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Wii U emulator cracks native 4K streaming, and it’s stunning

Mario, Zelda and Xenoblade have never looked better

Super Mario 3D World running on Cemu emulator
A frame from a YouTube video of Super Mario 3D World running on Cemu.
Nintendo EAD/Nintendo via reznoire/YouTube

The newest version of Cemu, a popular, “highly experimental” Wii U emulator for Windows PC, includes a feature that many users have been hoping for. Available now to Patreon backers, version 1.7.0 supports customizable graphics, with graphics packs allowing players to adjust games’ resolutions to as high as 4K.

The team behind Cemu — the only current-gen console emulator out there — has long had trouble getting games to natively re-render at higher resolutions than the Wii U can. The console is capable of upscaling games to 1080p, while some of its library natively outputs at that resolution.

“Increasing the resolution can only be done by patching the game code, or by implementing game-specific hacks into the emulator,” Cemu developer Exzap wrote last year about the software’s difficultly with heightened resolutions.

Yet the graphics packs, which work like mods for individual games, get around that stumbling block. They allow users to tweak a game’s anti-aliasing, shadows and, obviously, resolution. The results are pretty breathtaking, as seen in a series of videos from YouTuber reznoire. Games like Bayonetta 2, Xenoblade Chronicles X and Super Mario 3D World all get the 4K treatment, showing them looking glossy and beautiful like they’ve never looked before.

Bayonetta 2, above, is seen rendered natively at 4K resolution. The difference from its standard Wii U version, which outputs at 720p, is striking — especially considering the action game is one of the console’s best-looking titles.

The same goes for a less action-heavy title, Super Mario 3D World. The colors really pop in the gameplay captured below, which is also running in 4K.

People who back the Cemu Patreon have access to the graphic packs now, while its public release is Jan. 16.

Note that the full release date comes just days after Nintendo fully reveals its Nintendo Switch console, which is due out in March. We don’t know yet if the system will be capable of running games at 4K resolution, which requires added processing power.

Nintendo’s home console competitors have made their interest in 4K plain. Sony released the PlayStation 4 Pro last fall, a beefier version of the PS4 that can run games in 4K. Microsoft’s 4K gaming console, known as Project Scorpio, is expected this holiday season, while last August’s Xbox One S is capable of playing 4K video.

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