“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”
—Victor Hugo, Histoire d’un Crime
Think about all of the great characters and franchises which have fallen by the wayside over the decades. How many of them survived the jump into 3D graphics? How many of them survived the gold rush of online gaming? How many of them were successfully reinvented and how many of them didn’t make it? Turns out it’s not easy to reinvent the wheel.
Now is the age of the Nintendo Switch, a revolutionary piece of hardware that will undoubtedly have an effect upon its competitors, though it remains to be seen whether it will be a lasting success. Nintendo, coincidentally, possesses more IPs than any other developer and these have survived and often thrived through the generations amid the console wars. Nearly all of them are icons, household names even if those households have long since “graduated” to Sony or Microsoft. Of Nintendo’s icons, The Legend of Zelda remains firmly embedded in our social consciousness, where the series has been since its inception in 1986.
Many years have passed but Nintendo has proved yet again that they still have the ingenuity, the innovation, and the creativity to reinterpret The Legend of Zelda for a modern audience. They’ve still got it. The underdog that everyone expected to drop out of the race just dropped an instant classic, immediately endearing, one of the best rated games in history, wildly popular and deservedly so.
That game is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which I assume you’ve at least some inkling of if you’re reading this. The game at once recognizes that Nintendo feeds off of nostalgia while moving well beyond mere childhood memory. It’s got massive appeal for those who grew up on the series yet those who are new to it will be drawn in by the richness of its world and Nintendo’s keenness for creating that sense of boundless magic. According to interviews, the developers were well aware of the need to take this Legend of Zelda further than ever before, “break its conventions” and infuse it with new life and a sense of being.
Its success lies in achieving this balance between old and new. Breath of the Wild is like no Zelda game I’ve played before (and I’ve played a majority of them) yet it still feels quinessentially Zelda. Its open-world structure, amiibo functionality, and crisp graphics are all telling trademarks of modernity, yet Breath of the Wild preserves the core elements which represent the spirit of the series.
This is something which Final Fantasy XV, in my estimation, failed to do and it therefore failed itself and its namesake. Don’t get me wrong, FFXV was a great game but it’s not one which is near perfect. FFXV and Breath of the Wild are both similar and different, and I’m planning to write an entire post on the comparisons and contrasts between the two, but Breath of the Wild is the one which retains the aspects of its heritage and its uniqueness without sacrificing them for the sake of stylish contemporaneity.
It’s been said of Nintendo that they often “play it safe”, taking few risks with their property and products, yet in Breath of the Wild we realize that they really understand how to bide their time when they need to. This cannot be overstated. It’s at the heart of what makes this new Zelda so special. It’s the reason why I think Breath of the Wild continues to resonate with gamers everywhere with its freshness and familiarity.
Exploration was already at the heart of the very first Legend of Zelda circa the mid-80’s, where we already had the chance to explore an 8-bit open-world Hyrule (please don’t tell me Breath of the Wild is the first open-world Zelda game). The transition from NES to Nintendo Switch was a road paved ahead of time. Other elements like scale and experimentation, mystery and history, quirkiness and darkness, and of course the recurring trifecta representing courage, wisdom, and power are all here telling us that while this is a new Zelda adventure, it is not one which has forgotten where it’s come from. Even narratively, Breath of the Wild seems to recognize that it’s a part of this millennia-long story.
Therefore paradoxically, Breath of the Wild is an ancient breath of fresh air moving over the stagnant waters of printed and packaged cookie-cutter gaming today. It’s been two years since the last Legend of Zelda game (Tri Force Heroes) and six years since the last time a Zelda title appeared on a home console (Skyward Sword). Talk about a drought!
What can I say about Breath of the Wild which hasn’t already been said? That’s always my apprehension when reviewing a game like this. How can my voice be unique among all of the hype and fame? I will say this: Breath of the Wild is everything I wanted it to be. Believe the hype. I never say that.
Breath of the Wild opens in the darkness of slumber. A woman’s voice calls out of the depths, muffled at first then louder, clearer: “Open your eyes… Wake up, Link.”
The hero awakes in an unusual setting, lying prone in a glowing pool of light. He sits up and steps out of the technological apparatus, a kind of pod, and finds himself in the Shrine of Resurrection. A nearby kiosk offers him an artefact, the Sheikah Slate, a device which will help to guide him after his “long slumber”. It looks for all appearances like an iPad. These science fiction components in the very first moments of the game set it apart from anything else I’ve seen before in great quantities in the series and this level of technology will come to define this particular entry in the franchise.
Link follows the voice toward the surface. “Link… You are the light–our light–that must shine upon Hyrule once again. Now, go…” Link steps into the sunlight and takes in the vast countryside, feeling the wind on his face that he hasn’t felt in an age. Birds sing in the air he fills his lungs with and the forest in the vale below him is teeming with life but the land seems empty and desolate of civilization, even as a lone figure, an old man, watches the newly emerged hero in the distance.
Why was Link asleep? What has happened to Hyrule in his absence? Where is the princess Zelda? Why is he not wearing his trademark green raiment? Questions such as these and many, many more form the treads driving this open-world experience forward. So many of these kind of games that I’ve played feel like they’re bored and bogged down with the minutiae of fetch quests and item hunting and meticulously over-detailed world-building. Breath of the Wild has each of those things but on top of them it employs secrets begging to be revealed.
You’ll need to uncover what happened a hundred years ago and find a way to bring back Link’s memories in order to save Hyrule from the Calamity that has overwhelmed it. It’s a wide world out there with thousands of things to do and hundreds of places to go but there’s an innate focus to this game which centers it and captivates the player. This sensation really strikes you when, very early in the game, you come to the ruined Temple of Time.
Anyone who has played Ocarina of Time will remember the hallowed cathedral, now reduced to empty archways and columns collecting dust on the hillside with nothing but a solitary statue slowly eroding inside. This is a kind of self-aware Hyrule which feels as if it has wasted away since the last time you played a Zelda game. Yeah, like the Neverending Story. As you peel back the layers of history that Breath of the Wild builds itself on, you’ll inevitably ask yourself “What on Hyrule happened?”
Calamity Ganon happened and Link has to pick up the pieces.
The world of Hyrule is truly open. You can walk, paraglide, climb, or ride your way anywhere after the first section of the game is completed. I mean virtually anywhere. You’ll need some protection if you plan to explore the heights of a snowy mountain or the volcano, but you can go anywhere and there’s no obvious divisions between the regions of the game world.
Breath of the Wild introduces weapons and equipment with durability. After using an armament for a length of time, it will break and you’ll have to find a new one. This keeps Link’s arsenal of gear in constant rotation and you as the player on constant look out for more weaponry to fuel your combat against the Bokoblins and Moblins infesting the wilderness. The forces of darkness are everywhere and the societies of commonfolk seem to have given up on making any kind of difference in their world long ago.
One thing you’ll immediately notice is you can no longer find the odd heart or rupee just from cutting grass. How inconveniently real! Considering how much grass there is in this version of Hyrule, all you’d need to do is turn into a human lawnmower and you’d be practically invincible. Instead, Link has to collect ingredients and foodstuffs which he can throw together over a fire to create consumables. Various other items like fruit can be eaten raw to recover hearts immediately. As for rupees, certain enemies drop these but the majority of your income comes from reselling valuables such as the ore and gemstones you find in mountainous areas.
Not only do these gameplay innovations (like ’em or not) bring a sense of realism to Breath of the Wild, they also make the game feel more interactive. Remember when this was a suspicion several people had before Breath of the Wild’s release, that it was just going to be one big, boring, empty sandbox with little to do? Well it turns out that was just suspicion and slander because this Hyrule is more interactive than many of the other empty open-worlds we’ve seen of late. It encourages experimentation by combining the items you find and using your skills and equipment in unique ways to solve puzzles and reach new heights. Invariably you’ll have moments where your heart exults: “I didn’t know I could do that!”
Befitting this philosophy of tackling the game’s areas in any order, there are no traditional dungeons in Breath of the Wild. Instead, Link investigates various ancient shrines scattered through the world. Sometimes discovering them involves a little bit of archaeological excavation as they’re buried deep underground, awaiting the prophesied hero to test him for the challenges that await. Inside the shrines you’ll find what are essentially mini-dungeons themed around a single puzzle or gimmick. These too encourage experimentation with your abilities, especially if you plan to unearth all of the treasure you can.
From taming wild horses to finding hidden forest spirits, as well as completing the typical sidequest now and then, there’s more to do in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild than there ever before in any Zelda game. This game is huge and it’s a testament to Nintendo’s ability that they’ve crafted such a world twelve times bigger than Twilight Princess’s, even bigger than The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s.
I have heard Breath of the Wild described as a game that non-gamers can enjoy. What a statement, considering how habitually self-indulgent free roam games are. Rather than be burdened down with tedious to-dos, Breath of the Wild immerses you in the act of discovery in order to build its world through each scene your eyes take in. Rather than force you to run back and forth across this world in search of an irrelevant item at the whim of some NPC, the sidequests feel more pointed and focused than that, often revealing some nuance about this Hyrule and its mythos that you didn’t previously know before. Rather than bore you with musical filler, the ambient soundtrack feels purposeful, as if bellowing up from the stones themselves. Rather than subject you to the banter and drivel of chit-chatty characters talking about everything and nothing or schizophrenic protagonists compulsively talking to themselves, Link’s silent journey crafts the story as you drive him forward. Look out, Noct and Aloy!
Breath of the Wild is a measure of success that the gaming world needed. That’s why players ran to it like a glass of ice water in an arid desert. Now that I’m nearing the end of this unforgettable experience, my only hope is that other developers will take their cues from Nintendo again and start to create more experiences like this one, and more importantly that Nintendo can wise up and learn from Breath of the Wild’s success.
The 8-bit Review
Breath of the Wild is jaw dropping. My first few hours of gameplay where occupied with gasps and momentary pauses where I just stopped to look around. There’s so much detail and variation in the grassy, forested wilderness of Hyrule and its surrounding regions: the deserts of the Gerudo, the jungles of Faron, the icy peaks of Lanaryu, the blazing inferno of Eldin, the isolated windswept plains of Akkala, the archipelagos of the east sea. The sunsets and sunrises are spectacular, picturesque with wisps of cloud and skeins of birds drifting by. “The Wild” is in the title so of course the setting plays a big role in the game.
Opting for cel-shading in the footsteps of Wind Waker, objects and persons in Breath of the Wild are rendered with stylistic gradients which make them appear as if they were animated by hand. This is where we originally got the moniker Toon Link. I’ve heard some NPCs gripe about cel-shading and its distinctive appearance but here I think it really looks exceptional. The characters don’t look flat or overly simple. In many ways, they look as if they’re moving around in an oil painting. Further, I’ve a theory that the simplicity of cel-shading (compared to graphics aiming for photo-realism) allow the game to operate more seamlessly and make for less loading times, but I’m no developer.
The characters Link and Zelda and Ganon, as well as the various peoples who populate the land like the Gerudo, Rito, Zora, Gorons, and Koroks, have all been interpreted in many different ways over the years. Here, they’re each given a subtle face-lift to bring them into the current generation, notably without ditching the cartoonishness that distinguishes most if not all of Nintendo’s works.
The peoples themselves seem more cultured than ever but the biggest departure is Link’s new appearance, by which I mean his blue tunic. What happened to his iconic green? I think this is an example of the developers trying to “break the conventions” of the Zelda series. Ancient songs and tales in the game do reference the hero in green, so there’s that for you purists out there. Ultimately what Link wears is irrelevant so long as he remains the hero we expect him to be.
Another reinvention is this game’s portrayal of Ganon. I’ll spare you the spoiler of an image revealing him to you, but it’s safe to say that he’s far removed from every iteration we’ve seen before, for the most part and delightfully so.
Another interesting visual facet of the game is the apparent inspiration the developers took from Japan’s prehistoric Jōmon period. The Sheikah relics and shrines bear the influence of Jōmon art, which is at the very least interesting and at the very most beautiful in its sinuousness and ornateness.
Finally, I do need to comment on Breath of the Wild’s framerate issues.
Now this originally caused me to waiver more toward a 9/10. I did a little research though and it appears that you can resolve the framerate issue simply by turning off your Nintendo Switch’s autoconnect feature under internet connections in system settings. I tested this myself and it makes the game run smooth as butter, no matter how many blades of grass Link is running through. I wish I knew this sooner! It was something like the console was searching for other wireless signals (considering it’s a handheld, this makes sense), so cutting off that process allows it to put its attention on Breath of the Wild. With zero framerate issues, the visuals are literally perfect with the merest possibility of disappointment due to personal taste. No hyperbole.
This is a new favorite soundtrack. I’m going to be listening to it for a long time, long after Breath of the Wild itself has been shelved. As a pianist, I greatly appreciate the emphasis composer Manaka Kataoka placed on using the piano for most of Breath of the Wild’s soundtrack. There’s a delicateness to this instrument which purports meekness. Anyone who has listened to the wealth of classical music knows that the piano has a massive range of sound.
Though its name means “soft”, the piano can produce a depth of volume evoking terror, passion, and violence as well as sweetness. In Breath of the Wild, the piano is used to intricately highlight emotion. It’s tough not to feel a little, a very small and un-masculine lump in your throat at the sound of the Legend of Zelda theme played with feeling on the ivory keys.
Another thing I appreciate about this soundtrack is how it doesn’t fall entirely into the pit of ambience. The kind of atmospheric, endless “filler” music that… well… fills up most of the open-world games of our time eventually wears upon you, or at least upon me. I miss the days of melody while so much music has become about mere background sound in video games. In some cases, it’s just noise. While this is of course a powerful tool when used correctly and in balanced doses, it makes for music which is sometimes ultimately forgettable. Not so with Breath of the Wild.
Here, I immediately felt that the ambient piano was coming from the setting I was in. When I first wandered into the ruins of the Temple of Time, I thought I was hearing situational music cued by my entry. It wasn’t until later that I found out I was wrong, but that demonstrates that they figured out how to make the music feel like its attached to the surroundings, again as if its bubbling up out of the ground, out of the very stones.
So Breath of the Wild does include ambient tracks but it puts them to good use and includes them not as filler but as highlighting elements which match the scenery. There is of course the familiar adjusting of volume and tempo as tracks flow in and out of each other based on the interactivity occurring on screen.
However, the soundtrack also includes what are now I guess throwbacks to a more melodic era. The various town music and familiar themes from games past are welcome additions, providing a foundation for the ambient tracks to sit upon. These work together to ground the experience audibly, making moments feel like they’re “about” something, rather than just scenes which happen to happen.
I hate to make this kind of premature contrast again until I have a chance to fully write on it, but this is another area where Breath of the Wild steps over what FFXV achieved. Compare the repetitive tracks from Lestallum or the wilderness waltz in XV with the gentleness and sense of actual culture in Breath of the Wild. No comparison, and don’t forget this is coming from someone who, oh I don’t know, themed their entire blog around Final Fantasy!!!
And I just really adore this song. No grand idea why.
I should at least mention that the voice acting in Breath of the Wild isn’t the finest but it’s so sparing that it hardly has any bearing on the game beyond the handful of cutscenes, unless you count the oohing and ahhing of the NPCs.
Breath of the Wild takes the rapidly aging sandbox structure and dispenses with so many of the features which make open-world games such a drag sometimes. The game has a clarity of focus with far less number-crunching, item hunting tedium than it might’ve ended up with. I attribute this to a clarity of vision on the part of its development team. It seems like they created a game, intentionally, which was not meant to be played ad nauseum as so many open-world games seem to be. Rather, it’s a game with a narrative and gameplay center.
Controls will be familiar to those who have played the 3D Zeldas. I thought of Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess as I played. The controls felt a bit strange to me at first, even with my familiarity of them, but I’d guess that could’ve been because this was the first game I ever played using the Joy-Cons on the Switch. Unqiue button placement and the size of the Joy-Cons might have played some part in the length of time it took for me to master these controls, for them to feel like second nature, an extension of my hands.
I still really don’t feel like I mastered the controls. They added a few things that I can’t seem to ever remember when I need to, like shield surfing, and other things like unleashing a flurry of attacks are awesome except I can’t seem to trigger it when it matters most, but the ability to swap weapons in and out on the fly through mini-menus is terrific and I assume that the initial difficulty I had with the controls was my fault entirely.
All of Link’s iconic attacks are here from charging up his blade for a cyclone strike to dropping or throwing bombs to using his bow and arrows on the fly, plus they added the much needed paraglider for crossing vast distances through the air. Speaking of vast distances, there’d be no way to traverse them without riding and taming wild horses, and also other forest denizens, as well as taking advantage of the teleportation functionality through Link’s Sheikah Slate and the towers and shrines he unlocks.
Famously (infamously?), Link awakes with no armaments and must therefore find weapons and shields and bows as he journeys on his adventure. Hey, it’s just like Metal Gear Solid! Weapons and equipment OSP. Because of this, and because they’re so many different pieces of equipment to add to your arsenal, the developers decided to include a durability system wherein equipment will eventually become worn and break beyond repair. This adds a layer of strategy where you’ll want to gauge if its worth charging headlong into a fight or if it’s more prudent to avoid enemies now and then, or even if there are better and smarter ways to dispatch your foe that won’t require Link whittling his weapons into nothing. Your arsenal being on constant rotation means you’ll hang on to those powerful weapons until you really need them for some brutal fight, scouting out weaker items like clubs and rusty swords for the ordinary mobs.
Personally, I have no beef with Breath of the Wild’s durability system. I think that extra layer of strategy makes the game less a hack-and-slash and more a quest on which you must take some care. Link’s not invincible, as you’ll no doubt discover after being crushed, beaten, stabbed, smashed, blown up, burned alive, drowned, or after falling off a cliff. The durability (or lack thereof) of his arsenal means you can’t always depend on them and you’ll need to make more use of your wits to survive. I equate this to the original Resident Evil with its limited ammunition that indirectly kept you on your toes and wise about how much deadly force you brought to bear. If you’re going to survive in the wild, it’ll take a lot more than just a big freakin’ blade. Although, it’ll also make you want to find the Master Sword that much more!
Beyond collecting weapons and shields, Link can also collect different apparel, costumes and clothing. These come in head, torso and leg pieces. A three-part set sometimes grants additional set bonuses such as enhanced climbing speed or greater stealth. Further, if you can locate the Great Fairy Fountains, you can ask the resident Fairy to enhance your clothing, raising its defense and sometimes improving its unique abilities. I currently rock the Ancient Greaves, Champion’s Tunic, and Diamond Circlet for a look I’m quite fond of and defensive stats I’m even more fond of, with of course the Hylian Shield and Master Sword for good effect.
In past Zelda games, inventory occasionally became an issue. Thank goodness we don’t have to fret about limited wallet size in Breath of the Wild. You can rack up thousands of rupees right from the beginning of the game. The attention turns instead to equipment inventory space. Expansion is resolved through seeing Hestu, a big Korok with a love for the art of the dance. He’s a Korok collecting Korok seeds for his maracas (which is really, really nasty if you stop to think about it), so that means you’ll be collecting Korok seeds to. You get a single seed every time you find a hidden Korok, under a rock or in a tree or behind a mini-game. Collect enough and Hestu will expand your inventory by one slot. Have fun, ’cause there are 900 Korok seeds in the game.
Now here are a few things that I consider flaws in an otherwise perfect game. I used the term minor, non-detracting flaws to describe a lot of Breath of the Wild’s worst elements. I need to make that distinction because this is an astounding game with very little going against it.
The pure non-linearity means you can enter any of the four main dungeons once you reach them, otherwise the shrines you can enter at any time upon finding them represent the majority of the dungeon-crawling in the game.
I found myself wanting more substantial dungeons because all of the ones I entered are tiny, based around a single gimmick. The Divine Beast dungeons are bigger than the Sheikah shrines and more interesting because of the interactive maps but they’re not as engaging or immersive as the ones we’ve been seeing since the N64 era. I’m not sure if this is just preference because I haven’t really seen anyone else complain about this, but I don’t think it’s too outlandish of an objection.
There are 120 shrines in the game and they all begin to blend together after you clear most of them. Even the awesome, austere animations and voices you encounter there become something you’ll want to skip because you’ve seen it scores of times already. I somewhat miss even the Shadow and Water Temples because these feel almost like checklists rather than proper dungeons.
One thing which actually did irk me was constantly having to dump items from your inventory rather than being prompted to do so in some sort of automated sense. Considering how small your inventory is at the start of the game, there will be tons of equipment you can’t pick up because your backpack is full. That means you’re constantly having to open up your menu or mini-menu to see which weapon it’d be best to drop to make room for the new one. You can actually toss your currently equipped sword to pick up a new one but there’s no way to do so for shields or bows. Maybe they could’ve had some kind of button combination you could hold down to pick up a new weapon and swap it for the currently equipped one. Still, that’s pretty minor.
Oh and you can also take pictures with the Sheikah Slate. This comes in handy for sidequests and for adding entries to your in-game Hyrule Compendium. I felt like they blended this modern sensibility with the game’s high fantasy setting by throwing the responsibility of a functioning camera on the Sheikah Slate.
It should come as little surprise that there’s not much in the way of possible spoilers regarding Breath of the Wild’s story. It doesn’t ultimately break out of the Zelda format of good vs. evil and rescuing the princess. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The three-part drama of Link, Zelda and Ganon replays itself out wonderfully with each iteration because the core precepts of courage, wisdom and power which these characters represent are all such essentially human attributes which need to be balanced by each other. It’s more nuanced than the typical light vs. dark dualism in high fantasy fiction, more like a kind of trialism (I claim that word!).
Courage without wisdom or power is foolishness. Wisdom without power or courage is isolationism. Power without wisdom or courage is totalitarianism, or maybe fascism… fascist pig…? Ganon is always portrayed as a pig?! Game theory!!!
All that being said, I’m dropping the SPOILER warning here as I’ll be discussing the narrative portion of this game. If you’d like, you can skip past this part by hitting Ctrl+f Accessibility.
This is the first Legend of Zelda I’ve played that is actually about Zelda. Funny how a game series called “the Legend of Zelda” took this long to make the titular princess a fleshed out, three-dimensional character with her own worries and ambitions and weight upon the story beyond being a plot device. No wonder we all thought Link was Zelda back in the day!
Breath of the Wild’s story is told through the dialogue you take in from NPCs as well as the memories which Link recovers depicting Zelda and the fall of Hyrule. It’s interesting that this Legend of Zelda comes on the heels of our hero and heroine’s failure to protect the kingdom, rather than starting fresh as it were. I love that there are characters from other games that Link doesn’t recognize because its years and years later, and I love that the stories they tell recognize that this battle between Link and Ganon has been going on for generations. And I love that Ganon is referred to as the Calamity, a primal evil rather than a mere personification. It makes him that much more frightening.
Anyway, back to Zelda herself. We’re shown through Link’s memories that she was raised with the world on her shoulders, her mother and tutor dying while she was still very young. Her responsibilities toward her kingdom included not only her future rule as heir to the Hylian throne but also developing her divine gifts to seal away darkness. She was pressured by her father the king to learn how to use these powers but no matter how much she tried, it seemed to her as if heaven was silent. She was reprimanded for turning her attention, however briefly, to researching the ancient Sheikan artefacts being unearthed throughout the land and put into the service of Hyrule. The Divine Beasts were also constructed during this time and four champions were enlisted to command them.
Zelda reached an emotional breaking point when she couldn’t discover how to use her power. In the end, once the Calamity arose, killed the four champions and took control of the artefacts, the guardians and the four Divine Beasts, she was able to manifest her ability to protect her guard, who was none other than Link. Link was then put gravely wounded into the Shrine of Resurrection in order to guarantee his revival years down the road as the last hope of Hyrule. Zelda herself retreated to her father’s ruined castle to hold back the Calamity’s power as much as she could.
At the very end of the game, in the best ending, what brought her story full circle for me was when she and Link walk out into the wild to overlook the castle and she begins to talk about how they shall restore the kingdom. She turns and then smiles and we as the audience understand at once that the burden has been lifted from her shoulders. She can accept that she isn’t perfect. She can accept that she isn’t responsible for the deaths that the Calamity caused. She is now her own person with her own purpose and drive, choosing to be the princess she was being pressured into becoming before. She has embraced her destiny. The scene pans out and we see a single solitary flower known as the Silent Princess. Notice that this is the same flower which is animated in the logo for this game. Zelda’s story is the legend of the Silent Princess.
What makes this narrative in Breath of the Wild work so well is how thin and how grand it is at the same time. It’s both a massive epic battle between good and evil culminating at the end of a hundred years, yet it’s also the small story of a girl dealing with her responsibilities and her dutiful knight doing everything he can to restore her to her throne. Also, themes of memory fill the empty spaces, how to deal with past trauma and so on.
Again, it is focus which is the word of the day for Breath of the Wild’s story. It is nowhere near as complex as a Final Fantasy or a Metal Gear Solid, or any of the other story-driven game series out there, but it is precisely the Wild’s ability to hone in on its character beats, its finale, and nostalgia which makes it work in the end. Really, in these fantasy worlds, there’s a temptation to become weighted down with all of the fictional culture and language and history, but Breath of the Wild knows when to peel all of that back and let the humanity beneath shine through.
Not only is the story accessible but so is most everything else in the game. The gameplay is essentially pretty repetitive so there’s no huge learning curve after you’ve figured out how to run around and do some basic attacks. After that, it’s just a matter of finding more shrines and the towers that unlock segments of your map. The puzzles range in difficulty but they’re not impossible, at least I haven’t reached any impossible puzzles yet.
I’ve read here and there that some people have called this the most challenging Zelda game yet. To that I vehemently (and respectfully) disagree. Anyone who beats Breath of the Wild needs to try beating both the first and second quests in the original Legend of Zelda as well as Zelda II: the Adventure of Link. Those are a billion times harder than the Wild, which provides you with in-game guidance, numerous accessories and abilities, as well as tons of readily available healing items literally growing on trees. If this is indeed a game for non-gamers, then it’s got to be innately accessible. Which it is.
With 120 shrines, 900 Korok seeds, scores of weapons, dozens of different recipes, and a multitude of sidequests to be completed, this has all the replay value of a highly addicting game. I’ve been playing for three weeks (at various lengths) and I’m at about 27% completion according to my Sheikah Slate map, which is nothing considering I’ve found 86 shrines and 100 Korok seeds…
Query: how do you make a game unique if it already has over a dozen predecessors? Answer: you blow some minds. Breath of the Wild feels fresh yet familiar. It’s a balance of familiar faces and new acquaintances, innovation and creativity with traditionalism and characteristic Nintendo magic. Nintendo needed to come back full form and this is the game they needed to create.
My Personal Grade: 10/10
I hope you enjoy the Game of the Year once you get it, because this game is undoubtedly it. I don’t know of any way that I could’ve enjoyed it more. Is it perfect? Well… *pulls at collar* … I know I just wrote on not overblowing the language of hyperbole, but I honestly will say that no I don’t think The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is perfect. But it comes pretty dang close.
Aggregated Score: 9.8