Nintendo Takes Another Awkward Swing at VR

Nintendo is a very special company in the gaming industry. It’s developed a reputation for being innovative and serious about quality over quantity. While Sony and Microsoft fight over the spec-obsessed, hardcore gamer crowd, Nintendo has been happy to cater to lovers of their many IPs and those who want a quality family-friendly experience.

Their latest console, the Nintendo Switch, is unlike any other current system. Built on powerful (albeit older) tablet hardware, it switches (get it?) seamlessly between running on your TV and running in handheld mode. The Switch is a little more powerful than the previous generation of consoles, such as the PS3 and Xbox 360, which means its also host to plenty of AAA ports from yesteryear, alongside some stonkingly good originals. Yes, I mean Zelda Breath of the Wild.

However, being an innovative company means you’ll also have some real duds too. Apple, for example, has a long list of failed products. The only reason we forget about them is that the successful ones are so great. Good enough to make them a trillion dollar company.

For Nintendo’s part, one of their most notorious failures was the Virtual Boy. This was not actually a VR headset, but a portable 3D console that used a visor. Unfortunately the tech just wasn’t there and the only feelings a Virtual Boy would induce is nausea.

Now, decades later, Nintendo has released a VR solution for their Switch. Making them the second console maker to provide VR. However, this is no PSVR system.

Google Cardboard on Steroids

Nintendo have choses to give players a VR experience through their “Labo” series of products. These combine games with special cardboard cutout frames and the various sensors built into the Switch controllers.

Now we have the Labo VR kit, which is essentially an advanced take on Google Cardboard. At first, your only option was the set of Labo VR games that come with the kit or can be bought additionally. Now major titles like Zelda Breath of the Wild also have VR modes.

On paper it’s a neat idea, especially since the Joycon controllers are already pretty decent motion controllers. In practice however, the Switch isn’t really capable of good framerates and only sports a 720p screen.

Responses to the VR modes in AAA titles like Zelda and Mario have not been good. To be fair, Nintendo have not pushed this as a hardware platform or promised AAA VR. Labo is sold as a curiosity. A toy. However it’s an $87 toy, so your taste for novelty may have to be quite strong.

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