Nintendo Returns to Toymaking with Nintendo Labo

Two kits to launch in April.

Following a “surprise” Nintendo Direct Mini last week, Nintendo sat poised to make another announcement today with only less than a day’s notice. But unlike last week’s feature, which focused on video games, today’s announcement feels like the company is returning to an earlier point in its history from before they became the gaming giant they are known as today.

Incidentally, despite the headline, I suppose the amiibo line could also be seen as a return to making toys, but something about this seems more evocative of innovations such as Ultra-Hand and the Nintendo tumbler puzzle/”Ten Billion Barrel” than their figurines. See for yourself:

“Make, Play, and Discover” are the themes driving Nintendo Labo, a series of do-it-yourself (DIY) kits which change how one can interact with their Nintendo Switch. Each kit includes modular sheets of cardboard which can be folded into what Nintendo calls “Toy-Cons,” which can house the Nintendo Switch and its Joy-Cons in various ways. “As you build, you will have fun discovering how the technology works, and might even invent new ways to play with each Toy-Con!” says the press release.

For example, you can build a functioning 13-key piano that brings your musical creations to life once the Nintendo Switch console and Right Joy-Con controller are inserted. As you play, the IR Motion Camera in the Right Joy-Con detects which keys are pressed and translates them into unique notes that are heard through the console. You can even take control of your very own motorbike by constructing a functioning set of handlebars, with a Joy-Con inserted in each side and the Nintendo Switch console cradled in the middle. Simply hit the ignition button, turn the right handle to engage the accelerator and watch your adventure unfold on the Nintendo Switch screen, as you race to new destinations.

Nintendo Labo continues our longstanding mission of making people smile by surprising them with new experiences,” said Nintendo of America’s President and COO, Reggie Fils-Aime, in the press release. “It is an exciting evolution of the Nintendo Switch platform – one designed to inspire curiosity, creativity and imagination in people of all ages.”

Two kits will kick off the line on April 20th, the “Variety Kit” and the “Robot Kit”. Via the press release:

Variety Kit 

  • Toy-Con RC Car: Insert the Left and Right Joy-Con into your newly built RC Car and control its movement using touch screen controls on the Nintendo Switch console. The HD Rumble feature in the Joy-Con controllers will cause vibrations that move the car in the direction you choose. Materials to construct two RC Cars are included.
  • Toy-Con Fishing Rod: Construct the Fishing Rod with an active, rotating reel that is attached by string to a cradle holding the Nintendo Switch console. Catch one of many exotic fish shown swimming on the Nintendo Switch screen by casting your Fishing Rod and unwinding the reel to lower the hook. Once you feel a vibration from the Joy-Con inserted in the reel, you must tug the Fishing Rod upward and crank the reel quickly to try and complete the catch!
  • Toy-Con House: By inserting various assembled blocks into openings in the sides and bottom of the House, you can interact with, play games with and feed a cute creature on the front-facing Nintendo Switch screen. Each differently shaped block is detected by the IR Motion Camera on the Right Joy-Con inserted on top of the House.
  • Toy-Con Motorbike: Insert each Joy-Con into an assembled set of handlebars to drive a motorbike on the Nintendo Switch screen. Pressing the ignition button starts the engine, while twisting the right handle activates the throttle. Leaning your body or turning the handlebars left and right controls the motorbike.
  • Toy-Con Piano: After assembling a beautifully crafted 13-key piano and inserting the Nintendo Switch console and Joy-Con, you can experiment with your own musical creations by pressing different keys. You can even insert different assembled knobs to create new sound effects and tones!

“Dr. Light will never be able to stop me now!”

Robot Kit 

  • Toy-Con Robot: Create a wearable Robot suit, and insert the Left and Right Joy-Con into the designated slots on the backpack and visor to assume control of the robot, which is shown on the TV when the Nintendo Switch console is docked. Enjoy a variety of fun game-play experiences, including Robot mode, in which you can destroy in-game buildings and UFOs.

Interestingly enough, one has to wonder if the Robot Kit didn’t manage to somehow spring out of the “Project Giant Robot” game that Nintendo was working on for Wii U, but confirmed as cancelled last year.

No Canadian pricing has been announced yet, but in the States, the Variety Kit will be priced at $69.99 USD, while the Robot Kit will go for $79.99 USD. Most big first-party Nintendo Switch games have been priced at $59.99 USD, which has translated to $79.99 CAD (going by listings on their website), so hopefully that gives us some idea of what we’ll be paying when they’re released here. For more information, be sure to visit the official Nintendo Labo website.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.