Well, this was certainly unexpected. After very carefully laying out our modest expectations for Labo VR on Switch, Nintendo casually tweeted news that both Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be receiving free updates offering VR compatibility. While the Labo VR Kit launches this Friday, details are sketchy on the exact nature of the announced updates for the other games to be released on 25th April.
From the look of the Mario portion of the trailer, it appears to have three VR ‘spots’ that you find in the Cap, Seaside and Luncheon Kingdoms from which the camera is grounded and you guide Mario on 'mini-missions' to collect musical notes and coins. This sort of novelty is welcome, of course, but from what we’ve seen so far, it’s little more than a curio and probably not worth buying the Labo VR Kit for if you were sitting on the fence.
It’s the Zelda VR update which has us seriously intrigued. Again, details a scarce but the VR implementation in Breath of the Wild seems to be fully-functional except with pre-rendered cutscenes. The trailer shows a toggle in the main menu enabling VR Goggle mode and it appears that the game simply switches and continues to play as normal – no special Labo shrines, no limitations on movement or view – simply Breath of the Wild running in VR.
As we watched this, a whole host of received wisdom concerning VR ran through our minds. What about the screen door effect? Each eye needs a much higher resolution than Switch can muster, at least 1080p! The diminished field-of-view destroys any feeling of immersion, not to mention the latency! Anything less than 60fps leads to uncontrollable vomiting!
We’ve internalised all this information over the past few years as affordable VR slowly made its way into homes, and we appreciate the logic and wisdom behind each criticism. We know that they're all valid concerns, but Nintendo is still releasing an update to make Zelda – a 30fps open world game – fully playable with cheap cardboard VR goggles.
We’re reluctant to jump to conclusions before we’ve played it for a decent length of time, yet the fact Nintendo is doing this at all suggests the company must be reasonably confident that the experience delivers. Right now, it seems that to play in VR you’ll have to hold the Switch to your face indefinitely, and we’re not sure how long our arms could do so before succumbing to cramp. Perhaps it’s this restriction – the fact that players won’t be able to play for extended sessions – that gives Nintendo the confidence to put this free patch out.
On the other hand, it will take precisely no time for 3D-printed DIY and third-party solutions to pop up in the wild with straps and full-on moulded headsets that ditch Labo’s cardboard for something more hard-wearing. Indeed, examination of the Labo goggles themselves suggests that they may have been designed with the potential for a strap to be added at a later date, thereby circumventing the age restrictions such an addition would impose if included in the kit itself.
Nintendo knows players will be strapping themselves in and heading into Hyrule for extended play sessions, however many disclaimers it runs. Its VR experience must be, at the very least, serviceable. Perhaps – just perhaps – it simply doesn’t need to be life-changing. We don’t need to be able to sit with the Switch strapped to our face for 8 hours at a time (not that the battery would permit that). It simply has to be good enough to last for 30-45 minutes without us wanting to plunge a Joy-Con into each eye socket.
None of us expected this, however much we might have dreamed, and it potentially opens the door to other VR experiences on the console, both for games already on Switch and – just possibly – titles from other platforms. While many of the higher-end experiences simply wouldn’t be viable (especially ones which require standing), many static, stylised VR games could potentially be adapted to Labo VR.
It all balances on a very big ‘if’, though. If Breath of the Wild – a full-fat open world game – runs through Labo VR acceptably, it opens up possibilities. Below you’ll find a list of games which, with some significant adaptation and tweaking, we believe could potentially work with Labo VR. Some already have VR versions on other platforms, presumably making a Switch patch more feasible than it otherwise might.
We’re certainly dreaming big with some of these, but who can say what’s to come? Cuphead is releasing on Switch next week! Zelda’s getting a VR mode at the end of the month! Mother 3 lands Holiday 2019!...
The calls for this one have been loud and clear across the internet from the very first rumours that Nintendo was investigating Virtual Reality with Switch. Indeed, Mario Kart already exists in VR, so there’s certainly precedent. Before the Breath of the Wild update, we’d have said it was very unlikely, but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Labo VR Update suddenly seems like a no-brainer. We’ve already seen the updates that enable you to use Toy-Con to drive your kart – is a VR patch really that far-fetched now?
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The game is on Switch already and a VR version exists… It’s one of those things that sounds insane until you see that Breath of the Wild is getting a VR patch. Considering Skyrim has been around since what feels like the beginning of time itself, we can't think of a good reason why this shouldn't happen. Why not? Bring it on.
Everything we know about latency and resolution and first-person shooters in VR suggests that this simply wouldn’t be possible in a form that anyone would find acceptable on Switch. Frankly, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Panic Button got the game running as well as it did on the handheld. Our gut instinct says that if it were even feasible to get DOOM VFR running on Switch, it would probably have to come with a special cardboard Labo bib to catch the fountain of spew it would produce. But our gut also told us that Zelda VR was a pipedream. Our gut seems to be playing up. Is DOOM VFR on Switch unlikely? Certainly. Impossible?...
Again, it’s up and running on other platforms, including Gear VR, and the Switch is extremely popular with the game’s target demographic. As an additional, optional mode, it makes eminent sense.
The first game on this list that’s not currently available on Switch, we’ve been waiting for this one for a while. While a Labo VR mode would hardly compete with the equivalent experience available with PSVR, the mode already exists elsewhere so any potential port (it must surely be on the way) would do well to have a Labo VR toggle in the menu. Coming from Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the man behind REZ and such novelties as the Trance Vibrator and the Synaesthesia Suit, we can’t see him letting this opportunity pass him by.
Against Gravity’s online multiplayer VR experience functions as VR ‘hub’ enabling you to access a host of games. The stylised visuals would probably scale down well on Switch and the varied games would showcase some of the best VR experiences on Nintendo’s system. Of course, it would require some adaptation to work well on Switch, as all the games on this list would, but it’s been called VR’s ‘killer app’ and likened to a Wii Sports social game experience. A perfect fit for a Nintendo system, then.
A bomb defusal game where one player describes the details of the device as the rest of the group hunts through physically printed sheets for how to disarm the thing. It's a brilliant party game and the addition of a VR mode would seem to be relatively straightforward because it's not the most visually taxing game in the world, but also it's already available in VR on other platforms. No, it wouldn't make a huge difference to the experience on Switch - the console's portable nature means that the bomb defuser can already sit opposite the group and they can't see the screen, but it would be a lovely extra all the same.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew
Despite being a famous, long-running and incredibly successful franchise, Star Trek has very few decent video games to its name; Star Trek: Bridge Crew from Ubisoft is one of those few. A VR multiplayer game, you are assigned to one of four bridge stations from which you communicate with the rest of the crew to deal with trouble from the Romulans, Borg and co. while monitoring bridge systems to let your shipmates know when there are Klingons off the starboard bow, shields are down to 12% and there's a warp core breach in progress.
It's the communication and cooperation this involves that really captures one of the most attractive parts of the show for fans - Trekkies are finally able to live out their fantasies of being a bridge officer on a starship. We may be reaching for the stars with this one, and a Labo VR version might mean Captain Caveat taking command, but we all know Ubisoft and Nintendo are BBFs right now, and we'd love to see this come to Switch in some form. We'd even use the loathsome Nintendo Switch Online app for voice chat if we had to. Make it so!
The legendary board game is already coming to Switch this June, but the lauded VR version would make an excellent addition to this imaginary Labo VR library we're building. The static nature of the gameplay would be well-suited to the tech and would really bring the digital version of the game to life. It's already available on most other VR platforms, including Samsung's Gear VR, and we'd love to see a cheeky VR mode in the Switch version.
Batman: Arkham VR
One of the first experiences to introduce gamers to the most recent wave of VR back in 2016, Batman: Arkham VR is short and sweet. Putting you in the shoes, cape and cowl of the Dark Knight himself, there's only an hour or so of gameplay, but who wouldn't want to 'be' Batman for a bit? If this could be squeezed onto Labo VR, if could serve the same purpose for Nintendo fans as it did on other VR platforms - a nice little title showcasing the potential of the tech.
We could name more, but hits like Beat Saber and Superhot would seem to be too frantic to work in Labo VR. But who can say? In a world where up is down and left is right, there’s very little that's outright impossible. Whatever the future holds for Nintendo and VR, whether it involves Switch Pros or Switch Lites or something we haven't even conceived of, we’re sure it will be both wonderful and strange.
What are your expectations for Breath of the Wild's VR Goggles mode? Do you think Switch could handle the games above in an adapted form? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and speculations below…