'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's VR mode is ultimately pretty disappointing
Nintendo's quirky cardboard-centered Labo initiative continues to add games to its portfolio, and this time the massively popular fighter Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is joining the party. As of today's most recent update, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate now supports the Nintendo Labo VR Kit headset, giving the game rudimentary (and quite limited) virtual reality capabilities. If you've ever dreamt of getting a more up-close-and-personal look at some of your favorite characters from the series, this update doesn't quite offer that. In fact, it's a much more limited affair than the previous VR outings Nintendo has whipped up, and that's quite unfortunate considering gamers' rabid love for anything Smash.
What is Nintendo Labo, though? Here's a quick refresher. It takes cardboard and other random office supplies like tape, string, etc. and combines it for projects you build yourself. You may have seen the main kit at the store, taunting you from its oversized box, $69.99 price tag, and one nagging concept in the back of your mind: it's cardboard!
But it's much more than that, and that's why Nintendo has slowly been working it into more of its games. Labo uses only the Nintendo Switch's handheld console and your creations to help bring certain projects to life, such as a race car, fishing rod, or toy piano. You can even create a "robot" that you can control via the system, which is a hefty undertaking. Since its debut in September 2018, several additional kits have been rolled out for kids, gamers, and even parents to work together to create their own fun projects.
With Labo, there's even plenty of space to make your own "Toy-Con" doodads in the future with the Toy-Con Garage, as it's called, or a game that you can use to put together your own Labo creations. You've got to make the VR "goggles" you need for any virtual reality experience you aim to have with the Switch, too. You're essentially assembling a cardboard slot to drop your switch in while wearing it on your face. But you don't think about that while building it, of course. You're just thinking ahead to how awesome things will look when you're done. And it does look cool – it's just not all that fun.
For any of the Nintendo Labo VR games, you'll have to purchase the Nintendo Labo VR Kit, and the games that support it. Right now, that includes Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and now Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Unfortunately, the VR capabilities now baked into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are quite limited. I "strapped" my makeshift VR headset on and took the new mode for a spin to see if it's worth both plopping down the money on the VR Kit and spending a few hours building the VR goggles inside it.
For starters, the VR goggles themselves are unwieldy and quite uncomfortable to have by your face for any real length of time. You don't have a head strap you can use to keep the thing on, so you've got to hold it up with your hands the entire time. It's almost like staring up at the Nintendo Switch through a pair of binoculars, only it's..."virtual reality."
The graphics also take a noticeable hit, and though you can basically roam around the match like some sort of omniscient Super Smash Bros. Ultimate god while you make Mario fight Princess Peach, it's just not very much fun. It doesn't add a lot to an experience that's actually quite amazing on the regular Switch.
The verdict? It's not the best usage of virtual reality we've seen in a Nintendo Switch game before, but it's not bad for free if you already own the headset components. The mode is only available for single-player matches, and you can only use it when you match up against AI opponents or when spectating during fights.
In comparison, VR support for Breath of the Wild allows you to take in the exciting sights of the kingdom of Hyrule with full 360-degree view, and Super Mario Odyssey has four new stages that were created specifically to work within the realm of virtual reality. They're smaller, toned-down stages created for use with the painstakingly-crafted goggles, so of course they work better in theory and in practice.
Nintendo's Labo VR Kit is an intriguing creation from top to bottom, and Labo is an amazing leap forward in tech when it comes to getting kids into STEM and getting people excited about building things and tech as it relates to video games. But it's going to need to step its game up if it wants to remain on par with "actual" virtual reality headsets out in the wild. Nintendo is capable of some truly amazing innovations – unfortunately, this Super Smash Bros. Ultimate VR experience isn't it.