How The Switch Drastically Changed Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Link looks over his shoulder in Breath of the Wild

Once Nintendo decided to develop The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for the Switch as well as the Wii U, the open-world adventure game had to undergo some changes. Oddly enough, those changes weren't what we're used to seeing out of cross-generational games.

If a game is going to launch on two platforms from different generations, usually it's tweaked downward in order to accommodate the weaker platform. Despite the extra horsepower or features offered by a newer platform, the game is sometimes gimped in order to run well on an older machine, too.

Believe it or not, that process worked in reverse for Breath of the Wild, a game that started life as a Wii U exclusive and, once Nintendo decided to bank fully on the Switch, became a two-console project. That being the case, you would expect anything that had to be taken out of the game's master plan to be due to the fact that it needed to run on the now last-gen Wii U alongside the more powerful Switch. Instead, the game's planned touchscreen features were taken out because of the fact that the Switch can dock and, therefore, loses the ability to utilize said touch controls.

The folks over at IGN picked up on this quote from Breath of the Wild director Hidemaro Fujibayashi when talking about the game at the recent Game Developers Conference.

Once we began to develop the game in tandem for the Switch, we aimed to provide the same gameplay experience across both on Switch and Wii U.

One of the side effects of making the Switch into a console/portable hybrid is the fact that, if you're playing it like a console, you can't use the system's touchscreen. Rather than create two control schemes (one that utilizes touch controls and one that doesn't), Nintendo decided to do away with touch altogether. So no matter whether you're playing Breath of the Wild on the Wii U, a docked Switch or an undocked Switch, you'll be controlling the game the same way.

This, obviously, has highlighted an unexpected downside to the Switch's design. If developers don't want to bother with two control schemes, then their touch-focused titles will only be playable in the console's undocked mode. That's actually the case with the rhythm game Voez, which is only available in Japan at this time. A touch-controlled game, you can't actually play Voez if the Switch is docked.

Since most games tend to focus on primarily standard or touch controls, we don't actually expect this will be too big of a deal for many titles moving forward. Still, it's kind of a bummer to hear that it meant taking touch controls out of the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild. Also, we're still intrigued by what could be done with games that utilize a touchscreen on the controller and the game itself displayed on the TV. With the Switch, that's simply no longer in the cards.

Ryan Winslett

Staff Writer for CinemaBlend.