It’s been less than a month since Nintendo unleashed their Labo VR headset upon the skeptical world, and the response has been quite a bit better than expected. Days prior to the launch of their newest cardboard craftables, Nintendo made the surprise announcement that Switch best-sellers The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey would both receive VR compatibility via free software updates in the near future. That time has come, and the results are making my head spin.
Barf of the Wild
The Zelda series is known for its memorable locations and sprawling overworlds, and Breath of the Wild is certainly the most massive. I was excited to gaze upon the beauty of Hyrule in all directions and perhaps get a new perspective on a puzzles or two through my Labo VR headset. As I moved my head back and forth and up and down, taking in the view and adjusting to the new motion controls, I was immediately met with a wave of motion sickness. This was a surprise, as I hadn’t had any issues with nausea during my initial dozen hours Nintendo DIY VR headset.
Side-to-side head movement swung the camera around Link, while up-and-down movement brought me closer or farther from the hero of time. It was disorenting to say the least, and I soon had to take a break so my eyes and brain could play catch up. Labo VR’s grainy display didn’t help, reducing the Zelda’s gorgeous environments to blurry and pixelated eyesores.
Like all mainline 3D Zeldas before it, Breath of the Wild is a third-person adventure that occasionally switches to a first-person or over the shoulder perspective for actions like firing arrows or scouting far-off locations. Unsurprisingly, it was these actions that felt pretty accurate and satisfying in VR. Swiveling to just the right point when firing an arrow mid-air felt natural, but was soon ruined by the snap back to Breath of the Wild’s wonky third-person camera controls.
The latest Zelda wasn’t initially built for VR, and it’s painfully obvious with this newest update that it never should have stepped foot into the realm of virtual reality. Replaying Breath of the Wild is always a good idea, but not with the Switch two inches from your face.
Odyssey What You Did There
Unlike Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey’s update includes a dedicated VR adventure, one is built with the headset’s strengths more firmly in mind. The experience sticks you on a fixed location within one of three familiar Odyssey kingdoms, and tasks you with finding instruments for band members in need. It works surprisingly well, as all you have to do is turn and look, guiding Mario into view to collect coins, music notes, and instruments as needed. It’s a simple concept, and that’s what makes it so effective.
While Odyssey’s VR mode is cute and accessible, it still suffers from the same downgraded visuals present in Breath of the Wild and all Labo VR experiences. You can zoom in using the shoulder buttons, but it’s hard not to strain your eyes looking for items and characters hidden in the distance. Odyssey even pauses itself every few minutes to remind you to take breaks and give your eyes and arms a much needed rest.
After playing Odyssey’s VR mode for roughly 20 minutes I had helped every musician in sight and unlocked the one small bonus level available. It was an enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable little excursion, that left me wanting more.
Both the Zelda and Mario VR updates feel like Nintendo experimenting with their newest toy. It will be interesting to see if the company brings these kinds of updates to other games in the Switch library down the line, and how those might utilize VR within their already established gameplay. For now, I’m going to rest my eyes.
Ben Bertoli is happy to talk cardboard VR kits with you on Twitter at @SuperBentendo.
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