Dark Souls Remastered hitting the Switch is exciting for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s the first time Dark Souls has ever hit a Nintendo platform in the history of the franchise. It’s a win for all parties involved, as it gets a new audience playing the Souls games and it also signals that Nintendo is more and more willing to be the home of a variety of genres, including tough-as-nails violent and darkly themed RPGs.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this is the first opportunity gamers have to truly experience Dark Souls as a portable experience. While the port is not without its flaws and playing the challenging adventure in handheld mode adds an extra layer of difficulty due to the smaller screen, it’s reinvigorated my love for a series that I thought I couldn’t love anymore.
I’m a fan of this genre. Guilty, as charged. Having played Demon’s Souls, all of the Dark Souls games, Bloodborne, Nioh, The Surge – hell, even Lords of the Fallen. I consider myself a lover of painfully tough games that test your memory and your limits, with steep learning curves throughout. I wasn’t as eager to get stuck into Dark Souls Remastered when it originally was released on other platforms earlier this year. The graphical upgrades looked nice enough, but it all still felt pretty fresh in my memory. (That being said, do check out Elliot’s review of that version right here).
To my surprise, I didn’t have the feeling of any monotony when playing Dark Souls Remastered on Switch. The beats, areas, and bosses are definitely familiar, but enough time has passed since my original playthrough that it does feel different. Especially so as I’ve been playing it in handheld mode for the majority of the experience.
While still well-suited for long gaming sessions, it’s also become something of a great pick-up-and-play title for short bursts, given the game is easily “paused” using the power button. Collecting a few souls here and there, achieving a bit of progress on a difficult path or failing – sorry, learning from – a tricky boss battle. No longer is it a title that is reserved for long play sessions in my living room; it’s the perfect distraction on train rides, plane trips and while your housemate is watching that trashy new Netflix show everyone is talking about.
Still, it’s not without its flaws. Played portably, the screen is quite small, meaning those enemies lurking around dark corners are even trickier to see leaping out of you at inopportune moments. Boss battles prove equally tricky with their sheer size often making the hardest battles of the game even more taxing. The UI takes up a fair bit of space also, which makes the real estate on screen even more limiting, and that can’t be changed which feels like an oversight.
Framerate is also locked at 30fps, a step down from the other platforms. I also had some issues with brightness; even at max settings in the game and on the Switch itself, I found some areas really difficult to play if any sort of light was reflecting off the screen. Some might call this an extra challenge – I have some other choice words that are probably best left unsaid.
Dark Souls Remastered hitting the Switch a few months after it released on other platforms might not prove to be an essential purchase for fans of the franchise, if only for the fact that it isn’t technically the best version of the game available. What it does offer that is completely unique to every other version of Dark Souls out there is that this can be played portably, which may be enough of a selling point for Souls-lovers who want to get their frustrating fix on-the-go. It’s certainly a fine enough port in most other respects, so its mileage will depend entirely on your enjoyment of Souls games.
For me personally, it’s the perfect distraction I didn’t know I was looking for.