Dark Souls started a phenomenon in 2011 that to this day is being replicated by developers. For good reason, too, because the mechanics of any Dark Souls game are some of the best. Even when you think you’ve learned what there is to know, the game knocks you down a few pegs until you learn how to overcome the next obstacle. If you’ve never played any title in the series, the game that launched a new genre is now available on the Nintendo Switch and for the most part, is a faithful port.
Praise the Sun
The remastered edition launched several months ago for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and while the Switch version isn’t as visually impressive as it is on other consoles, this is still one heck of a way to dive in for the first time or for the fifth time. This is Dark Souls on the go and that’s special. However, while the release from several months ago came with enhanced 4K visuals and improved matchmaking and quality-of-life improvements, most of these came to the Switch as well.
Due to the technical limitations of the Switch, there needed to be downgraded to make the port work. Playing on the go feels more in-line with playing the original on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Running at a stable 30 frames per second and 1080p while docked and 720p while in handheld. Aside from this, there isn’t much difference graphically, both docked and handheld mode works well. Also included in the Remastered version is the Artorias of the Abyss downloadable content which is worth checking out for a good challenge.
Of course, there are some issues that I’ve noticed that make for a less than stellar experience including the audio downgrade (sound effects don’t quite sound as high quality as they do on the PS4 and Xbox One) and the noticeable compression when using headphones. This isn’t something that ruins the experience by any means, nor is it one that enhances the experience.
Back to Lordran
However, that said – this version is the most like how I remembered playing the game several years ago. I decided that holding out for the Switch remaster was what I wanted so my time with the remaster on other consoles is from lets plays and gameplay videos found on YouTube. On other consoles, the 60 frames per second are welcome but the updated assets felt out of place. Comparing the Switch version to PS4 and Xbox One, the Switch version found the perfect balance in fidelity. On PS4 and Xbox One – the world aesthetic isn’t the same.
Beginning with a character creator, the game begins in a prison cell in the Undead Asylum where your goal is to escape. The area serves as the tutorial and introduces the mechanics to help you survive the desolate and cruel world of Lordran. Making your way to the first bonfire (checkpoints and rest stops) you see the warmth of flames dance around, keeping you safe from what is out to get you. Until you move past the first set of doors and wind up facing the Asylum Demon waiting to crush you. Dying once, twice, three times – learning how to counter the Demon’s move set and timing dodges. This is the essence of a Souls game. Learning to overcome what lies ahead, the rush of defeating the enemy.
And thankfully this time, the framerate isn’t an issue because timing dodges and missing the mark due to how bogged down the camera got was a nuisance. Of note, my biggest concern was seeing how the infamous derelict Blighttown would fare on the Switch.
Originally, Blighttown was famous for how horrible the area technically performed. Dealing with horrible frame-rate issues made navigating this intimidating situation much more difficult than intended. I remember how frustrating this section was years ago but luckily in the Remastered version, this isn’t an issue any longer. Trudging downwards as you make your way through grotesque, narrow paths is a harrowing experience and the fear is real as you inch your way into the unknown depths of Blighttown.
Multiplayer sessions now include six players, up from the original four. Covenants (factions which have rules and reward those follow them and penalize those who don’t) are present and switching your allegiance is now done at bonfires, instead of finding the NPC on the map.
Seven years later and the original Dark Souls is now on a handheld and is essential to play at some point. Technically better than the original release, Dark Souls Remastered is a good port of an exceptional game. But while this version lacks the visual polish of the PS4 and Xbox One, the core experience is here and available on the go. Playing in handheld mode is an experience I’m always adjusting to but it that experience found anywhere else.