could theoretically play through all of the service's games before the year is out and then not have to renew your subscription.
Strangely enough, the Happy Home Paradise DLC, as mentioned before, is also included in this subscription. However, it's been verified that if you only access it through the Expansion Pack and the subscription expires, you'll lose access to this DLC. That being the case, it's better to purchase the DLC separately.
Changes discovered in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes Exp. Share, HMs, and following monsters
Previews for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl went live this Wednesday and gave us a better idea for what to expect with the remakes. Turns out there are several changes compared to the original games and not all of them are good. First and foremost, Exp. Share has been added in and cannot be turned off. While this can be helpful for players who don't want to battle too much, this is frustrating for players who like Nuzlocke challenges or at least prefer to grind for their experience.
Another big change centers around the fact that instead of needing to teach your team members certain moves like Cut, Surf, and Waterfall, wild Pokémon perform HMs for you. That way you're free to teach your Pokémon whatever attacks you want without needing to worry about balancing your team.
One last big change is that you can have a Pokémon follow around behind you in the overworld. This is a simple-but-oh-so-satisfying addition that we don't always see in these RPGs. Being able to see your favorite little buddy running around behind you is a really nice touch and makes me even more excited for Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl's release on Nov. 19.
Alan Wake coming to Switch
Switch owners should prepare to head to Bright Falls in the near future. The ESRB Ratings Board for Alan Wake Remastered leaked out and showed that the game has been rated for all major gaming platforms including Nintendo Switch. It's already been announced for Xbox Series X and PlayStation, but the Switch announcement hasn't officially released yet, so expect that sometime soon.
So what is this game anyway? It's a classic action-adventure game from the Xbox 360 era that's heavily inspired by Twin Peaks. Alan is a famous writer who takes a trip with his wife to Bright Springs for a getaway, but something sinister is going on in this little town and Alan's world is about to be torn apart. He awakens one day to discover his wife is gone and he's written an entire book, though he has no recollection of doing so. He'll need to brave the darkness and drink lots of coffee to get to the bottom of this mystery. It really is a great game that you should check out if you haven't done so yet.
Something else to note here is that this game probably will be downloadable on the Switch unlike Remedy's other game, Control, which was only available via cloud streaming. We know this because when games are only accessible via cloud streaming, they don't typically go through the ESRB rating system first.
Ask the developer Joy-Con updates
Last week, Nintendo's official website posted a four-part Ask the Developer interview with members of the development team, Ko Shiota and Toru Yamashita, regarding the OLED model and its changes. Obviously, the OLED screen is the biggest difference, but the interview also addressed that the company has been working to improve the Joy-Cons, which as many of us know have been susceptible to Joy-Con drift since the first Switch version launched. Nintendo has even repeatedly been brought into multiple lawsuits regarding Joy-Con drift over the years.
According to the interview, Nintendo has "improved the [Joy-Con] reliability test itself, and we have continued to make changes to improve durability and clear the new test. When the effects of our improvements were confirmed, we promptly incorporated them into the Joy-Con controllers that are included with the console."
They go on to say that these improvements center around "internal components" so you can't see a difference by just looking at the controllers. Hopefully, this alleviates drift for those of us who experience it. However, we'll have to give the newer components some time now that they're out in the wild and see if they eventually have the same issues or not.
Switch OLED model has a built-in screen protector
As I mentioned in my Nintendo Switch OLED model review, Nintendo's latest has a very thin screen protector that comes already installed on the OLED display. Despite this, it's a soft film protector, so it's best to install a more durable glass screen protector over it. Nintendo also came out and specifically said not to peel off the default screen protector as this can cause permanent visual differences to that fancy screen. After spending so much money on a brand new console, that's the last thing you'll want to do.
When comparing the Switch OLED model to the Nintendo Switch that new OLED display really makes a huge difference. Darker colors come through far more vibrantly and blacks come through as true black rather than gray. What's more, I've noticed that the characters and text look sharper, even though the OLED model has the same resolution capabilities as the original Switch. Now we just need Nintendo to work on updating that chip and bringing about a next-gen Switch.
Still, if you haven't gotten a Switch yet or you're thinking of upgrading from the original Switch or Switch Lite, the OLED model is a great system to consider. Once you see that new OLED display for yourself, you'll never want to go back.
Metroid Dread and emulators Video game piracy at its worst
Metroid Dread released last Friday and has met with critical and user acclaim. On the Saturday after that, Kotaku released a very controversial article entitled Metroid Dread is Already Running Great on Switch Emulators. The emulator's existence is fact, but people responded to the editorialization within the article itself, where the author seemed to advocate for getting a hacked version of the game. He even ended his piece by saying "Thank God for pirates, emulators, modders, and hackers." One way or another, it very obviously encouraged players towards illegal activity. Nintendo even blocked an accompanying video that Kotaku had embedded in the article citing copyright issues. The article has since been updated to reflect that Kotaku does not encourage breaking the law by emulating games.
This whole situation incited a ton of online discourse around emulators and their ethicality. Some people argued that emulators are important for game preservation as they allow us to play games that can only be accessed via specific consoles otherwise. Others stated inanely that Nintendo is a big greedy corporation and so it was OK to emulate this game.
Let's get one thing straight: Emulators have their time and place and they do play an important factor in retro game preservation. However, emulating a brand new game of any kind is piracy and hurts the franchises that you steal from in more ways than you think, even if they're from a "big company." Metroid especially has a long history of commercial failures despite having helped build the whole Metroidvania genre and having one of the most iconic Nintendo characters. Remember how it's been over 19 years since the last new 2D Metroid game released? This huge gap was most likely partially due to low sales of previous games.
If you want to ensure the success of a game, you spend money on it. This gives the developer and publishers involved incentive to create more games like that going forward. Not to mention, MercurySteam, the developer behind Metroid Dread, is not a huge studio; it's just one that is working for Nintendo. Stealing from the developer's sales hurts small companies like this and could have repercussions for the little people, not the big company. If you want more Metroid games like this in the future, the best thing you can do is buy Metroid Dread through legal means.
So long, farewell
Well, that's all for the Nintendo recap this week. If you haven't picked up Metroid Dread yet you really ought to. It's a phenomenal game that pulls from Metroid's roots while being a major step forward for the franchise at the same time. With any luck, we'll be seeing more of Samus in the near future with other 2D games as yet unannounced as well as the highly anticipated Metroid Prime 4.
Until next time.
- Rebecca Spear
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.