The news of a remaster broke over the weekend, with confirmation that the first three Mass Effect games would be remastered in the Legendary Edition collection, due to come to consoles and PC in Spring 2021 (around March-May). And yes, that includes forwards compatibility for Xbox Series X and PS5.
It’s curious, though, that the Switch hasn’t been included in this announcement. There have been several high-profile examples of AAA games landing on the Switch, as with The Witcher 3, Doom and XCOM 2 – so it’s surprising that the Mass Effect remaster isn’t headed to the Switch or Switch Lite as it stands.
That’s not to say a Switch version is ruled out by this announcement. There have been plenty of examples of games that land on other platforms first, before going on to enjoy huge success on the handheld-home console hybrid, as with indie platformer Hollow Knight. But with the Switch having been such a trailblazing console for the past few years, being left out isn't the best sign.
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There is a question of space to consider. No, not outer space – but the space that the game files for Mass Effect Legendary will take up. Nintendo Switch has only 32GB onboard storage, compared to the hundreds of gigabytes found on the average console, and it may be the collection will be too large to fit comfortably on a Switch SD card.
These are three very large narrative-focused RPGs, and the sheer number of audio files alone for all those branching dialogue trees are sure to take up plenty of space.
Mass Effect 3, for one, took up 14.6GB on Xbox 360, and that number can double on PC with full DLC and additional texture packs added in. By comparison, the massive The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes up 13.4GB (over half the onboard storage) on Switch. It’s clear that three remastered Mass Effect games, then, could require a micro SD card all to themselves.
There should be ways around this, though. The Master Chief Collection on Xbox and PC allows you to download specific titles in the collection at the expense of others, and for folk wanting to play ME1, then ME2, then ME3 – you know, in consecutive order – they would hypothetically only need to have one game installed at one time.
That’s not to mention that the Switch already carries plenty of huge games, and these days you don’t need to fit it all onto a single cartridge – the game card often acts as ‘key’ to gain access to downloadable files, rather than containing the entirety of a game.
More to come?
Of course, porting to Switch isn’t as simple as flicking a, uh, switch – and resources might be a factor here. Perhaps EA and BioWare just picked the formats that make the most sense for its audience.
With rumors of a 4K-ready Nintendo Switch Pro or Switch 2 heating up, though, it would be a shame for BioWare to skip the console entirely. With the trilogy being “remastered and optimized for 4K Ultra HD”, it would make a nice showcase for Nintendo's rumored hardware.
We're hopeful there's more to the announcement than BioWare is letting on – the Switch has proved to be an amazing home for so many of our favorite console games, and it would be a treat to see the Mass Effect trilogy join them.
This writer missed the boat on the original trilogy, and has been waiting years for a bundled, remastered trilogy – but if it doesn't land on the Switch, it might elude him still.
For now, at least, we have promises of a brand new Mass Effect game to keep us happy.
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