By Aaron Lim
If there’s one company that surprises me time and time again with products I didn’t even know I wanted, then Nintendo would probably top the list. When releasing the Switch over a year ago, my enthusiasm was arguably limited due to the underpowered hardware and the thin launch line-up that came with it, but in time I found myself drooling over the display on store shelves as I saw people playing Zelda with reckless abandonment. Fast forward a few months later, and you’d be hard pressed to see me walking outside without my Switch case at all times.
Therein lies one of Nintendo’s greatest qualities – the ability to find fun in places no one tries to look. It should come as no surprise then, that hot on the heels of their Nintendo Mini Direct showcase they had a week and a half ago, Nintendo premiered a surprise announcement: the unveiling of their wacky cardboard toy line-up known as Nintendo Labo.
The Nintendo Labo is honestly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. A strange mashup of physical toys with the qualities of a DIY project like LEGO or plastic models, Labo is a collection of cardboard cutout printouts (aptly called Toy-Con) that allows anyone to assemble a full fledged gadget like a piano, a fishing rod, or a robot suit. It uses the Joy-Cons wide array of sensors to do everything – from detecting which notes are played on the piano, to moving an RC through sheer vibration, and the concept is honestly ingenious.
Pre-orders are open now in selected countries, and there are two configurations confirmed for release: the Toy-Con Variety Kit 01, and the Toy-Con Robot Kit 02. The Variety Kit 01 comes with five different Toy-Con cardboard sets which consist of: the base mini-game collection cartridge, 2 RC cars, 1 Piano, 1 Motorbike, 1 Fishing Rod and 1 House. The Robot Kit 02 is basically just all the parts required to assemble the Robot Kit which allows you to control the robot in the included Robot mini-game which is awesome in and of itself.
But for me, the true value of Labo lies in its sheer potential – the potential to allow any game developer to create a unique experience by simply including a set of cardboard with their game. Imagine this: Harmonix makes a brand new Rock Band game for the Switch, but sells a set that’s constructed entirely out of Labo cardboard parts. Or even a Sega Fishing game using the Labo built fishing rod. The possibilities are endless.
Nintendo may have opened up a can of worms with this one, but I’m excited to see where this could lead. Only time will tell if Nintendo plans on letting third-party developers get access to Labo – but for now, I’m content just dreaming of a future where I can play “Through the Fire and the Flames” by Dragonforce with a full band of cardboard instruments.