Steve Bowling and Narelle Ho Sang collaborate their thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch.
At E3 2016, Nintendo showed little from upcoming games in the Wii U's twilight year. Understandable given the Switch was on the horizon, and details were still under wraps. Instead, the company dedicated much of its E3 presentation to the next instalment in The Legend of Zelda series, including an extensive demo which ran on the Wii U. Last week we got to try the Breath of the Wild demo again - this time on its new home.
Last June, the lines at E3 for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild demo were long, with wait times of up to two hours in many cases. Many were eager to get a taste of what Link's next adventure would bring, particularly as Nintendo boasted a vast, open world. At the hands-on event in NYC last week, fans once again flocked to the demo station for the game. While the portion of the game available for play was the same as the E3 demo, there were a few new features we spotted.
The Switch demo covered the opening sequence of the game. As before, Link awakens to a voice instructing him to grab a Sheikah slate before running out into the world to appreciate its sweeping vistas. The demo showed at the Switch event is indeed identical to the Wii U E3 version, save for a few differences.
The Switch version of Breath of the Wild included an active quests window, which we don't recall from the E3 demo, however we were unable to determine how many quests Link could have active simultaneously. The biggest change was in visuals and performance, however. On the Switch, colours appeared to pop a bit more and the draw distance seemed a bit greater.
The biggest difference between the E3 and Switch versions of Breath of the Wild, however, is the frame rate. When we played last June we were a bit concerned about how well the Wii U could handle such an ambitious game, as it struggled to deliver a consistent experience even in less complicated scenes, but particularly when large explosions or battles took place. Fortunately, the Switch version seemed to have no such problem. We ran around and wrought havoc as only Link can with few drops or stutters. There are drops, though they're certainly not as pronounced as they were in the E3 2016 build; with that said, a number of months have passed so we'll be interested to see whether optimisation has improved the Wii U iteration.
Breath of the Wild looks excellent on Switch - we played it both docked and undocked, with Joy-Cons in the grip and without, and with a Pro Controller. Each control setup works perfectly well, though the game will advise you to put joy-cons in the grip if you use them without it. Beyond the obvious performance benefits, we couldn't find any other major differences between the Switch Presentation demo and the one showcased at E3. That said, seeing a game as big as Breath of the Wild running well in handheld mode is awe inspiring.
Playing on the Switch's small display is surprisingly enjoyable; it feels nearly as good as playing on a big screen. We rolled bombs off ledges onto unsuspecting bokoblins, fired arrows at unaware enemies and even did battle with Steppe Talus, the giant golem from the E3 demo.
We would have loved to have seen some new content in the Switch demo, but with release a mere two months away we're willing to wait.