Sunday, January 23, 2022

Nintendo Switch's Latest Update Appears to Improve N64 Emulation and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

While many were excited about the arrival of N64 games on the Switch via the new Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack service, it was quickly discovered that the performance of these classic games left much to be desired. Fortunately, it appears Nintendo has quietly improved the N64 emulation and, in turn, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in the Switch's latest update that arrived with Banjo-Kazooie.

As reported by VGC and noticed by those like @OatmealDome, Ocarina of Time on Nintendo Switch Online suffered from not only input lag and audio delay, but also graphical issues that caused certain scenes - like the Water Temple's Dark Link fight - to look worse than previous versions of the game.

In the Switch version, the room where you face Dark Link lacked the reflections in the water and the ambient fog that created a very specific mood in the room. The latest update hasn't fixed the fog, but the reflections in the water have been adjusted to look better and input lag seems to have been reduced. You can check out a comparison from images shared by @zfg111 on Twitter below. The pre-update version is on the left, and the current version is on the right.

For reference, here is what the scene looked like on the original N64, once again as shared by @zfgf111.

What's perhaps most interesting is this update does not seem to have made any changes to the games themselves, but rather to the Switch's N64 emulator. According to dataminer LuigiBlood, "Whatever fix they did for Zelda Ocarina of Time it was not added as a hack, seems to be an actual emulator fix."

In a statement to Kotaku, @LuigiBlood shared a bit behind why these issues may be occuring.

"[The NSO N64 emulator] is based on the Wii U Virtual Console emulator, which included specific graphics display functions per game inside it,” LuigiBlood said. “But in an attempt to make more games work, it was decided to remove these functions from the emulator, and attempt to have a way to configure the graphics through external means like configuration files. This was specifically done for NSO, and in their attempt of doing so, they clearly broke graphics emulation in the process and possibly didn’t have enough time to fix it.”

There is still a long way to go to fully fix the emulation woes, but Nintendo appears to be making good on its promise to "improve and expand" the Switch Online Service.

For those looking to play more of their favorite classic games on Switch, they will be happy to know that Banjo-Kazooie is now available and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask will arrive sometime in February.

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Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and on Twitch.


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