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NieR: Automata’s performance on Nintendo Switch exceeded my expectations

Being able to play Square Enix’s cult RPG hit on the go – whether you’re NieR or far – is better than I was expecting.

Admittedly, my expectations for NieR: Automata on the Nintendo Switch were quite low. I love Nintendo’s handheld more than most, picking it up near enough every day, but I’m also quite accustomed to it’s limited performance capabilities (as anyone that picked up Dark Souls on the platform will tell you).

So, when I had the opportunity to play NieR:Automata on Switch this past week, I began the download with a quiver of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to hand. Yet, while I’m only about eight hours into Yoko Taro’s unsettling masterpiece, I can’t wait to see it through to the end (or 26 ends, in this case).

Just yesterday, we saw the Anniversary Edition of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim come to Switch, and this is one of many huge titles that has been ported to the handheld since its release in 2017. There’s also Dark Souls, Wolfenstein, and The Witcher 3, to name but a few triple-A juggernauts on the hybrid home console/handheld device. If you’ve picked any of these games up, you’ll know that they certainly feel compromised on the Switch compared to other platforms.

Now, I’ve not played NieR:Automata before, but I’ve seen enough streamers, videos, and random clips on Twitter to know that I was in for quite the fantastical ride. I was waiting specifically for the game to come to Switch to try it, so that I could roam around and take on fights as 2B and get to know the androids from the comfort of my couch.

I wanted to go in blind – see just how well NieR:Automata played and performed, crunched down to fit easily between my palms. And you know what? I am pleasantly blown away by it. I’m reluctant to call the port a miracle, though; we’ve seen the wizards at Virtuos somehow manage to get L.A. Noire working seamlessly on Switch (even if there isn’t actually enough storage on a standard Switch to play the game. Oops.)

Virtuous is the same team that brought games such as Dark Souls Remastered and Bioshock: The Collection to the handheld, so I shouldn’t be surprised that NieR:Automata plays out as seamlessly as it does. And without any audio compression issues, either – imagine that! At 30fps, NieR:Automata manages 1080p while docked, and 720p when playing handheld. With NieR: Automata being as atmospheric as it is, it only feels right to play this on a bigger screen where possible; that said, playing handheld is still an unproblematic experience (if your eyesight is better than mine is, anyway).

Don’t get me wrong, my Switch sounded like a steam train during the opening of the game, but after handling the first 15 minutes, the rest of my journey up until leaving the Amusement Park was assuredly high-quality. Frames can drop amidst busy combat sequences, as is to be expected, but mess with a few visual settings and this becomes barely noticeable.

The Amusement Park machine boss in NieR:Automata

For a port that isn’t being sold at full price, it feels like a no-brainer to pick this up as a long-time NieR fan, or someone wanting to try the game in comfort for the first time (like myself). Virtuous is clearly masterful when it comes to bringing big titles to Switch, and reclaiming the world from machines as 2B, 9S, and A2 has never felt so good. You could even argue those occasional frame drops help you feel like an android glitching out as you play, if you want. You know, to fit in with the whole meta-commentary NieR excels at.

All in all, I’m glad I waited for NieR:Automata to arrive on Nintendo Switch, and I’m very eager to see just how the handheld holds up as I make my way towards these 26 endings that everyone keeps telling me about.

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