Dark Souls Remastered released on most consoles back in May, giving players a chance to relive (or finally experience) the game that inspired countless imitators. The Nintendo Switch version will finally arrive this Friday. It’s an impressive technical achievement that, while not as robust as other versions, is still worth exploring.
Dark Souls Remastered is a very successful translation of the classic exploration RPG to modern consoles. In my review, I called it a kind of “technical necromancy.” The remaster feels like a ritual, a rekindling of the flame for a game that was slowly fading. Bringing it to the Switch has some downsides—it’s not as pretty to look at as other versions—but mostly captures everything great about the source material. Here’s a clip of me heading from Firelink Shrine to Blighttown, if you want to see it in action.
Handheld mode is the game’s biggest trick. There’s no denying that the ability to play Dark Souls in bed or on the subway is incredibly cool. The Switch has been cementing itself as something of an exploration RPG paradise, with games like Hollow Knight and Salt and Sanctuary offering gorgeous worlds that fit in your hands. Dark Souls is the progenitor that makes those games possible, and the land of Lordran translates well on a portable console. My only minor complaint so far is that the Joy-Con analog sticks have always been bad for fine movement, which means that camera control and dodging can be a little more difficult when playing in handheld mode. It’s not a dealbreaker, but you might find yourself dying a little more often than you’re used to.
Transporting the remaster to the Switch comes at the cost of some visual crispness and performance. Players eager for 60 frames per second won’t find it here. The Nintendo Switch version caps at 30, and features some more jagged graphics than the other remastered versions. In many ways, these technical limitations make the gameplay experience feel more faithful to the original version. Dark Souls was always a clumsy and muddy game, defined just as much by its rough edges as its difficult mechanics. The remaster arguably changed the core experience in certain areas, like the once notorious framerate-hogging Blighttown. The Nintendo Switch version doesn’t revert to those dogged days, but it doesn’t soar as high as other versions either. As a result, you have something that feels authentic but which might not live up to the ever-increasing standards of modern players.
I don’t know if the Switch version would be my go-to recommendation for someone looking to experience Dark Souls, but it’s a solid port and an impressive technical achievement. There’s something remarkable about having one of gaming’s best world available to you wherever you go, and the game continues to hold up even as the genre it birthed grows larger and larger. And now that I’ve started, I guess I’m just going to have to play the whole damn thing again.