The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's VR update isn't really VR, but it is a fun new way to play

Goggle box. 

First of all, set your expectations accordingly. The new VR updates for two of Nintendo Switch's most popular games do not hold a candle to the best experiences you might have had on Vive, on Oculus, or even on PSVR. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild boasts VR support for the entire game, but the framerate doesn't rise above the 30fps of the original version, there's limited motion tracking and it all looks a bit of a smear. It's even a push to call it virtual reality, really - the overall impression is more like holding a 3DS screen super close to your face, albeit a 3DS running a game that's as breathtaking today as it was when it launched over two years ago.

Super Mario Odyssey's VR mode has a greater claim to being a proper virtual reality experience, but even then it's a stretch. Here are three specially designed levels, taking place in various familiar kingdoms from the base game, each offering a small diorama you can look around as Mario collects coins and searches for musicians and their instruments - who, when found and reunited, perform a special concert of Odyssey's main theme.

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I still personally think it's wizardry to have anything approaching VR on the Switch. How much of a technical feat is it? Digital Foundry will be along in the near future with a verdict.

It is 60fps - an improvement on Breath of the Wild, but still short of the 90fps that's recommended for a comfortable VR experience - but the visual fidelity is so poor that Mario becomes just a smudge when he's more than a few paces away from you. I'm not even sure you could say he's as lo-res as he was in his very first outing in 1981. At least back then you could make out his moustache.

All of which might come as a crushing disappointment for those that might have filled their imagination with more robust experiences ever since VR support was announced for both games. Really, though, I'm not sure expectations should have ever been set too high. The Labo VR headset is a piece of folded cardboard and cheap plastic - even at 35 quid, you could argue that it's over-priced - and it's powered by a console with an aging mobile processor at its heart, with a screen that would be unacceptable on most modern mid-range smartphones.

Go in with expectations adjusted accordingly, though, and I don't think these VR updates are half bad - indeed, they can be surprisingly effective. Super Mario Odyssey provides a fun, throwaway experience, while The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild offers a new way to play the game, and the perfect excuse to revisit cherished vistas across this open world Hyrule.

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Playing Breath of the Wild via Labo VR feels a bit like playing a traditional 2D game in big screen mode on PSVR - albeit with a few bonus touches.

Head to the top of Duelling Peaks and cast your eye across Hyrule Field, or look down to the depths of the ravine to see the river running through it. Hold your breath and then dive off, feeling a little turning of the stomach as the new feeling of depth plays with your senses. Take a stroll through the foothills of Akkala then trot up to one of the clifftops that overlook the sea, then just sit back and watch the sun dapple the waves a burnt orange as it sets. It's an effective, often striking way to rediscover some of Breath of the Wild's greatest sights.

There are so many caveats, though - head-tracking really only extends to a small range as you shift the camera around Link with your movements. The limited frame-rate and low resolution are surefire recipes for nausea - indeed, the lack of a head-strap on the Labo VR unit feels like a tacit admission from Nintendo that, such are the limitations here, it's not suited for long sessions - and for VR purists it's all likely going to be a massive turn-off.

For all that, though, it's not exactly a disappointment - if your expectations are set accordingly, that is. The VR update for Breath of the Wild doesn't really offer VR at all, and it really is more akin to playing with a 3DS pressed close to your face (all of which does help keep nausea to a minimum). But a Breath of the Wild that's fully playable in 3D, with wraparound visuals and a small nudge further towards full immersiveness? For a free update and the price of a cardboard pair of goggles, I'll take that.

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About the author

Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson

Features and Reviews Editor

Martin is Eurogamer's features and reviews editor. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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