The magic is gone. As you get older, the magical, fun elements that made life naturally fun begin to fade away. Everything becomes a routine, an agenda that needs purpose in order to combat the boredom of daily life. This is so we mature, healthy and readily, to the environment around us; fueling deeper meaning and reason behind our actions. However, there are times where we all wish to go back and experience everything through our previous perspectives. In any other context, this would be a speech about nostalgia, and it is, yet Nintendo’s design decisions on Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild bring back what players remember from the original Legend of Zelda. No, not just references to prior games, but the idea that the game has no set journey, it’s simply an adventure.
In Ubisoft style, Nintendo has essentially made the newest game a sandbox game, complete with towers, free roaming and the main character wearing a hood. Of course, the original Legend of Zelda was the first “sandbox” game there was, or at least the first one to achieve major success. Inspired by the idea of walking around aiming for adventure, this Zelda and the first Zelda share in common the idea of freedom. Every other Zelda gives you a progression and story-based game where dungeons, puzzles and most events must be accomplished in some form of a chronological order. Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, allows your access to the final boss from the first second the game is started.
Focus is placed on gameplay, yet there is a story, and voice actors along with it. Zelda, old dude, and sexy shark man express the first fully voiced dialogue in a Zelda game. It only took 30 years for a story-based game to hire professional voice actors, that’s understandable. The purpose of the story itself, other than to set up the ever-important environment, is to lower the final boss’s health. There are, of course, actual reasons to enjoy the story, yet this is the primary reason to play through the story. The weapons you grab at the beginning of the game are nowhere near good enough to fight off the immensely powerful and stupid enemies that guard Ganon’s lair, and you need every power-up you can get, yet the story’s beginning highlights the most interesting weapon of them all: Apple products.
Link, waking up in Dark Souls fashion, crawls out of a tomb and grabs the nearest iPad to determine what year it is. Well, maybe not an iPad, but a motion-control machine from the future. The motion controls are not the equivalent of Skyward Sword‘s sword (thank god), yet it’s also not the equivalent of Twilight Princess and Link’s Crossbow Training either. It’s a completely unique function that puts the game’s physics at your disposal, lifting objects, throwing objects and even setting up objects to launch at a delayed time, allowing you to set up unique traps.
Speaking of Dark Souls fashion, good god the difficulty is high. Let me be clear with this: you will die consistently. For every freedom this game gives, it sure as hell doesn’t forget to add a cost. Weapons break immediately, there’s immense falling damage, the stamina gauge is anything but infinite, long hours of bonding with horses reward you with their death, and health is gained only through cooked food and shrines. This is done for the purpose of limiting you, forcing you to explore and, I might as well say it, breathe in the wild (Haha I’m PUNNY). This won’t stop Nintendo from adding a hard mode in the future, however, something that makes me cry just from the thought.
At the same time, not all aspects of the difficulty are entirely intentional. In an attempt to make a free-roaming game, the developers treated Breath of the Wild like the first Zelda, yet some 3-D aspects are forgotten. Namely, the lock-on mechanic. Certain fights are difficult, but the camera is not made to keep up with enemies that teleport and move at speeds of over 30 mph, making these fights impossible at best. Sure, more equipment keeps foes at bay, but fighting enemies is no longer as fun as it used to be, just as traveling this immense world can now be extremely, massively boring. There are so many things to do, sure, but wandering around thousands upon thousands of acres of grassy plains can only provide me with so much enjoyment before I begin to crave absolutely any distinct goal whatsoever. That’s the problem with sandbox games; you’ve given me freedom, sure, but I’m free to do whatever I want with my life outside the game and it isn’t very exciting. I need goals, everyone does, and a series of scattered enemies and 5-second shrine puzzles isn’t going to make up for a lack of direction.
This being said, the environmental physics are well thought out. Although Link might be given the powers of Spiderman, allowed to crawl on any surface he wishes, rain puts him at risk of being struck by metal-seeking lightning and will make him slip every few seconds while climbing. At the same time, rain and hills combine to make one of the most entertaining mechanics: Tony Hawk’s Shieldboarder 3. The game takes into consideration Link’s internal body temperature when interacting with the terrain. Setting grass on fire not only makes the fire spread, it creates an updraft.
The graphics might not be the greatest, but they are impressive. The music might not always be epic, yet it fits the quiet, adventurous tone of the game, environmental sound effects creating an apt illusion of realism. The game might not be perfect, but as one can probably assume from what I’ve said so far, there is an immense amount of fun to be had. Handled wth much greater care than No Man’s Sky and Windwaker, the game gives the player enough to do that it gives the immense land the sense of purpose and adventure it was looking to create all along. Despite all of the difficulty, Breath of the Wild is an extremely solid experience for both Switch and Wii U. Become a true hero, but more importantly, unequip your weapon and press attack when dogs are near and you can finally pet a dog in a video game; game of the year.