The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developed and Published by: Nintendo
Directed by: Hidemaro Fujibayashi
Produced by: Eiji Aonuma
Lead Programmers: Takuhro Dohta, Kenji Matsutani, & Hiroshi Unemiya
Lead Artist: Satoru Takizawa
Composers: Manaka Kataoka & Yasuaki Iwata
Series Creators: Shigeru Miyamoto & Takashi Tezuka
Released: March 3, 2017 for Nintendo Wii U & Nintendo Switch (Switch Version Reviewed)
THIS ARTICLE WILL CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE STORY OF BREATH OF THE WILD.
The Legend of Zelda franchise turned 30 years old in 2016, and while we had to wait an extra year for Breath of the Wild to be released, it was a wait well worth every second. Breath of the Wild plays like a love letter to the series as a whole. In arguably the first truly open world Zelda experience since the original Legend of Zelda released in 1986, Breath of the Wild hands you a massive world to explore and says “have fun!”
Of course, there is still a main story quest line in the game, but once you’ve cleared the tutorial area, you’re given two quests to follow. One will allow you to travel to the iconic Kakariko Village and uncover the truth of what happened 100 years ago. The other quest is simply named “Destroy Ganon.” And you can, if you so choose to do so, run straight to Hyrule Castle and take on Ganon (though I definitely don’t recommend that course of action).
All that you’re told about what’s going on is that 100 years prior to Link awakening in the Shrine of Resurrection, Calamity Ganon rose and regained his power and defeated not only Link, but the four champions of Hyrule’s other races; the Zora Champion Mipha, the Goron Champion Daruk, the Rito Champion Ravali, and the Gerudo Champion Urbosa. The champions were supposed to be piloting giant robots aptly named Divine Beasts, which were created 10,000 years ago to help drive back the Calamity Ganon, but 100 years ago Ganon got the jump on them and took control of the them. And that’s it. That’s all you’re given for the story, everything else is up to you to uncover. It’s your mission, if you so choose to accept it, to traverse the massive open world of Hyrule, take back control of the Divine Beasts from Ganon, learn the truth of what happened 100 years ago, and, finally, defeat the living incarnation of hatred itself.
Once you’re given the very quick exposition after completing the tutorial area of the game (the Great Plateau), your experience in Breath of the Wild becomes purely your own. Given that there are only four, count ‘em, FOUR traditional style Zelda dungeons in the game, which are the Divine Beasts (and even those dungeons are highly unconventional), you’ll need to explore the world to find ancient shrines which, when completed, merit you a Goddess Orb. Take four of these orbs and pray before a statue of the Goddess Hylia to receive either a new heart container or stamina vessel. You’ll primarily want to get heart containers, with two or three stamina vessels if you want to be at what’s considered “normal” endgame health for when you eventually decide to take on Ganon. Note that there are 120 shrines in the game, some of which require you to complete a puzzle or solve a riddle to gain access to in the first place, and that the only way to get Link’s classic green tunic is by doing all of the shrines. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Or, you know, by having the Super Smash Bros. series Link amiibo.
As you explore the world of Breath of the Wild and meet new characters, almost all of them will recognize Link’s name, relating you to the Hylian Champion from 100 years ago who fell to Ganon. Though they do not know you are actually that Link, they believe you to be a descendant of his and will ask for your help. You can find NPC’s in this game meandering around the world doing things according to their schedules. There’s a woman who will get attacked by monsters when she strays away from camp to sit on a bridge and watch the river flow by. There are a pair of treasure hunters you’ll encounter fighting monsters throughout the world. There are merchants traveling from one town to the next, stopping at horse stables along the way. If you’re running along a road and come to a bridge that you want to jump off of to glide over to something in the distance, if an NPC is nearby they’ll ask you to not do anything rash. Not only is this game massive but the game itself actually feels… alive.
I mentioned previously that this game plays like a love letter to the 30-year history of the Legend of Zelda franchise. You can find that in almost everything in the game. In the Great Hyrule Forest/Lost Woods area of the game, you’ll find Lake Saria, named after Saria from Ocarina of Time. You’ll also find Mido Swamp in that area, it’s named after a minor, but very annoying character from Ocarina of time. And that’s a trend in this game: Nintendo has lovingly crafted a world with locations and namesakes from past entries in the franchise. Even the four Divine Beasts are named after characters from the franchise’s history. You have all of the Zelda staples in here too as far as monsters are concerned. You’ve got your boboklins, moblins, lizalfos, and octoroks to name a few.
Hyrule might be massive in Breath of the Wild, but at times it can feel empty. However, you’ll always be seeing something in the distance that you will want to check out. The fact that this world is empty and barren at times is actually a good thing. Not once have I picked up this game for a couple-hour play session and been absolutely bored out of my mind. I find something new every time I play and that sense of wonder that you get from exploring and finding new things simply cannot be replaced. But the open world is empty for another reason: the game wants you to feel isolated and alone. It wants you to know that something happened 100 years ago and that Hyrule is in ruins.
Mechanically, Breath of the Wild is solid, too. Weapons and shields all have a durability and will break after a certain period of use, even if at times it feels like that period of use is too quick. You get an armor rating depending on the clothing you have equipped. Some clothing sets also offer resistance to heat or cold; depending on what area of the game you’re in, you’ll need to wear certain sets. And instead of having to worry about finding hearts during battle if your health is running low (cause there aren’t any, FYI), just make sure to pick up cooking ingredients and cook yourself a hearty meal! Certain ingredients when cooked can also offer heat or cold resistance, or increase your stealth. The combat is a bit tough, too. If you’re not careful in how you approach monster camps, the entire camp will be alerted and attack you at once, and you’ll probably get a game over screen. I found that especially early in the game, it’s best to try and take on monsters one at a time with a well placed arrow to their heads. You can also pick up arrows from the ground if you missed your mark (or if an enemy missed theirs trying to shoot you).
As a lot of professional review outlets have noted, Breath of the Wild does seem to have some very minor performance issues when played on the Switch’s TV mode, but this isn’t a deal breaker. I understand the hardware can only do so much, and given how much the game has rendered and loaded at any time, this can be expected. These performance issues primarily happen in heavily wooded, grassy areas, or when you’re being attacked by ten or more enemies at a time.
While I’ve beaten the main scenario of Breath of the Wild, I know that there’s still so much for me to explore in this masterpiece of a game. There are regions on the map of the game that the main story doesn’t take you to at all. So I know that I have much more to find still. As I think on the thrill of adventure that this game gave me, I think that it’s fair to say that Breath of the Wild will easily replace Twilight Princess as my favorite game in the Legend of Zelda franchise.
Breath of the Wild contains all of the elements that I personally look for in a great game. It gives me the excitement of traversing a massive open world, an excitement that I first discovered with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The combat can be challenging and at times downright punishing, and if my love of the Dark Souls series means anything at all, it means that I love a good fight. And last, but not least, it gives me the joy of solving the challenging puzzles that the Legend of Zelda franchise has come to be known and loved for over the years. There’s just something about that little chime when you solve a puzzle that brings a smile to my face.
I can’t wait to explore the rest of Hyrule and see what else the world has to offer. But after 8 days and about 30 hours of playtime, I can safely say that Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece of a game that will come to be as loved as Ocarina of Time. In fact, as of this article's posting, it has the second highest rating in the series on Metacritic at a 97, second only to Ocarina of Time at 99.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an artful masterpiece of a love letter written by Nintendo, and it will bring you a sense of joy, wonder, and excitement as you traverse Hyrule to seek out your memories of what happened 100 years ago in your quest to destroy Ganon.