Nvidia and Nintendo are pretty cosy right now, thanks to the fact that the former is supplying the very capable internal technology for the best-selling Switch console.
The two firms are such fast friends that Nintendo has allowed Nvidia to launch a series of Wii classics on its Android-based Shield console, which is based on the same Tegra tech seen inside the Switch. However, the catch is that these games are only available in China.
Keen to know just how they perform, our friends over at Digital Foundry have gone to great lengths to do some testing. They've purchased a Chinese Shield system, tracked down somebody with a Chinese credit card and downloaded all of the available games - which have been ported by Nvidia Lightspeed Studios - to put them through their paces.
The results are shown in the video above, and as you can see, the emulation is quite impressive - but it's not without its quirks. Nevertheless, this could be a solid indication of what to expect when (or if) Nintendo decides to release Wii and GameCube games on the Switch eShop.
As Digital Foundry puts it:
So what are the takeaways from our Super Mario Galaxy testing on Tegra X1? First of all, the fact it's an Nvidia/Nintendo partnership confirms that a highly potent, optimised Wii emulator specifically designed for ARM processors and Nvidia Maxwell GPU technology exists - and Dolphin aside, it's the only example of a Wii emulator in existence at all. Secondly, even if performance on Android can't quite match the throughput of original Wii hardware running at 480p, it's still a long way beyond the excellent Dolphin achieves running on the same Nvidia hardware. This isn't a slight on the Dolphin team's excellent work; rather that Nintendo really knows its own hardware, and has clearly collaborated closely with Nvidia in getting this Android release to run as well as it does.
Beyond that, we're moving more into speculation territory, but the quality of the emulation and the effort put into it seems rather extreme when the end result is a limited release of four games (Super Mario Galaxy, Punchout, Zelda: Twilight Princess, New Super Mario Bros. Wii) only available in one territory, where Shield sales are likely to be microscopic. The undeniable reality is that Wii - and by extension, GameCube - emulation is possible on Switch and the Shield emulator seen here is a compelling proof of concept. We'll be taking a closer look at all of the available titles soon, with a focus on hardware utilisation, how the emulator copes without the bespoke Wiimote controller and how performance holds up on the other games. But right now, all of the evidence points to the existence of a Tegra X1 emulator that's more than fit for purpose for Nintendo Switch - and based on what we've seen here, the results for both docked and mobile play should be absolutely fantastic.
We'd expect emulation to be even better on the Switch, as Nintendo has managed to get levels of performance out of the Tegra chipset that even Nvidia doesn't seem capable of matching, so the fact that emulation is already so good on the Shield certainly bodes well for Switch owners holding out for a retro fix in the future.