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Nintendo Switch update adds automatic save data downloads and more
by João Carrasqueira
Nintendo has released a new system update for the Nintendo Switch hybrid console, bringing the system version up to 11.0. This comes nearly eight months since the last major update, and it adds an array of new features to the system.
First off, there's a new Nintendo Switch Online app, listed in the row below your game list. This lets users access information about their Switch Online membership, including how long it's been active, access to exclusive content for members, and information about games that use its features, such as online play or save data cloud.
Speaking of which, another big change here is that save data from the cloud can now be configured to download automatically. If you use multiple Switch systems in tandem, this makes it possible for your progress to remain synced across them. You'll need to enable this feature in Settings -> Data management -> Save Data Cloud.
That's not all, as there's now an option to transfer images and videos from your Switch to a PC or a smart device from the console itself. Until now, the only way this could be done was by saving the content on a microSD card, taking it out of the console, or inserting it into a different device. Now you can transfer files wirelessly to a smartphone, or with a USB cable to a PC. Smartphone transfers are limited to 10 screenshots and one video at a time, but PC transfer have no limits. You can follow these steps to transfer data to your phone wirelessly, or these steps to transfer them to a PC (or phone that supports MTP).
Nintendo has also added the ability to prioritize software downloads, so whenever you're downloading multiple games or updates, you can choose which ones go first.
Finally, the user section of the Switch has a new "Trending with friends" category to see which games are most popular with users on your friends list. There are also new user icons themes after the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. The update is available to download now and should install automatically if you don't do it yourself.
Fortnite-themed Nintendo Switch bundle launches in the U.S. for Cyber Monday
by João Carrasqueira
Nintendo has launched a new Switch bundle in the United States, featuring design elements and colors from the popular battle royale game Fortnite. This bundle was released in Europe in September, but it's launching in the U.S. for Cyber Monday, and it's one of the best ways to get a Switch right now, since the console is selling out frequently.
The bundle features a Nintendo Switch with exclusive yellow and blue Joy-Con controllers, plus some design elements plastered all over the the back of the console and the front of the dock. There's also a battle bus depicted on the right Joy-Con. Aside from that, the console comes preloaded with Fortnite and it includes 2,000 V-Bucks, the in-game currency that usually costs real money (1000 V-Bucks sell for $7.99), and a download code for the Wildcat Bundle, which offers some new outfits for characters in the game.
What makes this bundle appealing, though, is that it's available. On Amazon, this is currently the only model of the Switch that's available right now at its regular price of $299.99. Other models aren't in stock, though you can order the model with Neon Red and Neon Blue Joy-Con, with expected availability on December 18. If you're doing last-minute holiday shopping, this may be the way to go.
The bundle is also available at Best Buy, and you can also find the Animal Crossing edition of the console there.
If you're looking for other Nintendo-related gifts, you can check out our gift guide, where we highlight some of the best games and accessories you can get for the Nintendo fan in your life.
As an Amazon Associate, Neowin may earn commission from qualifying purchases.
By Usama Jawad96
Buyer's Guide: Factors to consider when purchasing a game
by Usama Jawad
With the holiday season in full swing, a lot of people are utilizing their savings to purchase products that they have been eyeing for quite some time. For many gamers, this means spending money on titles that are now available at discounted prices.
But what is there to do when there are an overwhelming number of games to choose from? How do you prioritize which title is worth buying right now, and which ones you should skip for the time being? In this piece, we will take a look at some of the major factors you should consider when purchasing a game. It's important to remember that the factors listed below are not in order of importance, and should not be taken as gospel. Some might be more important for you, while others may not matter at all. With that said, let's begin!
Price is something that's usually at the top of most people's list when they are looking to purchase a game, especially at the time of holiday sales. Most retailers at this time are hosting discounts on select titles and it's always worthwhile scouring the internet to see which store offers the best deal.
Sometimes, this debate can also extend to whether you want to buy a game via physical or digital mediums. If you purchase games as discs, it's better to keep an eye on the sales hosted by your local brick-and-mortar store as well as their respective websites.
On the other hand, if you generally purchase digital titles from first-party stores, it's recommended that you keep your eye on price tracking websites such as SteamDB, PlayStation Games Price Tracker, and Xbox Games Price Tracker, depending upon the platform you game on. This is especially helpful because if you notice that a title you want usually drops to its lowest price in the first quarter of the year, perhaps its better to wait rather than pulling the trigger right now to get the best bang for your buck. Digital storefronts apart from first-party ones, like Humble Bundle and GOG, also tend to offer great deals, but if you opt for them, it's better to check their credibility before you decide to spend your hard-earned cash.
As a side note, if you're a PC gamer, we highly recommend checking our weekly PC games deals articles too where we track the best deals from all over the internet.
This is an interesting factor to consider especially in the age of microtransaction-heavy gaming. While a game may be made by a very capable developer, things can go awry pretty quickly if its publisher is notorious for negative tactics such as inclusion of microtransactions and loot-boxes.
It's very annoying to buy a game at a premium and then realize that you will have to pay even more to unlock content hidden behind paywalls or to remove advertisements to fully enjoy it. Simply stated, if a publisher is known for pulling off tactics like these, it's always worthwhile to wait some time after a game's release and check critic and public feedback to see whether this is a problematic factor for you. While some authorities have demanded inclusion of labels to caution users about content locked behind paywalls, the system isn't quite perfect yet unfortunately.
This factor does not only apply to the business model followed by the publisher, but also their general track record. If a publisher or developer is infamous for releasing broken games that they never fix, it's advisable to stay clear of their titles for some time and wait for feedback to start pouring in on forums.
It's unrealistic to expect a game to be perfect upon release. Virtually all games release with some bugs - usually minor - that the developer fixes in future updates. However, sometimes titles are abandoned pretty quickly following their release. This usually happens due to internal problems such as a small development team, the game not being as well-received as expected, or a myriad of other possible reasons.
In situations like these, it makes no sense to buy a broken game which will probably never be fixed. Some storefronts like Steam feature a section called "update history" where you can view the update cadence and release notes for a game, but generally speaking, useful sections like these are typically lacking across the gaming industry. If your storefront does not offer this capability, it's advisable to browse the web to see if any website is tracking the game's updates.
If you see that the developer frequently releases updates to address user concerns and squash bugs, you should consider giving the game a go even if it's not in a "perfect" condition currently. However, if the developer has either abandoned the game or releases updates after very long barren patches, you should probably avoid the game until it's in a playable state for you.
The genre of a game is very important and is not always apparent from the name of the game and promotional content released for it. Sometimes, promotional content can mislead the public, leading to disappointment when gamers actually play the game and realize that it's not what they expected it to be.
To avoid situations like these, it's highly recommended that you check the genre of a game before buying it. Some people tend to gravitate towards narrative-heavy RPGs while others prefer MMORPGs - and there are a lot of genres between these two extremes to explore.
Most storefronts feature "genre" sections where you can see what a game is categorized as to make it easier for you to decide whether you'll potentially like the title or not. Other factors like the duration of the game and its replay value are related to this factor as well.
Reviews, regardless of whether they come from critics or the general public, are very subjective. Some reviewers may give glowing reviews to one game while the general public may not like it at all, and neither would be wrong because at the end of the day, one shoe does not fit all.
As such, it is advisable to check feedback following a game's release as long as it's spoiler-free to find out whether the game is worth spending time on or not. Watching a couple of gameplay videos on YouTube doesn't hurt either as long as you skim through it to avoid spoilers.
Websites such as Metacritic aggregate reviews from critics as well as users to score a game, and most storefronts host user reviews as well. While it's recommended to check reviews, it's important to view them only as indicators rather than definitive proof that a game is what the reviews claim it to be. Of course, if a title has been universally panned by reviewers and the public alike, you should probably skip that game, but if the reviews are split, it's probably worth exploring more to understand whether you should invest time and money into the game.
If you game on consoles, this section probably isn't that important to you. Similarly, if you own a PC that's top of the line, you should probably skip this section as well. However, people with middle-end rigs or those gaming on a budget definitely need to keep an eye out on the technical requirements of a title.
Most storefronts for PC games offer a "requirements" section which highlight the technical specifications of the game which allow you to view what are the minimum and recommended requirements for that title, and is a decent indicator of whether you should spend your money right now or save up for a better rig. Some websites also offer metrics for games such as what kind of FPS you'll be getting on different settings on various specifications.
If you are gaming on a budget, we recommend that you check out our PC Build Guide, which describes how to build a gaming rig for ~$1,000 and get the best bang for your buck.
This is a very important factor to consider when you either play games in a public area like the family lounge or when you are gifting a game to a younger player. Depending upon your family dynamics, it can get very awkward to play games featuring gratuitous violence, nudity, and strong language in the TV lounge.
In fact, some gamers themselves do not appreciate strong content in games, so it is definitely advisable to check age ratings before you buy a game if this is a matter of concern for you. Authorities such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) issue official age ratings for games, and in case you're not comfortable with adult themes or are gifting a game to someone younger, it is recommended that you check out their website before buying one.
If you game on a single platform, this article ends for you right here. But if you have access to multiple platforms like PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox, it is important to understand that one platform could be superior to the other in terms of content, exclusivity, or performance.
While this is not universally true, a general rule of thumb is that a multi-platform game will likely be better in performance and graphical fidelity on a PC. Similarly, if you prefer that versatility offered by PC peripherals, it is advisable to buy multi-platform games on PC rather than consoles.
Although, when it comes to platform-exclusive games, this is a different story altogether. If you would like to play exclusive games as soon as they arrive, the debate of what platform to get them on becomes moot. Of course, the lines between console and PC exclusives are becoming blurred, if you can't wait for a game to go multi-platform or there is no such indication from the developer, it's obviously better to get the title on the platform its available on.
Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. review: A great homage to Nintendo's classics
by João Carrasqueira
On September 3, Nintendo announced its celebrations of the 35th anniversary of the launch of Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. The Mario franchise is arguably one of, if not the most recognizable name in the industry, so naturally, Nintendo likes to flaunt it.
As part of the celebrations, we got Super Mario All-Stars added to the Nintendo Switch Online's library of SNES games; Super Mario 3D All-Stars released as a collection of the three first 3D Mario games; Super Mario Bros. 35, a battle royale-style adaptation of the original game; and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, a real-life Mario Kart game that lets users create their own courses at home and play on them alone or with friends who also have the game.
The most recent launch as part of the anniversary is the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., and this one celebrates more than the 35th anniversary of Mario. It also celebrates Nintendo's first success in gaming, the Game & Watch. Each of these products stands on its own as a piece of Nintendo history, and you can see that with how the packaging is designed to showcase Super Mario Bros. at first, but also the original Game & Watch: Ball game once you slide the box out of the plastic wrap.
Game & Watch origins
It may not hold as much of a place in many people's memories, but the Game & Watch was how Nintendo started seeing success in the gaming industry, all the way back in 1980 - meaning this is the device's 40th anniversary, too. The original Game & Watch devices were designed with calculator-type screens, and they were simple endurance games, having the player perform certain actions for as long as possible before messing up their streak. The content on the screen couldn't change beyond what fits in a single frame, so this was the only kind of game that could be crafted, and it also meant that each Game & Watch device had a single game, with many iterations being released over the years.
Game & Watch: Ball (2009 re-issue) | Image credit: masatsu (Flickr) The device was conceptualized and designed by Gunpei Yokoi, who was riding a train when he noticed a man fiddling with a calculator to kill some time on the ride. The name Game & Watch is about as self-explanatory as it gets. It was a game, but when you paused it, it constantly displayed the time, so it could be used as a pocket watch. You couldn't turn the console off entirely, so the watch was always there, and an alarm was also added in later models.
The Game & Watch was also the birthplace of some features that would eventually become staples of Nintendo products. The cross-shaped D-pad was first used in the Game & Watch adaptation of Donkey Kong in 1982, before it was used in the Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES) controller in 1983. Donkey Kong was also part of the Multi Screen series of the Game & Watch, with the clamshell design and dual screens being an obvious inspiration for the Nintendo DS in 2004. Even the idea of detachable controllers we see with the Nintendo Switch bears some resemblance to the Micro Vs. series of the Game & Watch.
All in all, the Game & Watch products sold 43.4 million units worldwide, and they became Nintendo's first big success in the gaming industry. Sadly, I don't personally own one, or I didn't until the Super Mario Bros. edition.
Design and display
A lot of the identity of the original Game & Watch lineup lives on in this new Super Mario Bros. version. The look seems to mostly derive from the Gold and Wide Screen series of the Game & Watch, but it can also be interpreted as a reference to the Famicom controller, which was itself red and gold. The gold-colored plate on the front is metal, which makes the device feel much more premium.
Having never owned a Game & Watch before, I was surprised at how compact this thing is. It's quite small, and also very thin, which I think adds to the premium feel. It also makes it super easy to carry around if you just want something to help you kill some time throughout the day. However, it can be a bit uncomfortable to play for longer periods, especially if you have big hands.
There are, however, some things here that weren't in the original Game & Watch devices. For one thing, there's a power button, so you can actually turn the device off, or put it in sleep mode, at least. The battery is also rechargeable here, and it charges via USB Type-C. It's great to see that Nintendo didn't cheap out and use micro-USB or something. It's a retro device but modern enough to not be annoying. A USB Type-A to Type-C cable is included, but you need to provide a power adapter yourself. In terms of omissions, the original Game & Watch devices had a kickstand, which you don't get here.
Of course, another big change from the classic Game & Watch models is the display. This version plays a couple of games from the NES, so a color backlit display is used instead of the calculator-style LCDs of the past. I was shocked at how good the display really is. It gets very bright and as far as displaying NES games goes, it looks phenomenal. The pixels are also so small here that it helps these games feel less dated than they actually are, and they feel right at home on this tiny device.
Sound is also as fine as it needs to be for NES games. The single tiny speaker on the left side gets surprisingly loud, and the quality is more than good enough for the sounds you'll hear from these games.
Games and controls
As you'd probably expect, the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. allows you to play Super Mario Bros. from the NES, but it also includes Super Mario bros.: The Lost Levels, here referred to by its original Japanese name, Super Mario Bros. 2. The Western Super Mario Bros. 2 was actually a completely different game based on another title, Doki Doki Panic, but the one included here is very similar to the first Super Mario Bros., albeit with some cranked up difficulty. There's also a recreation of the original Game & Watch game Ball, now starring Mario as the main character instead of Mr. Game & Watch.
The games are recreated nearly perfectly on this device, including the copious amounts of sprite flickering you'd get in NES games and some bugs from the original versions. There are, however, some bonuses and changes here and there. For example, you can press the B button on the title screen for both Super Mario Bros. games to start from a specific world, as long as you've made your way to that world before. You can also hold A when starting a game to start with infinite lives. Additionally, after beating the original Super Mario Bros., you unlock Hard mode on the title screen, whereas the original game only allowed you to play it if you kept the system on after beating the base game. For Ball, in addition to playing as Mario, you can also play as Luigi by holding the A button on the title screen for five seconds. Sadly, there's no option to play as Mr. Game & Watch.
All the games control really well here, with no input delays, and the controls somehow feel tighter than I remember them being for these games. I've never had a situation where I blamed the controls for a death or something like that.
The buttons themselves feel good too. The D-pad is made of hard plastic, and it has a nice tactility to it without feeling too harsh when it actuates. The A and B buttons are made of a rubber-like material, and that may sound terrible, but it actually works well. While the buttons are very soft, they still have nice actuation, and again, I've never been able to blame the controls for losing in a game. They end up feeling comfortable, and the rubber gives them more grip than hard plastic would.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Game & Watch without a watch, and Nintendo also designed one themed around Mario. The clock screen features an animated screen with Mario running through the bottom, and various characters from Mario games appearing from time to time. The time of day on the screen changes throughout the day, and there are 35 easter eggs that happen at different times of the day, such as the blocks that display the time changing to coins at 5:55 (AM and PM). You can also just see a simple clock by pausing any of the games.
From the watch screen, you can press the A button for five seconds to listen to the Mario Drawing Song, which was originally available in 2010 as a promotion for a Mario-themed contest in the Nintendo DSi application Flipnote Studio. The song is only available in English, but you can choose subtitles for different languages. Nintendo issued a warning prior to the release, though, as many non-English languages are mixed up and selecting one language will display the lyrics in another.
This issue can't be fixed, and that's because there's no way to update or change the software on this system. The USB Type-C port has no data throughput, meaning there's no way to push anything onto it. That also means that, if you were hoping to turn this device into some sort of tiny emulation machine, you won't be able to, at least not without physically opening up the device and some very advanced tinkering.
Another neat little bonus for Nintendo fans is the artwork that's displayed after the device has been idle for some time. After three minutes of inactivity, the Game & Watch goes to sleep, but before it does, you get to see some art of Mario and other characters, which varies depending on the time of day and what you were doing before the device was idle. The artwork depicts Mario and Luigi's outfits in the same colors as in the games featured in this package instead of their official colors, which gives them an interesting touch. These colors weren't even used for official artwork when the games released, so it's definitely an interesting decision by Nintendo.
The Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is probably one of the coolest collectible items Nintendo has made. It's a wonderful blend of products that defined the early days of Nintendo's history in the gaming market, combining the premium-feeling design of the Game & Watch with the most iconic game of the 1980s. The color display is beautiful and a perfect fit for these titles, and the controls feel really good overall.
I also love all the little extra bonuses thrown onto the package, like the clock, the special artwork, and the Game & Watch: Ball game. Plus, some of the options added to the games make it much easier to actually finish them, ditching the old-school approach of having to beat games in one go.
The small and thin design can get a little uncomfortable for long play sessions, but it stays true to Game & Watch brand, and this is more of a collector's item than an ideal way to play these games in my view. I still think it's a great way to play them, and if you're a parent trying to introduce kids to the early days of Nintendo, then this will likely be a perfect fit for their small hands.
It can be hard to justify or evaluate the price of a collectible. Like I said, it's not the absolute best way to play these games, and the fact that it only has these three games means it's definitely not meant to be compared with actual consoles. But the way it brings together elements of Nintendo's history, plus the bonuses thrown in here, do make this a fantastic device for die-hard Nintendo fans like myself. If you happen to be one, too, then I think the $50 price tag is definitely justified.