Whether successful or not, Rime is almost entirely focused on evoking emotional reactions. It's a shame, then, that when playing its Nintendo Switch port, I could only think about cold, hard numbers like frame rate and resolution.
As with the PS4 and Xbox One versions, the Nintendo Switch edition of Rime suffers from frame rate issues. It's much worse than those platforms, however. In some of its more open areas, Rime slows down dramatically, dragging you out of the ostensibly affecting story it's trying to tell and into the realm of that most exciting and touching subject: mathematics.
The problem is (mostly) lessened when you're indoors, but here frame dips are still common--and in any case, saying it's fine when you're inside is little consolation when Rime's main attractions lie outside the front door and in its colorful landscapes. Developer Tequila Works and publisher Grey Box have addressed some of the port's early criticism by saying, "Rime runs at 30 FPS in 720p throughout most of the game while docked. This is a considerable improvement from where the game was at earlier this year when we announced the first delay."
They continued: "With Rime being very open in many locations, it's incredibly difficult to get these level segments small enough to not cause a hiccup in performance. We were faced with the choice of adding loading screens throughout the stages, rebuilding the game completely to be more closed in (undermining the product vision in the process), or living with these small hiccups to preserve what the game was intended to be. We chose the latter."
Undocking the Switch can help smoothen out the frame rate a little, but playing Rime while on the go isn't ideal either: this drops the resolution down to levels of blur only seen when I try and use my iPhone after eating a pizza. The decrease in fidelity makes it hard to see what you're doing or where you're going, and distracts from the story Rime attempts to tell.
"When looking at the handheld mode, we had to make a choice between lowering the resolution, removing/replacing major parts of the level geometry, or having a bigger hit in performance," Grey Box and Tequila Works said of the game in undocked mode. "We decided to go for the former, because it allows us to maintain the integrity of the gameplay experience."
Of course, Rime's allure mostly lies in its aesthetic rather than in raw graphical power, and much of that natural beauty has survived the porting process. However, some textures appear rougher than on PS4 and Xbox One, and our nameless protagonist has grown a jagged edge or two.
Rime's comparisons to Zelda may have helped its public perception before and even after its PS4 / Xbox One release. But with this Switch port now complete and available worldwide this week, any such comparisons are no longer favorable for Rime. In a time and on a console where the big and beautiful Breath of the Wild exists and looks as good as it does, Rime's shortcomings are exposed more than ever.