The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not a perfect game. To be fair, what game truly is? When the question is asked people often respond with games such as Tetris or Pac-Man. Is this due to the simplicity and ease of access the games have to offer? Or is it their continued status as being classic video games staying fresh in the minds of others? Even Pac-Man technically glitches out when the player reaches the 256th level, so does this then strike it from being “perfect?” Just six years after Pac-Man‘s release, the original The Legend of Zelda was released for the Famicom. A year afterwards, the game was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System with an internal battery used for saving data; the first home console game to do so at the time. The game was beloved by fans and critics alike and proved to be a high-selling title for Nintendo as well. One of the most amazing things about The Legend of Zelda is the amount of freedom provided to the player. No one is forced to watch an overly long cutscene explaining the game’s plot or undergo an infantile tutorial explaining the game’s controls when starting The Legend of Zelda. Admittedly this did change with future titles in the franchise most notably The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Thankfully, this is not the case with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Although players are first greeted with a cutscene when beginning their journey it is by no means a long one nor is it jam-packed with excessive exposition. After watching Link wake up the player is left in a room with some plain clothes (equipment) and a Sheikah Slate. Modeled after the Wii U GamePad, the latter has a multitude of functions as the tablet acts as a map, camera, compendium, and much more. After acquiring this key item Link is able to leave the room and is then presented with a small hill. Rather than giving the player a detailed explanation as to how to climb this hill, the game says nothing and instead the player is able to continue pushing the analog stick forward and witness Link begin climbing. As Link climbs though, a small green wheel appears and begins to lose its color as the player continues to move towards the top of said cliff. This is an introduction to the game’s stamina system as well as Link’s ability to climb over obstacles, both of which are done far better than in previous titles. Stamina is used for a variety of activities including combat, climbing, sprinting, and gliding. Stamina can be upgraded (this point will be touched upon slightly later in the review), but the introductory amount of stamina is by no means sparse. After climbing this hill Link leaves the Shrine of Resurrection and the game’s area is presented to the player with brief in-game cutscene where the camera pans across the land with a bit of music playing in the background.
Speaking of which, music seems to be a point of criticism when it comes to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as some players believe it to be too sparse. Given that the game was designed to be much more like an open-world game than a standard entry in the franchise there is much more open space that can be explored. This is contrast to the more standard formula where Link travels from town to town or dungeon to dungeon and different towns and dungeons have different songs that play. Ultimately this is a matter of preference as it can easily be argued either way whether or not more music should be playing during explorative gameplay. Other activities, such as combat, do have their own themes and the music that is in the game is delightful and only adds to the experience as a whole.
Back on track, once the player is presented with the beauties of Hyrule they are then free to take on the final boss (unsurprisingly, Ganon) and complete the game. Not really, although the game does give the player a great sense of freedom the end of the game isn’t actually available that quickly. Although, the game can be completed in under forty minutes as demonstrated by speed-runners less than a year after the game’s initial release. Before being given the ability to beat the game the player must first receive the sailcloth from the Old Man who is conveniently sitting near the area where Link walks out. Through this task the player is then introduced to the game’s Rune system, Spirit Orbs, and Ancient Shrines of which there are 120 in the base game (note that this review was conducted sans DLC).
When the player has collected four Spirit Orbs they can pray at specific altars which can be found in many central locations. These four can then be exchanged for either another Heart Container or a bit more stamina. With only thirty upgrades available this leaves the player to choose whether to max out their stamina of the amount of hearts they have. In total Link can have as many as thirty hearts or three full stamina wheels, both of which make the task of finding and completing Ancient Shrines worth it. The shrines themselves are often not too difficult aside from a handful of “Major Test[s] of Strength.” Talking with NPCs will also aid Link on his quest in locating all 120 as some will give tips and hints as to where unfound Shrines reside. These Shrines also act as fast travel locations when selected on Link’s Sheikah Slate giving them an even greater purpose. Aside from Shrines, Link is also able to fast travel to towers when they have been unlocked by scaling them. In turn these towers then reveal large areas of the map on the Sheikah Slate which is also very useful. While there is often a Shrine located near points of interests like towns Link is unable to directly fast travel into the town itself which is understandable plot-wise but still a bit of a burden for the lazier player. If Link finds himself in a large open area devoid of fast travel locations he can also get from point A to B by sneaking up on and mounting a wild horse. Once on top of the horse Link must soothe it or he will be kicked off and take a small bit of damage as a result. Different horses have different stats when it comes to speed and acceleration and almost every horse can be conveniently registered and deposited into a Horse Stable for future usage. Horses can die. Not only in real life, but in-game too. So while it may seem very cinematic to ride a majestic horse into the battlefield be aware that they can get obliterated leaving Link back on two feet with two eyes full of tears. Not to mention that due to the Switch’s limited power riding a horse into a crowded area can find itself to be a trade-off between looking cool and a smooth frame rate. This is not the only time in which the frame rate can dip though as other areas such as Korok Forest can prove demanding thanks to all the beautiful scenery just ruining everything.
In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild there are four rune abilities accessible to the player: Magnesis, Stasis, Cryonis, and Remote Bombs. These rune abilities (as well as Spirit Orbs) are given to the player after completing four (specific) Ancient Shrines that are located near the Shrine of Resurrection. These rune abilities are given to Link when he in search of Spirit Orbs in order to receive the sailcloth from the Old Man as many of the game’s locations are inaccessible without it. Once the necessary amount of Spirit Orbs are acquired the Old Man instructs Link to meet him on top of the Temple of Time where a cutscene plays that reveals something truly shocking: voice-acting! Well, that and the fact that the Old Man is the ghost of the last King of Hyrule: King Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule. The Old Man reveals his true identity in this cutscene and overall the voice acting in the game is…fine. There are not any stand-out or stellar voice acting performances to be found in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and more often that not it can feel like the voice coming out of the character does not necessarily match their body or personality. This is definitely the case when it comes to Princess Zelda who is featured in many cutscenes when Link re-discovers old memories by exploring Hyrule. Although the voice actress for Princess Zelda, Patricia Summersett, does a good job with performing her lines there is still a feeling that her voice should not be coming out of Zelda’s mouth. Hopefully this is an issue that can be remedied in future games if they are to included fully voice-acted cutscenes although The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does not have very many of them so they are not a huge bother.
In total there are five “dungeons” in the game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and technically four of them are optional. Rather than giving the player actual dungeons the game includes four Divine Beasts, which are giant mechanical animals that were created by the Sheikah over ten thousand years ago. A hundred years ago, before Link’s quick nap, these Divine Beasts were unearthed by the Royal Family of Hyrule to combat a rising Ganon. Each Divine Beasts was fitted with a pilot, each from a different race of people (Zora, Rito, Goron, and Gerudo) in order to preserve Hyrule and keep its people safe. Unfortunately, Ganon then sent out four Blights (physical manifestations of himself) and each Blight not only killed the pilot but also took over the Divine Beast itself. Link is then tasked by each Beast’s respective people to traverse the animal’s innards and destroy the Blight inside in order to reclaim the Beast’s power. While they are not the same kind of dungeons one would come to expect from the “The Legend of Zelda” franchise the Divine Beasts do still offer satisfying puzzles and a level of challenge one would come to expect from previous entries. In order to reclaim a Divine Beast Link must defeat the Blight inside and once the Beast has been freed the original pilot’s ghost will thank Link and take away 1/8th of Calamity Ganon’s health during the final encounter. Freed Beasts can also be used as Fast Travel locations although they can not be re-entered once the Blight inside is defeated. This means that if all four Divine Beasts are freed Calamity Ganon will only have half of his health in the fight. However, any Blights that have not been defeated by the time Link decides to fight Ganon will appear in Hyrule Castle and must be defeated before reaching Calamity Ganon. Unsurprisingly, Hyrule Castle is the fifth “dungeon” and it has been overrun with Ganon’s forces and left in ruins as a result. Depending on the player’s play-style (which can largely be dictated by how well-equipped Link is) Hyrule Castle can be overtaken by brute force or through covert espionage. Enemies can be bruised and battered by Link’s bows and bone-breaking broadswords but Link can also decide to climb walls and hide in the shadows in order to save his strength for his true prey.
When it comes to weaponry The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is chock-full of wieldable weapons that Link is able to use against his foes. Axes, broadswords, boomerangs and more are at Link’s disposal and the player will want to collect as many as they can carry because weapon durability makes its entrance in this title and it is not forgiving. It is extremely possible that Link will have to cycle through more than one weapon in a single fight dependent on a lot of different factors: the amount of enemies, the amount of health the enemies contain, the skill of the player, and the overall power of the weapon. This can then potentially create an anti-fighting mentality in an effort to conserve powerful/useful weapons which can in turn be frustrating. On one hand, defeating groups of enemies often means a treasure chest containing an item is unlocked. On the other hand, this treasure chest may not be worth the hassle and Link may face a net loss when comparing the power of the weapons gained to the power of the weapons lost. Shields and bows can also be purchased, found, or obtained from enemies and they also break through usage. Weapons, shields, and bows have limited item slots and Korok Seeds must be given to a giant Korok named Hetsu in exchange for more. Even then, a useful discussion can then arise from contemplating whether or not item destructability to needed at all or if items should just be more durable in general. While this new system does mean that the player will not grow too attached to using the exact same load-out throughout their quest, it can also be a source of frustration when players actively avoid combat in order to preserve their arsenal.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild also includes a robust armor system where Link’s head, body, and legs are open space to be covered up in the name of safety. These pieces of armor are essential as enemies do not pull punches from the very get-go and the game does not hold the player’s hand. Not only do pieces of armor raise Link’s overall defense, they can also be used to combat different environmental obstacles such as the Gerudo Desert’s high heat or freezing cold temperatures found in high elevation mountain ranges. Extreme temperature levels lead to a gradual decrease in Link’s health and while armor can be used to alleviate the symptoms Link can also cook (yes, cook!) fanciful recipes as a temporary substitute. Early on in the game Link can visit an Ancient Shrine that is located in an extremely cold area but with his measly three hearts and zero rupees it would be impossible for him to survive the trek. Rather than beating the player over the head with informatio, a couple pepper plants can be found subtly located near the entrance of said tundra. While these peppers can be consumed raw it is much more useful to gather them together and throw them in a nearby Cooking Pot (often found near groups of enemies or towns) in order to enhance their true abilities and heart-recovering capabilities. But, when Link finds himself in a more financially prosperous position these abilities become less important as permanent armor can be purchased. Armor can also be upgraded by Great Fairies who are scattered around the vast wilderness in exchange for rupees and raw materials found either by picking through flower patches or through murdering Moblins and quite literally salvaging their organs.
As stated before, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is not a perfect game. But it is a damn good one, not only in the context of the franchise it stems from or the consoles it is available on but when it comes to video games as a collective. It is a game that can be played for hundreds of hours only to still have a secret or two lie in waiting for a vigilant player and it will surely be remembered and examined for years to come due to its innovation and freedom. Although there have been some ups and down when it comes the games I have reviewed in the past, it is nice that I can go out on a high note by awarding The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild an “A.” A score it definitely deserves.
That’s a wrap! My employment at Lusipurr.com/The Day Tonight has come to an end! After over 100 editorials and thousands of jokes at my expense (in spite of my small wallet) it is time to say good-bye. How do you feel about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Does the level of entertainment provided by the game offer nearly as much as I have over my two years of
indentured servitude working? Whatever the case may be, make sure to leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Title: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 3 March, 2017