Nier: Automata has never been especially well optimised. On PS4 and Xbox One it strived to hit 60 frames per second, but frequently dropped beneath its performance target and thus provided an experience that was ultimately inconsistent. The PC version sucked too, with fans constantly asking Square Enix to fix its many issues with little success. Despite it being heralded by many as a modern masterpiece, the game isn’t shown very much respect.
So when it was announced that Automata would be coming to Nintendo Switch in the form of the End of Yorha Edition, I feared the worst. How was this game that was already a technical mess on far more powerful hardware going to hold up on a portable console that had a less than stellar history when it came to ports of more ambitious titles. Turns out the answer is way better than I ever could have expected. After playing through the game’s opening I think this is not only a solid version of the classic action RPG, but a new benchmark of what we can expect from older games making their way to the platform. Glory to Mankind and all that.
Nier: Automata was never a visual marvel. Its environments are rather simplistic, sporting a drab colour palette of greys, browns, and greens that perfectly represent its post-apocalyptic landscape. Yet its art design always shone through, presenting a distinct creative vision that has since become iconic. 2B, 9S, and the wider aesthetic choices will go down in history as some of the medium’s most beloved, despite the fact that on the surface it looks like a JRPG on PS2 that nobody has ever heard of. That identity remains untouched on the Nintendo Switch, meaning that even with lowered performance metrics it remains a banger.
The game’s opening is filled with explosive set pieces and battles known for pushing existing versions of this game to the brink. 2B and her fellow androids are surrounded by enemies as they fly into the
city, overwhelmed in a hail of hostile gunfire as they meet their deaths one at a time. Survival here, even as we learn the controls, requires fast reflexes and intimate knowledge of what our heroine is capable of.
Switch runs Automata at a locked 30 frames per second, which means the smoothness we’ve come to expect from Platinum’s library is notably absent. I missed it immediately, but the rock solid framerate ensures that new players or those revisiting Automata here will quickly grow used to how combat and exploration operates at a lower refresh rate. I got used to it right away, and found myself sprinting around enemies and executing special abilities with no trouble at all.
It appears the user interface still runs at 60, and the resolution while docked is locked at a welcome 1080p, meaning that image quality on the surface matches the PS4 and Xbox One even if a handful of other graphical compromises are clear to see. Textures can appear real muddy both up close and far away, with many giving the impression that they haven’t quite loaded in, and we’re just sitting waiting for the full model to show up. It never will, because Automata has clearly scaled back much of its environmental detail to ensure performance remains consistent even if little parts of the world look like ass as a consequence. This is a common quality of Switch ports like The Witcher 3 and Doom Eternal, and a clear sign that we are badly in need of a hardware upgrade. That being said, it still gets the job done.
Nintendo Switch isn’t the perfect way to play Nier: Automata, but it’s not terrible either. Newcomers to this melancholic world will be losing out on a few graphical and performance improvements by jumping into this package, but the addition of new content, all existing downloadable goodies, and the same masterful game sitting beneath the surface means that, at least from what I’ve played, this version is very easy to recommend.
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