Released alongside the Nintendo Switch in Japan last week, Dragon Quest Heroes 2 provides an interesting window into multi-platform development for Nintendo's new console. It's especially fascinating as the game is designed to support a wide range of hardware across multiple console generations. In addition to its appearance on Switch, the Square-Enix title is also available on PS4, PS3 and PS Vita, with a PC version scheduled for release somewhere down the line.
For this analysis, we grabbed the Switch demo from the Japanese eShop and were delighted to find that demos with very similar content are also available for PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, opening the door to some head-to-head comparisons. Alas, no PS3 demo is available, which may have given us further insight into how Switch's presentation and performance sit between the PlayStation console generations. However, as things stand, PS4 operates at 1080p, as does Switch in docked mode (dropping down to the handheld screen's native 720p when decoupled from your HDTV). For its part, the Vita version clocks in at the system's native 960x544.
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Unfortunately, none of the versions offer much in the way of great texture filtering, but there are many visual differences between them worthy of comment. A very quick, cursory look at the game's visual make-up shows the Switch version holding up fairly well compared to the PlayStation 4 release, but look a little closer and the cutbacks made to accommodate Switch's mobile-orientated chipset start to become clear.
Right out of the gate, there's simplified geometry on Nintendo's machine on environments (very different models are commonplace) while we seem to be looking at two sets of texture artwork. Other obvious cutbacks include draw distance and foliage density, both of which clearly favour PS4. Additionally, the lighting model is adjusted, with significant reductions on bloom effects in particular for Nintendo's hardware. Cloud shadows on PlayStation 4 are also omitted on Switch, while the more powerful console's softer shadows are much sharper on the new Nintendo hybrid system.
In short, there are few surprises here - these are the kind of cutbacks you would expect and based on available media for the PS3 version (which, unfortunately, we couldn't get hands-on with ourselves), it seems that many of the Switch's assets hail from the last-gen console release. Meanwhile, the Vita version utilises a visual feature set that is even further pared down. Bearing in mind that Sony's handheld is five-year-old mobile hardware, this is not surprising but it demonstrates the tremendous leap in rendering power Switch represents over a piece of Sony technology that was considered a powerhouse in its time.
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The notion of a Switch title effectively offering a 720p/1080p version of a last-gen console experience fits in closely with Nintendo's own efforts on the new hybrid. However, there's a massive dividing line between Switch and PS4 that goes beyond image and art quality - and that's performance. The PS4 version delivers a 60fps experience with some drops into the 50s. It's not perfect, but it feels fine overall.