A proof of concept video showcases a new in-development mod that transforms The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild into a first-person VR game.
Don’t get too excited though – according to developers in the associated Discord server, it might take “a few months, maybe half a year or more” for any kind of playable public release.
That being said, the footage in the video above looks stunning already. Breath of the Wild has a beautiful cel-shaded art style, which lends itself really well to being upscaled and displayed at resolutions above its original intention, such as in this VR mod. The video shows both first and third person gameplay — in the latter, Link’s character model has been modded out and replaced with Zelda, but it’s an aesthetic change only.
Breath of the Wild released in 2017 for Wii U and Nintendo Switch, but this mod will be a PC VR mod that uses a popular Wii U emulator called Cemu. The developers are actively developing the mod now, and in the Discord server they said they expect the end product would use an alternate eye rendering method for VR, similar to the popular Grand Theft Auto V PC VRmod.
Many users in the Discord server have also noted that the hardware requirements for the mod, whenever it releases, will likely be quite high. Given that Cemu itself is an emulator, it can already be quite taxing depending on the capabilities of your PC. Adding VR support on top of that will require significant headroom, especially if you want to run it at a 4K resolution with a high framerate for VR.
Nintendo’s Labo VR kit for Switch was one of the hottest items this time last year. Now online retailers Amazon and Best Buy have slashed the price of the smaller starter kit + Labo VR Blaster in half to just $20.
The starter kit includes the Nintendo Labo software, VR Goggles (Nintendo Switch not included), and the make-it-yourself VR Blaster. All required materials are included, and the packed-in software provides interactive build instructions, quick-play VR games and more.
Of course, you can go for the full six-toy kit, although it typically sells at the retail price of $250, making the Starter Kit + Blaster a great entry point if you’re curious and bored, but don’t want to break the bank.
Following Nintendo’s line of DIY augmentations to the Switch and JoyCon controllers, the VR version surprisingly brought a lot to the table in terms of replayabilty. When it released last year, Nintendo called it their “most immersive, robust Nintendo Labo kit to date,” as it not only included a number of fun accessories, but also 64 mini-experiences in the ‘VR Plaza’.
The Best Buy listing is a ‘Deal of the Day’, so it may only last 24 hours. Amazon seems to have price-matched Best Buy, although those listings typically hang around a little longer.
Look, I know that on a fundamentally technological scale, the thing is the pits. The screen is blurry, the tracking is primitive and the input is shoddy at best. But spending three hours arguing with my partner as we painstakingly folded cardboard and then refolded and refolded again (just to be sure) was some of the most enjoyable collaborative tomfoolery I’ve had in gaming. It didn’t really matter that the end experience was a bit, well, low-rate.
So, yes, I still put on the bird thing every once in a while and fly across the sunny shores. I might even build the friggin’ blaster one day. But since launch Labo VR’s library has grown in some surprising ways. Many of Nintendo’s biggest games have added support for the kit in one way or another. They’ve never been robust enough to warrant their own reviews, so we thought it best to compile our verdicts on each in one handy spot. We’ve ranked them from best to worst with scores, too. If you’re thinking of picking up Switch VR for yourself, best take a look here first.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Hidden Gems?
Of every game that’s endeavored to support Labo VR since launch, Captain Toad’s efforts are perhaps the least offensive. In this twee adventure game you navigate tiny courses, avoiding dangers and solving puzzles. The little diorama-sized levels look quite adorable inside the headset and the smooth, simplistic art style helps ease the sting of the 720p display. It’s mostly comfortable to play, though rotating the stages can be a little disorientating. Still, there’s very little of it (four levels that each last about four minutes at most) and the experience would be much better with positional tracking. But it’s as agreeable as Switch VR gets and gives us hope Nintendo might take a more serious stab at the tech one day.
Nintendo Labo VR Kit – Wonky Fun
The pack-in software that comes with Labo VR itself is a mixed bag with a few key highlights. Not only does it include a faultless step-by-step guide to building each Labo kit, it contains a bunch of minigames to play with them after. Some of these, like a bird-flying game that reminds me of Pilotwings, are utterly mad (you hold a bird’s butt to your face) but a novel bit of fun. Many of them, though, are painfully dull or frustrating. Some third-person platform levels don’t really highlight the joys of VR, whilst games that utilize the Joy-Con’s motion controls are incredibly difficult to handle. Trying to throw a boomerang within one game is so infuriating I was tempted to lob my Joy-Con knowing full well it wouldn’t return.
Still, the kit’s best games are decent enough to warrant a look and the welcome spurring of build-it-yourself mentality makes it unlike anything else in VR. If you have kids you want to share VR with in particular, this isn’t the worst place to start.
Super Mario Odyssey – Astro Not
It’s not often you’ll see Nintendo aping Sony rather than the other way round. But the handful of VR levels on offer in Super Mario Odyssey do carry a small spark of Astro Bot-infused delight. You scutter around three environments from the main game in 360 degrees, completing a small number of challenges. It’s quite warming to see Mario scarper about in VR, especially when he climbs up close to the camera and shoots his lovably naive smile. He probably thinks you’re gasping at the sight of his masculine, plump figure brought to life in VR, but really you’re just relieved to see a friendly face between the sea of pixels. The further you venture away from the camera, the closer Mario resembles his 8-bit origins, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s often hard to work out what’s going on and, just as you grasp it, the level ends. Mario deserves his own full VR game to rival Astro Bot, but this isn’t it.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate – Wasted Potential
Super Smash Bros Ultimate brings Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid and many, many more storied gaming franchises to VR. If you want a Metroid VR game, this is the closest you’ll get without an emulator. Sadly this is a very poor VR debut for Pikachu, Snake and Cloud; Smash Bros’ vapid VR support is one of the worst Labo integrations going. You can either play single-player matches against AI or spectate and control the camera. If you’re playing, the stage appears so small it’s impossible to appreciate the 3D effect. The action, meanwhile, is too fast-paced to keep up. It’s like watching a pack of very fierce mice squabble over some cheese from afar.
Spectating is somehow the preferable choice, allowing you to zoom in and even look beyond the normal screen’s boundaries to see more of a stage. But even then the platform’s limitations snuff out any spark of excitement before long. Without positional tracking and a sharper display, this is an utterly dire experience.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Blur of the Wild
I didn’t think Nintendo would ever be able to get Breath of the Wild running in VR. So I guess credit where it’s due; you can play all of this modern masterpiece with Labo VR stuck to your face if you so choose. To do so, though, would be a crime to the good people of Hyrule. If you move your head to look around, you’ll discover the camera isn’t freely detached from Link. Instead, you’re simply moving the camera as you would in-game, centered around our hero. This can be incredibly nauseating, and it really detracts from the freedom one should experience in VR. Someone needs to sit the developers down and give them a long and enlightening talk about why this is the absolute worst way they could have implemented VR. We’ve all dreamed of wielding the Master Sword in VR but this is absolutely not the place to do it.
Bonus: Spice & Wolf VR
We haven’t actually played Spice & Wolf specifically on Labo VR, so it wouldn’t be fair to rate it. I can say, however, that even the PC VR version of the game isn’t very inspiring, with just a few short conversations to watch between two characters. The anime art is striking and the character animation is smooth, plus it’s an ideal fit for Switch VR’s limited capabilities. But from a pure content perspective, this is only worth picking up if you’re a die-hard fan of the show/manga.
Nintendo’s Labo VR headset is far from the most advanced VR tech out there. But the company insists it hasn’t “fallen behind” with the technology.
Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto himself said as much in a recent Nintendo Shareholders Q&A. “We have not fallen behind with either VR or network services,” Miyamoto said. “We worked on them from the very beginning, and have been experimenting with them in a variety of ways.”
For VR, that meant this year’s release of the Nintendo Labo VR Kit. Building on the existing Labo line, it offers a set of make-it-yourself cardboard peripherals, including a VR viewer you slot the Switch into. The experience it offers is undoubtedly creaky – it’s only got three degrees of freedom (3DOF) tracking and a blurry 720p display. But the DIY aspect of the product definitely has its charms.
“Because we don’t publicize this until we release a product, it may look like we’re falling behind,” Miyamoto continued. “In regards to VR, we think that we have created a product that is easy for our consumers to use in the recently released Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04: VR Kit. Nintendo consumers encompass a wide range of ages, including young children, so we will continue to create and announce products that can be enjoyed by anyone.”
While Labo VR certainly is accessible, the quality of compatible content on the platform, such as the VR support for The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, is often pretty low. We’d love to see the company come out with a higher-grade device that offered a more palatable experience. We’ll keep out fingers crossed for now.
Nintendo’s cardboard Labo creations have been an avenue for gamers to explore creativity, especially so for those of a younger age. Now, the company is utilizing its Nintendo Labo VR Kit in the Hack Kids in Tokyo special event where parents and children age 6 and up learn to program their own games using Toy-Con Garage VR.
Hack Kids in Tokyo is an event organized by Yahoo and welcomes elementary school children in third to sixth grade along with their parents. Toy-Con Garage VR is a way for Nintendo Labo VR users to take a look under the hood of over 60 games that have been created by Labo’s developers. Hack Kids will use this same program to teach kids and parents how the games are made and help them to develop their own.
Nintendo just added VR support to another one of its tent pole Switch games – Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Yup, really.
Update 3.1.0 for the game brings limited support for the Switch’s Labo VR headset. You won’t embody a fighter in first-person, but you will watch and play from the sidelines as if you were really there. When using Labo you can either face off against one other computer player or watch four other CPU players duke it out. Sadly, there’s no support for bigger battles or online play.
You do get to choose from ‘dozens’ of the game’s stages. You can look around and see areas of each scene you wouldn’t on a traditional display, which is pretty cool. This also technically marks a VR debut for a heck of a lot of game franchises; the chance to see Samus, Solid Snake, Mega Man, Sonic and more in VR is enticing.
We haven’t tried the support for ourselves but we wouldn’t get too excited. Labo VR is a novel piece of kit, mainly intended for kids to use. But the Switch’s 720p display and limited horsepower hold it back from really bringing lots of content to life. We’ve played Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the headset, for example, and neither really held up.
Still, it’s better than nothing. Nintendo seems to be quite willing to throw VR support into its biggest games, which makes us think this won’t be the last we hear from the headset.
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.
Apparently, that was always the plan according to Labo creator Tsubasa Sakaguchi in an interview with CNET. “We actually had it all planned out from the very beginning … even in the [original] announcement video, if you look at it, everything but the VR goggles is included,” says Sakaguchi.
We’e seen a few really compelling mock ups from fans about what they thought a Switch VR headset might be like and even though one made out of cardboard isn’t quite the same, it’s good to see Nintendo at least investing in the concept a bit. Now modders are adding things like headstraps, which seem like a really obvious omission.
“For VR itself, there was already research happening at Nintendo,” says Sakaguchi. “We thought combining it with a unique controller would make a product that is like none other … creating an input, as well as physical feedback, the elasticity of the rubber band or the wind that you feel. It was kind of like climbing a mountain with other team members … we knew where the goal was at the top of the mountain, but we didn’t know how to get there. It was trial and error.”
We’ll have to see where Nintendo takes VR next with the Labo concept, or if they expand it to a proper headset made out of plastic or something else more sturdy in the future. If you’ve tried the Labo VR kit let us know what you think down in the comments below!
With Nintendo’s latest ‘Labo’ kit for Switch, the company made its first real strides into VR (not counting Virtual Boy). Within only a week of its release, the cardboard VR headset maker-kit is already sold out all over the web in the US and in parts of Europe.
Large online retailers such as Amazon US, Best Buy, Target, Walmartand NewEggare all sold out of the $80 full set, which includes Nintendo Labo software, VR headset, Wind Pedal, Camera, Elephant, Bird, and Blaster. The cheaper $40 starter set is still in stock almost everywhere, which only includes the headset and attachable blaster.
European standbys such as Germany’s MediaMarkt and Amazon.de, France’s Amazon.fr and Fnac, and the UK’s Currys PC World and Game are all out of stock of the full set as well. If you can’t wait, Italy’s Amazon.it and the UK’s Amazon.co.uk still have availability, both of which ship to many European countries.
In the US, price gougers on Ebay are currently listing pre-order guarantees for around $130 and up, underscoring just how rare Nintendo’s No. 4 Labo VR Kit has become in the days following its release. Most other ‘buy now’ options come from Japan or Korea, of course with their own hefty markups.
We suggest scouring your local big box store for any leftover units that may still be around. If you find any online, make sure to comment and we’ll try to include it in an update here.
Product Description (full set – $80)
The Nintendo Labo: VR Kit includes a variety of creations to Make, Play, and Discover: Toy-Con VR Goggles, Toy-Con Blaster, Toy-Con Elephant, Toy-Con Camera, Toy-Con Bird, and more. Make cardboard controllers called Toy-Con, and then use your creations to play the software’s variety of fun, immersive games. Sharing the fun is as easy as passing Toy-Con creations from one player to the next; there’s no head strap or complicated equipment to get in your way. Interacting with creations translates into in-game actions to create a truly immersive experience—from firing your Blaster to flapping your Bird’s wings—and each creation enhances the sense of immersion with real-world sensations like movement resistance, sounds, and gusts of wind. Discover how your creations work with the Nintendo Switch technology through handy tutorials, and when you’re ready to try making something uniquely yours, use the software’s intuitive, interactive Toy-Con Garage and Toy-Con Garage VR programming tools to explore new ways to play with your creations, invent new ones, and even make your own quick-play VR games!