There have been a lot of buggy blockbuster launches recently, but it doesn’t sound like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom will be one of them. Nintento’s latest big exclusive for the Switch has impressed many reviewers so far with how it runs on the six-year-old hardware, with even Digital Foundry’s experts marveling at how it performs.
Back when previews dropped for the game, it seemed like there might be some big concerns around framerate drops and handheld mode performance, with anecdotal reports of slow down when crafting complex vehicles or flying between floating islands. Digital Foundry reports, however, that a pre-release patch massively improved things, alleviating those concerns.
“It’s a game changer: nearly every instance of major performance loss has been corrected resulting in a game that now holds very closely to the 30 fps target,” senior staff writer, John Linneman, said in Digital Foundry’s YouTube analysis. “Nearly the entirety of my video capture managed to maintain a solid 30 fps, at least in most instances, which for the Switch, running a game this fast and mergent is downright impressive.”
There are still some dips, mostly around using Link’s new Ultrahand ability to combine objects into useful machines—when first initiated, the game briefly drops to 20 fps—and in busy areas like Kakariko Village. Linneman points out, however, that these moments are few-and-far-between so as not to make it a big issue.
Graphically, Tears of the Kingdom looks very similar to Breath of the Wild, despite the six years separating them. Still, there appear to be slight improvements in draw distance, shadows, and cloud and mist effects. The game also apparently loads around 30 percent faster on average when fast-traveling, according to Digital Foundry’s metrics.
Handheld mode also appears to fair pretty decently, too. While the maximum resolution is capped at 720p, and thus occasionally drops below the HD threshold, it apparently looks great on the OLED Switch screen, as one might expect. The framerate does drop more often, but doesn’t sound like a deal breaker.
Several other reviews have backed up this assessment, pointing out that Tears of the Kingdom’s performance on Switch is a far cry from the bug-ridden launches of other recent Nintendo published games like Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. “Nintendo got this extraordinary game running on a 10-year-old chipset, on hardware thinner than a small stack of beer coasters, in a device I can fit in my back pocket, and it only takes up 16GB of hard drive space?” said YouTuber SkillUp in his video. “Tears of the Kingdom is a technological miracle, and that is the story that deserves to be told far more than the occasional frame drop.”
The only disappointment seems to come from the fact that a Switch 2 or Pro model didn’t arrive in time for the game. Digital Foundry points to some of the major visual improvements teased back in Tears of the Kingdom’s first trailer back at E3 2019. The scene of Link and Zelda exploring a dark cave is how the finished game opens, but it doesn’t look nearly as good as in that first glimpse.
Nintendo says new hardware won’t arrive until 2024 at the earliest. Maybe when it does, we’ll get an enhanced version of Tears of the Kingdom. In the meantime, it sounds like it plays just fine on the older console.