Nintendo Labo VR Starter Set Review & Future of Labo VR - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Friday, April 19, 2019

Nintendo Labo VR Starter Set Review & Future of Labo VR

by Danny Bivens

A good entry point to VR. 
Unlike kid Anakin Skywalker, I’m not a huge fan of building things. While cool and complex in more ways than I thought possible with cardboard, the main focus of Nintendo Labo is on putting these intricate kits together. Of course, upon completion, there are mini games that you can “play,” but the majority of the time spent with these kits will be building. With that in mind, I steered away from the Toy Con. Until now.

With the Labo VR Starter Set, it seemed easy enough to put together - for the most part it was. When I was constructing it, I was watching a little bit of TV, chatting with my wife and had some people doing some work on my house. With all of that going on, it took me about an hour to complete the VR Headset. I was ready to enter the world of virtual reality.
The accessible content for the VR Goggles are made up mostly of mini games. These aren’t really deep, but at the same time, they do what Nintendo set out to do with them - provide some bite-size VR experiences. Nothing here was super deep. That's not really the point. Most of these are a bit throwaway in nature. However,  I did enjoy a few of them like the VR basketball. In this mini game, players use the Joy Con to point to a ball, “pick it up” and then shoot it by releasing the trigger button. It wasn’t super complex, but it was actually kind of fun. Other games, such as a simple platfomer that had players climbing a tower, balancing a tennis ball on a racket, cutting "hair," making music - all of these were fun, interesting experiences. These aren't going to blow your socks off, but there's a surprising amount of content here. Content that is more geared toward a casual crowd.
Some of the most interesting things were the 33 VR videos that you can access in the Discover section. These range from looking at animals, checking out food to a nod to the existence of the Virtual Boy. Unlike the mini-games, these only require you to just look around, which can be very appealing for people just seeking out a passive VR experience on the cheap. On top of the videos, there is information laid out in chat like sequences that essentially explain how the VR Goggles, 3D tech and a lot of other Labo VR things work. These chats aren’t necessary and would probably be a total bore for kids, but I thought it was interesting to learn how VR is made possible with Labo and the Switch.

Visuals while playing in VR are a bit on the blurry side. This is to be expected when you have a 720p screen pretty much literally on your face. The resolution is halved when playing in VR mode - down to 360p per eye. It reminded me of looking at the 3DS screen, but only having it super up close and personal. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. The goggles also give a sense of 3D depth which help with the immersion. I will say, it really does help bring you into the experience. As for general performance, the mini games all run smoothly and everything looks fine despite the low resolution. After my first few sessions with the VR goggles, I did notice that I was feeling a little bit nauseous. As I mentioned above, that same day I had some people over spraying chemicals underneath my house, so it could have been some of that getting to me, too. I guess I won’t know for sure until at some point in the future. If this is your first VR experience, be aware that this is something that you might run into.
Most of the footage of Labo VR that you’ll see out there on the internet aren’t exactly captures of the VR experience. While playing in VR mode, you are unable to capture video. There’s a good reason for this. When you go into VR mode, the screen makes two viewable on screen portals that match up with the goggles. If you were to capture video of this, it would be two round video holes on screen - not ideal (aka a video of the above screen shot). You are, however, able to go through the experience without the goggles, kind of like Augmented Reality (AR) versions of the games. In this mode, you would pick up the Switch system, and move it (and possibly Joy Con) around accordingly. Clearly, Nintendo hopes that owners of the system will give the virtual reality portions a try before opting for the AR versions of the experiences.

The Future of Labo VR

I really think that Nintendo has done an admirable job with their initial virtual reality outing. It’s far from perfect, but it offers an inexpensive way to get gamers to experience VR for possibly the first time. As you know, at the end of April some updates are coming to Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that will integrate VR support into each game. While I can’t really comment on that how that will play out at the moment (it’s not out at the time of writing), I’m curious to see if this is something that gets supported in other existing or upcoming Nintendo titles - Captain Toad, a spectate mode for Splatoon 2, some kind of support in Luigi's Mansion 3, POKEMON SNAP! These would be pretty cool. Not only first party games, but also third party titles. I am realistic with my expectations. I don’t think we’ll see something like Doom VFR or Skyrim VR on the system, but there is plenty of room for smaller games or other projects.

Shifting gears a little bit, back to the early days of the Nintendo 3DS, there were a number of weird things releasing on the system here in Japan. One of my favorite apps on the system in the early days was something called Itsu no Ma ni Terebi (commonly referred to SpotPass TV). Not to be confused with the Nintendo Video (which was available in all regions), this was a Japan only 3D video service that Nintendo worked on in collaboration with Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV. There was new content delivered to your system via SpotPass almost every day. These ranged from showing Japanese “idols” wrestling each other, train rides, parks tour and even “dates” with Japanese ladies - all in 3D! The service was short lived, and only ran from June 2011 to June 2012 before being unceremoniously canceled. I know a lot of people (VR aficionados mostly) may not want something like this, but I think this is exactly the right kind of platform for these kind of experiences.

For people on the fringes or people who have a slight interest in VR, the price point of the Labo VR Starter Kit has potential to get people in. Consistently releasing content will be key to keep people there. As a business, Nintendo does not have to continue to support their VR platform if they’ve already made their money on the mountains of cardboard they’ve already sold. However, looking at what they did with previous Toy Con, the biggest of which adding Toy Con support for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, there is precedent here for them to continue to support the platform. I sure as hell hope they do.

As I stated earlier, I found the mini-games in Labo VR to be a little underwhelming, however, I really did enjoy the videos. For Nintendo to keep Labo VR owners busting out the headset on a consistent basis, they need content. The additions to Odyssey and Breath of the Wild are a great first step (probably). Access to the Labo Garage is another great thing. Having other passive content, though, like a VR video hub will be perfect for people who want to casually experience VR in short bursts.


Keeping gamers engaged with Labo VR is a tough feat, and if Nintendo goes on the same trajectory as previous Nintendo Labo releases, the experience will fizzle out quickly. However, the fact that Nintendo is adding support to two of their biggest titles on the Switch is a pretty big deal and bodes well for the future of the “platform.” The impetus doesn’t just lie on Nintendo - other developers need to get on board if this is going to work for more than a month or two.

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