Posted on May 11 2019 by Rod Lloyd
Two weeks ago, Nintendo released an update to Breath of the Wild that added VR functionality via Nintendo Labo’s VR Kit. While the VR mode’s initial unveiling was met with excitement (or at least intrigue) from fans, its eventual release seemed, well, deflating. Numerous media outlets were critical (or at the very least dismissive) of Breath of the Wild‘s new VR mode, due to the feature’s limited utility, the Switch’s graphical shortcomings, and even the physical burden of the headset’s continued use. So, with such a lackluster roll-out, should we consider Breath of the Wild‘s VR experience a bad move, a misstep, or perhaps even a failure.
The latest update allows players to view the world of Breath of the Wild through the Nintendo Labo VR headset, as if they were looking through the in-game camera but with added stereoscopic 3D depth. And while the VR experience does provide the option for players to look around with the headset, players are essentially just controlling the in-game camera with tilts of the head rather than with a control stick. The new mode certainly offers Breath of the Wild die-hards with a fresh way to play, but it also doesn’t offer anything substantial or groundbreaking.
The VR experience is also held back by the Nintendo Switch’s hardware limitations. Because the Switch needs to crank out two versions of the same image simultaneously to achieve its VR effect, the image resolution and graphical power is drastically reduced to compensate. So, what one sees when using VR in Breath of the Wild is a fuzzier, more pixelated version of a game that should otherwise take your breath away at every turn. Users have also complained about elements of the user interface, such as hearts or stamina, being too small and hard to read.
And then there are the physical taxations of using the Nintendo Labo VR headset. Because the headset does not come with a strap, a player who wants to play Breath continuously in VR will be forced to hold one’s system and the headset to one’s face for extended periods of time. Not only is this process uncomfortable and physically taxing, it is also fairly ridiculous considering the state of VR play on other platforms. Head support is a standard component in every other comparable headset! Third parties are already offering solutions to this problem, and some users have found their own remedies (shoestrings, anyone?), but Nintendo really has no excuse for not including a strap in the first place.
Breath of the Wild‘s VR experience seems to have been designed as a mere novelty. Players are supposed to stop, switch on the VR mode, look around for a little while, and then put the headset away; players were not meant to play the game in VR for long periods of time. And that type of functionality, in my opinion, is not the VR experience that the Zelda series or its fans deserve.
Do you think Breath of the Wild‘s VR experience was a failure? What would have made it better? What do you think Nintendo should do to improve VR in Zelda moving forward? Make your voice heard in the comments below!