It's no secret that Nintendo's previous console, the maligned Wii U, is the original platform where Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was meant to be exclusively played on. That is until Nintendo announced that the game was also coming to the Switch, its more recent hybrid console.
The game, irrespective of the console it's being played on, has garnered pretty spectacular reviews across a significant crowd of publications, crowning it as the best Zelda game to date, even when it's vastly different from those past titles. But acclaim is just one conversation. How does the game actually perform on the two consoles? More importantly, which version should you get? Is it worth getting a brand-new Switch just to play the game, or should you just stick to your trusty old Wii U?
A Few Things To Keep In Mind
Thanks to Eurogamer's comprehensive report, you can finally land on a definitive decision. First off, here are a few things you should know: both versions are capped to 30 fps and are identically similar content-wise. The Switch has a few advantages, such as rendering in 900p when docked, and higher-quality ambient sounds, but there's little else.
If you buy the physical version of the game for the Wii U, there must be at least 3 GB of free space on the system or an external hard drive. Icons, buttons, and some graphics differ between two versions as prescribed by the console in which the game is being played on — on-screen instructions will feature different pictures of the corresponding controls, for example.
Differences In Terms Of Performance
Eiji Aonuma, the game's series producer, previously said that the Switch version would offer the same experience as the Wii U version. It's clear that this is true in terms of visuals, graphics, and art style. But what about performance?
According to Eurogamer, it turns out that Wii U owners aren't missing anything at all; there's virtually no difference between the Switch and Wii U versions of the game. There is, however, one minor detail that's worth mentioning: texture filtering.
On the Switch, there's a slightly better implementation of bilinear filtering, which means means textures aren't filtered so close to one's screen. This is especially noticeable on areas with complex brickwork, where, if one looks close enough, spot lines visibly pass across the mapping floor.
Is The Audio Quality Really Better On The Switch?
Nintendo promises a better audio quality for the Switch version of Breath of the Wild, but how better is it, really? Not by a great extent, it turns out. The thing is, with the Switch, sound elements such as running water, footsteps, or swaying grass are more immersive. But overall, Eurogamer reports that it's barely noticeable, even with high-end headphones.
Audiophiles might think otherwise, but the Wii U version's lack of a more immersive soundscape, at least compared with the Switch, isn't such a big deal, apparently.
Which Version Should You Get?
Based on video and audio quality alone the Switch version is technically the winner, although such a victory proves a narrow one, with the resolution the only key determining factor. The differences, despite being there, are fairly negligible and anyone with a Wii U that's planning to get a Switch just to play the game should think twice before doing so.
'Breath Of The Wild' Performance: Nintendo Switch Docked vs Handheld Mode
The advantage of getting the Switch version, as you probably have figured out by now, is the system's sheer promise of portability. You can play Breath of the Wild in the kitchen, inside the bedroom, in a bus on the way to work, during a camping trip, and what have you.
More importantly, the Switch's undocked performance of Breath of the Wild is an even more stellar champion than the docked version, as Eurogamer's analysis found out. The handheld version outputs to a maximum resolution of 720p, leading to a smoother performance of the game compared to the docked 900p mode, which visibly struggles with recurring frame rate drops.
For those looking for the smoothest platform to play on, the obvious choice is the Switch, especially when undocked. There are still frame rate drops in the Switch's undocked version, but it notably handles the issue better with one-spot drops only. On the other hand, the Wii U sprouts frame rate issues in other areas as well.
There's still the need for further testing to determine what's causing the frame rate drops, although early bets point to CPU limitations. Of course, further tests can shed more light into this, especially concerning key differences between GPU performance of both consoles. The point is Breath of the Wild has a frame rate issue on both platforms; the Wii U just doesn't handle it as well as the Switch does.
So there you have it. If you ache to play Breath of the Wild on the go, then get the Switch version. If you're fine with staying at home, the Wii U version will offer a nearly identical experience. All told, however, there are still problematic and potentially distracting frame rate issues, and Nintendo has yet to acknowledge those and cough up a fix.