It’s time to set your watches back — Resident Evil 4 has been ported to a new system! In fact, the entire (at one point in time) GameCube exclusive RE lineup has been ported over to Nintendo’s hot console/portable hybrid, the Switch!
Resident Evil 0, REmake, and Resident Evil 4 make up what I consider to be somewhat of a golden era for the series — a high mark of quality and pure fun. After almost a dozen titles under the franchise’s belt at the time, we see a master’s stroke of refinement to the core of the survival horror genre with RE0 and REmake, while also evolving and inventing with RE4 in ways that the industry still uses to this day. Indeed, there may be no better trilogy to represent the franchise on a new platform (and presumably, to a new audience) than these three. The biggest draw to releasing them on Switch, of course, is its dual use as a portable handheld — which will mark the first time any of these titles have been available portably (the Zeebo version of RE4 doesn’t count). In RE4‘s case, this is something I’ve been waiting for almost as long as it has existed.
Considering the unusually hefty price tags (all three are $10 more apiece than they are on any other modern platform), one would expect that these ports deliver on the promise of a truly portable Resident Evil experience. Well… we’ll get to that. I should note these are not full reviews, simply port impressions, as we’ve previously reviewed each of these titles extensively, and you can read our original thoughts for the HD releases on Xbox One for RE0 here, REmake here, and RE4 here.
Resident Evil 0
While a lot of people don’t like Zero for some of its bold attempts to inject fresh blood into the formula (I really love it), the HD remaster actually got my first 10/10 on here, and I still play it fairly often. Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch port of Resident Evil 0 HD plain sucks. It still looks great, though (albeit both this and REmake are locked at 30fps), and all the bonuses from the XBO/PS4/Steam versions are present — Wesker Mode, in-game achievements, and all of the DLC costumes. But that really doesn’t make a difference, as the issues with loading times and controls cut this game deep.
— Rourke (@Sisslethecat) May 21, 2019
I should mention that I’m playing the downloadable version of Zero, not the Switch cartridge that comes in the physical Resident Evil Origins Collection (which also comes with a downloadable copy of REmake). From what I’ve heard, this issue is less noticeable when playing off the cart — but that doesn’t give this port a free pass (I should also point out that this is not the result of an SD card issue — I’ve run both Revelations games, LA Noire, and several others with no issues whatsoever). It can take upwards of twenty seconds to load an area, and as classic RE games load room to room, this very quickly makes the simple act of moving from one end of an area to the other take minutes. If you’re familiar with Zero, you’ll know that the first hour or so takes place aboard a train, and Rebecca explores each car and compartment — which are all either small hallways or even smaller rooms. Crossing the train from the control room all the way back to where you get the Hookshot takes about 110 seconds of pure loading time. It would take about 20 total in the GameCube version. Worth noting that there’s a spot in the game where you literally have to make that exact journey. It’s atrocious and I can’t believe they allowed the game to release in this state (here’s the exact same door in the Xbox One version of the game). This issue carries over between handheld and docked, and the footage I captured is from docked gameplay.
Perhaps a less egregious issue, depending on the player, are the controls. None of the control schemes are especially satisfying to use, and a few binds straight up make no sense. None of them use the ZL/ZR trigger buttons for aim/fire, forcing you to use the thin and less comfortable L and R shoulder buttons. Ordering your partner to stay/follow is (by default) the (-) button, which is difficult to reach just above the L stick, and the inventory menu is (by default) Y, which I constantly found myself pressing by mistake when I was trying to tap B. That might be more of a complaint about the system itself, as the buttons are small and close together, but for reference, the inventory is + in RE4 and Y is interact — much less chance of mistake. As such, I went and found a control set up that made Y the interact function, Type E. That also swapped the inventory button to ZR, which I was fine with. However, this created an even more bizarre set of issues.
For some reason, buttons in Type E controls do one thing in menus — but something completely different in gameplay. For example, X will swap between Billy and Rebecca in the inventory screen. In gameplay, the X button is suddenly the map button, and ZL is the button for swapping characters. The whole reason I picked the scheme was so Y would be interact, but it will only work for opening doors and checking the environment during gameplay. In the inventory screen, Y does nothing at all, and you’re forced to use A. It’s jarring and screwed me up every single time (the Switch port of Revelations 2 had a similar issue).
Overall I’m disappointed in this port. Again, it still looks great from a visual standpoint and comes with all previously released content — but boy the loading issue alone is a major problem. I can only hope that maybe it was developed with the specs of the rumored Super Switch in mind. But then why not release it later? Regardless, this would shaft people playing on the original Switch. Not to keep harping on about it, but for an extra $10, I expect the game to run at least on par with the GameCube version from 17 years ago.
Nothing even begins to describe the kind of classic REmake (as fans call it) is. The definitive word on the survival horror experience of its time — fan favorite doesn’t even begin to cover it. Too bad this port is also pretty bad.
— Rourke (@Sisslethecat) May 22, 2019
Loading times in REmake are a bit too long — nothing like Zero, but still noticeably longer than they should be, by maybe two or three seconds. It seems to depend on the area though — how much of it there is, etc. The major issue here, however, is the framerate. REmake is locked at 30fps on XBO and PS4, and 60fps on Steam. I had no reason to assume this 17-year-old game would run any worse on Switch, but I am stunned at how wrong I was. While it can sustain 30fps in some areas, including cutscenes, it is in no way stable during gameplay. Simply walking down a hallway causes the framerate to chug horribly, dipping into what I can only guess is the low 20s. It’s frustrating and is exacerbated when trying to fight anything. In the clip I took, I was just walking and pushing stuff. Once I actually engaged with the Cerberus that appear there, I found myself at a complete disadvantage. My reaction time was sliced in half, and the time it took between shots fired when holding the button was noticeably longer. It sounds like nothing when writing, the gap between each shot was probably less than a second — but oh man did it make even a simple fight a chore. It is, pure and simple, unacceptable.
The controls are also sort of a mixed bag, but I found them more tolerable than Zero. Being able to at least have ZR as aim was a lot more enjoyable than being stuck with that tiny R button. The main saving grace is that REmake has a way simpler set up in general than Zero does, thanks to only controlling one character. I still find it so weird that neither game has a set up comparable to RE4, though — especially seeing as the Type A scheme back on GameCube was identical for all three back in the day. Of the three ports, this is probably the biggest disappointment, as I imagine a lot of fans were excited to have this on the go.
Resident Evil 4
Here’s the one I was most excited for, and (while I was disappointed to learn that it wouldn’t be making use of the Gyro features of the Switch) the transition is about as graceful as you’d expect. It is RE4, as it has been for 15 years, and includes all the features and bonuses that you’d expect (Separate Ways, The Mercenaries, Assignment Ada). Running at a buttery smooth 60fps, even in handheld mode, it’s a blast to have it on the go. Even just sitting on the couch, half watching Nailed It!, just booting up the Switch to play a chapter or two is amazing. Unlike REmake and RE0, RE4 is perhaps the best suited to a handheld space due to its chapter-based structure. Each section of the game is chopped into one of several chapters, and those chapters are broken down into between three and four subchapters. This allows the game to unfold in smaller, more manageable chunks at a time. Each subchapter break offers you a chance to save, and makes for easy stopping points when your time is limited for play.
Thankfully, RE4 doesn’t suffer at all from either of the major issues that plague Zero and REmake. Loading is exactly the same speed it is on every other modern platform, for one. The only real issue is, that while the game does run at 60fps, there is a noticeable slow down every so often. It only lasts a second, but it was frequent enough I was a bit taken aback by it. Mostly, it seemed to be linked to when a lot was going on –multiple Ganado jumping into water, for example (with multiple splashing effects all at once), or an entire herd of them lunging forward to attack. A single beat of lost frames isn’t anywhere near as major as the stop-motion-esque slowdown of REmake, though.
That said, it’s easily the best of the trio in terms of its transition to Switch. I can’t imagine what happened behind closed doors to REmake and Zero, considering they’re way less complicated games than RE4. At least we got one game out of this mess, but c’mon man.
Overall, I’m massively disappointed by these ports. While RE4 finally gave me what I wanted without any major hiccups, the ports of Zero and REmake are absolutely unacceptable. The $10 price hike already had me a bit salty, but the state of these ports of almost 20-year-old games makes that upcharge insulting. I can only hope that a future update can iron these issues out, but releasing them like this after so much goodwill has been earned between RE7 and REmake 2 reeks of lazy disinterest.
These ports make me less hopeful for the idea of games like RE5 getting the same treatment. Can we trust Capcom to put enough work in to ensure that a Switch port could handle RE5‘s giant crowds, explosions, and online co-op when? Revelations 2 did more or less fine, but that port was also clearly given way more attention than these. If the Switch can run (an obviously downgraded but still) Doom 2016, it should have been able to handle a pair of 2002 GameCube games.