In a somewhat surprising update, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate got VR compatibility with the Nintendo Labo VR kit – my personal favorite of the four DIY toy-cons for the Switch.
Now, this may not be all THAT surprising to some. Nintendo’s two major first party titles – Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – both got an update for VR shortly after the kit released.
The capabilities added to Odyssey honestly weren’t all that great. In three of the many kingdoms – Cap Kingdom, Luncheon Kingdom and Seaside Kingdom – you can go on a mission to reunite band members with their instruments. It felt more gimmicky than anything else, seeing as how it wasn’t the full SMO experience, but just a little piece. But it gave me a taste of what could be.
In Breath of the Wild, however, fans can actually play the game in its entirety in VR. When I first picked it up and put on the goggles, I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much, having recently tried doing the same in Super Mario Odyssey. I mean the Switch can only handle so much resolution on such a little screen and BotW is DENSE. But honestly I was shocked at how insanely detailed things became. Sure there’s the customary edge blur you get from such a low-res screen, but that was vastly overshadowed by how immense and expansive the world became. Climbing up towers became a feat just to watch; when it started to rain, I was ACTUALLY frustrated that I had to climb up mountains because they were so huge; and every battle with a Hinox made me feel like Hercules taking on his trials. Needless to say, I was impressed.
But what really sold me on the prospect of Nintendo getting into the virtual reality market was when I picked up my Switch and played SSBU with my VR goggles on. I didn’t know what to expect. At first I thought I would get to fight in first person, but that would just be a big pukefest and near impossible to do at such a fast pace. It wasn’t until I got into my first match that I was pleasantly surprised yet again by what Nintendo Labo VR can actually do.
The matches in SSBUVR (as I like to call it) are limited to one player versus up to three other CPU fighters. Not a shock – after all, it would be difficult to track down four sets of VR goggles and four people willing to wear them for a match. On top of this, gameplay is limited to timed battles with no final smashes or items (which I honestly don’t mind because I tend to play without them anyway).
But what really blew me away was that over 20 stages are playable in VR! It’s crazy! I played my first match on the Great Tower from BotW and holy mushrooms was it beautiful. I constantly found myself getting Toriyah-ed by Ganondorf because I just wanted to look up at the vast open sky or peer miles below me at the base of the tower. The entire stage was rendered in 360-degree 3D. It was the same for the other stages I played! I found myself flying up the building with the moving platforms in New Donk City and next thing I knew I was watching myself as Bowser duke it out against three anime weebs (Cloud, Robin and Ken – don’t @ me) in Kongo Jungle. I mean, the capabilities of the whole thing just blew me away.
Now, what does this all mean for the future of Nintendo VR? Well I can’t answer that since I don’t work for Nintendo (though I would LOVE to – Nintendo, you have my info), but what I can say is that the future looks bright.
Being able to scale cliffs in Breath of the Wild and duke it out as Joker in Smash are experiences that are so much more enriched by VR. It’s also a great way for kids to get introduced to the virtual world in a safe, friendly way – the lack of a head strap on the VR goggles makes it easy for parents to monitor children but oh-so-hard for me to meteor smash Daisy off of the Great Tower. I think Nintendo has a good thing going right now and adding VR capabilities to Smash was a huuuuge step in the right direction for them.
I don’t expect them to ever get as big or as tech-savvy as, say, PSVR or – to compare it to a more similar wireless device – Oculus Quest, but what they’ve got going with Labo VR definitely bodes well for them and I’m excited to see where it heads. Just imagine playing as Samus in a Metroid Prime VR experience or using joy-cons to throw Pikmin at towering Bulborbs. Or better yet, calling out your Pokémon to battle another as you stare across the arena at your opponent. The possibilities are virtually endless – pun definitely intended.