Nintendo may now make smartphone games, but it is still only launching its biggest products on its own systems. Of course, that hasn’t stopped the emulation scene from bringing it to PC.
Team CEMU, a group of hackers and developers working on a Wii U emulator for PC, has most of the basic functionality of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild up and running. While the CEMU emulator has existed for years, the people responsible for it expected that the new Zelda would need a ton of love before it would really work with the software because of Breath of the Wild’s sheer scale and unprecedented use of the Wii U hardware. But not even a month later, Team CEMU — which has a Patreon page where 5,235 emulation fans pay it $22,317 per month — has the game running, albeit in a stuttery state.
I’ve asked Nintendo for a comment on this, and I’ll update the story with any new information.
With the current version of CEMU, players can load the game, explore the world of Hyrule, engage in battles, enter shrines, fast travel, and more. Essentially, you can play Breath of the Wild on your PC. The biggest remaining issue is that the framerate doesn’t meet a comfortable threshold. While it drops into the 20s on both Wii U and Switch in certain circumstances, it is regularly in the teens on CEMU.
But with $22,000 a month pouring into Team CEMU’s coffers, the emulation group is willing to put the hours into solving any additional Zelda-related problems. Emulation of Wii U games is technically possible without pirating the software, but most CEMU users are likely downloading games illegally. And, of course, the CEMU emulator requires players to illegally use the software of the Wii U system itself. And while the legality of using CEMU to play Zelda ranges from completely illegal to ethically gray depending on where you live and how you acquire the software, it clearly violates copyright to distribute the game or the Wii U system bios in any way.
Of course, if you want to enjoy Breath of the Wild to its fullest with a clean conscience right now, you should buy the game for Wii U or Switch. And hell, even if it does end up running well on your desktop, it’s still far cooler to play it anywhere thanks to the Switch’s excellent portability features.