When Nintendo first announced that Zelda (and Mario) would be getting VR updates for the Switch Labo VR headset, I was cautiously optimistic. Obviously the games weren’t made for VR at all, but I thought maybe they worked that trademark Nintendo magic to craft something special. Bethesda remade Skyrim to work in VR and I’ve played lots of great third-person VR games like Astro Bot and Moss, so why can’t it work for Zelda too?
My optimism was misplaced. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in VR with the Switch Labo VR headset is one of the worst VR experiences you can possibly have. Let me explain.
For starters, the resolution is atrocious. Zelda on Switch runs at 720p when you’re in handheld mode. Since the VR update splits the screen in half (one image for each eye) when it’s up against the lenses, that basically means you’re seeing the game in 360p for each eye. It looks super pixelated.
Then to make matters worse, it’s not even really VR. When you turn your head from side-to-side the game translates that to the right thumbstick movement. This means you turn your head, but it just rotates the camera above Link since the game is in third-person. The correct way to do this would be to detach the camera from Link so that you can freely look around the world as Link runs independently, just as it works in Lucky’s Tale, Astro Bot, Moss, and yes — even Super Mario Odyssey’s VR mode.
So instead of actually being in VR, it’s basically like you’re holding the Switch up to your face to play the game in 3D. Sort of like you’d play a game on 3DS, but right up against your face. You even have to hold the headset while playing because it doesn’t come with a head strap. The 3D effect is nice, but the resolution is so low it’s hard to appreciate.
The big problem here is that it’s super uncomfortable and disorienting. When you turn your head from left to right you expect your view to shift laterally in that same perspective so you can look off at the mountains while Link glides ahead. Instead, it feels like someone is twisting your head on a corkscrew and it instantly made me feel uncomfortable, which is surprising because I never get motion sick.
It’s baffling that Nintendo apparently recognized this issue in Mario’s VR update but not in Zelda’s. Worth noting though is that the Mario content in VR is about 20 minutes of new little mini games, whereas they tried to port the entirety of Breath of the Wild to work on the Labo VR headset. That’s probably why it’s a half-way job.
As a massive fan of the Zelda series and someone that adores Breath of the Wild, this is a major disappointment. I wasn’t expecting much, I didn’t think they’d remake the game to be VR-first or anything, but I at least thought they’d make sure the camera worked correctly.
Hopefully Nintendo learns from this experiment and takes the appropriate lesson away from all this (they messed up Zelda’s VR support) and doesn’t assume it just means people don’t care or don’t like VR. As proven by the Switch modding and PC modding communities, if you do it correctly, Zelda in VR can be amazing.