The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been in the making for 5+ years (though it was announced about 4 years ago).
Zelda fans like myself had been anticipating the new game. The struggle was real when Nintendo delated its launch multiple times. Nintendo even managed to get a lot of us to fork out $300 just to play it on the Switch.
Nintendo went into this game with a vision: to change how people play and think about The Legend of Zelda. Many gamers found the 3D Zelda games to be incredibly linear in contrast to the original NES classic. Some had issues with the lack of strategy needed to battle – feeling like the “L targeting” made the games simply too easy.
While that may be arguably true, and that Nintendo has essentially stuck with the same gameplay formula since Ocarina of Time, the formula works. Nintendo seems to have had an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mentality since OoT. And who can blame them?
Nintendo has responded with several design changes based on customer feedback. Many felt Windwaker was to childish and immature, so Nintendo responded with Twilight Princess. Users then felt that game was just dark for the sake of being dark, and that the tone didn’t do anything for the story. So, out comes Skyward Sword, featuring bright graphics, a mature link, and a captivating story.
Gamers still had complaints – the motion controls suck, the battle system is exactly the same every time, etc., etc.
So, in response, Nintendo released Breath of the Wild.
How BOTW compares to other Zelda games
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild certainly fulfills Nintendo’s vision of being different. Nintendo has kept a lot of what’s worked over the years, while still bringing a wide range of elements that make the game truly unique among others in the franchise.
The visual style
Breath of the Wild keeps the mature yet cell-shaded visual style you’d find in Skyward Sword. The colors are as vibrant as ever, with various hues and shades mindfully designed to set emotional tones and establish environment.
However, thanks to the technical capabilities of the Nintendo Switch and the Wii U, we get beautiful grass waving in the wind, delightful sun and lens flares, and various other delightful details.
The gameplay style
Breath of the Wild takes a step away from its formulaic, pattern-based battle system, and instead adds very challenging, classic RPG style fighting.
Enemies respond to your presents with random attacks, and it’s up to you to respond with the right move – be it a counter, a block, a dodge, or simply running away.
L-targeting still exists, but not in the same way it used to. Instead of locking on to a target and hitting them perfectly with minimal effort, you merely “focus” on them. Any movement you make beyond that will impact the accuracy and placement of your hits.
Also, Nintendo ditched the strict linear style, and created an open world in which you can do as you please. Yes, it’s true, you could go straight to the end of the game if you want. You’ll probably die, but you could certainly try!
It would be good to note you don’t walk around with one sword or one weapon, nor do you get to use any weapon permanently in the game. They all break, which means you’ll need to spare your attacks, play defensively, and stock up on weapons often. The same is true for your shields, bows, and arrows. Everything is temporary in this game, so you must strategize and scavenge to stay alive.
The music and sound
Breath of the Wild’s score isn’t tremendously different from other Zelda games despite what you may have heard. It is true you won’t hear epic scores when you’re walking across Hyrule Field or traveling across the map as you would in Ocarina of Time or Windwaker.
Instead, as you explore, minor hints of piano keys trickle throughout the score where silence and space take the lead, setting a calm tone and emphasizing a sense of discovery.
If you end up in Kakariko Village or Goron City, you get the typical upbeat town scores, letting you know you’re in a safe haven.
Boss battles and mini boss battles are backed by the epic score you’d expect from a Zelda title, providing ample tension and anticipation as you strategically battle each foe.
Also, another unique thing about the game is the fact that people actually talk…yes, they talk…
Characters in major cutscenes actually speak real words as they explain things to you, which is totally shocking and almost disorienting at first. However, the choice to bring real dialog to the table, I feel, adds another emotionally layer to the game, allowing gamers to better connect to the characters on screen.
First off, this game is huge. The bulk of your gameplay will be spent traveling across a gigantic map, discovering new locations & treasures while battling enemies and probably getting lost.
Lucky for you, each region of the map has a Far-Cry-esque tower, that will open the map up to that region, making it easier to navigate, as well as allow you to fast travel to that point.
Each region contains several shrines – which are essentially mini dungeons and puzzles you can complete to enable fast traveling to that shrine’s area, as well as gain spirit orbs. Spirit orbs allow you to increase the amount of hearts/health or stamina you have.
WARNING: this doesn’t spoil anything about the story, but feel free to jump ahead to the next section if you don’t want to know what the dungeons actually are…
Dungeons in Breath of the Wild are pretty different in contrast to other Zelda games, partly because they’re not technically “Dungeons”. Instead, they’re giant, mechanical beasts you must work your way up to and occasionally battle. Once you’ve completed that task, you then board the beast and solve a series of puzzles to take control of it in order to use as a tool to help you defeat Ganon.
Yes, there is a boss battle at the end of each of these, and yes, it’s challenging – FAR more challenging than any 3D Zelda game I’ve played thus far.
Okay, okay…is Breath of the Wild any good?
I’m not that far into the game right now…I’ve defeated two bosses and have at least two more to go.
But, even having not finished the game, and joycon issues aside I can honestly say that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best Zelda game I have played in years.
It plays well, looks great, captures a true sense of adventure, has a captivating story, and a great yet often subtle soundtrack.
The game presents unique challenges – REAL challenges – that are fair and rewarding, leaving the player feeling relieved and accomplished by the end of each battle.
Before signing off, I want to recommend the strategy guide. I don’t recommending using it 100% of the time, but there will be things you’ll miss – from hidden fairy fountains, to various treasures. The guide will fill you in on where to find useful goodies to make your gaming experience that much more enjoyable.
Also, bear in mind the limitations and issues caused by the Nintendo Switch; the game plays great on the Switch for the most part, but there are some occasional dropped frames when connected to the TV (the console boosts the resolution up when docked, thus requiring more resources to perform smoothly), as well as issues with interference in the left joy-con.
If you own a Wii-U and have no interest in getting the Switch, pick the game up on the Wii U. If you don’t own a Wii-U, or are thinking of buying a Switch – the Switch itself is a great console, especially when hand held.