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access_time October 20, 2018 at 4:44 PM in Nintendo by Kieran Toovey

Review | Dark Souls Remastered (Nintendo Switch)

In 2011, Japanese developer From Software released Dark Souls on the PS3 and Xbox 360 (PC version in 2012). Critics overwhelmingly praised the game for its world building, unique gameplay, and ability to reward players for their perseverance. But the topic that stands above the rest from anyone discussing Dark Souls, is its difficulty. Fast forward seven years and Dark Souls Remastered comes to the Nintendo Switch.

[NOTE: I played this game exclusively in handheld mode.  This was to test stability (I’m looking at you Blighttown!), sound quality, controls, battery life, etc.]

Like its predecessor Demon’s Souls, the game is unforgiving and demands much more concentration and skill than the average video game. And for those thinking that they can select the “Easy” or “Casual” difficulty when they start a New Game, think again. No difficulty options in this game. Just lots of dying, and hopefully, learning from those deaths and improving. And that’s where Dark Souls finds its audience and its footing within the game.

It also carves out a unique experience for its players with the story and the way it is told. Rather than having extended cutscenes and conversations between characters that clearly unveil the plot, Dark Souls gives you the gist of the story in its short opening cutscene, and then makes figuring out the rest of it more of a challenge. Conversations with other inhabitants of the world are often short and cryptic, leaving the player scratching their head more often than not.

Ultimately, that is a great approach because the story is there for those who seek it, and acts as an aside for those who don’t. In the last seven years, there have been a slew of similar games (two more Dark Souls games, Bloodborne, Nioh, and many others) that have been inspired and/or influenced by the original Dark Souls. But does it stand up with today’s standards?

Pros: The selling point of portability cannot be overstated; it is truly fantastic. As many Switch owners are aware, the ability to “pause” a game like this and pick it back up for as long or short of a gaming session as you see fit, is a wonder in itself. The improvement in the cutscenes is also a welcome sight, as are the general graphical improvements over the original versions. And after much speculation, confusion, and concern leading up to the game’s release, it is great to see Blighttown running with no choppiness at all.

Another huge improvement from the last generation versions is the amount of time it takes for the game to load. Load times are significantly better and help players get right back into the action after a silly or painful death. Battery life is another plus. Some games (cough cough, Breath of the Wild, cough cough) can put a real strain on the Switch’s internal battery. But Dark Souls Remastered is surprisingly forgiving in this regard. The console never feels too hot either. And the inclusion of the Artorias of the Abyss DLC is the icing on the cake.

Cons: Not everything is sunshine and rainbows. The controls are immediately annoying and take quite a bit of getting used to. The A and B buttons have a backwards feeling to them and locking-on to enemies with the right joystick doesn’t feel nearly as natural as it does on other consoles. You might be thinking, “But wait, you can remap those controls, you noob.” Well, yes and no. You can remap the buttons so they make sense, but the game menu systems still treat B as confirm/next and A as decline/back.

Ultimately, it’s better to suck it up and get used to the default control layout. The music and sound in handheld mode also leave much to be desired. The music is so compressed that it ends up sounding hollow (pun intended) and lackluster. There are also odd omissions of sound and instances of poor quality. No sound after pulling out from a plunge attack and Blacksmith Vamos, to name a couple.

That being said, expectations were low in this field coming in, so it’s not a dealbreaker. There are still weird glitches that will need to be patched. Seeing full enemy health bars through walls when you are not locked onto them, only seeing your Sorcerer’s Hat when walking through fog walls, and enemies not spawning properly, to name a few.

Final Verdict: Overall, Dark Souls was a great game when it originally released in 2011. Today, Dark Souls Remastered is still a great game.  Being able to play a game like this on the go is a marvel in itself. Despite that, it doesn’t excuse the rest of this remasters shortcomings.  Either way, Dark Souls Remastered for the Nintendo Switch is worth playing.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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