Nintendo enters the VR industry in the most Nintendo way possible.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t quite know how to start this article. I’m still a little shocked by the announcement myself. Then again, this is Nintendo, a company whose entire business model revolves around subverting the expectations of its fans. So when the consumer electronics and video game corporation made the announcement this morning that the fourth Nintendo Labo Toy-Con lineup would include an elephant-shaped VR head-mounted display featuring a controllable trunk, I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised.
Available April 12th online and through major retailers, Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 04 VR Kit gives Switch owners the chance to join the console VR shenanigans with six incredibly well-made head-mounted display attachments designed specifically for the Nintendo Switch tablet and Joy-Con controllers. Each Toy-Con is custom built for a specific Labo game experience, adding a unique interactive element to the equation.
For example, after assembling the Toy-Con Blaster and attaching it to the default Toy-Con Goggles, you can then use your new pump-action weapon to repel a fierce alien attack; with the Toy-Con camera you can explore a beautiful underwater environment and capture photos of exotic sea life. Other unique attachments include the Toy-Con Bird with flappable wings, a Toy-Con Wind Pedal that creates a light breeze for extra immersion, and the Toy-Con Elephant with extendable trunk. While the experiences in which these attachments will be used remain a mystery, it’s easy to imagine the possible use-case scenarios.
“This new kit builds on the core tenets of Nintendo Labo – Make, Play and Discover – to introduce virtual reality in a way that’s fun and approachable for both kids and kids at heart,” stated Doug Bowser, Nintendo of America’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, in an official release. “We wanted to design an experience that encourages both virtual and real-world interactions among players through passing around Toy-Con creations.”
To encourage a more social environment during play, Nintendo also included the option to remove the Toy-Con Goggles holding the Switch tablet from the Toy-Con attachment so that spectators can view the action in VR while the player continues the game via the TV. For a more conventional 2D experience, turn off VR mode and use the accompanying Screen Holder as opposed to the VR Goggles.
The VR Kit will also be compatible with Toy-Con Garage mode, allowing you access to basic programming tools you can experiment with in VR.
Nintendo Labo 04 Toy-Con VR Kit will be available in two varieties. For an all-in-one package that includes the necessary Nintendo Labo software and materials required to assemble all six Toy-Con devices, you’ll want to pick up the Nintendo Labo: VR Kit for $79.99. This also includes the optional Screen Holder and a Safety Cap.
For a more bare-bones entrance into Nintendo VR, take a look at the Starter Set + Blaster bundle. This includes the software and materials needed for the Toy-Con Goggles, Toy-Con Blaster, Screen Holder, and Safety Cap for just $39.99.
Of course you could always pick up the other Toy-Con attachments at a later time through one of the $19.99 Expansion Sets. Expansion Set 1 includes the Toy-Con Elephant and Toy-Con Camera, while Expansion Set 2 features the Toy-Con Wind Pedal and Toy-Con Bird. These DO NOT include the Toy-Con Goggles or required software however, so you’ll want to pick up at least the Starter Set beforehand.
You can get your hands on the Nintendo Labo: VR Kit and the Starter Set April 12th in stores or online at labo.nintendo.com/kits/vr-kit; the Expansion Sets will be available exclusively online.
While I am concerned about using my 720p Switch tablet in stereoscopic view, the way Nintendo has gone about turning the console into a VR device through Labo is absolutely brilliant. By converting the handheld HMD and attachments into a controller, they’ve not only removed the issue of the tablets weight, but added a unique interactive element that seamlessly incorporates the VR Goggles into the experience. With the control elements married directly to the HMD, I could definitely imagine players forgetting they’re holding a device after extended sessions of play.
Although we’ve seen Nintendo cautiously dipping its toes into the metaphorical pool for years, most recently joining the VRM Consotrium as an “observer”, I think many of us were just about ready to write off the possibility of a Switch VR project. But then, like always, the company went and pulled a move that at this point can only be described as “classic Nintendo.”
Welcome to the fray, Nintendo. As always, I genuinely can’t wait to see what you do next.