The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild will launch on March 3rd, 2017 for Nintendo Wii U and the Nintendo Switch. Gamers across the globe will finally get to play the latest entry in the Zelda series. Coming at the end of one generation and the beginning of another for Nintendo hardware, the game will see a simultaneous launch on two platforms.
This isn’t the first time Nintendo has been in this position with a Zelda game. In 2006 The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess launched on The GameCube and the Wii. In this case there was a clear distinction between the two versions of the game. The GameCube version used traditional controls for navigating the land of Hyrule and battling enemies. Analog sticks for movement and camera controls, and button presses for wielding your sword.
The Wii version of Twilight Princess offered a very different game play experience. With the introduction of motion controls to the Zelda universe, players were slicing and chopping with their sword by actually swinging their arms (or hands) while holding Nintendo’s newest innovation in video game controllers – the Wii Remote.
Motion controls introduced a completely new way to play, adding layers of strategy not possible with a traditional controller. When an enemy blocks high, you swing the Wii Remote in a lower, horizontal motion. If he blocks to either side you can swing your sword in a downward vertical motion, striking your opponent. Never before had controlling Link been so involved, so kinetic.
Yet gamers playing Twilight Princess on GameCube had a very different experience of the game. There was a clear distinction between the two versions of Twilight Princess. If a player owned both the GameCube and the Wii, choosing which version of the game to buy would most likely come down to whether they wanted a new experience with motion controls, or something more familiar.
With the upcoming release of Breath of the Wild, players will once again be asked to decide between purchasing the game on last Generation hardware or Nintendo’s latest system. Will you buy BOTW for the Wii U or the Nintendo Switch?
Unlike the situation with Twilight Princess however, choosing between the Wii U and Switch versions of BOTW may not make as much of a difference in how you experience the game. Nintendo has previously stated that from a game play perspective, the two versions will be nearly identical. Both will utilize traditional controls with little distinction between the two. What will set the two versions of BOTW apart? There a at least three good reasons to prefer the Switch version over the Wii U – better performance, real portability and a new platform. Let’s look at all three in order.
The Wii U version will feature a 720p native resolution and will target 30 frames per second. Early builds of the game shown running on Wii U have indicated frequent frame drops, suggesting that the Wii U may be struggling to run the game. Although the final build may resolve these issues.
Recent demos of the game running on the Switch have demonstrated a more consistent frame rate than its Wii U counterpart, resulting in a mostly locked 30fps. In addition to a more solid frame rate the Switch version boasts a higher resolution as well, with a 900p native resolution when the system is docked. Even in portable mode the Switch matches the Wii U’s 720p resolution while potentially sustaining a more consistent frame rate. There may be other performance advantages to the Switch version as well, but we will have to wait for a side by side comparison after the game releases to know for sure.
The Switch version of the game should also enjoy reduced load times compared to the Wii U version, since cartridges are faster than optical media.
The distinguishing feature of the Wii U hardware is the tablet-like Gamepad, which offered a two screen experience similar to the 3DS and some limited portability. The ability to display a map and various menus on the Gamepad without the need to pause the game was a welcome feature. This configuration worked impressively well in the remaster on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
This useful distinction however, seems to be downplayed in BOTW. While there may be some Gamepad touchscreen functionality in the final build of the game, early demos have suggested quite the opposite. It appears Nintendo wants to erase any discrepancies between the Wii U and Switch versions of the game, at least in the area of control schemes. There is no advantage to the Wii U here.
The Gamepad may still offer some portability. This concept was birthed on the Wii U with off TV play on the Gamepad screen. While this was a great feature, it was limited by the Gamepad’s need to remain in close proximity to the Wii U console. True portability would have to wait for Nintendo’s next console.
The marquee feature of the Switch is its hybrid nature, allowing users to enjoy a nearly identical experience of the game whether playing in docked mode on their HDTV at home, or on the go in portable mode.
With the Nintendo Switch you can take your games almost anywhere, since the handheld is not a peripheral, but the console itself. With the exception of resolution the game is more or less the same whether you play it connected to your TV or sitting on the bus.
A New Platform
The Wii U is essentially dead. Though it was (is) a great system with a very good library of games, the Wii U could never find Commercial success. Nintendo is moving on to a new gaming platform, and so will the majority of Nintendo fans.
The Switch is an exciting new system with a potentially bright future. If you are making the leap to Nintendo’s new hardware you are going to want a great game to enjoy when it launches and Nintendo has you covered. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild will be a long, rewarding game, and an excellent way to break in your new system.
Choosing to pick up BOTW on the Switch also insurers you will be able to replay the game when the urge arises down the road, without the need of hanging onto the Wii U. Most consumers either do not keep old game consoles, or pack them away shortly after buying the newer system.
The choice is yours
Which version should you buy? That depends, would you rather enjoy the game as the last great experience on the Wii U, or the first of many new games on the Switch? As for me, I’m ready to move on. I can’t wait to play Nintendo’s new Zelda on their brand new system. Either way, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild will be an incredible adventure.