The Nintendo Switch has been a hugely successful and profitable system — and we’re evidently huge fans of it — so it might seem a tad churlish to highlight areas it could be better. Yet one aspect where the system is arguably lacking is in personality, especially when compared directly to its predecessors. It’s missing several features that we’d still love to see arrive into the current generation, many examples of which were highlighted in our recent article of 3DS features that should really be on Switch, with notable mentions being StreetPass and, yes, folders.
This time around, though, we’re going to go back further to Nintendo’s quirkiest and most successful home console. The Nintendo Switch, after all, does function as a home console for many of us while living in that dock, so we’re going to cast our minds back to the trusty Wii and think of features from way back then that we’d like to return. There are more than you might think…
To be fair, the Nintendo Switch sort of has channels in the News tabs, where publishers and developers of all shapes and sizes can share updates and content related to games. What we have in mind, though, are the themed channels that the Wii served up; it’s worth noting that technically every app window was a ‘channel’ on Wii, but we’ll be more specific.
Some were no doubt relics of their time that would struggle for significance in the modern era; the Weather Channel being one example, as now everyone simply looks at the nearest phone or tablet for that sort of information. Likewise the Photo Channel; it was a neat thing 15 years ago but with no real purpose today. We also had a soft spot for the Mario Kart Wii Channel, though that’s all functionality that would be in the game nowadays.
Yet there are a couple of channels that would be fun as free apps on Nintendo Switch, especially now that Nintendo has suddenly remembered that Mii characters are cool and ported Miitopia from 3DS. Obviously, the Mii Channel itself was a charming hub for creating and viewing the characters, rather than the functionality being buried in settings as it is on Switch.
Then there was the Everybody Votes Channel, which encouraged players to vote with their Miis on assorted topics. On Switch this could be a fun and safe way for gamers of all ages to vote on Nintendo topics, such as choosing between favourite Pokémon, Splatoon outfits, karts from Mario Kart and so on. Login daily or weekly, run around a colourful voting area and earn some My Nintendo Platinum points for voting regularly, as an example.
The Switch already gives us plenty of reasons to play daily with games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but these sorts of ‘channels’ could add a little extra entertainment each day.
The Blue Disc-Tray Notification LED
It looked very cool, and the dream is for a notification LED around the screen, for example, in future Nintendo Switch iterations. At the moment the HOME button flashes and Joy-Cons vibrate as notifications come in (depending on your settings), but it’s not quite the same.
Unlikely, but we can dream.
Wii Shop Music and Animations
The Wii Shop music is downright iconic, which is all the more remarkable considering it was part of Nintendo’s first fully-fledged download store. This may sound silly in the modern era of buying downloadable content with one or two button presses within seconds, but on the Wii buying a download was a mini-event — partly because internet connections, infrastructure and hardware were much slower, but there was such personality to the store that it felt like an ‘experience’.
I have a lovely memory of the family puppy watching Mario run across the screen, following his progress off the right side and then looking behind the TV wondering where he’d gone.
There’s the music, obviously, which has a special place in many hearts, but there were other touches too. When you actually bought a game, the Wii would have to download it in full before closing the store; not ideal for modern user habits but part of the charm back then. As the game downloaded, a little pixel Mario would run from left-to-right, occasionally jumping to bop a block. I have a lovely memory of the family dog (now 14) as a puppy watching Mario run across the screen, following his progress off the right side and then looking behind the TV wondering where he’d gone.
Nintendo hasn’t lost the art of charming digital storefronts; similar ideas carried across onto the 3DS eShop (less so on Wii U, though it still had music). We had a few months of personality on the Switch eShop during the Mario 35th Anniversary celebrations, showing that Nintendo is actually willing to liven up the store occasionally. Maybe more themed goodness will come to the eShop with The Legend of Zelda’s anniversary; we hope so.
The Original and Best Virtual Console
Yes, we know the “where’s Virtual Console?” argument has been done ad nauseum for Switch, and it’s clear that Nintendo has little interest right now in going back to that model. Between the NES / SNES Switch Online apps and assorted retro-releases on the eShop, there’s actually a decent range of old-school gaming on the Switch, albeit not neatly structured under a Virtual Console banner.
The Wii Virtual Console was outstanding though, which is worth highlighting for those that never got to experience it. From a first-party perspective Nintendo clearly saw solid results and went all-in, even releasing some games that had never previously seen the light of day outside of Japan (like the original Sin and Punishment, as one example). There was terrific third-party support too, as evidently those golden early days of download sales drew in partners of all types. There were all sorts of region-firsts and intriguing retro releases, which was eye-opening for the majority that hadn’t imported a load of games in the ’80s and ’90s.
The diversity of supported consoles was incredible, too. All Nintendo home consoles up to Nintendo 64 had libraries, but there was also an ‘arcade’ selection full of gems. The Wii Virtual Console was a one-stop-shop of fascinating retro titles.
Nintendo’s shift in business model, changes in the industry and licensing issues mean we’ll likely never see a Virtual Console like it again. We sure enjoyed it while it lasted, though.
Obviously the Switch can’t literally run GameCube discs like the good old Wii and it lacks the original Wii’s GC controller ports on the top! But yes, we know, everyone wants GameCube titles in a Virtual Console or as part of Nintendo Switch Online. We got a taste of it with Super Mario Sunshine’s inclusion on the Super Mario 3D All-Stars compilation, and Nintendo even updated that release to include GameCube controller support.
See? Now you’re remembering how awesome the Wii was.
Those are some Wii features we’d love to see make a comeback on Nintendo Switch — let us know what you think in the poll and comments below!