With the impending arrival of the Nintendo Switch, Wii U is fading into the abyss. While that means Wii U game releases will be sparse, you can now play existing games at higher resolutions with the Cemu emulator.
The Wii U emulator now supports 4K resolution. On the traditional console, some Wii U games are 1080p, but most are 720p. It’s sometimes hard to tell between the two, but the differences between either of them, and those rendered in 4K through Cemu, are readily apparent.
Videos of a number of Wii U hits running in 4K have cropped up on YouTube since the latest version of Cemu was released on January 9. Games with a more realistic aesthetic like Bayonetta 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles X in 4K look closer to PS4 and Xbox One titles. Super Mario 3D World, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, and Mario Kart 8 — all of which looked great on Wii U — acquire color vibrancy in 4K, making them easier on the eyes, while removing textural inconsistencies.
Cemu’s Wii U emulation efforts have moved quickly since 2015, when the emulator struggled to load past menu screens. Less than a year later, the emulator was capable of running Mario Kart 8 to near perfection. Exzap, a developer for Cemu, previously expressed concerns about attaining optimal resolutions in Wii U emulation. Exzap claimed that Wii U games render games piece-by-piece.
“For example, lots of games render the scenery in 720p or lower and then upscale that to 1080p at the end of the frame. Even if the final output is 480p the game would still use 720p as internal resolution because the engine has been tailored towards that specific resolution,” he wrote. Exzap, at the time, thought that increasing the resolution of a Wii U game would require patching the game code.
A work-around, in the form of individual graphics packs, allows players to tinker with visual settings such as resolution. The graphics packs work just like game mods, mitigating the need to patch game code.
Cemu is the only functional emulator available for current-generation consoles. The 4K update, version 1.7.0, is available now for $5-tier Patreon backers, and will be released publicly on January 16.