It looks like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is shaping up to be another Nintendo masterpiece, even surpassing the critically-acclaimed Breath of the Wild; at least based on some of the hands-on experiences of select media.
But Tears of the Kingdom could have a sting in its tail: it reportedly shows just how old the Nintendo Switch’s hardware is. And highlights that we need the so-called Nintendo Switch 2 or a new, more powerful Nintendo games console before too long.
Unfortunately, Tom’s Guide didn't get the chance to go hands-on with Tears of the Kingdom, but it would appear the game’s performance isn't great on the Switch or Nintendo Switch OLED.
While far from unplayable, gaming YouTuber SkillsUp observed that the game the performance “wasn’t great” and that “Tears of the Kingdom appears to be pushing up hard” against the limits of the Switch hardware. IGN did note the game was running at a consistent frame rate in its experience, but also highlighted that the area it had access to wasn’t flush with enemies or effects. So there’s scope for performance dips if and when the action heats up.
I distinctly recall this being the case with Breath of the WIld, especially in the notorious Korok Forest section where the action could go from smooth to sluggish even with no action taking place; the effects and details are the likely culprits of this slowdown. And there are still moments when moving Link around the ruined Hyrule can also feel slower than I’d like.
Given Tears of the Kingdom looks set to be visually similar to Breath of the Wild, I suspect it’ll have the same performance — both the good and the bad. The kicker will be how much power the building elements to Tears of the Kingdom take up; I’d not be surprised if making complex construction could result in some slowdown.
Even if Tears of the Kingdom runs fine, I still see it as both a sign that we need a Switch 2, and a swansong for the current Switch.
We’re overdue the Nintendo Switch 2
The Nintendo Switch is six years old, which in console years is pretty venerable. While developers are likely to have enough experience working with the console to squeeze out every drop of performance from familiar hardware, there comes a point where the limits are reached.
And I feel this is, or soon will be, the case with the Switch. Though it’s still the little console that could, the Steam Deck and upcoming Asus Ally show how much performance can be put into a portable machine.
So I feel we’re due a Switch upgrade, especially as 4K TVs are now widely used and the Switch is limited to a 1080p output. A more powerful Switch with backwards compatibility as standard, could be the device to play Tears of the Kingdom on, with the extra power bulldozing over any slowdown.
While the art style of Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom looks great even at 720p, in motion you’ll notice some graphical artifacts and aliasing in the former. But a 4K resolution could smooth over that and really let the art and graphics pop, especially on on of the best OLED TVs. (I'm looking at you LG C3 OLED...)
The rumors so far point towards the Switch 2 coming at the end of the year, which would still make it ripe for Tears of the Kingdom, or early 2024. But Nintendo is as tight-lipped as Apple when it comes to discussing new hardware, so all I have is rumor and speculation to go off here.
Yet, I’d be very surprised if we didn't at least get a glimpse at the Switch 2 or a whole new Nintendo console before 2023 comes to a close.
And I suspect that the console will not only target 4K output, but also chase smoother frame rates like 60 frames per second or even higher. Plus, I’d be very surprised if such a console came without backwards compatibility; Nintendo does have a habit of being a bit weird about access to its older library of games though.
As it stands, I’m very keen to get my hands on Tears of the Kingdom on my original Switch, as I’m sure it’ll be another triumph for Nintendo. But I’m crossing my fingers for a more powerful Switch sooner than later.