The countdown to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom continues and one of the biggest questions leading up to launch is how the game will perform on Switch hardware that’s now over six years old. The answer, according to a ton of new press previews that just dropped? Pretty good, except for when things get really busy onscreen, like when Link uses his new Ultrahand ability to craft boats, cars, and helicopters.
Nintendo’s recent round of preview events let various sites and YouTubers go hands-on with the Breath of the Wild sequel for over an hour, playing through different parts of the game to get a handle on all of its new mechanics. Overall, many critics came away with a sense that Tears of the Kingdom performed better than you might expect for a 2023 open-world blockbuster running on a 2017 portable hybrid. The graphics are mostly the same, but the framerate is still decent despite all of the new physics systems.
“The frame rates appeared to maintain a stable 30 frames per second, which made me question the wizardry that Eiji Aonuma’s team performed to enable that,” wrote PC Mag. Metro came away with a similar impression, writing that while draw distances looked slightly better, the emphasis seemed to be on keeping the framerate steady as Link makes use of all his new abilities.
When the Hero of Time really gets crafting, however, it sounds like performance does take a hit. Wirecutter editor and former Polygon reviewer, Arthur Gies, tweeted that he experienced “major” performance issues. “Every time I activated the ultra hand the framerate took a nosedive, especially with lots of manipulable objects around,” he tweeted. “I still had a lot of fun! but I wonder if the switch hardware is going to severely restrict the possibilities later on.”
YouTuber SkillUp was similarly skeptical. “There are also plenty of question marks around performance, which I’ll tell you right now wasn’t great,” he said as a brief aside in an otherwise glowing preview. “And yea it’s not a final build—yada yada—but we all know the limits of the Switch at this point and Tears of the Kingdom appears to be pushing up hard against them.”
You can see some of the issues in captured footage over at The Verge. One brief clip shows Link flying through the sky islands on a small jet, with some slowdown and lots of pop-in as he moves from one area to the next. NintendoLife summarized the trade-offs like this:
Performance for the most part is rather solid, but we did notice some instances when using the Ultrahand where the frame rate took a noticeable hit. It’s not like it broke the game or ruined our enjoyment at all, but it would be nice to see such wrinkles ironed out.
Another big caveat is that the demos were all in docked mode. Switch games generally perform better that way, with noticeable framerate downgrades when moving to handheld mode (something that was especially noticeable in 2021’s open world Mario spin-off, Bowser’s Fury). It’s possible a final build or day-one patch will improve performance even further from what people experienced at the recent preview event. Whether Tears of the Kingdom will perform well enough in handheld mode to make it still feel like a truly portable sequel remains to be seen.