The near arrival of Star Fox Zero has certainly earned the Wii U title a lot of attention, and a key point for many will be how much performance Nintendo and PlatinumGames have brought out of the Wii U hardware.
The new Star Fox makes relatively unique demands of the system, too, as it needs to create and sustain two distinct real-time views, therefore increasing the processing required compared to a standard game with most graphical effort focused on the TV (or simply mirroring to the GamePad). Digital Foundry has turned its attention to this, producing a video to show the framerate in action, while confirming a native 720p outfit on the TV.
As indicated below, DF naturally attributes the game's fluctuations between 50 and 60fps (and occasional dips lower) to that dual-screen mechanic; like us, however, they seem to be fans of the concept.
Looking to the cause of these drops, we can't help but wonder if it comes as a result of its main party trick: the dual-screen gameplay. Rather than mirroring the main screen, the Wii U renders out two separate viewpoints of the game simultaneously; one to the HDTV, and the other to the smaller GamePad screen. The native resolution of the main screen is 1280x720 (no anti-aliasing applied here), but this also has to combine with the 854x480 resolution of the smaller display. Tallied together, the overall pixel output is higher than your typical Wii U title.
It's the core hook of the experience though, and Star Fox Zero benefits hugely from the dynamic it brings. It gives more power to the player, and with practice, there's potential to pull off some incredible level runs. But the fact that alpha effects cue each dip is revealing, and a telltale sign that Wii U's memory bandwidth is indeed a bottleneck in this instance - a resource also tapped into by the console's chosen pixel output. Delivering 60fps gameplay to two screens at once is no small feat, and while removing the second screen may well have locked the performance level, it would have robbed the game of its innovating gameplay mechanic..
In all, Star Fox Zero brings something unexpected to the table, and we've enjoyed our time with it so far. Due for release on April 22nd, it's one of the last major Wii U releases on the calender, but ranks alongside Super Mario Maker as one of the best uses of its unique GamePad. It's a great send-off for a system that now appears to be on its last stretch. Looking to Nintendo's plans for the NX though, it'll be interesting to see how backwards compatibility is handled - or not - for games so tightly woven into the design of its current machine.
Though Zero fails to nail a solid 60fps like some of Nintendo's other first-party releases, it nevertheless performs well in light of its (self imposed) challenge of supporting two screens.
Are you encouraged by this update on the game's performance, or perhaps disappointed? Let us know.