A game that breathes new life into The Legend of Zelda franchise
A new Nintendo home console is here, and with it is one of the biggest games to ever come out for a Nintendo system launch: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yes, it's also on the Wii U, but as that system has had its life support pulled out, most gamers have moved on to the Switch. A new Zelda hasn't really been a gaming event for a long time. Now, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, not only is a gaming event, but the game is one of the best Zelda games in the series 30+ year history and one of the most amazing open world games of all time. Am I spewing hyperbole here? Read on and see why I think I'm not.
Breath of the Wild begins with Link waking up in a dank and dark chamber from a deep slumber. A familiar voice calls to him, urging him to wake up and move forward through the chamber. There, Link acquires the Sheikah Slate, a tool that will allow him a vast number of different abilities as the beginning of the game progresses.
From there, the cave door opens and the world of Breath of the Wild reveals itself in all of its splendor. Despite being an open world game, you as the player are limited to where you can go at the start. The game begins at the Great Plateau, and without a means to get down from there safely, you're temporarily stuck there. Nonetheless, the plateau is large and is bigger than many overworlds of past Zelda games such as the openness of Ocarina of Time's Hyrule Field or the large but segmented overworld of Twilight Princess, so there is plenty to explore.
|Link faces a brave new Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.|
|While there are four similarly-themed dungeons, the over 100 shrines |
make up the most of the puzzle-solving in Breath of the Wild.
The first four shrines in Breath of the Wild not only give Link the requirements needed to trade the old man for his paraglider, but they also give Link all of the necessary functions of the Sheikah Slate to solve the puzzles and challenges of other shrines. From remote bombs in both round and cubed form to the ability to use Magnesis to move steel objects around, the Sheikah Slate is Link's one stop shop for useful abilities instead of having different abilities associated with different items like past Zelda games. The other abilities of the Sheikah Slate that Link earns include the ability Cryonis, used to make frozen pillars rise from liquids like water and oil as a means to cross rivers, and Stasis, used to temporarily freeze objects in place. Many of the abilities have multiple uses, too. You can use Stasis to freeze a platform to have a ball roll down it instead of having the ball weigh the platform down so much that the ball falls. Likewise, you can freeze a barrel and then attack it multiple times with your sword. Each strike will make the barrel fly farther when the stasis period ends.
|Magnesis is one of a handful of insanely useful abilities the Sheikah Slate bestows Link. |
It's needed to solve this particular shrine.
Speaking of which, I haven't even gotten into speaking about the world itself. It's immense and massive in scope, but that wouldn't mean diddly squat if it wasn't interesting enough to explore. Not only does it not suffer from being uninteresting, the world of Breath of the Wild is a delight and pleasure to explore. It's also extremely open ended. Once you get the paraglider and are told what your major mission is, you can either opt to head straight to the final boss and beat the game, or you can go the recommended way of following the story. The former is nigh impossible with Link's current amount of hearts, weaponry, and armor, but it IS possible (if you can even make it there alive). Doing the latter allows Link to accumulate and amass a collection of stronger armor, weapons, and build both his health and stamina. Even if you follow the story, you can decide to face the final boss at any time, and after the initial trip to a certain village, your mission story-wise opens up to have you go to anyone of four locations. Through completing the major objective at one of the four given locations, the final boss's power weakens. Doing all four weakens the final boss considerably to take him on and give Link a fighting chance.
With the world in Breath of the Wild, producer Eiji Aonuma stated that if you see a mountain, you can go there. That is most definitely true in the final product. In most open world games, when you are pitted against a mountain, you're stuck with either going around it or looking like a fool trying to jump up it (usually futilely as well). In Breath of the Wild, Link can climb basically anything, as long as the wall, whether a mountain, cliff, building, etc. isn't too steep and isn't too wet and slippery from rainfall. Of course, not only does the topography matter, but so does Link's stamina. Like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link has a stamina gauge that depletes when he runs or climbs. When climbing, if the gauge empties, Link loses his grip and falls. When running and it empties, Link slows down to a saunter and needs time to recover his gauge. Finally, when swimming and the gauge depletes, Link drowns, losing a bit of health when he's transported to a nearby shore.
|Make sure you find some ledges to rest on when climbing towers like these.|
Activating a tower reveals all of the geography in that given region, including all area names, such as nearby forests, rivers, lakes, and other points of interest. It helps you get a lay of the land. You still have to do the exploring for shrines, notable areas, and the like.
|Link uses the Sheikah Slate here to activate this tower.|
Traversing Breath of the Wild is a lot of fun, and there are a multitude of ways in which to do so. Obviously there's on-foot through running, climbing, and such, but there are also other ways. A notable one is gliding across the world by using the paraglider from a tall height and then gliding along the sky, slowly to the ground.
|Would this be a bad time for Link to realize that he hates heights? |
Aw, who cares! Paragliding is loads of fun!
|Attagirl. Link soothes this wild and untamed horse.|
Furthermore, there are glowing spots throughout Hyrule that when interacted with by Link will reveal some of his memories and encounters with characters from his past. Obviously there's the big one, which most series fans should know (and those who can read the title of the franchise), but there are also other characters that Link interacted with so many years ago. These story sequences bring some back story to Link's adventure, and they're quite welcome.
|Warning: The only major story spoiler in this review (I think) is that Zelda is in this game.|
Although there are friendly faces like the various people of Hyrule and the Koroks around, the world in Breath of the Wild is a dangerous place. Enemies thrive in Hyrule and roam the land in both small and large forms. Enemy goblins often set up camps throughout the land, and if Link isn't careful, they'll take him out with a few swipes of their clubs or shots from their bows. (And some enemies will even take Link out in one shot. That's the world Link inhabits.) You can sneak up on enemy camps, taking a bow and attempting to pick off some foes from far away before the melee attackers get wind of you, or you can perform my early tactic of running from foes, dropping bombs behind you and detonating them as the enemy chases you.
|With only four hearts and weak armor, perhaps it wasn't a smart idea to engage with this Bokoblin gang.|
|Bring it on! The more the merrier for Link's blade. (Just remember that it can break easily, Link!)|
|Moblins are some of the toughest regular enemies for Link to take on.|
|Foes for fightin', just how Link likes 'em!|
|There are some particularly fierce foes Link can discover while venturing through Hyrule.|
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a huge game, but it somehow manages to not be overwhelming. Sure, there's over 100 hours easily that you can get lost in the expanses of Hyrule, but the menus keep track of everything-- shrines, quests (story-related, shrine-related, and side-related), as well as main dungeons completed, regions filled out, Koroks found, et cetera, et cetera. If you forget where you need to go for a specific quest or its details, you can just go to the menu, hit the quest you're concerned about, and get everything you need to know, including the whereabouts about the quest-giver (as the time of day effects where NPCs are). So even when you have a place you want to go in mind and you get constantly side-tracked like me by going, "Ooh! That place looks interesting. I think I might go there for a few moments... [this turns into two hours getting distracted from that place to another place, to another, to another, etc.]" you won't lose your mind.
|The art style makes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a treat for the eyes.|
|Even in Hyrule a dog is man's best friend.|
On the sound side of the game, the latest Zelda is much more subdued than the bombastic scores players of the series are most likely used to. Subtle piano harmonies are mostly heard throughout the game when exploring while battles, towns, and events in the game have specific melodies with much more to offer. The music isn't in-your-face as much as past Zelda games, but it's delightful all the same and a good approach for Breath of the Wild overall.
While certain things like weapon degradation, limited inventory, and tilt-centric shrines do more harm than good for the game, overall The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild successfully reinvents a series with amazing results. It doesn't just make The Legend of Zelda franchise noteworthy again; it makes The Legend of Zelda franchise important enough that game developers will be taking notes on and being inspired by this game much like they did with the original Zelda on the NES, A Link to the Past, and finally Ocarina of Time. Zelda is fresh again. Zelda is new again. And while Zelda as a series seldom failed to be awesome, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is what gamers and critics will look back on as one of the genre and industry-defining games of our time.
[SPC Says: A]