Back in September, Nintendo announced a new tier to the existing Nintendo Switch Online plan by adding two new consoles, Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis, to the plan. While at the time the tier, titled the Expansion Pack in reference to the Nintendo 64’s RAM expansion, went unpriced, a later Animal Crossing: New Horizons presentation revealed a price point roughly $30 over the previous tier.
Now the expansion pack is out with nine games on the N64 and fourteen games on the Sega Genesis, the question must be asked: Is it worth the money? And the honest answer is, no, probably not right now.
I don’t think the game library itself is the problem. Both the N64 and Sega Genesis launch libraries seem to have a good mix of classic games and cult favorites, though both categories are far from exhaustive. You could launch the N64 app and immediately take your pick of some games that have at one point or another been called the greatest game of all time. There’s also, you know, Winback for some reason. But game diversity is good! The same is true of the Sega Genesis content, which features both traditional stalwarts of the Genesis library and some lesser-played titles like M.U.S.H.A. along for the ride.
Where the game library does falter is very little of it feels like the rush of nostalgia I think it should. I don’t know for sure that Shadows of the Empire won’t be available on the service, but I doubt it, and that memory of bringing my N64 to my aunt’s place to play it over Christmas break will probably stay tucked in my head. More games will come, but with Nintendo’s anemic release schedule for the NES and SNES apps, I don’t think adding two more consoles really lights a fire under them to do it in a timely fashion.
The Genesis content has some games that, like I mentioned, are not played a lot, but Sega has been so proactive in releasing Genesis Collections on everything over the past two-and-a-half decades that some of that library feels just completely fatigued. I am sure a lot people out there love Ecco the Dolphin but believe me when I tell you that I never need to play Ecco the Dolphin again.
Outside of the library, as a means to play N64 games again, the Switch Online experience isn’t perfect. Emulation errors are abound with the N64 game, including some of the weird hack-y things developers did to create effects using the early 3D gaming tech not rendering properly on a modern console. Unlike every other console on the service, N64 games don’t support the rewind feature. The N64 controller, a unique conveyance of input that was never really returned to, doesn’t map well onto the Switch’s controller options. Your best bet might be to buy the N64 controller that blinks in and out of stock on Nintendo’s site, but at that point you are adding another $50 onto an already iffy value proposition.
And I get it, emulation is hard, the N64 controller was a weird attempt at trying something new, rewind becomes much more complicated in 3D games, but they are also asking for nearly double what people were paying before, so the standards for expectations must also raise. Is this extra money going to secure Hybrid Heaven? Is there any chance something like X-Men 2: Clone Wars could make it? Are the online services going to get better?
At the moment, Nintendo is also packaging the new Animal Crossing DLC, Happy Home Paradise, into the cost of the subscription. Presumably that slot will be filled in with other DLC expansions for other games in the future, but Nintendo hasn’t said that. They have said, however, that a lapsed subscription means the DLC will go away, essentially meaning you’re leasing it from them with no intent to own. If you don’t own Animal Crossing or don’t intend to play it again, it’s not really much of a value-add, either.
There’s a lot of unanswered questions with the service that seem to, at least right now, boil down to Nintendo saying “Dude, trust us.”
I think eventually this expansion tier will be worth it when more Nintendo 64 and Genesis games come and supply both newer and more interesting titles that maybe you have never played before. But right now, if you are waffling about whether to spend the extra dough on the service, I think you can currently live without it.