Considering that I wasn’t a Day 1 adopter of the Nintendo Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a game I initially missed. Even still, I was aware of the reception to it, but it remained a game that I took forever to get to. Looking to right those wrongs, I picked the game up during a holiday sale that year, generally the only time one can purchase a first party Nintendo game at less than the normal standard price.
Even with the game now in my possession, I didn’t immediately dive into the game. In fact, it took me another whole year to finally boot it up. I personally didn’t know what to expect, even as someone who loves and has played nearly every game in the franchise. Maybe it was the fact that this game featured another huge open world or perhaps it was the change to the standard formula that made me hesitant?
Whatever the reason, I was dead wrong. I friggin love this game.
I was shocked at how fast the game hooked me, taking maybe an hour. There was just something about the freedom that really appealed to me, even with similar promises made from the glut of other open world games available these days. Breath of the Wild has a certain simplicity that really struck me. Sure, you have overarching quests to save the kingdom, but how and when you do them is entirely up to you. The game really doesn’t push you to do anything. Do what you want, when you want.
The other element that I find absolutely outstanding is just how much the world pulls at me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten distracted or pulled in a direction I didn’t intend on going in order to check out a strange looking light or structure in the distance. Breath of the Wild is so great at showing you things, especially when you look out from higher elevations. There’s always something to see, some object to strive for or a place that you just want to explore.
In fact, this feeling has been so significant that I’ve generally ignored the main questline to destroy (who else) Ganon. I’ve uncovered most of the map outside of two regions, an act you can do by climbing these massive towers that reveal the map in that region. Even still, revealing the map doesn’t actually highlight points of interest, that’s something that you need to still find yourself.
Part of those points of interests are Shrines, mini-dungeons that typically pose a puzzle or challenge for players to overcome. The shrines are interesting in that they’re short enough to never be intrusive or aggravating, but they offer an interesting objective that typically revolves around a certain theme. I’ve had to use wind to push a ball in a specific way, magnetism to move metal boxes around in order to climb platforms, utilize fire to burn away vines, and more. In exchange for completing each shrine, you gain 1 spirit orb. These are very important because you can exchange a set of 4 certain Goddess Statues to increase either Link’s stamina wheel or gaining 1 additional heart.
Yup, that’s right, you don’t actively find heart containers anymore like in previous games. More hearts have to be earned through these spirit orbs. I’ve been obsessed with them and these shrines, spending most of my time scouring the map to find more and more. I generally don’t mind this change at all.
I don’t have too much to say on the story considering I’ve done a lot to not advance it much. Ganon, in some form, came back and basically went house on Hyrule. Link was gravely injured in the fight and eventually put into a healing chamber, Ganon corrupted all sorts of things, and the world fell into ruin while Link was away. Cut to 100 years later where an amnestic Link has awoken to a different world, one where he needs to fix things and slowly gain back his lost memories.
Oh yeah, for the first time ever, there’s actually voice acting and it’s fantastic. What a weird thing to be praising in 2019, but here we are. It’s generally only in specific cutscenes, but it fits so well that it’s amazing that it has taken this long for Nintendo to jump on board.
On the topic of audio, I’m a little disappointed by the music, not because it’s bad, but just because it’s more atmospheric and subtle than it’s ever been before. No Song of Storms or Lost Woods earworms here. Still, even with the simple piano notes, you may hear some subtle classic tunes retooled to fit this world, such as the classic Death Mountain theme from the original NES game or the Lon Lon Ranch theme from Ocarina of Time.
So far this post has been a massive gush fest, and while this game is unbelievably good, I do have a minor gripe with it. And no, it’s not about the overly aggressive weapon durability system or the fact that it rains a lot in Hyrule. It’s actually with the motion controls. I get that this was a launch game and Nintendo wanted to use it as a showpiece for what the new Switch could do, but I feel like there are some instances where the motion controls feel forced.
While you can switch it off, aiming with a bow is actually controlled by controller movement. It threw me off at first and didn’t feel great until I found out it could be turned off. There are a few shrines which feature motion-controlled puzzles, which have driven me nuts. The motion controls are so sensitive that accomplishing the precise tasks that the puzzle asks you to is way more challenging than it should be. Sadly, there’s no way around them, so you’ll have to just power through. I honestly wish this wasn’t a thing, but thankfully these motion control shrines seem to be very few and far between that it’s not a huge deal.
Overall, I’m beyond thrilled at how Breath of the Wild turned out and I’m a little mad at myself for taking this long to actually play it. I love the new style and format this game has taken on, shifting and evolving the standard Zelda formula into something absolutely refreshing. I have no idea where Nintendo goes from here, but I definitely wouldn’t mind another entry in this style. Switch owners, this is absolutely a game you need to play.