I love productivity applications on video game systems, especially on Nintendo consoles. Sometimes these apps are hidden inside full games, sometimes they're no nonsense programs and sometimes "non-game" programs are actually, in fact, games (Gameboy Camera and Mario Paint come to mind).
The tradition of having high quality non-game/productivity applications on Nintendo systems continues to this day, but they often don't get much attention. After all, you buy a game system to play games! But why stop at just games? Why not broaden your horizons a bit?
So here's 4 apps for Nintendo Switch that might help you level up your skills in real life.
KORG Gadget for Nintendo Switch
Publisher: DETUNE Ltd.
Developer: DETUNE Ltd.
Release Date: April 26th, 2018
Digital Download Only*
Lowest Sale Price: $33.60
Application Type: DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
*Physical copy released only in Japan
KORG Gadget for Nintendo Switch attempts to be "a music creation studio that feels like a game." In my opinion it doesn't really succeed in feeling like a game, but where it does succeed is in being a solid DAW with an accessible UI and plenty of high quality instruments to choose from.
KORG Gadget gives you access to 16 gadgets (18 if you purchase the 2 DLC gadgets) ranging from drum machines and synthesizers to traditional instruments and sound samples. With these you can compose your own songs either alone or with a friend. If you've never even so much as heard of a DAW before, there's no need to worry. KORG Gadget has a few tutorials that help you get a feel for the app's features and the general workflow of music creation.
KORG Gadget's multiplayer mode allows another player to compose with you at the same time, allowing you to create collaborative works either locally or over the internet. You can also create a room online that other users can visit to watch you compose (or even join in if you choose).
Mind you my only other experience with a DAW is Audacity, but I found the UI surprisingly easy to wrap my head around and control with the Joy-cons or Pro Controller.
I was skeptical of how well I would be able to navigate the various screens without a mouse, but within a few hours I didn't even have to think about what buttons to push to adjust a gadget or play back my composition.
KORG Gadget's biggest fault is its closed ecosystem. At present the only offical way to export your compositions is through the KORG app on your phone (only available on iOS) with a QR code. This is annoying, but a male to male aux cable between your Switch and a PC can also do the trick.
If you're interested in getting into music production, I can definitely recommend KORG Gadget for Nintendo Switch. You won't find too many DAWs more beginner friendly than this.
FUZE4 Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 30th, 2019
Publisher: FUZE Technologies
Developer: FUZE Technologies
Digital Download Only
Lowest Sale Price: Never Been on Sale*
Application Type: Game Coding
*Permenant price drop from $40 to $20 on February 1st, 2020
Why play games on your game console when you can make them? FUZE4 gives you over 10,000 game assets to build your very own games coded from scratch. It even includes an image creator and map editor to provide you with even more artistic options.
FUZE4 uses its own custom designed code aptly named "FUZE". The dev team has attempted to create a coding language that is, to quote the official description, "as easy as BASIC, powerful like C and versatile like Python".
It's worth noting that if you're going to use FUZE4, you're probably going to want a USB keyboard to work with. The software keyboard can be used either via touch or controller and is perfectly serviceable for editing pieces of code on the go, but there's just no matching the speed and accuracy of typing on a physical keyboard. You can either plug the keyboard into the USB port on the side of your Nintendo Switch Dock or use a USB to USB-C converter to connect your keyboard directly to the Switch when in handheld.
I tried using the latter method while using the 3DS stand included with Kid Icarus Uprising to hold up my Nintendo Switch. It wasn't too bad, but connecting directly to the dock is the way to go.
You can build programs and use IDs to download other users programs and share your own (you'll mainly find these IDs by visiting FUZE4's official online forum, FUZE Arena). A cool feature is that every game or program coded by other users you download can have its code edited. See something a user created in their program and want to know how it works? Just take a look in the code. You can even copy segments of code straight from other programs into your own.
Unfortunately at this time there's no way to export any of your projects from your Nintendo Switch to your PC. Similarly, there's no way to import files such as music or images from your PC to your Nintendo Switch. FUZE4 is an entirely closed ecosystem.
Perhaps the best feature of FUZE4, however, is its in-game coding manual. I've tried using Python, C, and Ruby programming books to teach myself to code several times over the years and each time I've quit out of frustration. Whether it was being unable to figure out coding mistakes or the book introducing new concepts without properly explaining them, I'd always reach a section in the book where my mind couldn't keep up.
The coding manual in FUZE4 is SUPERB. Its 20+ tutorials are well written, concise, and sometimes even humorous. You can edit your code on the left while the manual is open on the right side of the screen so you can follow its examples in real time. You can even copy code straight from the manual if you need to. To top it all off, there's full reference material for every possible term applicable to the FUZE coding language.
From functions to vectors to arrays to variables and beyond, the in-game coding manual will teach you much of what you need to know as a brand new coder. For the first time, I read a coding manual from start to finish and understood every concept.
If you are looking to understand coding I cannot recommend FUZE4 enough. Even though FUZE is a coding language only built for FUZE4, the concepts and features of FUZE can be found in many of the most commonly used coding languages.
Last and most importantly, you can change FUZE4's UI design to look like a knockoff ZX Spectrum, so that automatically makes it the coolest thing ever.
Release Date: April 23rd, 2020
Publisher: SmileBoom Co.Ltd.
Developer: SmileBoom Co.Ltd.
Digital Download Only
MSRP: $25, $30 with Server Ticket
Lowest Sale Price: Never Been on Sale
Application Type: Game Coding
SmileBASIC for the 3DS and its predecessor Petit Computer for DSi Ware were doing coding on Nintendo handhelds before it was cool. SmileBASIC 4 on Nintendo Switch upholds the series reputation for being easy to learn, yet surprisingly powerful.
I won't go as indepth about SmileBASIC 4 because much of what it does I already covered in my coverage of FUZE4. Instead, I think it makes more sense to highlight what separates it from FUZE4: where it shines and where it falters.
It goes without saying that SmileBASIC 4 is also best used with a USB keyboard. However, unlike FUZE4, SmileBASIC 4 also lets you connect and use a USB mouse. I also found the software keyboard to be better on FUZE4. SmileBASIC 4's software keyboard is much too small for my tastes.
Much like FUZE4, SmileBASIC 4 uses its own custom designed programming language named, you guessed it, "SmileBASIC". Compared to FUZE it's much closer to BASIC coding language in both syntax and capabilities. If you can code with SmileBASIC, you can pretty much code in BASIC with only a bit of adjustment.
While I personally found it a little more difficult to use compared to FUZE (since FUZE streamlines quite a few processes a la Python), SmileBASIC's strong connection to BASIC means you are learning a coding language that's almost 1 to 1 with an actual coding language. Something to keep in mind.
SmileBASIC 4 also allows the user to upload their works as well as download the works of others, just like FUZE4. However, you will need to purchase a Server Ticket to download more than 1 program every 8 hours. A Server Ticket is $5 and gives you unlimited downloads of other users' shared programs and allows you to upload your own. Once you buy one, you don't need to buy another unless you want to upload and share more than 10 programs.
Basically if you're going to buy SmileBASIC 4, just get the $30 bundle with the Server Ticket. Without the ability to share and download other users' programs you're missing out on half of the appeal of SmileBASIC 4: being able to play, analyze, and edit the code of other users.
SmileBASIC 4 has the ability to browse shared programs built into the game unlike FUZE4's ID system that requires you to share your code via an online forum, social media, etc. Also, I found the available user shared programs more impressive on SmileBASIC 4 than FUZE4.
This can likely be attributed to SmileBASIC having 3 previous incarnations before 4 and the SmileBASIC series being originally a Japanese programming app series (it even had a Japan only iteration on Wii U). This means there are a lot of awesome programs made by Japanese users over the years available, although some, like visual novels for instance, are unplayable without knowledge of Japanese.
Lastly, the in-game tutorials for SmileBASIC 4 are done through a series of humorous (and often badly translated) discussions about coding between a teacher, a professor, and two rowdy kids.
It's charming, but it pales in comparison to FUZE4's tutorials. There are far less available and each covers much less than a tutorial in FUZE4. If you want indepth lessons on how to program SmileBASIC your best bet is to look up videos online.
All in all, SmileBASIC 4 is a well built coding application that's very easy to recommend.
When choosing between FUZE4 and SmileBASIC 4, your choice will likely come down to whether you want a more indepth tutorial and lower price in FUZE4 or a coding language more closely related to a real world one and more impressive user made content to play in SmileBASIC 4.
I bought both because I couldn't choose! Swapping between coding with FUZE and SmileBASIC requires some knowledge of where the syntax and capabilities deviate, but I've navigated it pretty well so far. Plus the general coding concepts introduced in the FUZE4 tutorials will apply broadly to SmileBASIC 4 as well.
Release Date: Summer 2020
Publisher: Collecting Smiles
Developer: Collecting Smiles
Digital Download Only*
MSRP: $40 (Includes Colors Sonarpen)
Lowest Sale Price: N/A
Application Type: Digital Art Studio
*Available for preorder via Gamefound, Will Be Available on Nintendo eShop Following Release
Starting life as a homebrew application for the Nintendo DS, the Colors series really hit its stride with Colors 3D for Nintendo 3DS. With one of the highest Metacritic scores of any 3DS game, Colors 3D proved to be a powerful and versatile art program in a small package. Now the series returns on Nintendo Switch with a new twist.
A successful Kickstarter campaign saw the Colors dev team raise $258,847 out of a requested $16,304, blowing well past every stretch goal. What makes Colors Live unique compared to previous entries is the new Colors Sonarpen. The Colors Sonarpen plugs into the headphone jack of your Nintendo Switch and includes pressure sensitivity. This means the size or opacity of your strokes can now be adjusted simply by how much pressure you apply to the touch screen.
After you've finished creating your own personal masterpiece you can upload it to your gallery on the Colors Live website. Here you can browse other artists' work, leave comments, watch playbacks of the creation process of any piece of art, and export your art.
Colors Live essentially turns your Nintendo Switch into a drawing tablet. I've personally backed Colors Live and gained access to its Patron tier only PC Beta. It's the same Colors users know and love, but now with more brushes, better layer management, a new challenge mode called Colors Quest, and more. I'm very excited to try out the finished product with my Colors Sonarpen later this summer.
Productivity apps on Nintendo Switch are a great way to learn a new skill or increase your creativity. Hopefully you'll find at least one of these apps intriguing enough to check out. Let me know if there are any other productivity/non-game apps on Nintendo Switch you'd personally recommend.