In 2017, many people had their first introduction to the NieRseries with NieR: Automata. In the years that followed, the once cult series has become a big property for Square Enix and for good reason. PlatinumGames developed Automata with help from Yoko Taro and the final product is easily one of the most exciting action games in recent memory. Five years ago, all people were talking about was how brilliant the collaboration was.
It only took five years for NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition to come to the Nintendo Switch but it’s better late than never. In those five years, the Switch has become the home of many unexpected ports including the arrival of Doom, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Apex Legends, and a few more surprising capable entries. The problem the hardware faces half a decade later is that has begun to introduce bottlenecking for many developers. This means that while it is likely feasible to bring your product to Switch, it comes at the cost of performance or fidelity and sometimes even both.
Automata At The End of the World
We’ve seen some mighty impressive ports like Doom but then we’ve also had Apex Legends land on the console which is the easiest the blurriest and least impressive version of Respawn’s free-to-play shooter. In the case of NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition, I have spent over a week revisiting this incredible world and have enjoyed almost every minute of it.
There are some concessions made to fit the experience on the go like locked 30 frames per second. In comparison, I remember the PlayStation 4 having a fluctuating framerate that went from anywhere in the 40 to the 50 range. The good thing is that the experience on Switch is enjoyable, even if it isn’t 60 frames per second.
The narrative is about as insane as you can get and given this is something from director Yoko Taro, there isn’t a moment you’re not feeling weird. In a post-apocalyptic world set in the far-distant future where humanity is all but wiped out, it is now up to the androids to reclaim what is left of the planet and restore humans to their former status. In the age of machines, this is no easy task and thanks to the excellent writing and narrative threads, NieR: Automata delivers an excellent look at what it means to be a machine. To fully understand the philosophical nature of Automata, you need to play the game multiple times to grasp the biggest picture (and you really need to play several times to get the full experience).
I fully encourage you to spend the time to complete the 26 different endings of NieR: Automata The End of YoRHa Edition. Many of them are often hilarious and abruptly end if you lose in battle or against a boss, leaving with you regret and usually funny sprawling bit of text.
A future is not given to you. It is something you must take for yourself
With the port being handled by Virtuos, one of the leaders in porting to Switch, there are a few exclusive features worth mentioning. Motion controls have been added for players to use with their Joy-Con and after some testing I found myself enjoying the choice to swing my controller. Granted, it is not the preferred way to play a game like this but there are some who might want to start out swinging. However, Automata quickly becomes a frantic series of showdowns against enemy barrages and thus, it may likely hinder your experience.
In handheld mode, I noticed that the environments are pared down to make the experience fit on Switch. A lot of the textures are fewer details when compared to PlayStation or Xbox and it isn’t as populated. It’s a concession the team at Virtuos made to make this a feasible port and I don’t think it affects the experience enough to deter your enjoyment.
In docked mode, the resolution output aims for 1080p and impressively gets there, even outperforming last-gen consoles. Of course, this isn’t something most people will worry about and for the majority of my playthrough, it was consistent enough to be played without concern. Handheld mode delivers 720p and feels good in your hands, the image is a bit blurry when compared to being on television. However, when using the Switch OLED model, the cutscenes look a lot better than I expected.
And if this wasn’t enough to entice you into trying out NieR, the inclusion of the 3C3C1D119440927 DLC might. This downloadable content includes three costumes and three coliseums based on NieR Replicant. This isn’t pertinent to the campaign in any form, but it does have some bonuses I’m happy to see added.
The NieR series is a lot bigger than many thought it would ever become and five years on continues to be an important series for Square Enix. The thing here though is that if you played NieR: Automata on either console or PC, there isn’t anything here you’re missing. The ability to take your games on the go has been the Switch’s biggest selling point for years and continues to be one of the main draws of the hybrid console.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]