If you already own a Wii U and are desperate to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is there any reason to buy a Nintendo Switch? The short answer is no: Breath of the Wild on the Wii U is just as awe-inspiring as on the Switch. The long answer, however, is that the Wii U version is an insult to anyone who bought into the secondary-screened system. Let me explain.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild Wii U Review: My one big complaint
I've been playing Breath of the Wild for the past few days on my old, scratched-up Wii U, and I keep coming back to the same questions: Why didn't Nintendo take advantage of the GamePad and its touchscreen display? Why doesn't the Wii U version use the gamepad as a live inventory map? How hard would it be to put this on the GamePad while displaying the game on your TV?
This would also solve one of the game's biggest issues: endless inventory management. A few days into the game, I'm already tired of constantly diving into the menu to eat some food for health.
The solution to the problem is literally right in front of anyone playing Breath of the Wild for Wii U: just slap the inventory menu onto the GamePad touchscreen.
Not only would it be insanely useful, but it would also perfectly mimic the tablet-like Sheikah Slate used to unlock and save important information in the game.
Instead of serving any sort of useful purpose, however, the GamePad simply glows a dim black while you play on the TV, offering the option to switch to the GamePad with a quick tap. That's a huge waste of screen space and a drain on the controller's battery, too.
Zelda: Breath of the Wild Wii U Review: Nintendo's excuse
In a recent IGN interview, game director Hidemaro Fujibayashi offered a flimsy excuse for the decision:
In doing our testing without the touch features, we noticed looking back and forth between the Gamepad and the screen actually took a little something away from this type of Zelda game. Without the touch features, it actually turned out to be a really strong gameplay experience. After more experimentation and testing out, we realized that this is the best way to experience the game. That's how we ended up with the current gameplay style in the production version.
Sorry, but I call bullshit. The Wind Waker HD port for Wii U did the exact same thing, turning the GamePad into a quick touchscreen menu for switching between various weapons and items — and it worked extremely well. With its open-world design and the ability to use enemy weapons, Wind Waker is also the closest in feel to Breath of the Wild, so claiming this feature would have detracted from the Breath of the Wild experience rings false.
We'll probably never know exactly why Nintendo made the decision, but there are two likely reasons. The first — and more innocent — possibility is the company simply didn't have the time and resources to add a Wii U-only feature while racing to release the game in time for the Switch's launch.
The second and more nefarious answer is the company didn't want to give the Wii U version any extra features that would convince fans to keep their old console rather than upgrade to the new one. I have a feeling that's exactly what happened, but there's no way to know for sure.
How well does Zelda: Breath of the Wild run on Wii U?
Thankfully, Nintendo didn't remove any core features from the Wii U version, and it offers a nearly identical experience to the Switch version. There's definitely some lag, especially when a lot is happening at once onscreen, but that seems to be the case for the Switch version, too — at least when it's outputting to a TV.
You're getting the same experience on the Wii U, but — again — it could have been significantly better by making use of Wii U's key feature. By failing to do so, Nintendo is letting down everyone who bought a Wii U expecting a Zelda game designed for the system.
Breath of the Wild was supposed to be that game. The current Zelda title was first revealed back at E3 2014 as The Legend of Zelda Wii U. In the trailer below, you can see it's the same basic game, with horse-riding, midair arrow attacks and deadly roaming Guardians.
Nintendo has been working on — and building hype for — this game for years. That the Wii U version essentially ignores the console's core feature isn't just a disappointment. It's an affront to anyone who spent money on the system.
More Zelda: Breath of the Wild tips, tricks and guides
Find out all there is to know about Zelda: Breath of the Wild, including how to preserve your items, how to beat bosses like the Stone Talus and Lynel, the best recipes for Link and how to take on the game's shrines. You'll also want to find out where all the great fairies are in the game and how to use amiibo with your version of Zelda.