The benefits of emphasizing framerate over resolution.
There is something wonderful about most Nintendo games on the Wii U that tends to get overlooked in graphical discussions, owing to the Wii U’s other technical deficiencies- but in a generation where developers and publishers are increasingly pushing higher resolutions and fancier graphic effects, often at the expense of framerate and performance, Nintendo games on the Wii U almost always stay locked to a blistering 60 frames per second frame rate.
This, coupled with their gorgeous artstyle, and Nintendo’s general graphical minimalism, means that these games look and feel gorgeous in a way that simply cannot be understood unless one ends up playing them in person. And you don’t have to take just my word for it- at least one developer, and a developer of a PS4 exclusive game at that, has openly expressed admiration at Nintendo’s ‘smooth’ graphics on the Wii U.
“I bought a Nintendo Wii U about two and a half years ago and I was really really happy with that decision,”Michal Staniszewski, the developer of the PS4 exclusive indie game Bound, recently released in association with Sony Santa Monica, said in an interview with The Optional earlier this year. “It’s the only console I have at the home right now. I have a PS4 at the office, but I just play Nintendo at home, and I’m really really amazed that they are concentrating on releasing games in 60 frames per second in full HD with multi-sampling. They look gorgeous and completely smooth and I play them with my kid. I think that’s something we lost in this current console war between Xbox One and PS4, they were concentrated on making the graphics full of effects and not sharp. For example, have you played Uncharted 4?
“Uncharted has amazing graphics, jaws on the floor and so on. But if you spin the camera around you’ll see this blur in the camera, this is something that I really hate. [laughs] And this is mostly because if they wouldn’t do that then it would be jaggy movement and this would be much worse. But when you play Mario on Nintendo, it’s super fluid and no single frame dropped. So I said ok, we can sacrifice half of the visual effects because we are literally sacrificing half of the processing power that we have. There’s this quality that was lost and we should say that we don’t like it.”
Personally, I am inclined to agree with a lot of what he is saying, though I also think he is maybe exaggerating things a bit- Nintendo games do look gorgeous, and that does come down to their great framerate, and their excellent art. These are both things that was lost in the mad rush for the AAA market on the PS4 and Xbox One. So I definitely agree with him there.
That said, I also think this comes down to, in a way, the kind of game one is making- Nintendo games, and even Bound, go for highly stylized graphics, so they can get away with minimalism as far as the tech that they employ goes. On the other hand, when striving for realism in graphics, such as with Uncharted 4, your priorities are different- you want games to look as real as possible, which means you need to emphasize fancy graphical effects and resolution.
In the end, there is a place for both approaches to graphics in the industry.