Detective Pikachu Returns looks worse than its 3DS original

Detective Pikachu Returns looks worse than its 3DS original. Two versions of the character, 3DS on the left and Nintendo switch on the right.

Detective Pikachu Returns looks worse than its 3DS original. Two versions of the character, 3DS on the left and Nintendo switch on the right.

After four years of silence following its reveal, Detective Pikachu Returns is finally coming to Nintendo Switch. There’s one issue: the game looks graphically inferior to its 3DS original.

Released in 2016, the original Detective Pikachu game was a surprisingly good-looking game on Nintendo 3DS. The cutesy, kid-friendly crime drama pushed the dated portable to its limits, cranking up the detail compared to every other game on the system. It was no Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, but it was still very impressive.

However, for a game four years in the making on a system leagues more powerful, the game’s Nintendo Switch sequel looks years behind where it should be. As seen in the game’s reveal trailer, Detective Pikachu Returns sports outdated graphics with poor lighting, low texture quality and even noticeable framerate issues.

Detective Pikachu Returns looks worse than its 3DS original; Tim Goodman on 3DS and Nintendo Switch
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What have they done to Tim Goodman? Some assets are higher quality than the original, but look at his face.

Looking at the game’s trailer, the environments on hand do seem more dense than that of the 3DS original. There’s more plant life and a few more characters on screen in some scenes. Of course, the game also runs at a much higher resolution than the 3DS’ 240p screen could ever handle.

However, looking at footage of the original game rendered at 1080p on an emulator like Citra, and the leap in quality is non-existent. In fact, in most areas, the new game looks noticeable worse with weirdly washed-out colours, a more poorly-animated character model for Pikachu and a lack of shading anywhere.

Detective Pikachu 3DS vs Nintendo Switch showing Detective Pikachu Returns looking far rougher.
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Detective Pikachu on 3DS has much nicer shading once its resolution is increased. In fact, it’s even noticeable on a 3DS screen as well.

For a game that has been in development for almost four years, Detective Pikachu Returns falls behind the quality barrier that fans expect of the new Pokémon spin-off. While fans have not forgiven Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s visuals for their obvious shortcomings, that game at least a massive open-world. For a small-scale story-focused game that reuses character models from other Pokémon titles, we expect better.

This is only made more upsetting by how good Pokémon spin-offs can look on Nintendo Switch. Bandai Namco’s New Pokémon Snap is an absolutely stunning title on Nintendo’s outdated tablet hardware, bringing gorgeous life to the world of Pokémon in a way that no other game has. Detective Pikachu Returns had the chance to do the very same thing, but it appears to have fumbled the ball.

Nevertheless, Detective Pikachu Returns releases on Nintendo Switch on October 6th, 2023.

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