The Rat, the Laser, and the Holy Gib.
When I first learned of SUPERBEAT: XONiC’s Switch port, I hadn’t thought too much about its controls. As someone who generally likes rhythm games, I thought a brief foray into the game would familiarize myself with the workings quickly. But when I downloaded this latest release of the now two year old game, something almost immediately hit me: The joycons on the Switch are godawful for playing a game like this.
Before I dive into the rest of this, I should clear the air: XONiC is a solid game. If you’ve played DJMax, Beatmania, or hell, even Persona 4: Dancing All Night, I’m sure you’d enjoy this game. But as soon as I had the Joycons nestled in my hands, the tutorial started for XONiC, and I realized my mitts weren’t up to the task of jumping between the mis-matched control sticks.
The Switch’s joycons are usually, well, a joy to use. Your hands may be too big for them, but with enough adjustment, most of the population should be able to use the tiny sticks well. However, the control scheme of XONiC often has you jumping between sticks and buttons quickly, and with the placement of these inputs flipped horizontally for each joycon, a difficulty arises that isn’t present on any other version of the game. This is compounded at higher difficulties, which use more buttons and switch between face buttons and sticks far more often.
After running into this, my mind started to wander. In the past I’ve thought that everything should come to Switch (with respect to graphics, storage space, and other such reasons), but after playing this slightly more frustrating version of a solid game, should everything truly be ported to Nintendo’s console? Should we all accept neutered controls, odd limitations, and optimization patches that come months after release for games that we can buy elsewhere, oftentimes for cheaper?
Oddly enough, the answer I arrived to was “yes, at least for now.” My hope is that these games falter, but do not completely crash, so developers have a chance to figure out Nintendo’s new console without worry of going completely belly-up. Games like Snake Pass and Overcooked needed patches months later to play at their full potential, but hopefully if those developers make something else for Switch, that next launch will play up to par. Same with SUPERBEAT here: If another rhythm game is made by this team, my hope is that they will take the joycons into account, and make the game more fun to play instead of more frustrating.
The Switch is a solid console with loads of potential, but it will take time for developers to acclimate themselves to its hardware. For now, I say let them screw up a bit. If things don’t improve over time, however, I hope these devs take a step back and re-evaluate the quality of games they’re putting out on the platform. Not to say that any of the games I mentioned are bad, just that they needed some extra time in the oven to iron out issues caused by the Switch’s eccentricities.
Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of picking up SUPERBEAT: XONiC for the Switch. Maybe you see it as an extra challenge you welcome. Maybe this is a deal breaker. The good news is you can get the game on Vita, PS4, and Xbox One as well, so you have your options. But for myself, I’ll plug along here and there, but I’ll curse my fingers when they can’t meet the control stick on a tough song.