The Nintendo Switch has an impressive amount of first and third-party content after six months on store shelves. It’s pretty surprising, actually. Where the Wii U had month-long software draughts, the Switch has consistently solid first-party releases and a treasure trove of indie titles. Still, there’s one thing that the eShop is missing: Virtual Console.
Third-party publisher Hamster has tried to fill that void on their own with their Arcade Archives ports of classic Neo-Geo titles including Metal Slug and Magician Lord. Nintendo recently announced a partnership with Hamster to release some of their own arcade games under the Arcade Archives banner, starting with Mario Bros. Sadly, this partnership is just a lazy stop-gap, or even a replacement, for the Virtual Console service that the console needs.
To be clear, what Hamster is doing on their own is fantastic. All of their Arcade Archives releases, from Magical Drop to Metal Slug 3, have been inexpensive considering their amount of content. These games have filled a particular void in the Switch’s library; they simply don’t make games as frantic and beautifully animated as Metal Slug these days.
It’s when you take into account Nintendo’s history of releasing legacy content on their previous three systems that this partnership comes into question. The Wii, Wii U, and 3DS all have incredible Virtual Console libraries. You can play just about every mainline Zelda title on the Wii U. The menu interface for the last two systems is great, too. Save states made Zelda II: The Adventure of Link a thousand times more playable.
Arcade Archives Mario Bros. is $7.99 USD for an archaic game with less than an hour’s worth of content in it. Not only that, but Mario Bros. has been included for free in several versions of the Super Mario Advance titles. This brings up two questions:
The answer to both is fairly simply and a little frustrating. The reason why we’re not seeing a Nintendo-Hamster partnership for a hypothetical SNES Archives Super Mario World is because the NES Classic edition sold like hotcakes and the SNES Classic is about to release, and Nintendo seems to see more potential going that route than with Virtual Console.
By partnering with Hamster for ports of their arcade titles, Nintendo is trying to cash-in on the thirst for Virtual Console on Switch while also cashing-in on the craze that the SNES Classic will cause.
Why else doesn’t the Switch have a Virtual Console service like the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS had by this time in their lifecycles? Nintendo has previously stated that their online service in 2018 will include access to NES titles with added online functionality — given that Arcade Archives Mario Bros. includes online leaderboards, this partnership could be a test-run for that as well.
All we can hope for is that this isn’t a permanent replacement for Virtual Console on Switch.