Can paperboard improve the two original workpieces from Switch? Well …
It's been less than a month since Nintendo launched its Labo VR headset into the skeptical world, and the reaction was a bit better than expected. Days before the launch of their latest cardboard boxes, Nintendo surprisingly announced that Switch The Legend of Zelda's bestsellers: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey would receive VR compatibility in the near future through free software updates. This time has come and the results make my head spin.
Barf of the Wild
The Zelda series is known for its memorable locations and sprawling geniuses, and Breath of the Wild is certainly the most massive. I was thrilled to admire the beauty of Hyrule in all directions and maybe get a new perspective on one or two puzzles through my Labo VR headset. As I moved my head back and forth and up and down to watch the view and adjust to the new motion controls, I was immediately struck by a wave of motion sickness. This was a surprise as I had no nausea during my first dozen hours of Nintendo DIY VR headsets.
Lateral head movements moved the camera around Link, while up and down movements brought me closer or farther from the hero of the time. It was abominable, to say the least, and I soon had to take a break so my eyes and brain could catch up. The grainy display of Labo VR has not helped to blur the beautiful environment of the Zelda blurred and pixelated constrictions.
Like all other 3D Zeldas, Breath of the Wild is a third-person adventure that occasionally turns into a first-person or a first-person adventure over the shoulder for action such as shooting arrows or departing distant places. Not surprisingly, these actions in VR felt pretty accurate and satisfying. Swinging right to the right point when shooting an arrow in mid-air felt natural, but was quickly destroyed by the relapse into Breath of the Wild's awkward third-person camera controls.
The newest Zelda was not originally built for VR. It is painfully obvious that this latest update should never have entered the realm of virtual reality. Repeating Breath of the Wild is always a good idea, but not with the switch being two inches away from your face.
Odyssey What You There
Unlike Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey's update includes a dedicated VR adventure, one developed for the strengths of the headset. The experience keeps you in a fixed place in one of the three familiar Odyssey Kingdoms and sets you the task of finding instruments for band members in need. It works surprisingly well. All you have to do is turn and look. Mario is brought into sight to collect coins, sheet music and instruments as needed. It's a simple concept, and that makes it so effective.
Although cute and accessible, Odyssey's VR mode still suffers from the same downgraded visuals that exist in Breath of the Wild and all Labo VR experiences. You can magnify with the shoulder buttons, but it's hard not to strain your eyes when looking for items and characters hidden in the distance. Odyssey even pauses every few minutes to remind you to take a break and give your eyes and arms a much needed rest period.
After playing Odyssey's VR mode for about 20 minutes, I had helped every musician in sight and had a small bonus level unlocked. It was an entertaining, but ultimately memorable little excursion that more coveted me.
Both the Zelda and the Mario VR update feel like Nintendo experimenting with their latest toy. It will be interesting to see if the company is bringing these updates to other games in the Switch library and how they could use VR in their already established gameplay. For now, I will rest my eyes.
Ben Bertoli is happy to talk cardboard VR kits on Twitter at @SuperBentendo .