Rime For Nintendo Switch Is Another Difficult Port To The Console

After years in development, Tequila Works’ Rime was a beguiling adventure when it released back in May. It certainly struck a chord for me with its emotional story, its gorgeous art style, and its beautiful soundtrack.

In that regard, it almost defied expectations from its troubled development, to come out looking and feeling and lovely as it did. The surprise was that Tequila Works and Grey Box also announced that the game would be coming to Nintendo Switch, albeit at a later date, with the experienced Tantalus Media handling the port.

While you expect cut backs from the previously released versions of the game on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, stepping the game down from those platforms to the Nintendo Switch shows yet again the difficulty of porting to less capable platforms.

Of course, you can’t expect the Switch to hit the same heights as the PlayStation 4, but the step down in visual quality is tangible. The resolution the game runs at while docked is certainly not 1080p, and it’s made blurry and muddy by the anti-aliasing that’s slathered on top. The game has also dropped detail from the environmental models and textures, while one particular moment stood out for me when the boy first meets the fox. On PS4, the fox has a clearly defined eye, while on Switch it has a fuzzy black shape.

Now, the game wasn’t perfect on PlayStation 4 and had its own peculiarities with performance, namely an unlocked frame rate that on standard PS4 only went so far beyond 30fps and couldn’t manage to regularly meet 60fps on PS4 Pro, despite being restricted to 1080p. Additionally, every time you come to a moment of background loading, the frame rate would judder noticeably.

All of those properties remain on Switch, but are accentuated by its lower hardware capabilities. The frame rate isn’t locked and though it generally seems to hover just above 30fps, it can easily dip below. The unlocked frame rate really does the game no favours. Beyond that, those momentary judders when loading on PS4 become huge lurches in frame rate on Switch and just accentuate the step down.

This is all also true of the game when played in handheld mode, with a resolution less than 720p and the blurriness of the visuals that brings, as well as the same kind of stuttering frame rate.

Perhaps it does itself no favours by remaining so true to the original game. Had the game been designed from the start with the Switch in mind, the world might be smaller, each area better segmented, it could have forgone the dynamically shifting time of day in favour of pre-baked lighting, and there might not be the kinds of shots that sweep across the world. That it is so faithful is to its credit.

However, that doesn’t mean that the game on Switch is without merit. The impact of the visuals is lessened by the resolution and variable frame rate, but the game can still look fantastic at times and the distinctive art style can shine through at times. Compared to a twitch shooter like Doom, having lesser performance isn’t as big an issue in a more contemplative puzzler, but just as in that case, if you can play it on a more powerful platform, then you probably should.

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  1. I’ve never played Rime so can someone please explain to me why it would be hard to port?

    Visually it looks like a cross between Okami and an HD Wind Waker.

    It doesn’t look as impressive as Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey.

    The Switch may not be as powerful as the PS4/XBOX but I honestly just think the developers use that as an excuse sometimes.

    If Nintendo can make visually stunning games run on the Switch then so can other studios.

    • It’s simply a matter of resources. Where Nintendo have got intimate knowledge of their game console from the last few years of development, third parties and indies are coming to it in the last 10-12 months. There’s also the simple fact that their games have been developed primarily with PS4 and Xbox One in mind, meaning that they will attempt to do certain things with the world size, the passage of time, texture detail, and so on. All of that has to be scaled back not once, but twice to meet the different demands of both handheld and docked mode.

      Finally there’s the use of third party game engines like Unity and Unreal which are still relatively early in their implementation on the system, and in Rime’s case, turning to a third party porting house that, while they have experience with porting games between platforms, is simply no substitute for developing a game with a system’s particular features in mind from the very beginning.

      It’s also worth remembering that while Odyssey is a ridiculously accomplished game on the Switch, Breath of the Wild has more than a few performance hiccups on the system. Even Nintendo can find themselves going beyond the limits of their hardware sometimes.

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