After two years of delays, and the launch of an entirely new console, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has finally released. It’s been a long wait, but the results were definitely worth it. Come inside to check out our review for Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch.
From the moment Nintendo released the first teaser at E3 2014, you fell in love, didn’t you? It’s hard to deny that anyone didn’t. An open-world Legend of Zelda game felt like a foreign concept, yet an exciting prospect. Consider all the possibilities of what you can do, where you can go. That was precisely the motivation behind Nintendo’s venture into the open-world genre and their labor bore fruit that is addictingly fun, visually breath-taking, and completely enthralling.
Catching Up With the Times
Over the past few decades, video games have evolved from being a few dots on the screen to endless landscapes of exploration to even having your choices impact the outcome of the ending. For years Nintendo had game-changing titles, like Mario and Zelda, that changed the way we conceived gaming. I remember when Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time came out. Seeing a 3-dimensional Mario and Link run around saving their worlds absolutely blew my mind. Then Majora’s Mask came out and the idea that the entire game had a time-limit was unheard of. Even Windwaker and its cel-shaded art style left me stunned.
Then...nothing. Nintendo had rode a wave of revolutionary titles only to be mired in mediocrity, for years. There was nothing game-changing about Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword and they were merely excuses to use a gimmicky technology like the Wii, on a larger scale. Meanwhile, the gaming world evolved to produce games like the Elder Scrolls Series, Grand Theft Auto, The Mass Effect Trilogy, etc.
While these titles, along with many others, revolutionized the way we played, Nintendo seemed stuck in the past in ways that were more frustrating and playfully nostalgic. They needed to grow and break from the mold they’d placed themselves into...something that would put them on par with other, similar, titles...and they succeeded.
When you begin playing Breath of the Wild, it’s clear this isn’t the same game you remembered playing as a kid. The world feels bigger, richer, and doesn’t play like the linear titles of old. Instead of pushing you in a certain direction, the game merely suggests where you could go leaving the choice to do so entirely in your hands. From the moment you wake up, the training wheels are off and you can do whatever you want.
Even though the Great Plateau (the opening area) is filled with different tutorial missions that get you adjusted, it’s packed with dangers that will get you killed. In fact, if you go into the Spirit Woods, you will encounter a giant rock monster you’re nowhere near ready to fight.
When you leave the Great Plateau, it’s suggested that you go to Kakariko village, but if you’re like me, you brandished your weak, rusty sword, ignored the advice and went straight for Hyrule Castle to save Princess Zelda from Calamity Ganon. Game over, credits roll.
Except, that’s not entirely what happened. Instead I got wrecked by several converging Guardians. It’s strange to say, but it’s a thrilling experience to be able to attempt to fight the boss, at such a weak level, without encountering unseen boundaries. You’re literally able to go/do whatever you want, though obviously there are consequences.
The ability to make mistakes, take your opponent’s weapons, and climb the tallest mountains create an experience even the most season LoZ fan couldn’t have ever fathomed. It’s a testament to Nintendo’s determination to revitalize the LoZ brand and bring it to today’s standard of gaming.
A New Legend to be Told
Breath of the Wild is unlike any Zelda game I’ve ever played. I’m not just talking about the open world or the fact that several characters speak legible sentences. No, I’m speaking to the fact that the “Legend” part of The Legend of Zelda is fully on display.
For starters, when Link wakes up from his slumber in the beginning of the game, he learns that a terrible war was waged 100 years ago. A war that saw the people of Hyrule fall to the tremendous power of Calamity Ganon. It’s later revealed that the repercussions of this war were more dire than in previous Legend of Zelda games.
The ability to view this war, along with the tragic results, provide a unique experience unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a game like this. Too often, Nintendo would use NPCs to speak of the events in hushed voices. With Nintendo’s new way of thinking, they now let you live in those moments, creating an emotional element never felt in a Legend of Zelda game.
Another aspect that makes Breath of the Wild stand out is the way it tell its story. In certain instances, the game will seamlessly load a cutscene that allows specific characters to find their voice. We get to hear their story, along with confirm pronunciations of towns and races. Once the cutscene finishes, you’re still able to go about your way, doing whatever it is you want to do. This new style of storytelling allows for the gamer to feel like they have control over their adventure, while still feeling enveloped in the story.
Among the many things LoZ fans have been speculating about BoTW, the main thing has to do with where it falls in the timeline. After playing it, I can’t even say where it is, the inclusion of its own legend has me lost. Although, until Nintendo outright says when it is, I’d have a hard time being convinced that Nintendo isn’t just rebooting the timeline. It would make sense, as the current timeline is so jumbled and convoluted.
A Beautiful Symphony of Music and Graphics
As I sat here writing this review, I admittedly had Breath of the Wild playing on my Nintendo Switch, in front of me. I eventually had to turn it off because the world became so distracting. Its breath-taking scenery makes it hard to take your eyes off. It doesn’t help, either, when a soft, tranquil piano chimes in to lure you back into that world.
Miyamoto, Aonuma, and the rest of the team outdid themselves with Breath of the Wild. It’s no wonder when Miyamoto was first playing the game, he spent hours just climbing trees. Shoot, I spent nearly 3 hours just climbing mountains! They are so inviting and are begging to be climbed. Even watching the wind blowing through wisps of grass is enthralling.
The art-style is just that gorgeous and is coupled with a hypnotizing soundtrack that will relax you at one point and perk you up in another. The use of a piano as the main source of music feels simple and perfect, capturing the essence of each situation delicately without taking away from the world you’re traversing. If I could have it follow me around at all times, I’d climb every mountain or tree I could find in real life.
There are several other tones that only seem to enhance the game, rather than take away. For example, when you take out a small tribe of Bokoblins, the game gives a light ding-ding-ding like you just knocked out your opponent in a boxing match. It doesn’t mean much but it’s a cool little addition of soul into the Breath of the Wild.
Hyrule Has A Soul
Speaking of soul, Breath of the Wild is packed full of it. From an emotional storyline to the people that reside in that land, living their daily lives, Hyrule truly comes alive in the Breath of the Wild like it never has before. You can see it and feel it from the very beginning. Every tribe, good or bad, has their own belief system, their own way of life. Hell, there’s even a clan of Ganon worshippers that try to assassinate Link. It’s one thing to create a main storyline, but entirely different to create a storyline/motivation for each and every character in a game. That’s what Nintendo did in Breath of the Wild, and this attention to detail makes for an experience unlike any other.
This take on The Legend of Zelda, makes the game feel real. Your weapons break, not everyone is on your side to take down Ganon, people are traveling for their own personal gains, you can tame your own horse, running in a lightning storm with metal on gets you electrocuted, not all animals like you, you drop a rock on a Korok’s head it says, “Ouch”....The list goes on and on and on. Nintendo created a fully-fledged realistic society that made NPCs, lore, and weather interesting.
I tried really hard to look for the bad in this game after seeing all the 10 out of 10 scores it received from other reviewers...but I couldn’t. It has a few latency issues, but that’s more of a complaint to be directed at the Switch than toward the game itself. The story is perfect, the lore is interesting, the gameplay is fun, the puzzles are various and challenging, and the exploration is wonderful. There really isn’t much I’d want to change about this game.