Nintendo Switch
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more

Zelda lookalike Genshin Impact is heading to the Nintendo Switch

Criticized for looking like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and mobile

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Genshin Impact, the controversial The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild lookalike, is headed to the Nintendo Switch, but industry watchers say that it has a better chance of success on mobile.

After finding success with mobile game Honkai Impact 3rd, rising Chinese game developer miHoYo is finally getting ready to launch Genshin Impact. The Shanghai-based company has now said it plans to release the title on PlayStation 4, PC and mobile. And with a bit of irony, the game is also headed to the Nintendo Switch

What’s ironic about that? Well, Genshin Impact is a cel-shaded, open-world adventure game featuring a warrior who awakens from a long slumber and journeys to rescue a loved one in an apocalyptic world. During this journey, the player is tasked with traversing varied terrain, exploring dungeons, slaying enemies, solving puzzles and unraveling the secrets of the world.

Left: Genshin Impact. Right: Breath of the Wild. (Picture: miHoYo/Nintendo)
Sound familiar? It did to Chinese netizens who accused miHoYo of copying Nintendo’s latest Zelda game.

Genshin Impact is also similar in other ways. It replicates a lot of the classic maneuver mechanics of Breath of the Wild. Climbing, swimming and shooting arrows in midair feel almost exactly the same.

But all these similarities don’t necessarily make the Chinese game a perfect fit for the Switch. In addition to the game living in the shadow of Breath of the Wild, there are differences that have industry watchers thinking it’s better suited for smartphones and tablets.

The Genshin Impact trailer shows all of its similarities to Zelda. (Picture: miHoYo/Nintendo)

Unlike Breath of the Wild, Genshin Impact is a multiplayer online role-playing game. So while the Nintendo game offers an extremely fine-tuned single-player experience, Genshin Impact features an ever-expanding, freewheeling open world with a heavy focus on interaction between players. 

Our hands-on with Genshin Impact’s first demo last year also showed that the game places more emphasis on combat with a combo-based system. Breath of the Wild has a more simplistic combat scheme by comparison. And Genshin Impact also allows players to switch between up to four different characters, whereas Zelda players only have Link.

So Genshin Impact has selling points that make it distinct from Breath of the Wild, but they aren’t selling points for buying it on Switch.

“I won’t buy Genshin on my Switch,” said Zhe Li, founder of Tianjin-based game developer Dotoyou Games. “This game, if released in China on mobile, will defy naysayers and be loved by mobile gamers. However, gamers probably won’t support it on the Switch.”

Media Create analyst Midori Tanamachi said console games ported from mobile have a difficult path to success, citing Chinese mobile blockbuster Azur Lane

“According to our data, the sales of the PS4 version of Azur Lane were leaned toward initial weekly sales, so the majority of purchasers seem to be core users of the mobile version,” she said.

But Genshin Impact might now do better on mobile because its similarities to Breath of the Wild generated a ton of press coverage. During last year’s ChinaJoy, the country’s biggest gaming conference, dozens of Zelda fans staged a flash mob in front of the PlayStation booth, holding up Switch consoles as a sign of protest. One fan even smashed a PlayStation 4 on site to condemn Sony for supporting a copycat game.

Some people still struggle to look past what they consider plagiarism by miHoYo. According to Li, the game’s Chinese name “Yuan Shen” (meaning “original god”) has become a punchline: Gamers refer to the game as “Huan Yuan Shen Zuo,” which means “remaking the original godlike work.”

But given miHoYo’s success with Honkai Impact 3rd and its polished demo for Genshin Impact, many believe the game will have a successful run.

“Genshin Impact is miHoYo’s next big thing,” said Jintiao Zheng, co-founder of media outlet Gamer Boom. “They will for sure pull out all the stops with this product. So long as the ultimate gamer experience is good and user-friendly, it is very probable that it will become an influential title among gamers.”

Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.