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Inside Beat

Nintendo Switch needs massive upgrade — will fans be disappointed or pleasantly surprised?

Fans have a lot to add to their Nintendo wish list, but nothing is promised yet. – Photo by Erik Mclean / Unsplash

Nintendo has had a busy 2022, to say the least. In October alone, the company published new entries in both the "Bayonetta" and "Mario + Rabbids" franchises and released "Pokémon Scarlet and Violet" just in time for the holiday season. 

October also marked the sixth anniversary of the reveal of the Nintendo Switch, but its time on the market has served to underscore some of the console’s shortcomings. From its 720p screen to its 4 GB of RAM, there are any number of sore points for fans to bemoan as industry competitors Sony and Microsoft offer consumers exponentially more powerful systems on which to game.

But since 2021, details regarding an alleged mid-generation upgrade for the Switch have been widely discussed online. Dubbed by fans the Switch Pro rumors surrounding this hypothetical console were brought to the forefront in March of last year, when Bloomberg published an article reporting a new variant of the Switch was allegedly in production, featuring an OLED screen.

Although Bloomberg listed the new screen as the only definitive improvement in the updated Switch, fans were quick to assume the console would sport some additional upgrades as well. Maybe items like an improved resolution or an increase in computing power would allow for more ambitious games to run on the platform.

Later on July 6, Nintendo announced the Nintendo Switch (OLED Model) set for release on October 8. In addition to the OLED screen replacing the base model’s display, the console featured reduced bezels, a sturdier kickstand, louder speakers and a built-in LAN port for wired internet connections while playing in docked mode.

One glaring omission fans were quick to lament was the console’s alleged lack of performance features. This confusion was only fueled further by an additional Bloomberg report published later that September, which said 11 game studios had received updated development kits from Nintendo with the capacity to develop games in 4K.

Given the Switch’s maximum resolution is 1080p when connected to a TV, fans took this report as confirmation that an additional console was in the works and awaited an official announcement from Nintendo.

And although Nintendo’s only statement regarding the matter was from CEO Shuntaro Furukawa telling fans not to expect any new console variations until April 2023, that hasn’t stopped the public from speculating what’s likely to be included in a more substantially updated Switch model. Here are a few things I would personally like to see in a hypothetical Switch Pro.

Better processing capabilities

RAM (short for random access memory) is one of the components which plays into a computer’s power. Specifically, RAM is where computers store information needed on more immediate notice and gets emptied every time your computer is reset. In the context of gaming, RAM might be used to store information such as graphical data, with more RAM resulting in higher fidelity graphics as it would allow for the storage of larger files.

Nintendo has always marched to the beat of its own drum as far as console generations are concerned. Although the Switch was technically released as part of the eighth generation of game consoles, it was the company’s second entry into said generation alongside the Wii U. It remains its flagship platform today, despite its competitors’ entries into gaming’s ninth generation, with the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

At the start of the Switch’s development, Nintendo reportedly wanted to limit the console to a mere 2 GB of RAM but was later persuaded by fellow Japanese game developer Capcom to upgrade the specs to four gigabytes.

Even with the improvement, 4 GB puts the Switch leagues above the seventh generation’s Xbox 360 and Playstation 3’s 256 and 512 megabytes of RAM respectively but well behind the 8 GB seen in Sony and Microsoft’s eight-generation consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Whenever a third-party title was announced to be coming to the Switch, it was seen as nothing short of a miracle. Most notably, American game studio Panic Button Games have been hailed as heroes for successfully porting high-profile titles such as "DOOM Eternal" and "Wolfenstein: Youngblood" to the Switch. And although their work is to be commended, the fact that it’s seen as extraordinary that a console from the eighth generation can competently run eighth-generation games is a bit sad.

The status of Nintendo’s comparatively underpowered machines is nothing new. The company coined the term "lateral thinking with withered technology" to describe its habit of using older technology in inventive ways. Although it has proved moderately successful, it would be nice to be able to see a third-party game launch and not wonder how it would run on the Switch, assuming it’s planned to release on the platform at all.

Better graphical output

Whether that be a higher resolution output when in docked mode or a better display for the actual screen itself (or ideally both), it’s kind of become expected at this point that a mid-console generation upgrade will support some degree of better graphical capabilities. This was seen in the eighth generation, when Sony released the PlayStation 4 Pro in 2016 allowing games to run in 4K, with Microsoft following suit with the Xbox One S that same year. 

Assuming Bloomberg’s report is accurate, it’s likely Nintendo’s next console will feature some degree of 4K support, but it remains to be seen whether this will apply to both handheld and docked mode or just while connected to a TV.

"Kid Icarus: Uprising" HD

This one’s a long shot, but hear me out. 

"Kid Icarus Uprising: first came out on March 22, 2012, in Japan and March 23 the same year in the U.S. for the Nintendo 3DS. The game was developed by Masahiro Sakurai (better known as the creator of the acclaimed fighting-game series, "Super Smash Bros.") and was by all accounts a masterpiece.

With engaging gameplay split between aerial and ground-based combat, an impeccable soundtrack composed by a team of gaming music legends such as Masafumi Takada and Noriyuki Iwadare and one of the most interesting stories written for a Nintendo game in recent memory, it’s my undisputed favorite game for the 3DS. 

The fact that it’s on the 3DS causes me no shortage of pain — physically, in some instances.

It was widely reported that the game didn’t lend itself well to longer play sessions, with many players suffering hand cramps, and Nintendo bundling the game with a stand at launch with the hopes of creating a more comfortable gameplay experience. 

Combine these points with the fact that Nintendo will be closing both the 3DS and Wii U eShops next year on March 27 and that even second-hand copies of "Uprising" are selling for upward of $70 at the time of writing. The timing is just right for Nintendo to announce an updated re-release of "Uprising" for the Switch.

It wouldn’t be unheard of. Nintendo, much like its industry counterparts, releases updated ports of its older games all the time. Just last year, it released an enhanced version of 2011’s "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword" to commemorate not only the game’s 10th anniversary but also the 35th anniversary of the "Zelda" series as a whole.

As one of the more controversial titles in the "Zelda" series, there’s no reason "Skyward Sword" should receive an HD update while "Uprising" remains shackled to the 3DS, especially since this year also marked its 10-year anniversary. I suppose that’s not entirely contingent on Nintendo releasing an upgraded Switch, but it would do the game justice to be able to play it in 4K, without having to prop it up on a stand, wearing a wrist brace.

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