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Switch's Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition is far from definitive

A great game still shines, but it should have been better.

Before we go on, let's stress that Rayman Legends is and has always been a highly enjoyable platformer - one of the best of the last five years - and it's the same core game released today on Switch. As beautiful as ever, Legends is a great fit for Nintendo's console hybrid, but there's a problem: it's called the Definitive Edition when the reality is that the port has so many small niggles that the label just isn't accurate. Wii U, Xbox One, PS4 - all offer a tangibly improved experience. In some respects, the Switch version has more in common with the last-gen Xbox 360 and PS3 games. It's still Rayman Legends, it's still an excellent game - and yes, it offers up a 1080p presentation - but definitive? No.

Content-wise, it does at least offer a few additions but none of them are particularly exciting. All of the characters that were once exclusive to each platform now come together on Switch, which is nice, while Kung Foot gains a tournament mode with local WiFi support (which doesn't extend to the main game as far as we can tell) but really - that's it. We didn't spot much else of note added to the mix, but continued play brought us to the simple conclusion that there are better ways to experience this excellent game.

The Definitive Edition's issues are hardly game-breaking, it's just that the collection of missed opportunities, annoyances and cut features creates a sort of momentum of ongoing dissatisfaction as you play - and this starts with the loading screens, which persist for longer than any other version of Rayman Legends we tested. For some stages we're looking at upwards of 16 seconds, and although others can load faster, the reality is that the Wii U - a system notorious for extending loading times - manages to load up the same levels 50 per cent faster than the Switch - and that's from the disc version of the game. Meanwhile, PS4 and Xbox One have no loading screens whatsoever. The PS Vita version was the previous record holder for the longest loads, but the Switch version manages to surpass it.

Does it actually matter? Well, firstly, it hurts the pacing of the game, since you spend a lot more time waiting between stages, making it less enjoyable to engage in time trials or a bit more onerous if you're intent on collecting everything in each level. It takes time to load the level itself and then more time to return to the hub. It all stacks up over time and starts to grate - far less of an issue on other systems. We played from the NAND storage on the Switch itself. Copying to SD card saw a couple of seconds added to the experience, in line with our prior Switch loading time tests.

We can't say for certain why this is happening, but one theory suggests that it is tied to file sizes and compression. On Wii U, the game weighs in at 6.7GB, but on Switch it's been reduced to just 2.9GB. It's even larger on PS4 and Xbox One, clocking in at around 9GB, as those versions make use of uncompressed art assets. Switch's reduced storage footprint is great for saving space but that extra compression might be connected to the extra loading - it may be the case that the CPU is kept busy unpacking the data.

John Linneman presents the Digital Foundry breakdown of the Switch's Rayman Legends port.

The extra compression also results in a very subtle degradation in asset quality too, which would make sense considering the reduction in file size. The experience isn't impacted much at all, but when the camera zooms in during certain scenes, you can spot the difference. Is it really an issue? Possibly not, but should the problem manifest at all in a game dubbed the Definitive Edition?

Adding to the small niggles is occasional slowdown during gameplay. Granted, most of the experience runs at the target 60fps, but Switch has occasional issues in maintaining its performance level. What's odd is that repeating these sections after death eliminates the issue completely, suggesting that - once again - these hiccups might be tied to behind-the-scenes asset decompression. Thankfully, it's rare and ultimately not a big deal, but when the Wii U powers through these same sections without a hiccup it does feel a little disappointing. Taken together, none of our issues with the release are in any way game-breaking - but when you launch a version of a well-regarded title this much later, hosted on stronger hardware and with a Definitive Edition label slapped on it, we really shouldn't be encountering these issues.

You'd also expect a Definitive Edition to feature the complete feature set of all the available versions - but this is not the case. Key features found on Wii U and other systems are not present on Switch. This is tied primarily to the Murphy stages. Essentially, on Wii U and PlayStation Vita, certain stages allowed players to use the touchscreen to interact with the game while an AI ran through the world. However, the non-touchscreen versions of the game introduced button-based controls for Murphy. It's a very different experience but it works well enough.

Both options are available on Switch, which is fantastic, but it's not the full implementation you'd expect from a Definitive Edition. Firstly, we've lost the ability to play using touch controls in multiplayer with one person controlling Murphy - this makes sense since you cannot use the touchscreen while connected to a television on Switch, but what about system link?

Rayman Legends was scalable enough to run at 1080p60 on all of the last-gen platforms, as you can see here.

On PS Vita it was possible to link systems together in order to play cooperatively with one person handling touchscreen duties while the other plays through the stage. It should have been possible on Switch (wireless co-op is available in Kung Foot mode), but this feature is not implemented at all. On top of that, we've lost the option to play with five players simultaneously, which is strange as we know that Super Bomberman R supports up to eight players on a single system. The Switch version follows the non-Wii U editions in capping the player count at four participants. Again, not a big deal, but this is supposed to be the Definitive Edition, right?

It could be argued that none of these features matter that much but the opportunity was indeed here to create a definitive edition of a really good game, but what we have here is a good, perfectly serviceable port - but one that could have been truly great. Of course, you do get the best handheld version of the game, but it feels like the key advantages of this version arrive courtesy of the Switch's system-level hybrid gaming features, as opposed to any special effort from the developer.

So, if you're looking to catch up on this really cool platformer, what's the best way to play? If gaming on the go isn't a concern, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U versions each offer significant advantages over this Switch release. The last-gen Nintendo console remains a great way to experience the game, especially if multiplayer is your focus. It looks every bit as good as the Switch version (slightly better, in fact) and loading times are less intrusive. Meanwhile, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One leverage the increased amount of RAM to offer uncompressed art assets and no in-game loading times at all.

Ultimately, we've got nothing against Wii U ports coming to Switch - in fact, we welcome them, as many titles stand to benefit immensely from Nintendo's irresistible console hybrid concept. And yes, it's great to see an excellent library release like this added to the Switch catalogue. But we expected more - and it feels that a title renowned for its polish just hasn't received the same level of attention as existing versions of the game, and that's just a touch disappointing.

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About the Author
John Linneman avatar

John Linneman

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

An American living in Germany, John has been gaming and collecting games since the late 80s. His keen eye for and obsession with high frame-rates have earned him the nickname "The Human FRAPS" in some circles. He’s also responsible for the creation of DF Retro.

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