Dark Souls, without a doubt, is one of my favorite games of all time. While I played and loved its predecessor Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls took its ideas and reworked them into an experience that was on a whole new level for me. As good at it was, however, it had technical and gameplay aspects that could (and should) have been fixed. In the years that followed, fans of the game that weren’t able to play the fan-modded PC version have hoped that a better, more polished release of Dark Souls would come at some point in the future.
Earlier this year, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC received just that in Dark Souls Remastered, a beefed-up rerelease of the original that bumped up the game’s textures, frame rate, and more. A Nintendo Switch version was also promised, but not only was it fashionably late, it ended up taking a different approach to the “remastered” idea than its siblings.
Dark Souls Remastered on the Switch is, in actuality, a port of the original PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions, not a direct alternative to what those other platforms recently received. That may instantly be disappointing for some: if you like what you’ve seen of the upgrades brought to the game, they simply aren’t present here. However, that decision does give the Switch version of Remastered an interesting alternate purpose: being a theoretical “best” version of the game many of us played back in 2011, separate from those more drastic updates. I know that may sound like a weird goal to strive for, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I actually appreciate getting that. As someone with so much attachment to the original game, there’s something nice about being able to play what I experienced back then in a better form. And, given the mixed opinions over some of the changes made (such as the new lighting engine) in the other versions of Remastered, I honestly believe a lot of people beyond myself will like having a more faithful option.
It’s also not like Dark Souls Remastered on Switch comes without any improvements. Without question, the most notable change is to its frame rate, which sees a boost both legitimate and noticeable. I know what you’re all wondering, so yes, the infamous Blighttown is a far better experience now. It’s not just that one particular area that’s better, though—it’s the entire game throughout. Now, things aren’t perfect—we’re getting 30fps here versus the 60fps of the other versions of Remastered, and there are occasions when the game drops below that—but this is the best frame rate the original Dark Souls has ever seen. There are other benefits over its last-gen predecessor as well, such as Vsync support (which I’m happy about as someone who hates screen tearing) and the bump up to six players being able to join together online versus the previous four.
Unfortunately, I said “theoretical” best version because Dark Souls Remastered on Switch has a handful of failings that keep it from being the definitive release it could have been. The first, and easily most noticeable, is that all of the game’s audio is strangely low quality. Be it due to aggressive compression, bad source files, a mistake in the encoding process, or who knows what else, the issue is very noticable when either playing on a television or in handheld mode using headphones. Now, honestly, it’s not a dealbreaker for me—once I got engrossed in adventuring through Lordran again, the audio quality kind of faded away—but it absolutely will be for others. While not nearly as big of an issue as its sound, some of the game’s visual effects (such as fire) suffer in the transition to Switch. That’s a real shame, because you know the hardware should be more than capable of handling a proper a PS3/360 port.
Much more frustrating for me is that an issue that plagued Dark Souls way back in 2011 still exists here: sometimes, after pressing either of the main combat buttons, attacks either come out delayed, or simply not at all. (And no, to be clear, this has nothing to do with being out of stamina or bad positioning or anything like that.) How in the world is this still a problem seven years later? It doesn’t occur often enough to break the game, but it can absolutely put you in serious danger if it happens at just the wrong time. It’s especially maddening given the fact that the game is far more playable with the Switch’s Joy-Cons than I was expecting, especially in handheld mode. Well, there is one other hitch: precision aiming for bows can be a real pain in the rear. I’ve shied away from shooters on the Switch due to its smaller-sized, lower-travel sticks, and trying to snipe enemies from afar, I was reminded of why. Normally I don’t care at all for gyro aiming in games, but it’d be a very welcome option here.
On a professional level, in writing this review, it’s impossible to ignore the legitimate issues that have come along with Dark Souls Remastered’s arrival on Switch. On a more personal level, playing as a Dark Souls fan who long ago learned that you’ve got to be a bit forgiving sometimes, I can’t be too upset. Years ago, when I bought my first PlayStation Portable at launch, it shocked me that a handheld device could give me a game like Ridge Racer. That feeling of disbelief returned once again here, and I can’t properly explain the wonder of Dark Souls on a piece of hardware I can hold in my hands. (Nor can I believe how playable it is in that form.) Concessions were made to bring that to me—some of which really deserve fixing in the near future—but the journey this new version takes us on outweighs the stumbles you’ll encounter along the way. The Switch version of Dark Souls Remastered certainly isn’t for everyone, but I’m very glad to now have it sitting alongside the other releases of the game, providing an option for when I want to return to a land that I love in a different, unique way.
While it isn’t without some notable and completely unnecessary problems, the Switch version of Dark Souls Remastered is still a great way to experience one of the best games ever released. The ability to play the game wherever and whenever is wonderful, and it’s nice to have this improvement on the original PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 release to contrast the more drastic overhaul the other platforms received.
M – Mature
|Dark Souls Remastered is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC. Primary version played was for Nintendo Switch. Product was provided by Bandai Namco for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.