Digital Foundry, Eurogamer’s source of technical analysis for games and hardware, recently uploaded a video covering “Splatoon 2,” Nintendo’s upcoming third-person shooter release for the Switch. With the release of the game growing ever closer (it is slated for a July 21st release in North America, so it may be released right before this article) a handful of reviews and reviews-in-progress have been uploaded to Youtube, among other places. So far between Digital Foundry’s technical breakdown and reports from several video review sources it has become apparent that Nintendo has once again dedicated themselves to a steady 60 FPS (frames per second) performance model.
For those who don’t already know, Frames Per Second or FPS is the measure of a moving image’s frame rate, or the frequency at which each individual image (frame) of a film or video game (etc.) is displayed. A high, steady FPS means that whatever moving picture is being displayed will do so in a smooth, easily watchable manner. When FPS dips it can create rough, jerky motions, and contributes to major input lag between a controller’s commands and the action taking place on the screen. “Splatoon 2” runs, according to several outlets, without a single drop in FPS throughout the entire experience. Gameplay is a smooth 60 FPS, and the lobby area between games runs at 30 FPS.
Running a solid 60 FPS is impressive, but also comes at a slight graphical cost. The resolution of the game, which is HD and averages around 1080p, is what is known as an adaptive resolution. This means that the resolution, the clarity of the images being displayed on screen, is constantly adjusting itself in order to retain frame rate stability. While the resolution dips are almost imperceptible at times, they are definitely happening during high intensity sequences that tax the Nintendo Switch’s hardware.
This sacrifice was made in the name of smooth gameplay that is both functional and tight to control. It is a very Nintendo decision to put the functional stability of a game before its graphical quality. Though some may view this as Nintendo being weak in terms of hardware when compared to the other two major console manufacturers, it is important to remember that if the mechanics of a game, especially something as fast-paced as a multiplayer shooter, show any sort of instability it can bring the entire experience down. Graphics are, in essence, aesthetic pleasantries that are meant to evoke whatever style and atmosphere the game contains. Whether hyper realistic or heavily stylized, if the gameplay itself is not solid and functional then the graphics just become something pretty to look at.
On top of all that it must be remembered that the adaptive resolution never dips outside of High Definition quality, and when mixed with the game’s colorful, stylized art-direction it is absolutely gorgeous to both watch and play (the Live Fire Demo was extremely addicting). The Switch as a hybrid console-handheld, and its string of releases for the system, shows Nintendo’s design philosophy of quality and creativity to serve fun, memorable experiences, rather than a focus on image and fidelity.
And, I for one, would rather my gameplay feel enjoyable and responsive, than suffer through random drops in FPS to serve some sort of hyper fidelity.