Video games wouldn’t be where they are now without paying homage to what Nintendo has done since the 80s, when it released the original 8-bit Nintendo/Famicom system. Growing up during that era, a lot of time and investment was spent during after school hours and weekends trying to play some of the classic titles that were around. Through the years, we’ve seen Nintendo evolve and deliver outstanding systems that many people still hold near and dear to their hearts.
In addition to the consoles, they’ve continued to produce stellar games that have been embedded into our consciousness. They’re so memorable and aged well that they can still compete to some degree with some of today’s titles. Now that we’re at the beginning of VR’s proliferation into the mainstream, one has to really wonder about some of those older Nintendo games that would translate well into VR. Of course, there are some classic franchises that would do significantly better than other.
Those in possession of either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive ought to check out this nifty emulator called Dolphin VR, and with the release of version 5.0, it comes with a more stable build to play some titles that came out during the Nintendo Gamecube and Wii eras. While the games libraries for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are slowly budding with some quality titles, they’re largely still barren when it comes to games from the top-rated publishers and developers – they still can’t compete with consoles and PCs. Therefore, the potential of playing some of Nintendo’s respectable games for the Gamecube and Wii definitely diversifies things a bit more, especially when it comes to VR in general.
The setup, a test in finding the perfect configuration/settings
Considering that Dolphin VR isn’t officially sanctioned by either Oculus or HTC, using the emulator means trying it out at your own risk – so if anything buggy happens, you’re basically going to be on your own. For those who are looking to satisfy their VR urges, this is undoubtedly a perfect way to tinker around and see what else these new VR headsets are capable of doing. So, with that in mind, we decided to give this whole Nintendo nostalgia a shot. Like seriously, how tough can it be to get up and running, right?
Well, we were sadly under-prepared with this one, which we should’ve expected from the onset given the nature of its background. After downloading the latest version of the emulator, 5.0-12 to be exact, the installation went without a hitch. However, we soon found out quickly that you needed to tinker around with the settings to ensure the games ran properly. Initially, we got Dolphin VR to run with the Vive, but we couldn’t figure out how to configure the Vive’s controllers to work with at. Frustration quickly settled in, so we got fed up and decided to try our luck with the Oculus Rift instead.
Fortunately for us, our second stab at getting Dolphin VR to work was a smashing success, and after getting the XBOX One gamepad configured, we were soon on our way to playing Metroid Prime at long last! And soon after getting a little taste of it, we proceeded to also load some additional titles just to spread the experience a bit to other things besides the first person view of Metroid – so that meant checking out Lego Star Wars 2 and Super Mario Galaxy.
First person 3D shooters translate well into VR
Anyone who has played these titles will fondly remember doing so with the help of their standard definition television sets. Playing Metroid Prime with the Oculus Rift headset was a bit interesting at first, but we were really astounded by how the 3D world of Metroid transitioned very well into VR. The opening scene in outer space was a bit jarring at first, seeing that our positioning in the game was at a static point in space, as spaceships and other things came roaring past us. In this stationary viewing position, we were merely just looking around in space and observing everything moving around us. Soon after, however, the scene shifted and the camera’s perspective in the game eventually started to do some heavy panning.
Anyone who’s experienced VR knows that heavy in-game movement while you’re sitting still on your chair in real life can result in some adverse effects, such as motion sickness quickly creeping in after a few minutes of play. For most of the time, we had to close our eyes during some of the cut scenes throughout the game, just because of the heavy panning. Despite that, the in-game experience was actually quite good, making it enjoyable and more importantly playable. Again, we have to reiterate that the 3D world of Metroid perfectly transitions into VR.
For starters, you actually feel like you’re in the Samus’ suit, as the HUD floats in front of us. Looking around is done, naturally, by using the headset, but forward/backward movement is done via the analog stick. The transition to VR is evident by how there’s a sense of depth to the world, providing us with ample distinction between elements that are close to us, such as the beam weapon on Samus’ hand, as well as other items and objects farther away. Clearly, first person shooters are arguably the easiest to convert into VR – and it makes sense, too, why that’s the case.
Moving on to controls, it’s necessary to map out the controls beforehand, but once that’s done, navigating Samus around was pretty straightforward. In fact, all of the Gamecube’s controls are mapped perfectly onto the XBOX One gamepad – including the shoulder bumpers, where the left one is used to specifically target something.
Besides those in-game cut scenes, the only other time the camera shifts from a first person view to a third person one is whenever Samus morphs into ball mode. Everything seems to operate fluidly with Metroid Prime, however, there are still some glitches in the rendering and graphics – albeit, it’s not the deal breaker. Trust us, as much as we were surprised by how playable it is, there’s just one thing that really prevents us from enjoying it long term.
Motion sickness, the bane of VR
Going back to motion sickness, it’s undeniably the biggest area of opportunity for VR as a whole. Even the best of games can quickly be soured when it becomes problematic, which is the case here with Metroid Prime – the showcase title for Dolphin VR. While the game manages to operate smoothly, with a few minor hiccups here and there, it’s nonetheless still in playable form. However, it seems that diagonal movements, in conjunction with the game moving at a frame rate below 60 FPS, quantifies the onset of motion sickness over time.
That’s not too fun now, but it seems more prevalent with first person games in our experience. Alternatively, we tried out Lego Star Wars II without experiencing the same level of accumulated sickness. Even though that’s a relief, the game is rendered unplayable for the most part mainly because of the graphical glitches. From the third person perspective, the camera seems to be obstructed most of the time by the indoor setting – causing us to constantly readjust the camera and stoop down in free space to get a good view of the area.
We were also hoping to try out Super Mario Galaxy, but unfortunately it wouldn’t go beyond the start screen because the game kept on looking for the Wii nunchuk. There’s an option in the settings to emulate it, by mapping the controls using the Oculus’ remote, but the game kept on asking us to attach the nunchuk to the controller. So yeah, we weren’t going to move any farther than this – unless we actually whip out the Wii’s nunchuk and controller from some boxes in the basement.
Yes it’s cool, but not really practical
Sure, we managed to survive longer and without any sickness plaguing me while playing through Lego Star Wars II, but considering that 60FPS is the expected level games need to be running at, it makes for a tough argument convincing people to relive these games in VR. Then again, we’d hope that Nintendo will become a bit more proactive when it comes to embracing virtual reality with whatever next-generation console they come up with next.
For now, however, Dolphin VR is just an experiment for those who hungrily yearn for these old Nintendo Gamecube/Wii games. At the same time, this whole experience makes us fantasize about what some of these classic titles will look like in their next iteration; in VR of course. By itself, Metroid Prime absolutely provides us with some insight to the possibilities of what lies ahead for Nintendo. In the interim, this is closest thing we have to classic Nintendo in VR.