A little in my time with Animal Crossing: New Horizons I was confronted with an ancient relic. No, I’m not talking about a T-Rex skull or a coelacanth living on the high seas – I’m talking about the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app. Like many Switch owners, I downloaded it when I first got my Switch, decided it wasn’t doing anything useful, then deleted it from my phone and checked it out. completely forgot.
However, in March of this year when I wanted to create a custom flag with my dog’s face for my Animal Crossing Island, I found myself having to redownload the app. Via a QR code system, you can use the app to transfer real life images to your game. By using this site to generate QR codes for your favorite images, custom designs can be imported directly from your game. film or old Animal Crossing games and it’s totally awesome! Want a giant poster of your favorite video game character on your house wall? A t-shirt that looks like your old Game Boy Color? No problem! You can do all of this and more with QR codes and the Switch Online smartphone app.
Additionally, a voice chat feature in New Horizons allows you to speak audibly with the friends you are playing with, which is much better than using the in-game text messaging system. This means that, if the one of your best friends is starting to have fun with your perfect five star island, you can yell at him correctly, rather than having to furiously type “STOP THIS!” In the text chat. Thankfully, voice chat is crisp and stable, and it’s definitely a feature we’ll never be able to live without in future installments of Animal Crossing.
In contrast, setting up voice chat is not as straightforward as it could be. This requires you to engage in online multiplayer first using a specific lobby, and only then can you start chatting. A better system would involve setting up a lobby on the app itself, or having a way to message a group of friends through the app and then initiate a group multiplayer session. Alas, this is not an option, so you often have to use some other means of communication to get everyone to open their voice chat to communicate through the game. Obviously, it’s a pretty complicated system.
Surf the Splat Net
Of course, Animal Crossing isn’t the only game to use the Switch Online app. The app was launched in summer 2017 alongside Splatoon 2 and SplatNet 2, an in-app “game-specific service” for the third-person shooter. SplatNet 2 allows players to keep tabs on an impressive amount of stats and also access the Hardware Store, where SplatNet exclusive hardware can be purchased with in-game currency. There is also a menu to keep. keep an eye on the schedule of upcoming stages in online multiplayer.
Splat Net 2 has been applauded for its clear and colorful presentation, but like Animal Crossing, voice chat is kind of a nightmare to set up. For this to work you need to go to the online lounge in Splatoon 2 and create a room, then you need to send a notification to your phone, then from your phone screen you need to invite people to play . Again, it’s way too complicated and frankly I couldn’t have done it without using a guide.
On the super horn
Fortunately, voice chat is not great for all Switch games. After installing the app for reasons related to Animal Crossing, I started to see a small phone symbol appear on my Switch screen for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe online sessions. I realized that during online shopping there is a feature that allows you to chat with anyone in your global or regional room that activates voice chat.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, the communities I have found while playing Mario Kart online have (largely) been quite healthy. Most of the people I spoke to have been polite, interested in where other players come from, and keen to learn about everyone’s experiences with Mario Kart over the years.
Of course, if you are looking for chatter, when I created a private room and invited real friends, there was no shortage of it. Insults flew through the voice chat along with the blue seashells, bananas and bob-ombs on the screen. I guess it depends on what you’re in the mood for.
It’s a small (smash) world
Another great game for voice chat, at least in theory, is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – of course I want to yell at people when they launch my beloved Kirby into the stratosphere! Unfortunately, compared to other Switch games online, Smash has a lot more lag during play which is very frustrating. I have found that how voice chat works only makes this lag more shocking. Additionally, similar to the games described above, Voice Chat on Smash is cumbersome to set up. Smash does offer more of these integrated game-specific services, however, this time in the form of “Smash World”.
Smash World lets you download the videos you’ve created while playing Smash, browse other players’ videos, and it also lets you view and download custom stages. There are a large number of amazing custom levels that players must have spent hours and hours designing, and I have uploaded several of them.
What is incredibly frustrating is that there is no advanced search option, you can only watch the “recommended” steps and then refresh the page to see new ones once you reach the bottom. The video search feature is only slightly better, allowing you to search for captures based on the characters in them.
Contemplation of the installation
So, almost three years after its release, is the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app worth downloading? It actually depends. It’s certainly worth it for the QR scanner functionality in Animal Crossing: New Horizons and for the voice chat in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Mario tennis aces also has a decent voice chat system). But, beyond that, the application is severely limited.
There are so many puzzling questions. Why can’t I create a lobby with friends in the app without starting a game? Why can’t I invite people to play with me through the app?
Nintendo appears to be quite far behind the industry standard in terms of online functionality. And that’s a real shame because, if you’re not playing New Horizons or Mario Kart, the app is pretty much redundant. Saving grace? A huge Proportion of Switch owners play Mario Kart or Animal Crossing!
Do you regularly use the Nintendo Switch Online app for your smartphone? Let us know by voting in the poll and leaving a comment below.