This week The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released simultaneously as both a Nintendo Switch launch game and the Wii U's swansong. Already praised as one of the greatest games of all time (we also gave it top marks in our review) history is repeating itself with a Twilight Princess scenario for consumers. Do you stick with the same console hoping the difference is minimal or upgrade for the 'best' experience? Digital Foundry has done its pixel and frame counting to help with an answer.
Running the game in a side by side comparison, Digital Foundry re-emphasized the resolution difference between the two, with the Switch version at 900p and 720p on Wii U. You can also see a difference in lighting throughout the video. Apart from that everything else appears close across frame rate, draw distance, model quality, shadow resolution and texturing, giving re-assurance to Wii U owners that they are not deprived of an amazing experience.
Nintendo itself officially specified the contrasts as follows:
- Both have a frame-rate of 30fps.
- Both versions of the game offer the same content.
- On a TV, the Nintendo Switch version of the game renders in 900p while the Wii U version renders in 720p.
- The Nintendo Switch version has higher-quality environmental sounds. As a result, the sound of steps, water, grass, etc. are more realistic and enhance the game's Open-Air feel.
- The physical copy of the Wii U version will require 3GB of available memory on the Wii U system or an external drive.
- Some icons, such as onscreen buttons, differ between the two versions.
- A Special Edition and Master Edition of the Wii U version are not available.
Having tested both versions of the game myself, I personally observed slight framerate drops in both copies and eventually gave into the Switch from the notion of taking the system anywhere. When blown up on my widescreen TV I did however immediately feel enough of a difference that I felt my purchase warranted; deeper colours are also helped on the Switch by its support for a full RGB range on TVs that support it. Our own editor Thomas Whitehead previously spoke about his first few hours in Hyrule on Wii U, giving his impressions; we had praise for the Wii U iteration.
What's interesting on the Digital Foundry video is the demonstration that frame drops aren't in consistent places, showing how the running of the engine prompts stutters at different points regardless of hardware. Both entries suffer from this, and we hope that Nintendo follows the example of other developers - such as CD Projekt Red - in exploring improvements for updates to smooth out performance. Open-world console titles often have teething issues early on, but hopefully there's room for improvement.
As a project that was primarily started for Wii U, Breath of the Wild is - at least - delivering a solid experience on the system. As a result Nintendo fans don't necessarily need new hardware to play a contender for best game in the series.
How are you experiencing Breath of the Wild? What system are you playing on? Leave us a comment.