Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack
Price: £34.99 for an individual membership, £59.99 for a family membership
A code was provided for review purposes
It’s been a few weeks since Nintendo released the latest addition to their online service. The Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack brings with it the ability to play a selection of Sega Mega Drive and Nintendo 64 games as well as access to the Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Happy Home Paradise DLC (check out Sophie’s review of the DLC here). However, this wealth of content doesn’t come for free and as such the price of this subscription has increased when compared to the standard online service.
For those looking to make the “switch” a 12-month subscription will cost £34.99/49.99 USD for an individual membership and £59.99/$79.99 USD for the family option – which still supports up to eight accounts. While there aren’t any monthly options available, this new service requires quite an upfront commitment if you’re to subscribe.
If you are sitting on the Nintendo Switch Online fence then come with me as I take an impartial look at what’s on offer, and weigh up if it’s worth investing in.
Nintendo 64 App
Much like that seen within the NES and SNES apps, this Nintendo 64 app will give you access to a variety of titles from the company’s 3rd generation home console. Where the N64 didn’t have a sizable game library when compared to its older siblings, it did have a great deal of quality. Much of the consoles titles are still held with high regard today, with many more shaping the landscape of today’s gaming superstars. With this in mind the Nintendo 64 portion of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is the most promising.
The initial launch content isn’t plentiful, however you are getting a very strong outing for some of the console’s greatest hits. Big hitters such as Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Star Fox 64 make their appearances known. But joining them are other classics such as Mario Tennis, Doctor Mario 64, Yoshi’s Story, and Mario Kart 64. Completing this stellar line-up are two lesser known titles Operation WinBack, and Sin and Punishment.
The main thing to take away from these titles is the small quality of life improvements that have been added. Each title plays at an increased resolution and offers useful features such as save states, and rumble support. There’s also the option to play games online with support offered for up to four additional players. Arguably this is the best feature as it kicks the Nintendo 64 into the 21st century, however it’s let down by poor net code that makes some titles unplayable.
When it comes to gameplay most suffer from the odd frame rate drop, and there’s some interesting glitches. While the games do remain playable, these issues do appear to be somewhat lazy. Controller mapping is also a bit of a mixed bag. The N64 was well known for its somewhat unique controller design. While it mostly translates well on the Switch, there is the odd issue. For instance the C-buttons are mapped to the right stick which makes playing Ocarina of Time very interesting. The Z-button is also curiously mapped too with it finding its home on the Switch’s ZL-button. Sadly at time of writing there isn’t any way to change these default settings. While you’ll eventually get used to it, it does play havoc with muscle memory.
Sega Mega Drive App
Emulation of the SEGA Mega Drive (or Genesis) is a common factor in modern gameplay. Titles such as Sega’s own Mega Drive Classics and SEGA AGES showing how it’s done. Due to this the Mega Drive app – and its emulation – is more stable than the Nintendo 64 app. However, aside from stability, the N64 app has this one trumped when it comes to launch titles.
While the available titles are some of the Mega Drive’s greatest hits, the vast majority have been shown before. Titles like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Ristar, and Echo the Dolphin are part and parcel when it comes to a Sega collection. Granted these are joined by M.U.S.H.A and Strider, but there’s only so many times you can play the included first party titles. To offset this there are 14 available titles to choose from. While 11 of them are SEGA’s own, three belong to third-party publishers. It’s certainly a nice touch and hopefully Nintendo continues to showcase these often hidden gems.
As mentioned above, the emulation here is spot on and in someways it’s far better than that seen on consoles so far. There’s little to no input lag and those retro SEGA tunes sound crystal clear. Much like the SNES, NES, and N64 apps you’re able to create save files and utalise a handy rewind feature. This is all on top of being able to pick various visual modes too…just incase you miss those CRT scan lines. Online multiplayer is also here and unlike the N64, the experience is quite smooth. Whether this is down to the emulation of SEGA software or not, I’m not sure. Either way it’s a blast being able to play these titles online.
The only real downsides come in the same form as the others – controls. While the standard Switch mapping is serviceable, it doesn’t quite hit that sweet spot. Considering as well that some titles support the classic 6-button configuration, it would have been nice for the option to configure these manually.
The Nintendo Online + Expansion Pack is going to be a different experience for different people. Right now the experience is a veritable mixed bag which is certainly full of pros and cons. As of writing the service is two barebones emulators, with added access to the Animal Crossing DLC. Yet look below this and there’s promise of greater things on the horizon.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
For current subscription prices and more details check out the Nintendo Online + Expansion Pack store page by clicking here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.