Sunday, May 26, 2019
Home Tech Mario and Zelda's new VR modes are not good

Mario and Zelda's new VR modes are not good

All images in this post are recorded by games running in VR mode. For this, the hardware must render two images, one for each eye, hence the split view.

Nintendo has just added free updates to Nintendo Switch blockbusters Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Introduce the virtual reality modes for both games, but you'll be fine if you skip them.

Mario OdysseyThe new VR mode consists of three small custom levels that allow you to quickly collect musical instruments for characters that come together for a special VR concert to the main theme of the game.

Breath of the wildWith VR mode, you can play the entire game in a simple 3D view that will bring you little in the world.

It is also not an advertisement for virtual reality games in general and can serve as an indication of the limitations of VR on the switch with relatively low performance. To play one of the two games in VR, users have to push the system into the cardboard and plastic goggles supplied with the new Nintendo Labo VR Kit. The glasses are usually fine, but the switch does not seem to be strong enough to create a strong VR experience for both games.

The Nintendo Switch VR requires the Nintendo Labo VR glasses. While the glasses are mostly made of cardboard and therefore very light, the user has to hold the system to the face. There is no headband, and the manipulation of the game control just inches from your face can be uncomfortable. This is uncomfortable for the Mario and Zelda VR modes.

VR games require hardware to send split images, one to the left and one to the right. For this reason, all the screenshots in this post I took during the VR games show a view for the left eye and a view for the right eye. This split makes the hardware even more powerful and the switch can only display games in grainy resolution. Screenshots in this post may look better than I have seen in VR. Also, the VR switch version does not capture where the player is in a field and so can only create the feeling of seeing a virtual world from a fixed location, as opposed to more advanced VR technology that you can use At least a little can move in a virtual space while you move your head or body.

The Mario Odyssey VR mode is separate from the main game. It covers three playable levels and an interactive bonus concert. The levels are set in the game's Kingdom of Life, Seaside Kingdom and Luncheon Kingdom. Each is a customized version of the kingdom that feels like little virtual spaces around the player. To find out, the user places the switch in the VR glasses, sits down or presents it while holding the glasses to his face, and then enters the kingdom.

If you turn your head, you'll find that the Mario Kingdoms seem to be rendered around you. Your perspective is fixed in the middle of them as if you were a surveillance camera in this particular Mario world. In all VR games, the game worlds are inherently rendered in 3D, giving depth to what you can see. That means being fixed in one place and letting Mario run around the camera, which is often quite far away, does not look so good and is not fun.

Challenges like these might look cool in the VR if they are not that far away. Unfortunately VR for change Mario Odyssey works with fixed camera positions. The level of scalability afforded by more advanced VR settings that enable movement within a VR world is limited here.

The kingdoms are sprinkled with some simple challenges in which Mario collects music notes, triggers the appearance of musical instruments and then hands them over to the appropriate musicians.

It only takes a few minutes to reunite the musicians in each kingdom with their instruments. The reward is a New Donk City concert in which Pauline flogs Mario OdysseyWhile players can make Mario jump through the crowd, they jump on stage with the singer and her band.

Look straight ahead and you will see the actors of the concert …
… turn around and you will see the audience of the concert.

VR often has at least the magical feeling that we are in this virtual place. This sensation is not very strong Mario OdysseyVR modes because the player is not surrounded by a spectacle. The graphics are grainy. Mario is alternately too close and too dominant or too far away and too small to see him. The scale of the levels is notable only in the Seaside Kingdom, where the camera angle is low and the height of a beanstalk that grows and an umbrella spring challenge imparts a degree of scaling.

Breath of the wildThe VR emptied too. Theoretically, in the new VR mode, you could play through the entirety of this all-time great game. It is a change from the main menu of the game. But doing so seems foolish. The VR mode for this game does not bring you significantly into the game. In the default VR setting, you can not look around in a virtual world around you. Instead, Breath of the wildVR's standard VR offering means that the game is represented by the stereoscopic 3D depth glasses in a perspective fixed in front of you. You'll feel like you're a bit closer to the world of Link, but the switch does not render the world as if it surrounds you. It's more like you've opted for the more expensive 3D movie experience, but you're still sitting in a theater, and the graphics are locked in front of you.

If you enable the "Motion control targeting" option, you can change the camera view by turning the head. That's better, but still not great. Ideally, this would mean that you can see Link in your direction and then turn your head to see what he might have seen behind you. In this mode, however, the game camera is rotated in an orbit around Link. If you turn your head 180 degrees, you're basically just moving the camera so that it's on the other side now. He is always in the frame. If you look up, do not leave it behind and see the sky above it. Instead, move the camera closer to his feet and look up into the sky. You replicate what would have happened by tilting the in-game camera in a non-VR motion. Looking down does not just show the bottom under the camera. Instead, he moves the camera over Link's head to look at him. All of this feels more like a traditional orbital motion of the 3D camera of a video game and works very much like the non-VR camera of the game is controlled by an analog stick. This alternative VR mode at least enhances the feeling that you are looking closer into a virtual world than you could without VR, but there is no illusion that the 3D world of the game is around you. If you try Breath of the wild VR, try this setting. It's the better option, even if it's not great.

Correction – 1:20 am: At first I said the camera in Breath of the Wild VR had been repaired. This is only in standard mode. I've added a description of the better, but still limited, variant that lets you circle the camera head-on-link.

To like Odyssey, Breath of the wild is much grainy in VR. It also has a slimmed-down interface that hides the game's minimap and makes the health indicator difficult to read as the heart row bends out of the user's peripheral vision.

Breath of the wildThe VR of VR can bring you closer to the action, but this is offset by grainy graphics and a reduced user interface.
For comparison, a similar moment in Breath of the wild not in VR.

The limitations I've already mentioned are compounded by the fact that VR is a considerable arm workout for the Nintendo Switch. The VR glasses of the Labo kit does not have a head strap. To use them, you must hold the glasses, which are made of cardboard but with a Nintendo switch, to your face.

This is not a wonder Mario OdysseyIn VR mode, the user is repeatedly asked to take breaks. That's probably for poor health, but it's tiring to stop the seemingly light switch for five, ten, or fifteen minutes while walking around in a Mario world. How would anyone play it? Zelda Game like this? Well, Breath of the wildThe standard fixed camera angle – the fact that turning the head does not change the view of the game world – means you can at least lie on your back and play while holding the glasses to your face. In fact, if you choose to use the "Aim with Motion Control" setting, you actually have to keep the game upright and keep the system over your face all the time. Note that due to the lack of headgear for the goggles, the controllers of the switch need to be attached to the system so you can play while keeping the controllers near your cheeks. It's weird and not a good way to play on Switch at all. You can remove the controllers, but then attach a strap to hold the glasses to your face.

If there is a thing from Nintendo Mario VR is great, it warns the user to take breaks.

VR game design is still a young format. Top developers have a hard time making great experiences with this seemingly magical technology that immerses us in a virtual world. It was exciting that Nintendo would try first with its custom Labo VR games, then with VR for its two flagship franchises. Unfortunately, even the brilliant minds of Nintendo have not been able to produce great or even good VR images Mario and Zelda Games.

Seeing these game worlds in a kind of VR that the switch can only render is not particularly exciting. Nintendo has certainly heard this before, but given the lackluster VR results for these Nintendo titles, may I humbly suggest trying something different? Maybe VR Pokémon Snap?

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