Last year we made the case that Wii U ports for Switch are a very good thing - a chance to bulk up the library of Nintendo's new hybrid console with an array of quality games that never quite got the exposure they deserved. We wrote that piece based on Platinum Games' teasing of Bayonetta ports and six months on those games are now in our hands.
It's Bayonetta 2 that's going to receive the lion's share of our attention in this preview phase, and we're pleased to say that first impressions are very positive indeed. Flash back to 2014, and our very own John Linneman lauded the brilliance of the Wii U original but noted the sub-par performance in many areas of the game. Platinum Games had pushed on the Bayonetta formula to even greater heights, but the leap from Xbox 360 to Wii U simply wasn't great enough to execute the more ambitious vision while maintaining the target 60 frames per second. Switch isn't perfect, but it's significantly improved.
We went into this one not really expecting to see much in the way of visual improvements - the game was beautiful enough already - but we did wonder whether the developer would push resolution higher in docked mode. However, it's quickly apparent that Bayonetta 2 on Switch presents in much the same way as the Wii U original. There's still a baseline 720p resolution, while anti-aliasing remains absent. Texture filtering does get a small bump though - texture detail in general offers a small upgrade over the Wii U game, but we don't think new assets are in play. Beyond that, aside from minor differences in shadow rendering, Switch provides a nigh-on identical rendition of the Wii U release.
We might have hoped for a higher resolution when docked, but the fact is that Bayonetta 2 delivers Wii U-grade 720p in both modes. First impressions also suggest that the visual presentation is identical in each configuration too, which begs the question: with GPU clocks cut in half, where do the compromises kick in for mobile gamers?
Perhaps inevitably, it's in performance, but even here, Bayonetta 2 delivers a great experience. In the title's most demanding areas, the docked Switch offers anything up to a 10-20fps advantage over the Wii U, giving us a much closer lock to the target 60fps, allowing for much smoother, more responsive action than the original release. This is important: the original Bayonetta's performance deficiencies were eventually overcome on other platforms: PC and Xbox One X, for example. Bayonetta 2 is a Nintendo-exclusive, meaning that the Switch version is our best route forward to a better port.
While the game more closely hits its performance target, there are still issues. The Tegra X1's modest bandwidth - shared between CPU and GPU - seems to be the major bottleneck here, with larger, more explosive transparent pyrotechnics causing obvious slowdown. These issues are amplified in mobile mode, but based on the initial tests we carried out, Bayonetta 2 on Switch still manages to outperform the Wii U original. The native 720p presentation also shines on the handheld screen. Whichever way you look at it, this port is a win-win: improved performance and the ability to take a classic Wii U title with you, where you can play it wherever you want.
We'll have more on both Bayonetta titles coming to Switch once the review embargo lifts, but first impressions on the sequel are mostly positive and we're hopeful that this classic game finally gets to be appreciated by a wider audience. Upgrades over the original may be thin on the ground, but almost three-and-a-half years after its debut, the brilliant action and sumptuous visuals still hold up. It's been an absolute blast revisiting this one.
With most of the major points on the sequel covered off, the focus on the quality of the original Bayonetta port is likely to come into focus. We've literally only fired this port up for a few minutes, but first impressions suggest much smoother performance than the Wii U and Xbox 360 versions, with 720p resolution once again in both docked and mobile modes. However, curiously, texture filtering does look seem to look better when running on your flat panel. Again, performance takes a hit when gaming on the go, but again, first impressions suggest frame-rates on par with Xbox 360 and Wii U, or better.
It's still early days with these Switch ports, but the quality here is solid. The docked experiences run more smoothly, but fundamentally, if two of the Wii U's best action games are running just as well - if not better - in Switch's mobile mode, this can only be a good thing and we're curious to see if Platinum's Wonderful 101 does indeed join the Switch roster as previously hinted. And as for the confirmed Switch release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze? Bring it on, we say.
Will you support the Digital Foundry team?
Digital Foundry specialises in technical analysis of gaming hardware and software, using state-of-the-art capture systems and bespoke software to show you how well games and hardware run, visualising precisely what they're capable of. In order to show you what 4K gaming actually looks like we needed to build our own platform to supply high quality 4K video for offline viewing. So we did.
Our videos are multi-gigabyte files and we've chosen a high quality provider to ensure fast downloads. However, that bandwidth isn't free and so we charge a small monthly subscription fee of $5. We think it's a small price to pay for unlimited access to top-tier quality encodes of our content. Thank you.Support Digital Foundry