Seven years. That’s how it has been since Dark Souls first was released. Ever since then, we’ve received a PC version, a downloadable expansion, an Artorias of the Abyss Edition with all that content and then a remaster that hit earlier this year. Unfortunately, one release was absent: the Switch version. This is a platform that has blown up since it launched early last year, so more and more developers are putting resources into it, but it looks like there are some hurdles that developers need to overcome before bringing their games over. After so many months of waiting, we’re finally able to play FromSoftware’s last generation masterpiece on a portable device such as the Switch, but with it comes some limitations and sacrifices.
Dark Souls Remastered seems to run at the promised resolution of 720p in handheld mode and 1080p when docked and it looks great. While Dark Souls was never a graphical marvel, it looks impressive when running on the Switch. Unfortunately, there are two glaring issues with this version: the frame rate and inability to remap certain buttons. The former issue isn’t too bad as it runs fairly smooth all throughout, but it becomes apparent in specific area in the world when the Switch is unable to keep up. Whether it’s in handheld mode or docked, the frame rate takes a couple of blows, but fortunately not as bad as the original game. For example, Blighttown still runs well at around 30fps, compared to the horrendous efforts when the game first launched in 2011. It won’t get to unplayable levels, but you’ll see it here and there. The latter is an unfortunate issue that I hope is fixed in a patch. You are able to remap most of the commands in the menu, with the exception of the confirm command. Because Nintendo uses a slightly different control scheme, with the A button still being the confirm button, but instead is on the right side of the face buttons, this can cause problems. This is because Dark Souls forces you use to the original control scheme where the bottom face button is to interact with the world. If you’re primarily a Nintendo player, you’ll need to rewire your brain a bit to get used to it.
I would also recommend playing Dark Souls Remastered on a Pro controller only because the Joy-Cons don’t feel as good when in the heat of battle. That’s not to say they’re bad to use by any means, but the softness of buttons and looseness of the thumbsticks feel more tuned for a challenging, precision game such as this. I should also mention that load times can be a bit long in specific instances. It’s nowhere near as bad as say when Bloodborne first released, but we’ve had it go upwards of twenty seconds just to respawn after a death. Looking past the compromises the developers needed to take, one aspect players will benefit from is the ability to pause in the game. That’s right; because the Switch has the prominent ability to suspend gameplay at any time, it will essentially pause the action and allow you to have a break without having to worry about a roaming enemy taking your sweet souls. There are motion controls for emotes, which are smartly assigned to when you’re holding down B, but outside of that, there isn’t too much to speak of in terms of advantages as most of the game retains the functionality of the other versions.
In the end, this is Dark Souls in a handheld format. There’s not much to it, really. There are some sacrifices that need to be made, specifically an inconsistent frame rate at times and the inability to remap confirm and cancel, meaning you’ll have to play with B as confirm and A as cancel (almost like the good ol’ days). But in turn, you get a portable version of Dark Souls that holds up fairly well, and even comes with the functionality of pausing, at least in offline mode. If for some reason you’ve been holding out for the Switch version for its portability, you won’t be disappointed.