Song Review: Brad Paisley, “Heaven South”

I hope Brad Paisley has a defibrillator handy, because his career looks like it’s about to flatline.

After “Today” became a Mediabase #1 and peaked at #3 on Billboard’s airplay chart, I was confident that Paisley had finally regained his radio footing after a series of underwhelming singles (“Crushin’ It” only made it to #9, “Country Nation” stalled at #12, and “Without A Fight” only made it to #16). I was wrong: “Last Time For Everything,” an excellent song that I thought had a ton of potential, struggled to a #19 peak before Sony pulled the plug (which felt a bit premature, to be honest). In its wake, “Heaven South” became the third single released from Paisley’s Love & War album, and frankly, it’s the worst possible choice they could have made. It’s a lazy, pandering tune (think “Country Nation” without all the college football references) that completely destroys my optimism about Paisley’s future in mainstream country music.

The best thing I can say about “Heaven South” is that Paisley still has a great ear for production. As you might expect, the melody is primarily guitar-driven (both acoustic and electric), but a large assortment of classic country instruments are mixed in and given a chance to shine (banjo, mandolin, steel guitar…no fiddle, sadly). The percussion starts out with some synthetic hand claps, but they’re so low and unobtrusive that they blend it naturally with the mix (you only really notice during them the quieter moments of the song), and a real drum set jumps whenever the producer wants to add some punch to the track. The result is a very organic, almost rustic sound that sets a relaxed and cheerful tone for the tune. Of course, the track is topped off by Paisley’s signature guitar work—his solo isn’t as complex or energetic as in other tunes, but it’s well-executed and fits the song’s mood perfectly.

Paisley delivers his usual vocal performance here, even though the song isn’t much of a test of his technical abilities (the range is constrained, and the flow is relaxed). Instead, the song is a charisma-driven tune that requires the singer to forge a strong connection with his listeners, and Paisley’s smooth, earnest delivery is more than up to the task. Paisley’s voice has the kind of honest, believable tone that could sell a space heater to Satan, and while the song itself keeps him from reaching a broad audience (more on that later), Paisley does the best he can given the circumstances.

So if the production is great and vocals are good, why does this song irritate me so much? The problem lies within the writing and theme:

  • The song itself is an ode to the mythical Mayberry-eqsue towns of the South, celebrating the sights, sounds, and people of the region. Songs like this have always been a personal pet peeve of mine: The South may be the primary market for country music, but it’s far from the only one, and focusing on a single region like this artificially restricts the song’s target audience and limits its appeal. Paisley is at his best when he challenges his audience to expand their perspective (think “Southern Comfort Zone”), and songs that purposefully limit their reach like “Heaven South” leave listeners like me out in the cold.
  • Despite the above point, songs like that can still work if they’re well-constructed—for example, I enjoyed the historical perspective and story of Alabama’s “Song Of The South.” “Heaven South,” however, just feels lazy to me, as its premise is completely unoriginal, its imagery is generic and boring, and it resorts to reciting a laundry list of terms at several points in the hope that somethinganything resonates with the listener. (Spoiler alert: Nothing did.)

I really wanted to like “Heaven South.” Brad Paisley is one of my favorite artists, and the song features the top-notch production and strong vocals that I’ve come to expect. In the end, however, this song comes across as a poorly-written attempt to pander to a subset of Paisley’s fanbase at the expense of everyone else, and I’m left feeling ambivalent about the whole thing when it’s over. Paisley’s career cheated death with “Today,” but he’d better come up with some better single choices fast, because I don’t think he’ll be able to resuscitate it again.

Rating: 5/10. This one isn’t worth your time.

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Super Mario Odyssey: Is It Worth Buying?

“Where we’re going, we don’t need Winged Caps.”

After years of waiting and months of hype and teasers, Nintendo has finally released Super Mario Odyssey, the latest in its line of Mario 3D platformers. After a weekend with the game, I can confirm that this title to totally worth the asking price (and more). The game is a groundbreaking title that pushes the boundaries of what a platformer can be in the modern era, and has a nice sliding scale of challenges that can satisfy both new and old Mario players.

Let’s dive into the specifics:

  • I’ve started to worry recently about the difficulty levels of games, and how recent titles (Cuphead is a great example) skew so far towards towards the hard side that they close themselves off to new and inexperienced players. Nintendo, in contrast, has always tried to strike a balance between challenge and accessibility, and Super Mario Odyssey is a textbook example of this. The game certainly has some harder challenges that cater to veterans and completionists, but it also includes enough options (Assist Mode, some very easy-to-find Power Moons, Talkatoo and Uncle Amiibo, etc.) to allow any player to enjoy it regardless of their skill level. In-game deaths are a minor hassle with minimal state loss (although sometimes you respawn a long way from where you died), and the Action Guide guide gives people a quick way to see how to execute more-advanced maneuvers. (The random, unskippable tips offered while traveling between world are a bit much to me, but other players probably appreciate them.) In short, Super Mario Odyssey is as hard as you want it to be, and thus is appropriate for nearly ever type of gamer.

  • After the last few titles I’ve played, I think it’s time to officially put to rest the notion that the Switch can’t delivery grade-A graphics. Odyssey looks AMAZING, with environments that pop with color and detail. The frame rate has been rock-solid thus far, and the NPC design (for both friends and foes) is more inspired than usual. The music also deserves props for how well is sets the atmosphere of each area.
  • Most of the controls you know and love from past 3D Mario games have returned, and I’ve found the controls to be sufficiently tight and responsive. My only complaint here centers around the motion controls: They’re only really available (or only useful) in certain controller schemes, which makes playing Odyssey in handheld mode a bit of a pain. I found myself having to quickly shift to tabletop mode if I wanted to perform spin attacks and high jumps (along with other actions that I’ll leave out to avoid spoilers), which was more than a little awkward.
  • The big new addition here is the capture ability, which allows Mario to possess NPCs and various other objects in order to use their unique abilities. This mechanic, in a word, is awesome: By allowing Mario to fly as a Paragoomba or wreak massive havoc as a T-rex, it opens up the levels to an unimaginable level of exploration. (While the game falls short of the climb-everything openness seen in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it comes pretty darn close.) There are also a bunch of new hat-throwing attacks and abilities, which feel so natural that you’re surprised they’ve never been added to a game before. In short, the game makes controlling Mario easy and fun.
  • Nintendo seems to have a knack for including cool features that people didn’t know they needed beforehand. Who would have though dressing up Mario in different costumes or making instant memes through Snapshot Mode would be so much fun?
  • I haven’t explored the amiibo functionality that much, but what I’ve seen is pretty cool: Not only can you get hints about where to search for hidden Power Moons, but certain amiibo will also give you classic costumes to wear! (Three words: Super Luigi Odyssey.) It’s a nice touch that further justifies all the money I spent on “Nintendolls”…

In short, Super Mario Odyssey is a fun, engrossing adventure for all ages that is worth every penny of its asking price. If you like platformers, you will absolutely love this game. Furthermore, if you don’t own a Switch, it’s time to consider getting one, because the lineup (ZeldaSplatoon, Mario, etc.) is getting too good to ignore.

Song Review: Chris Lane ft. Tori Kelly, “Take Back Home Girl”

Hello, is this Youtube? Yes, I’d like to “Take Back” this song for a refund of my time.

While I actually liked Chris Lane’s last single “For Her,” radio never really warmed to the track, and it only notched a #10 airplay peak over a year after its release. With all the momentum from his debut #1 “Fix” squandered, Lane and his team closed the book on his debut album Girl Problems after just two singles, and brought American Idol alum Tori Kelly out of the witness protection program to join forces with Lane on his new single “Take Back Home Girl.” The result is a slick, synthetic single that’s more forgettable than anything else.

The production has a manufactured feel to it, with a choppy, affected electric guitar carrying the melody and a mixture of real and fake drums (primarily the latter) providing the foundation. The verses are actually pretty sparse save for an occasional organ, which later combines with some other spacious-sounding instruments (possibly a steel guitar? It’s really hard to tell) to add some atmosphere to the choruses. The tempo is relatively relaxed, but (like seemingly every song I’ve reviewed recently) it’s plagued by minor chords that make its vibe much more serious than it should be. Overall, the sound is neither offensive nor memorable, and doesn’t leave much of an impression on the listener.

Lane is a decent vocalist in his own right, but this song is about as bad a fit for him as you could fine. Lane’s secret weapon that sets him apart from his contemporaries is his impressive falsetto, which he used to great effect on “For Her.” This song, however, keeps Lane trapped in his lower range, and he sounds rougher and less comfortable as a result. Kelly comes as the stronger vocalist of the two, as the song suits her voice better and she sounds much better in a harmony role than Lane does. The pair’s vocal chemistry is hard to discern, as Lane has to go way outside of his comfort zone to match Kelly’s tone. Throw in all the vocal effects the producers buried the pair in and the slight volume imbalance between the vocals and production (the voices are a shade too loud), and I’m left feeling ambivalent about the pair’s performance.

The writing here feels a lot lazier and sleazier than it should be, as the whole thing boils down to laundry-list verses with a chorus full of “You’re an XYZ!” declarations. Consider the first verse:

Duffle bag, backseat
My dash, your feet
Those other side of the highway headlights making you shine
My hand, your leg
Playlist playing
Even though I haven’t made it yet
I’m dragging it, dropping it in my mind

Not exactly Robert Frost, is it?

Unlike Brett Eldredge’s “The Long Way,” which takes a classier “show-me-what-made-you-who-you-are” approach, “Take Back Home Girl” flips the dynamic and depicts the guy showing his girl off to all the people in his hometown. The song gives off a uncomfortable, slightly voyeuristic vibe similar to Dustin Lynch’s “I’d Be Jealous Too,” and lines like “My little crowd pleaser/Parading with you feeling homecoming cool” feel downright creepy, like the guy is just basking in the adoration of his friends and neighbors over how hot a girl he scored. While the song does feature some unique imagery (making breakfast with the narrator’s mama, for example), it also features a few classic Bro tropes (nighttime drives, Friday night lights) that counteract whatever cleverness the song tries to show off. In the end, it’s just not that pleasant to hear.

Overall, “Take Back Home Girl” is an annoying song that is overproduced, poorly written, and squanders the vocal talents of Chris Lane and Tori Kelly in favor of a failed attempt to make a respectable Bro-Country song. (It’s not quite Dustin Lynch bad, but it’s close.) Lane better find some highly-quality material soon, or the next time he takes someone back home, Nashville will tell him not to come back.

Rating: 4/10. Don’t bother with this one.

Pokémon Face-Off: Necrozma vs. Mew

While Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are introducing a few new Pokémon to the franchise, the real star of the upcoming releases is Necrozma, a bizarre light-stealing creature likely created by Lex Luthor (with all the light gone, he can finally defeat Superman!). Necrozma could be found randomly at Ten Carat Hill in Sun and Moon (with no explanation besides Looker’s “That’s not an Ultra Beast”), but the Ultra remakes flesh out the Pokémon’s backstory and make it the focal point of the story, dragging the player on an interdimensional journey to save Sogaleo/Lunala and thwart Necrozma’s evil plans.

As a pure Psychic-type Pokémon with a 600 stat count, a natural comparison to Necrozma is Mew, the original extra Pokémon from Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow. (While Necrozma’s antagonistic backstory is more reminiscent of Mewtwo, the latter has a signifcant stat advantage.) How might the G7 legendary hold up against its super-flexible G1 counterpart? You know the drill by now: it’s face-off time!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Stats

Statistic Necrozma Mew
HP 97 100
Attack 107 100
Defense 101 100
Spec. Attack 127 100
Spec. Defense 89 100
Speed 79 100
Total 600 600

While the type comparison is a dead heat (again, both are pure Psychic types), the stat comparison is an interesting one. Mew is best known for its moveset flexibility, but its across-the-board 100s (each a respectable score in its own right) make it a viable choice for nearly any situation. Although Necrozma can dish out a bit more pain than Mew (especially with special attacks), it comes at the cost of a noticeable Spec. Defense deficit and a major Speed disadvantage. Power is only useful if you’re fast or bulky enough to use it, so Mew walks away with the victory here.

Advantage: Mew

The Abilities

Necrozma Mew
Prism Armor Sychronize

Sychronize is a decent ability by itself, but it can be worked around it certain circumstances (for example, Fire-type Pokémon can’t be burned by it) if the opponent knows that it’s there. Prism Armor, however, reduces the power of super-effective moves against Necrozma by 25%, so opponents either have to use neutral moves or swallow the damage reduction regardless of circumstance. Throw in the fact that Necrozma’s Spec. Defense is a little shaky and makes Prism Armor all the more critical, and the armor is a clear win here.

Advantage: Necrozma

The Moves

Chesnaught Decidueye
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Prismatic Laser Psychic 160 S Psychic Psychic 90 S
Psycho Cut Psychic 70 P
Confusion Psychic 50 S
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Wring Out Normal Opp. HP S Aura Sphere Fighting 80 S
Power Gem Rock 80 S Mega Punch Normal 80 P
Night Slash Dark 70 P Ancient Power Rock 60 S
Other Notable Moves
Moonlight Restores 1/2 HP Amnesia Sharply raises Spec. Defense
Autotomize Sharply raises Speed Nasty Plot Sharply raises Spec. Attack
Charge Beam Electric 50 S Transform Become a copy of the opponent

It’s one thing to be flexible, but it’s another thing to be a “jack of all trades, master of none.” I’m actually surprised as how sparse Mew’s moveset actually is: It covers the absolute essentials (the best Psychic move, a few other things for type coverage), includes a ton of stat boosters (Nasty Plot, Amnesia, Barrier), and throws Transform on top of it all to let you copy a strong opponent. While this set makes Mew potentially viable in any situation, it also keeps it from filling any traditional roles on a Pokémon team, and thus the Pokémon is always your second choice in a scenario, but never your first one.

Necrozma’s moveset is a bit more conventional, but it’s also in the running for a Finebut award:

  • Prismatic Laser’s phenomenal cosmic power is fine, but you lose your next turn after using it.
  • Psycho Cut’s 70 power is fine, but it’s a physical move that relies on Necrozma’s lower Attack stat. (Then again, 101 Attack is no joke.)
  • Wring Out’s type coverage is fine, but its damage is variable based on the opponent’s HP.

Surprisingly, it’s the “other” moves that are most interesting here: Mew’s stat boosters give its sweeping potential, while Necrozma’s Autotomize and Moonlight/Morning Sun help cover its weaknesses. In the end, however, I’m going with Necrozma because its moveset clearly makes it the top play in certain scenarios, whereas Mew just never seems to have a place to truly shine.

Advantage: Necrozma

The TMs

Necrozma Mew
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Psychic Psychic 90 S Thunder Electric 110 S
Dark Pulse Dark 80 S Fire Blast Fire 110 S
Flash Cannon Steel 80 S Surf Water 90 S
Earthquake Ground 100 P Blizzard Ice 110 S

 

Mew can use every TM ever made, so it pretty much wins this category by default. However, it’s worth noting just how poorly Necrozma’s TM pool meshes with its stats: It gets Psychic and can pair Earthquake with Gravity for a nice combination, but its TM movepool is dominated by psychical moves, which don’t take advantage of its Spec. Attack stat. This category is a blowout win for Mew.

Advantage: Mew

 The Results

The results of this face-off hinge on a single question: Does Mew have a role besides “do whatever the rest of the team can’t do?” EV training can make it fast, bulky, or powerful, and TMs can give it whatever type coverage you want, but when it comes down to a must-win situation, Mew isn’t really the Pokémon you want to see coming out of the bullpen. In comparison, Autotomize and a few decent Psychic moves can turn Necrozma into a frightening special sweeper with just enough bulk to leave its mark on the match. I’ve got to go with the new Pokémon on the block this time.

Winner: Necrozma

 

To be fair, a jack-of-all-trades Pokémon like Mew still has value as a team filler, as it can cover holes and roles that your other five monsters can’t. There’s usually a better choice to cover whatever holes and roles you’re worried about, however, and on a well-balanced team you’re likely better off making that choice over Mew.

Song Review: Jon Pardi, “She Ain’t In It”

Ah, so this is the Jon Pardi everybody’s been talking about.

In the battle between traditional and modern country music, Pardi has been playing the awkward role of peacemaker, as his past singles (“Dirt On My Boots,” “Heartache On The Dance Floor,” etc.) have both incorporated long-forgotten classic instruments (he’s about the only act to consistently work a fiddle into his songs) and embraced the electronic elements that are currently popular (prominent drum machines are also a theme in his work). For the fourth (and likely final) single off of his California Sunrise album, however, Pardi has gone all in on a neotraditional sound with “She Ain’t In It,” and the result is probably my favorite Pardi single yet.

The production here is not only traditional, but surprisingly acoustic as well: The percussion is handled exclusively by a drum set, and the electric guitar stays mostly in the background, with a brief turn in the spotlight on the bridge solo. Melody duties are generally covered by an acoustic guitar and an organ, but a steel guitar and fiddle are tossed in at nearly every opportunity, and one of these two is usually the loudest, most noticeable instrument in the mix. As a result, the song trades some of the groove and intensity of Pardi’s past work for something slower and more reflective, which suits the song’s tone perfectly and gives the listener ample space to comtemplate the writing. Unlike some songs I’ve reviewed recently (*cough* “I’d Be Jealous Too” *cough*), the frequent minor chords used here actually complement the song instead of working at cross purposes with it. Let’s hope Dustin Lynch is taking notes…

To be honest, I’m not terribly impressed with Pardi as a vocalist. His range and flow are tolerable (not neither is really tested here), and he certainly has enough charisma to adequately fill the narrator’s role, but his voice has no tone at all and just sounds flat and nasally. While I wouldn’t say he detracts from the song at all, he definitely keeps it from reaching its full potential (in the hands of a stronger singer like Chris Young or Easton Corbin, this would really be something special). Thankfully, Pardi brings just enough earnestness to the table to sell the song, connect with his listeners, as pass along his heartbreak.

The lyrics here tell the tale of a man preparing to rejoin society and go out for a good time in the wake of a breakup, knowing full well that he’s still hung up on his ex and that things will end in disaster if they show up (think of it as a prequel to Walker McGuire’s “‘Til Tomorrow”). There’s nothing terribly groundbreaking here (although the writers get credit for the numbers of things they manage to rhyme with “in it”), but it checks all of the emotional boxes that a post-breakup song should, and forms a good foundation for a charismatic performer to command his listeners’ attention and sympathy. (Given my reservations about Pardi as a singer, I would argue that the lyrics do more to sell the song than he does.) At best, this is a relatable song that may draw a tear or two from those who’ve lived through this sort of thing; at worse, it’s an inoffensive cry-in-your-beer track bolstered by enjoyable production.

Overall, “She Ain’t In It” is a good song that features great production, solid writing, and a passable delivery. While I’m still not the huge Pardi fan that others in the country blogosphere are, I’ll certainly tolerate having him around if it means hearing more songs like this.

Rating: 7/10. Check this one out.

Song Review: Dustin Lynch, “I’d Be Jealous Too”

WANTED: Mediocre country singer seeks likable personality for new single. Must be OK with drum machines, minor chords, and vocal effects. Interested parties should contact Dustin Lynch as soon as possible.

I absolutely hated Lynch’s last single “Small Town Boy” (it was my least liked song of the first half of 2016), so naturally the track rocketed up the charts, spent a month at No. 1, and became the biggest hit of Lynch’s career. For his encore, Lynch decided to switch to an unabashed Metropolitan sound for “I’d Be Jealous Too,” a braggadocios “look how great my girl is” track that accomplishes the amazing feat of making Lynch even less likable than before.

The production here is so blatantly synthetic that it makes you wonder if the producer included any real instruments at all. Yes, some real drums crop up on the chorus, and a muted electric guitar does it darnedest to carry the melody, but the drum machine is the featured instrument here, littering the verses with fake snaps and claps in an (mostly failed) attempt to inject some sort of energy into the song. As with most of Lynch’s work, the song is plagued by minor chords that set an overly-serious tone and drain the song of whatever fun it was supposed to have, and the switch from the slow-jam-esque verses to the faster, more-conventionally-structured chorus keeps the song from establishing any sort of groove (or any consistency at all, really). In short, it’s just a mess.

I have little regard for Lynch as a vocalist, and “I’d Be Jealous Too” does nothing to change my opinion. While the writing admittedly doesn’t give Lynch a whole lot to work with (more on that later), Lynch’s complete lack of charisma keeps him from elevating the song to a respectable level, and he comes off as a unsympathetic sleazeball who takes pleasure in watching other people leer at his girlfriend. His range is fine and his flow is decent, but his voice doesn’t have a lot of tone to it, and his super-serious delivery just makes him seem even creepier than usual. To be honest, I don’t really understand this guy’s appeal at all.

The writing here features a narrator gloating to an unnamed barroom creeper about his girl, and saying that if their positions were reversed, “I’d be jealous too.” It’s not exactly a novel topic in country music, but the topic is usually approached in a much more endearing way, with the narrator marveling at the woman’s appeal (think Blake Shelton’s “A Guy With A Girl,” or Thomas Rhett’s “Star Of The Show”). Here, on the the other hand, the narrator just feels like he’s lording his girlfriend’s awesomeness over his audience, and getting a kick out of their jealous reactions. Instead of feeling jealous or amazed, the listener just feels sorry for the woman for getting stuck with this jerk. The lyrics themselves aren’t terribly witty or clever, and feature some truly bizarre comparisons (“She comes on stronger than a bourbon street hand grenade?” Really?), and while they don’t venture into explicitly misogynistic territory, they’re still fairly shallow in their descriptions (for example, she has an “hourglass body like a guitar”). Combine poor writing like this with an annoying delivery like Lynch’s, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Overall, “I’d Be Jealous Too” is yet another terrible track from Dustin Lynch, featuring the 1-2 punch of poor writing and a poor delivery. If forced to choose between “Small Town Boy” and this tire fire, I’d ask if I could have my ears cut off instead. After Michael Ray’s last single ended up being kind of tolerable, Lynch may have just stolen his title as my new least favorite artist in the genre.

Rating: 3/10. Don’t touch this one with a ten-foot pole.

Nintendo’s Paid Online Service: Will It Be Worth Buying?

Nintendo caused a bit of a stir a while back when it announced that it would start charging players for access to online multiplayer services starting this fall (this was later pushed back to 2018). However, the decision seems to have gotten lost amidst all the Switch hype, to the point where even Nintendo seems to have forgotten about it (it wasn’t mentioned at all in their Direct presentation last month). Despite supposedly being less than three months away from the big rollout, we still know next to nothing about this service, with even the official site for the service featuring very few details.

With 2018 looming on the horizon, it’s time to take a hard look at whether or not Nintendo’s proposed service will be worth opening your wallet for. The company’s track record on this subject has been mixed (Splatoon connection errors are basically a meme at this point), so it’s going to take a lot of convincing to bring skeptical gamers like myself on board. Let’s begin!

  • What services will Nintendo be providing? At a basic level, any online gameplay offered by a Switch game will require a subscription to Nintendo’s paid service (thankfully, the 3DS appears to be exempt). Use of Nintendo’s smartphone app will also be gated by this paywall.

In addition, Nintendo will also give subscribers access to a “classic game selection” that they can play as much as they want for as long as their accounts are active, and there will be some special subscriber-only eShop deals as well.

  • How much will it cost? $3.99 USD for a one-month subscription, $7.99 for a three-month subscription, and $19.99 for an entire year. (For comparison, both Microsoft and Sony charge $59.99/year.)
  • Do we know anything else? Nope. Nintendo has chosen to focus on its game lineup rather than its online services, leaving us to wonder if the above perks are all we’re getting. The online
  • Will online connectivity be any more reliable than it is now? This is the million-dollar question right now. Nintendo’s track record with online gaming has been spotty over the years (Splatoon connection errors are basically a meme now), and they’ve said and/or done nothing this year to inspire any confidence that things will be different this time. If Nintendo is going to charge people to play online, the people aren’t going to stand for the status quo, because only paying $20/year isn’t terribly comforting when you can’t stay in a Turf War for more than thirty seconds.

With all that said, let’s get to the big question: Will this service be worth paying for? The answer depends on two other question:

  • What games do you play? The Switch has no shortage of non-online games for you to enjoy, from the big (Zelda: Breath Of The WildSuper Mario Odyssey) to the small (SnipperclipsStardew Valley) to whatever Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle qualifies as. If you can get by on those games alone, paying for online isn’t worth it.

But let’s say you’re hooked on games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2. What do you do then? Well…

  • Do you have a Wii U handy? Most of the Switch games that rely on online connectivity are either Wii U ports (MK8D, Pokkén Tournament) or Wii U expansions (Splatoon 2). Aside from ARMS (which still feels like a failed launch to me), you can already play these sorts of games on a different console, and do so without paying for online services. If you can do that, paying for online isn’t worth it.

If you don’t have a Wii U and you want to play these games, however, you’re probably going to have to pony up for the online service. (In particular, Splatoon 2 is basically a $60 paperweight without a network connection.) It’s a bit of a gamble given Nintendo’s history, but hey, at least things can’t get much worse.

To be honest, however, I’m not sure we’ll have to make this decision anytime soon (and perhaps not at all). With so little information about the paid service coming out, I have a distinct feeling that it’s not ready for primetime yet, and that Nintendo will further delay its implementation and extend its free trial into 2018. The Switch’s online app has no purpose outside of the Splatoon 2 app (and even that isn’t all that interesting) and its voice chat functionality is beyond convoluted (why would you choose this junk over Skype?). Classic games are nice, sure, but I’ve already played most of the old games I’m interested in, so tossing them into an online subscription isn’t much of an enticement. It just seems like Nintendo decided to charge for its online services just because they could, and haven’t done a great job at justifying it beyond that.

I imagine that eventually Nintendo will do just enough to make paying for online gaming worthwhile, but they’re first going to have to convince me that they can manage online gaming in the first place. Until then, I’ll be happily capturing dinosaurs and Pokémon without a subscription.