If Nintendo’s Direct Mini a few weeks ago proved one thing, it was that there is certainly no shortage of quality titles coming to the system in the coming months. Curiously however, a wide range of announcements in the broadcast were not of new titles, but instead ports of old ones. Titles like The World Ends with You, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Hyrule Warriors and Dark Souls are all Switch-bound, yet this just begs the question: will the porting of these old games to the console ultimately do it more harm than good?
Ports of games have been around since the 1990s, one of the most prominent being Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES that saw the first three NES Mario titles, along with The Lost Levels, being remastered for the Super Nintendo. In that sense, one of the benefits of porting games is the increasingly accessibility being given to players, whether it be to explore the franchise for the first time with a comprehensive, definitive game or simply have everything in a single library. Obviously, this isn’t just restricted to Nintendo titles – Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Halo: The Master Chief Collection were all compilations of their respective franchises’ biggest games, providing context and continuity for the newer titles slated to come out for their accompanying systems.
In the context of the Switch, the Switch ports of Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 are a gracious attempt by Nintendo to entice new players to dip their toes into the franchise before the release of Bayonetta 3 later this year, especially since it’s following the Wii U’s lead of bundling the two ports together. It also provides a nice and accessible compilation of titles for gamers to experience on one solitary system, instead of having to reconnect an entire console just to enjoy one game. In that sense then, the ports landing on the Switch helps appease players for franchises soon to rematerialise, and indulge in old experiences from their favourite titles.
Another benefit of porting in any context is that it may work to fill out gaps in a console’s library early on in its lifetime; taking the PS4 as an example, games like The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V were ‘killer apps’ that were ported to the next-gen console in order to tide gamers over for the bigger and more impressive releases like The Witcher III and Uncharted 4.
In the Switch’s case, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has provided debatably one of the most accessible and universally fun experiences possible on the console; Pokken has looked to fill the hole of a tournament fighter on a Nintendo system, and given the relative success it’s seen at many organised tournaments, has accomplished this, and Dark Souls and Skyrim have sought to capture a more mature audience that has alluded Nintendo since the era of the Wii. All in all, it would appear the ports (especially throughout 2017) strengthened the system and broadened its appeal to a wide range of demographics – further ones in the future may potentially have the same effect.
Finally ports crucially allow you to experience a ‘best of’ of a generation gone by; Mario Kart 8 and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze both received rave reviews when they were first released, and The World Ends with You was a niche DS title glorified when first released yet never captured the mainstream spotlight; the porting of these games therefore gives a new audience the chance to play these games they may have missed, whether it be because of apprehension for the Wii U, or simply gaining interest in Nintendo for the first time with the Switch.
Couple this with the subsequent upgrades the games have received, and the titles are doing no harm at all on the Switch. Instead, they’re providing some unforgettable experiences that may have been overlooked previously. It can be observed then that ports can be inherently good things, increasing accessibility, bulking out a console’s game library and targeting whole new audiences with already highly approved titles.
Yet ports act as a double-edged sword, especially in the delicate situation which the Nintendo Switch finds itself in, whereby support from third party companies is apprehensive. In particular, one of the main disadvantages of Nintendo’s porting efforts is that it potentially decreases the chance of fresh instalments of ported franchises being developed for the system.
Given the fact a version of said title already exists, there is therefore less of a demand for a new entry since this would make the previous ported one obsolete. In the Switch’s case, the updated port of Mario Kart 8 is about as perfect a Mario Kart experience as you can get; is there any need for a further game on the Switch when (arguably) very little effort would be made changing the core mechanics or visuals? Such a sentiment applies even further with Mario Kart, essentially a party game, whereby there is no direct need for a further instalment to succeed a past one. Couple this with the fact there has never been more than one Mario Kart game on any Nintendo system at a time, and the reality of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe being the Switch’s Mario Kart app becomes increasingly more likely.
The subversion to this would be, for example, the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for PS4 since a new Uncharted game came out the year after, however, the Collection was brought out in response to this so as to give fans the three previous experiences before the new title (A more apt comparison may be if Nintendo re-releases the Metroid Prime Collection in anticipation for Metroid Prime 4). To be fair, Nintendo may very well be doing this with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, testing the waters for a further release on Switch, but only time will tell.
Another common criticism of porting is that it isn’t fair to those who purchased the games the first time around and are forced to either skip it or ‘double dip’ – buy it again. When buying a Switch, one would expect a decent library of Switch-exclusive games, not a collection of Wii U or other console ports that can be played elsewhere. I’d judge this to be more of a problem at the beginning of its lifetime – the console does after all have Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2 and ARMS to fall back on now, with Kirby, Yoshi and Pokemon all approaching soon.
However those buying a Switch may not get excited at the prospect of buying Skyrim for the millionth time, or playing the original Dark Souls on what is (let’s face it) an inferior system to the PS4 or XBOX One. Coupled with the fact that Nintendo are likely to charge full price once more for these ports, early adopters of the Switch may feel shafted by the initial lack of unique titles for their new console.
Weighing up the pros and cons, personally I believe the Switch’s ports are doing more good than harm to the system. They are a solution to a temporary problem, and given the comparatively low sales of the Wii U compared to its successor, there is a very real chance the majority of people picking up the games will be experiencing them for the first time.
They also allow a steady stream of game releases, made even better by the fact the titles getting ported are extremely stellar games. Evidently they are not getting in the way of new experiences for the Switch; with Pokemon, Metroid, the prospect of a new Animal Crossing and maybe even a second Zelda on the horizon, there’s a lot to look forward to if you’re a Nintendo fan. The ports in my eyes are harmless, and will do an amazing job introducing a new audience to new experiences on a new Nintendo system.