It feels awkward when I try to play a game that I once swore off when I was a kid, regardless of how successful The Legend of Zelda franchise has been running, I never really got into the series after my disappointing play-through of “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” on the SNES, and I did play some GameBoy titles (Oracle of Ages/Seasons) and did progress (but still not finished) on those games, I always thought that the game wasn’t for me because it due to the a lot of puzzle solving and very little hand-holding for my 5(?)-year old self. However things changed when I watched the E3 2014 presentation, I was pretty interested as to how beautiful the game looked and the ambiance of the open field shown in the trailer. But then again, I had no Wii U to play it on and when the game got delayed, Nintendo announced their new console and that the new entry to the franchise will be a launch title and I felt that it was time for me to hopefully try out something new, I saved up ahead and bought the Nintendo Switch with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and it did invigorate my interest on the franchise.
Hyrule was once a peaceful kingdom, all races lived harmoniously and had no conflict interacting with each other and with the use of ancient “Sheikah” technology, the entire land of Hyrule prospered until a certain evil has appeared in the form of “Calamity Ganon” which seeks to destroy the land. However, something goes wrong and Link (You) wakes up 100 years later, without any memory of the past and it is now up to you to discover what happened and finally seal the evil that is destroying the Hyrule.
The game uses one of the most basic formulas in storytelling, the same formula that has been used over and over again for the franchise, however,with the Zelda franchise having complex timelines, having the lore and “Easter Eggs/References” of this game reflect certain key parts of the series, from simple buildings of old to the same named characters/elements present that hit the nostalgic parts for those who are veterans of the series. The implementation of the story basic premise of “Hero must kill evil overlord” and “What happened before?” blends harmoniously with each other to create a simple goal with a huge dose of exploration.
The franchise departed from its usual style of putting a fixed progression path and turned it into an “Open-World” setting, approximately 12 times larger than map size of “Twilight Princess”. Nintendo has employed the “If you can see it, you can go there” philosophy of putting no fixed entry points to almost every part of the map, however there are still certain invisible walls which is present when you try to go “outside” the world map’s borders, on another note, if you wish to do a straight run to the final boss, you could since the game is designed to let the player decide when and where to go (I wouldn’t advise it though unless you’re a fan of “Game Over” screens). The game only has a small amount of hand-holding as they wanted exploration and finding out how most of the mechanics work on your own, much like to the original Legend of Zelda game on the NES/FamiCom. The world is vastly spread with some areas being empty and some crowded but not really falling victim to a lack of things to do compared to recent open-world releases.
Once again, you control Link, who can now climb almost any surface, swim and jump, which is important especially when you want to find those necessary upgrades, weapons and items for the journey ahead. The game adds a stamina wheel that is depleted whenever Link sprints, climbs or glides (through the use of a para-glider), which is upgrade-able once you have collected a certain item, you may also upgrade your health using the same item and thus it is now up to you which one to emphasize first. Link also holds the “Sheikah Slate”, some form of tablet, that had several functions such as a map and holds several “runes” which could either: freeze time, make bombs, hold steel, make ice platforms, etc. these runes may either help you solve puzzles or help you take down enemies.
Link can find different fruits, vegetables, monster parts, etc. can be cooked and may result in special items that could either heal both hearts and stamina or provide some buff, these are important as some locations may either be too hot or cold and without the proper gear or buffs, the journey will not last and will result in a game-over.
With a ton of items being loot-able, the inventory screen does indeed does it job in displaying the information and categorizing the different items in different tabs, while they can be automatically sorted with the press of a button, it would not have hurt to add a manual sorting option especially since when weapon wheel does follow the order sorted by the bag, it would have been convenient if you could just put the best weapons closest to each other. It does not effect the combat flow as swapping weapons does “freeze” the action in the background.
Weapons are important in this game as almost every weapon can “break”, early-on in the game, you are usually limited with the use of tree branches and basic swords which is bothersome especially since some enemies appear randomly and with the day and night cycle affecting enemy spawns, you’ll have to choose between running or fighting as it will take awhile to get some more “durable” weapons. There are limited spaces for Weapons, Shields and Bows, you can increase your inventory size however, you will need to explore as the item needed is found on different parts of the map. Different armor sets are also present in the game and they don’t break and can be upgraded so you can survive a lot longer. The combat does feel a little awkward especially if you can’t “switch” (lol pun intended) targets on-the-fly but instead, needs you to let go of the lock-on button and hope that you’ll be locked on to the thing you want to target. Aiming and using “runes” can also be done with motion control (specifically with the Right JoyCon) for a more accurate but sometimes confusing (puzzles!) results. Link may also do a “perfect” block with his shield which could deflect enemy projectiles or a “perfect” parry which can result in an opportunity to do a “Flurry Strike” which does an incredible amount of damage for a short period of time.
Nintendo wants players to explore and experiment with their new design for the series, I usually find the thought of “If you think this will work in the real life, it probably will work here” mentality, a basic example would be when you want to start a fire, put down a piece of wood, a flint and strike it with any metal weapon to produce a campfire. One thing I noticed is that while there is technically a way to get fish in the game, a proper “fishing” mechanic would have been nice and with numerous delays it may as well have been added.
There are also horses which provides a slightly faster mode of transportation and you can also fast travel to the different towers and shrines located in the game. Climbing towers are in this game and as boring as these mechanics are, there are some times that you will need to be slightly “creative” as some may be guarded by multiple enemies or is surrounded by quicksand. Quests present in the game range from the basic fetch and kill quests to riddles that give small hints or the use of “creative” approaches to finishing them.
There are only four major dungeons located in the game with a hundred+ “Shrines” in the game, both of which have lucrative rewards upon finishing them. Dungeons are bigger than shrines and have a major connection to the story while the slightly “optional” Shrines function as small-room dungeons that usually has a single-step objective and houses most of the puzzles in the game. While both of these areas of the game houses the challenges, there are times that finding the said areas can be a challenge in itself, finishing the both parts of the game does give a very lucrative reward that are too hard to pass up.
The graphics are what initially drew me into this game, its not as realistic as most AAA games with Nintendo using a high definition cel-shaded visual style that blends both the the “cartoon-ish” style of Wind Waker and a less realistic Twilight Princess, while some people may not like these type of animations, it does bode well for the game and feels like a perfect fit. The textures may sometime look a bit outdated but weather effects look good on them especially with the implementation of dynamic weather in game (eg. Wet surfaces and puddles when it rains in-game). The soundtrack of the game is a definite highlight as well, producing good pieces that are spot-on for specific portions of the game, including the ambient sounds that are enhanced when using headphones as it does feel like the wind is blowing in a specific direction. Voice-acting is present for special cut-scenes and some NPC’s do say random stuff but Link is still the same old silent protagonist.
The Switch version of Breath of the Wild runs on 720p 30 fps on handheld mode and 900p 30 fps on TV mode while the Wii U version runs on 720p 30 fps on both Game Pad and TV modes, both versions and all modes do experience frame drops especially on the Wii U version while the Switch version has less occurrences, these usually happen on areas that have a ton of foliage. Pop-ins also tend to happen and while I thought it would only occur on non-moving objects, turns out I experienced a “turret” that disappears and re-appears”. The FPS drops do tend to bothers me a bit but not enough to stop playing, however pop-ins during combat is bad and does break immersion. This, however, was the only time that I had experienced this in a combat scenario so I hope it was just that specific area. I also experienced some “split-second” freezes while I was aiming at an enemy that did scare me a bit, but has also not happened again.
While I may not be a “veteran” player of the other Zelda games, I feel that this “revamp” Nintendo implemented is a good step up for the franchise. Injecting new energy to the series that can easily attract both old and new players of the series. The world looks beautiful and varied, the puzzles vary from easy to frustrating, the combat does need some minor improvements in terms of “switch”-ing targets (cringe pun) but is functional as long as you are aware on where to position yourself. The difficulty of the game isn’t easy but is also not hard, with patience and approach, everything can be cleared. The map isn’t as empty as some other open-world games and the soundtrack does have that “soothing” element to it. Amiibo is widely supported as well if you want to enhance your experience and do not worry, non-Zelda series Amiibos work as well but don’t expect something special out of them as only Zelda series Amiibos have the chance to drop special items.
If you have a Wii U, this game is a definite “Must-Buy, if you don’t have a Wii U and have the money to spend, get a Switch + the game (also add a screen protector as well!) the Season Pass may also add some more hours however I do advise to “hold-off” on buying it for now due to the lack of information yet. So far my experience in roaming Hyrule has given me a new standard and appreciation for the open-world genre and I hope this is the sign that can inspire Nintendo to innovate with their other titles as well.