News: Zelda Is Worse on Switch

The game becomes crippled when the system is docked.
Into the bin it goes!

Zelda Is Worse on Switch

Given the limitations inherent in penning a snappy tittle for an article, a certain degree of hyperbole will often be involved. One must apologise for any unintended clickbait, but it is still a title which substantially holds true – at least it holds true if an individual plans to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on their TV in docked mode. Switch owners who wish to play Breath of the Wild exclusively as a portable game have absolutely nothing to worry about, as performance will be buttery smooth, and the game’s controls will be responsive and consistent – yet one imagines that this group of people will comprise less than half of the game’s audience. For the other half of the audience however Breath of the Wild is set to be a deeply flawed experience for two very key reasons: i) game performance and ii) control input reliability.

When operating in portable mode the Nintendo Switch displays Breath of the Wild‘s content in 720p at a more or less consistent 30fps refresh rate. In docked mode the Switch displays exactly the same visuals [same textures, effects, and draw distance] at a 900p resolution with a tiny bump in bilinear filtering, and a frame rate that frequently crashes to 20fps. Worse still, on a less frequent basis the frame rate crashes to the point at which the game’s visuals become a slideshow. Digital Foundry have concluded that the reason that frame drops become so severe in docked mode is because the game’s v-sync solution causes frame rate to fall to the nearest stable baseline, meaning that if the game cannot output at a stable 30fps then it will output at a stable 20fps. 30fps performance is stable enough in portable mode that this rarely ever happens, yet in the far less stable docked mode much of the game will be played at this painfully low refresh rate. It seems a huge oversight that the Zelda team did not see fit to offer Switch owners a docked 720p mode. No word yet on whether the Wii U version suffers from these frame rate difficulties on account of reviewers being sent the Switch version, but it seems unlikely given that Wii U was Breath of the Wild‘s target platform. Digital Foundry’s performance tests were performed using the game’s day 1 patch.

Just in case you felt the Wii U's bluetooth was too robust!

The left Joy-con desyncs when sitting further than a metre from the system. reported on last week’s podcast that the Nintendo Switch’s left Joycon was experiencing connectivity issues, causing the left side of the system’s control scheme to desync mid play. Youtube reviewer ProJared went so far as to say that he would experience multiple sync issues every play session, resulting in many unfair deaths in Breath of the Wild. In order to test this claim Digital Foundry updated their system with the day-1 update and set about testing the conditions under which each Joycon would experience difficulties when in use. The connectivity of both Joycons were found to be absolutely perfect when joycons were pointed directly at the Switch tablet with no obstructions in the way, but connectivity with the left Joycon suffers when the user sits more than 1 metre from the system and fails to point the Joycon directly at the system. This is especially the case when the obstruction in question happens to be a part of the human body, which is a pretty big design flaw in a device designed to be used in a person’s hands [to say nothing of people walking between the player and console]. Apparently the Nintendo Switch heralds a return to the days before bluetooth, when we used to play with dodgy infrared joypads that could be disrupted by friends and family obstructing the signal.

When the signal is unobstructed both Joycons were found to work perfectly from at least 6 metres away from the Nintendo Switch. When the Joycons were obstructed the right Joycon worked perfectly from 4 metres away, while the left joycon works perfectly from 1 metre away; with connectivity suffering heavily when the player is any further than 2 metres away. Happily, the Wii U suffers from no such issues.

Why can't modern Nintendo consoles work like the SNES or GameCube?
Is anyone else sick of making ridiculous compromises just to play Nintendo products?

Nintendo Solves Switch Connectivity!

One has long been of the opinion that the Nintendo Switch is far more expensive than an [best case scenario] $300 USD proposition, as the lack of a dpad makes the purchase of a Pro Controller absolutely essential. Now, given the Joycon connectivity issues, this is even more the case – especially given Nintendo’s response to the issue. If this was just a bug in the system’s firmware then Nintendo would have announced a forthcoming update fix by now, yet their only response has been to make a bizarre list of household compromises that Nintendo Switch owners must make in order to arrange their lounge room’s feng shui just so in order to enable connectivity!

Try to decrease the distance between the Joy-Con and the Nintendo Switch console.
Ensure that the Nintendo Switch console is placed to minimize interference with the Joy-Con. It is best if the Nintendo Switch console is placed out in the open and that it is not:
Behind a TV
Near an aquarium
Placed in or under a metal object
Pressed against a large amount of wires and cords
Within three to four feet of another wireless device, such as a wireless speaker or a wireless access point.
Check for possible sources of interference and turn them off. Interference can be caused by devices, such as:
Laptops, tablets, etc.
Wireless headsets
Wireless printers
Wireless speakers
Cordless phones
USB 3.0-compatible devices such as hard drives, thumb drives, LAN adapters, etc.
In most cases it will be enough to move these devices three to four feet away from the Nintendo Switch console and/or Joy-Con controllers. However, if you continue to experience this issue, please power these devices off while using the Nintendo Switch console.

Nintendo just can't help but be Nintendo...
SMH fam, is this real life?

Bad news for aquarium owners. In light of Nintendo’s solution to voice chat being a paid phone app, the Kaz Harai parody Twitter account points out:

Nintendo say phones can interfere with the Joy-Con connection to Switch, which must mean they expect you to leave the room to do voice chat.

Once again Nintendo has presented us with a product that requires users to bend over backwards, jump through hoops, go out on a limb, and otherwise completely compromise their every day life just to eke basic functionality from it – and somehow this is acceptable. Nintendo fanboys are not going to call out the company for yet another colossal fuck-up, because they somehow get a free pass by virtue of being Nintendo. It is practically tradition at this point. Sony are not perfect, and their first generation of Dualshock4s had some terrible battery life, but at least their hardware is capable of performing base functionality. Sony designs hardware that is fit for purpose, Nintendo designs hardware that is not fit for purpose.

Because the Pro Controller dun't fucking work!
Blaster Master Zero: Better on Nintendo Joy-Con.

Blaster Master Is Worse on Switch

There is going to be a lot of buyers remorse with the Nintendo Switch. The console itself is overpriced and underpowered, and then on top of that it is not even fit for purpose in terms of functionality. Moreover, owners are already finding that the Switch’s dock features two plastic ridges which scratch the system’s screen, and owners should not even think about covering the thing in adhesive decal stickers, as they apparently peel off a layer of the system’s coating. Not the best of starts.

Nintendo’s use of friend codes have long been a source of ridicule among gamers, as they make a task that should be streamlined into an arduous fucking process. Fortunately just last month Reggie went on record to acknowledge how retrograde friend codes are, pledging that they would not be a part of the Nintendo Switch ecosystem:

People have taken shots at us for that. The reality is, the way that online experiences have progressed, it’s an expensive proposition. The amount of servers we need to support Smash Brothers or Mario Kart — these big multiplayer games — is not a small investment. There are no friend codes within what we’re doing.

Great news for Switch owners! That is a pretty rock solid guarantee right there, as there is pretty much zero capacity for wiggle room in the language used. You can take Reggie’s promises to the bank! Only… it turns out that the Switch actually does use friend codes. Guess Reggie must have just forgotten, hey?

Options are also available to add people nearby, people you’ve played online with, and your friends on Miitomo and Super Mario Run. If you want to just add an online friend, however, you must share friend codes.

Why are there no consequences for telling lies these days? Why would anyone tell the truth when they could just lie with impunity? For fuck’s sake!

Turns out Nintendo are not even enforcing support for their hardware either. Many people just assumed that all games would be required to support both portable and docked modes, especially given that Nintendo made sure to incorporate motion pointer technology into the right Joy-con, so as to replicate touch controls when in docked mode. Turns out Nintendo does not require games to operate in docked mode, as the Switch at launch is already seeing its first mobile only game release in the form of Voez.

If games are not required to operate in docked mode then presumably they are not required to function in portable mode either – so gamers intent in playing in one mode to the exclusion of the other would do well to check the back of game packaging before making a purchase. Another reason to check the packaging is to see if games will support Nintendo’s Pro Controller, since not all games that logically should use the Pro Controller, actually do. Perhaps the Pro Controller is not an essential purchase after all, as early accounts are claiming that Blaster Master Zero, a NES-styled sequel to Blaster Master, does not support the controller. This in spite of the fact that it is the only option that will allow Switch owners to use a dpad, which is pretty much mandatory for this style of classic 2D experience. Sounds like it may be better to just pick up the game on 3DS.


  1. I’ve had frame rate issues with Breath of the Wild on Wii U. It happens mainly in the villages or when things get a bit hectic on screen, and it is quite noticeable. I have experienced the slowdown both with the PAL version that leaked a few days before release and with the official NTSC release. The slowdown could be linked to my Wii U being hacked, but I doubt it since BotW would be the first game to suffer from this and I also get frame rate issues on a clean boot of the Wii U.

  2. I can see myself maybe wanting a Switch in a couple years, if there are enough exclusive games that I want by then (which I’m optimistic of happening eventually), and hopefully after a hardware revision and price drop (not holding my breath for that). It seems to make more sense as a replacement for the 3DS than for the WiiU, especially given all the problems you’ve detailed when trying to use it as a home console, but then the price is unjustifiable. Everything about the Switch involves a detrimental compromise in order to support its gimmick. But at least for the moment, Breath Of The Wild on WiiU is very good! And Blaster Master Zero should be just fine on 3DS – you don’t need a new system to run retro-revival games.

  3. Just sitting down to play it for the first time. My Wii U literally will not allow me to start playing until I download and install an update.

  4. Having seen some of BotW on stream with Caspius, I’m impressed at the scale of the world and how visually impressive it is. And that’s at 1280×720. Even with the simplified shading style for the character models this game is probably pushing the limits of the Wii U, and would certainly tax a gaming tablet like Switch. Oh, sorry; I meant a console like Switch.

  5. @Gyme: If you watch my two (2!) streams of Breath of the Wild, you’ll see that there are minor slowdowns in towns during weather effects, but that’s it. It’s never below 20fps or so, unlike the Switch which occasionally hits single-digit-fps slideshow-mode.

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