Someone has to say it and I’m willing to fall on this sword. The latest delay for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild 2, or whatever it ends up being called, is a good first step. It shouldn’t be released this year or really any year where Nintendo’s main platform is the Switch.
The Legend of Zelda series producer, Eiji Aonuma, has an update to share about the launch timing of the sequel to The Legend of #Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Please take a look. pic.twitter.com/7OhayhiuM9
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) March 29, 2022
I’ve been waiting eagerly for this game, just like so many other people. Breath of The Wild is one of my favorite games ever. To this day, it’s probably still the second-most-played game on my console (right behind Super Smash Bros. Ultimate), and I’ve even been thinking about going back in for a second playthrough. But after seeing it played on the 4K TV I have at home, there’s no way the Switch can do a sequel to Breath of The Wild justice at this stage. It needs something with more power.
Tamed by hardware
I don’t consider myself a huge fan of Nintendo’s games. Some releases excite me, like the latest Kirby game, while I couldn’t care less about others. But regardless of what games Nintendo releases, I’ve seen players of all stripes criticizing one thing time and time again: Nintendo’s first-party games have gotten rougher around the edges over time.
I saw those complaints the most after Pokémon Legends: Arceus released. Fans praised it for actually doing something new with the franchise, but the game itself didn’t exactly look picturesque. In terms of tech, Arceus looks and performs worse than games that landed on the system in 2017.
Of course, games on the Switch won’t hold a candle to titles on other current-gen consoles in terms of visuals. It was made to be played on the go; it’s the console’s entire selling point. You take your games with you wherever you are, and that’s still novel. Except now, you can get a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and an adapter that turns your phone into a controller, and just stream games via the cloud. The Switch has been outdone by the tiny piece of tech you carry in your pocket. The entire reason why it trades performance for mobility is gone, especially considering that the Steam Deck is now out in the world.
The Switch has been outdone by the tiny piece of tech you carry in your pocket.
Yet the Switch still performs the same as it did in 2017. Even the recently released Switch OLED doesn’t boost performance when that’s what the console needs more than a prettier display. I first noticed that first-party games on the Switch were starting to chug when I played Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury in January 2021. The game would drop frames whenever things got too busy in the game’s open world. It wasn’t a good look for a Mario game.
It became abundantly clear to me just how weak the switch is when one of my housemates tried to play Breath of The Wild on our 55-inch 4K TV. Besides looking muddy when it was on such a large screen, the game couldn’t maintain a stable frame rate. I’d watch as it swung wildly from 30 frames per second to the low 20s due to a lightning strike or too many enemies appearing on screen.
I don’t know if these dips were caused by the size of my TV or if this is just how the game has always performed on a screen bigger than the Switch’s, but it made watching my housemate play almost unbearable. It’s certainly not how a first-party release should perform.
Breath of The Wild‘s sequel is, like any follow-up, supposed to be an improvement in almost every way. So far, that’s what producer Eiji Aonuma has promised, with the upcoming game’s explorable world stretching into the sky. It will be bigger and have more content. It’s reasonable to assume that the game will also be prettier. But I don’t think the Switch can accommodate any of that in the way it’ll need to. At this point, less than five years into its life, the handheld console feels dated. It struggles to run first-party games at a stable framer ate and its visual performance is only more notably lackluster over time.
If the five-year-old Breath of The Wild can’t run well on a Switch, what are the chances that a bigger game will do any better? Nintendo needs new hardware, not just for this game, but for all of its first-party titles. And until the company releases something that can outperform the current Switch, Breath of The Wild 2 can only benefit from delays. The experience will be better if it manages to glide onto new hardware.