Today, Nintendo announced that Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will have a VR mode on the Nintendo Switch. Players can turn on a VR mode during gameplay, which will then let players hop into Hyrule and bash about in VR.
While many players are excited, I am much more cynical. Based on what we know, I predict that Breath of the Wild will likely be a poor experience which will be used for a solid 5 minutes.
The VR capabilities of the Switch
First, let’s consider the Switch console itself. With a 720p screen right up to people’s eyeballs, it lacks the resolution of higher-end VR systems. Shove a Switch near your face, and you can see the pixels very clearly. That is smaller than actual mobile phone screens, where Cardboard headsets are the lowest quality in the market. This may cause some people to feel discomfort as heads turn.
What about gameplay? Well the player holds up the Switch console with their hands, connected to a Labo cardboard set. Imagine playing Breath of the Wild for hours while holding your arms up, or holding controllers.
The Nintendo Switch is not designed for long-term VR use. At best it is great for shorter games, but the model itself is very poor quality.
Breath of the Wild was not designed for VR
But this is Nintendo. The company is known for making fun gameplay experiences where the graphics don’t matter. So what about the games? Well, the Labo VR Set looks like a collection of short and fun experiences, which means it may be a lot of fun with friends and family. Short, snappy bites. But Breath of the Wild is an expansive game… with VR integrated.
The game is not in first person. You cannot swing the sword. It is third person, following Link, and using the main controls for everything else. The game was not designed for VR, and it will be a poorer experience of the same game. Even Super Mario Odyssey has three mini missions which work better for the VR set, but not the ham-fisted VR mode for Breath of the Wild.
Cynical about Nintendo
Based on what we know about the software coming out, it is likely that Breath of the Wild will not be as fun in VR. While it is a fun gimmick to play for a short time, it will not be enough to carry the tens of hours I put on my save file.
I hope that the smaller clips of experiences Nintendo is developing will be more fun to tinker around with. But for now, Zelda is not ready.