Nintendo Switch Preview

Kids playing video games

Last weekend my boys and I got to play some games on the new Nintendo Switch! We attended a launch event in Hollywood, and as I noted on Instagram, it was totally worth the drive. 

video game player and girl with multicolored hair

We’ve been anticipating the Switch’s arrival for months, and the boys were really excited that it is finally here. I’m still super old-school, so I am content to play LEGO Star Wars on the Wii U (and let’s face it, I would have been fine playing Atari for the rest of my life if things hadn’t evolved from there) but I was definitely curious.

Mario party

The selling point of the new Switch gaming system is that it can be used as a console hooked up to your big screen TV, or taken on the road and played like a tablet. So it’s sort of a cross between the Wii U game pad and the Nintendo DS systems. When the Switch is in console mode, you use the little “Joy-Cons” as multiplayer remote controls, docked in a Joy-Con grip so you can use them like a pro controller, or just use a pro controller. When you go portable with it, the Joy-Cons re-attach to the Switch and you use them both to play your single player game.

Nintendo Switch product photo

There’s a great video to demonstrate these different ways to play here.

At the launch event, the kids and I mostly used the Switch in console mode, but I did take a moment to pull the unit out of the Switch dock to see what the graphics looked like when I was playing the new (and also hotly anticipated) Nintendo open-world video game Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The graphics were great on the big screen, but you can really see the definition on the Switch unit itself. It looks better than any hand-held and certainly better than the DS or 3DS.

Boy playing Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

The game is awesome. We only got to play a 20-minute demo version, but it was enough to make us all wish for a Switch and the game. Kit wakes up from a 100-year nap and gets a cool magic tablet that shows him where to go on his quest. But as Kit’s controller, you get to choose where to go, what to discover, and what to do. It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, but in a video game.

Breath of the Wild screenshot

We also played some neat games that you control with the Joy-Cons: Arms (first person knock out game, which my kids mastered instantly but I could not seem to grasp) Poyo Poyo Tetris (like playing Tetris, but with Gremlins), Splatoon 2 (another kid-favorite: you get to move the world around by tilting the Switch in handheld mode), 1-2 Switch! (quick-draw fire at your opponent game), and Just Dance 2017:

You can barely see the Joy-Cons in our hands because they are so small. It makes dancing much easier than with the bulkier Wii U remotes. In these pictures we are totally rocking out to “Cake by the Ocean.” The kid beat me with his sick moves.

The launch event was a gamer’s theme park. It was the coolest arcade this side of the 1980’s, no quarters needed. (These kids today. They have no idea.)

woman under giant Mario hat

We need much more time with the Switch to give it a thorough review, but from this limited experience, I can see that it’s going to be a big hit. The Switch goes for $299.99 and game cards are $49.99 and up, not compatible with the Wii U or Wii. So it’s basically a platform replacement. This is a paradigm shift for the one-at-a-time console family, like we have been since getting our first system in 2009.

Not that it matters much at the moment. The Switch has sold out everywhere already! And with a game release schedule spreading out the awesome new titles for several months, I’m betting they’ll continue to fly off the shelves (and out of online retailer warehouses) as fast as they come in! Check out the Switch website for more details and videos.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Wii U

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally out on several platforms. We’re working through the Wii U version and it’s our new favorite game.

lego star wars force awakens cover

When my boys were 4 and 2 years old, our family got its first Wii console, and the first game I purchased was LEGO Star Wars, the complete series. In the game, your favorite Star Wars characters explore and fight their way through each major scene of all 6 of the first Star Wars movies. One night I was awake until 3AM playing the game all by myself!

The first thing I said to my kids after we saw The Force Awakens in December was “I can’t wait until the Wii game comes out!”

star wars rey jakku

LEGO Star Wars Returns

Imagine my joy when we returned home from our summer travels to find a copy of the game for Wii U in the mail. I received a complimentary game for the purpose of this feature. My association with Nintendo is going strong after seven years. As a parent, I appreciate that games for the Wii U and DS models are imaginative and easy on the violence. As a player, I take great delight in the humor, inventiveness, and creativity that goes into them.

Blaster Battles

After years of playing the original LEGO Star Wars for Wii, I have to say I felt like a bit of an old timer when playing LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It took me a while to get used to some of the more complex maneuvers. For example, a cool new feature is that in certain scenes, you can crouch down and dodge laser shots in a fire fight, and then pop up and move your nunchuk button to put a target right on your enemy, and fire with the B button. (It took me a while to get the hang of this. That’s a lot of sensory input and output. My kids, of course, figured it out right away and they are rock stars at it.)

Multi-Builds

Building is more nuanced in this game, too. When you encounter a pile of hopping bricks, in the old game you press Z and your character builds a contraption to complete a task that gets you to the next step, like making a bridge or pulling down a ladder. In LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you can build not just one contraption, but a selection of a few different options, made obvious by the glowing outlines that appear when you approach the pile. The trick is to aim your character at the right spot while pressing Z, otherwise you’ll build the wrong thing.

As you might expect, the advancement in the graphics quality is notable, but it’s not the star of this edition. No, the main thing that draws me as a player is the storytelling, and in LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, creator TT games made a point of employing the snarky sense of humor that the LEGO games are now known for. You might see a stormtrooper hanging out in the jacuzzi, or falling asleep at his post. Or a character will be drinking a milkshake (random) when you meet him. Or a bad guy will draw a weapon on you, only to realize that it’s…a banana.

Side note: I love that when you “kill” a bad guy, all he does is fall apart into a pile of digital LEGO bricks. When you “die,” the same thing happens to you but then you pop right back up after a few seconds. This is typical of the LEGO for Wii games – no blood, no guts, just the joy and satisfaction of smashing stuff and getting “coins,” or little digital LEGO studs that count as money.

harrison-ford-0-800

Harrison Ford’s video game debut

Star Power

The game also features original dialogue from key members of the theatrical cast, providing the most authentic Star Wars experience for players, including Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) and other top stars from the film.

If the original LEGO Star Wars gave me so many years of enjoyment, I can only imagine that LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Wii U is going to be a family favorite. You can buy it for Wii U at any major retailer (suggested price $49.99) and it’s also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, PC, Mac and on the App Store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Kirby Planet Robobot: Game Review (Guest Vlogger)

kirby planet robobot boxOur family got a chance to play and review the new game, Kirby Planet Robobot for Nintendo 3DS, after we attended Kirby’s launch party in Los Angeles in June. The lovable pink hero returns in this sci-fi adventure: a villain has taken over Planet Popstar and threatens to mechanize the world. In this game, Kirby and familiar friends return, so players who loved them in past games will revisit their favorites. But there are new features, like Robobot Armor, added copy abilities, and the chance to tap a compatible amiibo figure for Kirby to inhale its capabilities and use them in Story Mode. Plus, you can play Team Kirby Clash, an RPG-style mini-game, with friends if you have additional systems and copies of the game.

Special to Agoura Hills Mom for this post is my son, Kyle, a boy I spawned and grew so that I could feature game reviews on my websites. (Not really, but it sort of sounds like Kirby inhaling an ability, doesn’t it? A little?) Kyle made this video in gamer-speak so that you would understand and know the coolest features of this new game before you start playing.

Kirby Planet Robobot kept both kids entertained while we were on a recent trip across the country. Our connecting flight got delayed 3.5 hours (I know) but this gave the kids the opportunity to play through Kirby Clash and declare it “super fun, Mom.”

boys playing Nintendo 3DS at airport

We recommend!

(Please take a second to “like” this video and subscribe if that’s your thing. Kyle worked long and hard on this one! Okay so did I but I’m much more proud of his work.)

Thank you to Nintendo and KidzVuz for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own (and Kyle and Brady’s).