When I think about the greatest gaming experiences I had as a child, I always return to the first video game ever given to me, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Now granted, my older brothers had already accumulated many games in our household, so this wasn’t the first game I ever played. That being said, it was the first game I ever wanted. I still recall asking my parents for an N64 for my birthday. This was the first console that really grabbed me, Super Mario 64 being something that drew me to video games in the first place. I remember seeing the Zelda cartridge in the clear video game shelf at my local Meijer.
There’s something strange about the Zelda series when I start to recall all of this, as Ocarina of Time would become the first game I ever completed. Even stranger still, I don’t recall any of the early marketing for this game, and I don’t know why this game stood out to me more than other games during this time. I may also be forgetting that game releases are nothing like what they are today. To be fair, I looked up some of the early ads and I can almost recall seeing this one:
So needless to say, the Zelda series has always been something special to me. It actually took me a year to beat the original Ocarina of Time, as I am proud to say I didn’t have a guide handy to help me through it.
So cut to 2017 and the release of Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch. Those followers of the podcast are aware of our positive thoughts about the console, but in case you missed it all, you can find it right here.
The only. Mark that, the ONLY game to get for this console is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The same reputation this series has always had, carried the Switch’s latest sales. Trust me, I have played a few other Switch games, and not to ruin what they are trying to accomplish, but nothing reaches the caliber of this game. So with that, let’s get to it…
Well, simply put, this game is such a nostalgic trip to the past it’s like coming home. And for me, it is about coming home, back to Nintendo.
So I will be frank, Nintendo lost me more than a few years ago. I wasn’t swayed like many during the years of the Wii and it’s commercial success to really spend a lot of time playing many of the games on that system, outside of Wii Sports. I was given a Gamecube as my last system, played some great games, but at the time of the Playstation 2, you can be sure that my Gamecube didn’t really get a lot of playtime. Time warp to the gimmicky motion controls of Wii and Wii U and the lack of any real graphical improvement, and well, you have completely lost me next to the juggernauts at Microsoft and Sony. In short, I had no affectation towards Nintendo.
But something happened recently, maybe it is the changing culture of our country. My age group will soon be the dominate force of change in this country and with that, change in what we watch and play. Just look at the wealth of gaming movies, (although not very good) fantasy, and comic book themed stories. All of this, is a movement towards the past. Every generation does it, a nostalgic trip to something that once was.
So that’s where I am with Nintendo. It reminds me of nicer times past with my long-ass gaming career. Times when it wasn’t all about Multiplayer, Let’s Plays, Live-streaming, and Twitch and YouTube. A time where the player plays and they experience something for themselves. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild re-evokes those feelings from the past for me. It reminds me that even something looked upon so simply as a video game, can not only teach you while you play, but impart some of that knowledge with you for the rest of your life.
Gameplay and Presentation
I’ve added the portion of Presentation to our normal reviews since talking about the gameplay of Breath of the Wild can’t be talked about without talking about the gorgeous beauty of this game.
In my eye, the attention to detail in the style of a watercolor in this game is on par with some of the most beautiful watercolors ever created. Whenever I have shown any of my closest friends this game, everyone is fixated on the screen. The gentle whisping of the grass and general magnitude of what is in front of you is pretty awe inspiring. Everything that can be seen in this game, (with a few small exclusions) is somewhere you can go. Honestly, everything in this game feels deeply connected to that over all style. I simply can’t say anything bad about how this all comes together, outside of a few frame rate issues that were later resolved with a patch.
Onto gameplay he says! The general feel for gameplay is this: Get out there and explore. Climb. Jump. Glide you’re way around this world and find something you enjoy. There are quest’s for sure, an A-typical, find Ganon and destroy his creepy ass. But this world begs to be discovered. I like that games over the past few years have started to bring this feeling along with them: that sense of self discovery that is found with exploring an open environment. I for one would consistently get distracted from a main quest and would run upon a Bokoblin outpost or would find myself wrapped up in a side quest. How’s about I climb that tree?! Oh! Wait, how about that mountain top?! Crap, I can’t go there, where do I find warmer clothes? This game starts asking questions to the player and it is up to you to decide how you want to answer them. Sure, follow the main quests, find some shrines to complete, but the game leaves it up to you to explore and explore you shall.
It is true, most of the gameplay is you staring at Link climbing up some mountain. Sure, you will do that a bunch in the beginning of this game. But, that process of teaching you the basic component of maintaining enough stamina to complete your tasks is vital to how this game plays. If you start your climb with no plateau to stop on your way, you’re going to have a bad time playing this game. I didn’t really struggle nor feel that this was a problem with the game, but rather another piece towards making this world feel real. To my eyes, this is the Zelda series’ first attempt at pushing the games into a realer, more grounded universe. Of course, there are special abilities you will pick up that still keep this game fantasy-action oriented: the means to create gusts to lift Link into the air, electric shocks and Goron blocking abilities. But to me, the changes such as weapons breaking and special potions and elixirs that need to be concocted are all part of the switch to open world. Yeah, it does suck that eventually the Master Sword breaks, but the journey to get it in the first place is well worth that small downside.
I will say that sometimes, and most likely this will be my next purchase, I feel like I should have bought the Pro Controller.
I say that mainly, as when trying to show You-da-craze some of these controls last night, I quickly realized I was not familiar with the button placement to explain correctly how to navigate Link on screen. To a newcomer, the controls can be a bit daunting at first, but after some time that feeling becomes more natural. Basically, there is some normalcy in the Pro controller and not so much in the Joy-Con setup.
I’ll try not to give too much of the story away, as it is a wonderful trip down memory lane with oh so much more to get into, but let’s break down a bit of where Link and Zelda are in this latest story. Link has been awoken from an 100 year slumber, as his last confrontation with Calamity Ganon, well, it didn’t go so well. Link has no memory of his past life but he has been awoken to a Hyrule that has lost it’s former glory. Shortly there after, Link encounters the former ruler of Hyrule who explains to him that Princess Zelda is still fending off Calamity Ganon at Hyrule Castle. Link must return himself to his former glory and destroy the pestilence that Ganon has spread across this land.
I hate to say it, but that is mainly it. As Zelda stories go, this is pretty much the gold standard. However, what we really get in later missions is a larger story about the power struggles within Hyrule Castle, expectations as to who and what are considered heroes, and the great struggle within each person to meet or exceed their own expectations. I was surprised most of all to see that the story itself, as told through past memory flashbacks and side missions, was primarily the focused on Princess Zelda. Gone are the days of being a helpless damsel in distress. Princess Zelda is more a rogue than before, dashing in sprint and presentation. What struck me most about this story was how her struggle deals with finding the strength to step outside her own boundaries as a ruler of a kingdom, but also to find that strength to be more involved in the fight to protect her kingdom. Zelda basically brushes off your help in the beginning of the story. She doesn’t really have any desire to have you take credit for protecting her and for saving the day. I think this was a welcome contrast to the traditional archetypal characters we get in these games. It also helps build a stronger connection to these characters as it truly does become about a team of crusaders out to save their world. At it’s core, that’s what a Zelda game should be and this game more than accomplished that feeling.
Lastly, I want to note the wonderful dialogue between even some of the smaller more ancillary characters you’ll encounter in various locations along the journey to defeat Ganon. Nintendo and its designers have painstakingly created a universe brimming with life. When I walked into Koriko Village, it was the exact feeling of returning home that I was looking for. I simply have not had enough time to talk to every character, but after completing the game, I am definitely stopping by again to get caught up in the conversations and side quests remaining in this world.
If I haven’t done a good enough job to convince you now to go out and drop down $360 on a Switch console and Zelda, then I don’t know what more I can do. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild simply met all of my expectations as a returning Nintendo fan. It reinforced in me, the knowledge that while Nintendo isn’t always the most consumer friendly company, it can really pull out the stops when it wants to. I really hope this tradition continues and that Nintendo begins to take this as a stepping stone to further improvements in the future. I cannot say anymore, go out, get this console, get this game, and play it,
-GIVE IT A SHOT!