In most traditional board-games, the player holding the black game pieces is the one who performs the first action. This leads many players to gravitate towards playing as black, as it instils a confidence for an offensive pursuit that can intimidate the other player. However, even if you're playing first, your decision is virtually meaningless if it's a move even the slightest bit reactionary and not calculated.
The same dilemma could be applied for the decision to release a game on a console's launch. While it could be an incredibly strong way to create sales due to the necessity of games to play on a brand-new game system, it could also mean that you put out a lacklustre game that makes the other launch games have even more prominence. Essentially, there's two ways a launch-title can be construed through an exclusive focal point pertaining the Nintendo Switch - either with the incredibly strong critical launch of Breath of the Wild, or with Arc System Work's Othello.
Arc System Works is a Japanese developer known for its fabulously flashy 2D fighting games in the Blazblue and Guilty Gear series. These games have had a consistent track record when flawlessly introducing deep and complex mechanics, complimenting presentation with over-the-top and silky smooth visuals. To say the least, it's a bizarre choice that a rendition of Othello would be among the first titles Arc System Works would bring to the Nintendo Switch. On first impression the title almost seems passable as a low-key release, almost like padding which would be featured as a mini-game in an otherwise grandiose title.
Othello might be one of the first conceptions of the clichèd phrase, "easy to learn, but difficult to master." It's a game which is, in essence, a watered down version of the Japanese board game Go (with Othello presenting itself as a mediary of Gobang and Go itself). The game is simple, with four discs placed in the middle from the start (two black and two white). It is entirely structured for you to be flanking the other opponent's discs, and unlike with Go the physical version of Othello merely tasks you with flipping the disc over, creating the opposite colour when capturing - not requiring you, then, to constantly replace your pieces. This allows the game to go much faster than Go, and it's much more casual. A match ends when there can no longer be any legal moves that can be made, and the winner is determined by a tally of the colours.
There are many strategies and depths to Othello which make the game the timeless classic it's been for the past 200 years, and this adaptation is faithful and holds up. However, the COM's AI is disappointing, either being incredibly smart or unfortunately dense, a dilemma which many tabletop games have unfortunately exhibited. Thankfully, playing with others locally is a blast, and it's easier than ever with the Nintendo Switch as an always-accessible multiplayer machine; you can use Joy-Con or just the touchscreen, and play pretty much however you please. At its very core, Othello adds itself to the already busy library of multiplayer titles on the Nintendo Switch.
Othello is a release that can certainly grab and hold the attention of those that like the core game or want a bit of relaxed multiplayer; you can easily pass a Joy-Con or even exclusively use the touchscreen. However, while it's interesting to see Arc System Works diversify itself, the title would be much more at home if it was included with a compilation of other tabletop games. It's a functional and solid release, though it's down to individuals whether the convenience is worth the price, or whether this is one of those 'when on discount' downloads.