Friday, January 5, 2018

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) - Nintendo Switch

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the latest release in the Legend of Zelda series, which was simultaneously the final Wii U game from Nintendo and one of the launch titles on the Nintendo Switch, and hit store shelves on March 3rd, 2017 worldwide. The game was produced by mainline Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma and developed by Nintendo EPD.

Breath of the Wild is a break from the usual Zelda formula and features a massive open-world environment and a bevy of new equipment for Link to procure and use throughout his adventure. Taking a page from the original NES game, Link is simply dropped into the world and given very little direction. The player can tackle the game in any fashion they want, trying to figure out the correct path to victory as they go.

The game was first announced to be in development as far back as 2013 and was meant to be the mainline Zelda title released on the Wii U. It had a slotted release date of 2015. This was initially bumped out to 2016, but was ultimately pushed out again to coincide with the launch of the Nintendo Switch to give the new console a heavy-hitter on release.

This decision, of course, ruffled a lot of feathers in the gaming community. There were many people who claimed they purchased a Wii U simply to get the next Legend of Zelda title that had been promised and felt burned that it would release two years later and on Nintendo's next system.

Any issues with the release of Breath of the Wild seemed to quiet instantly on March 3rd. The game has been universally touted as a wild success (pun intended), selling approximately 5 million copies as of September of this year across both platforms and taking home full marks from many of the biggest reviewing publications. As of writing this, the game has taken Game of the Year at the 2017 Game Awards.

Now with that out of the way, it's time for me to gush about how much I loved Breath of the Wild.

For years the debate of whether Zelda was an RPG or an action adventure title has raged across message boards on the Internet. Whichever side of the fence you're on in that fight, I find these games to be adventure titles and no game has allowed me to experience true adventure like Breath of the Wild.

The open world is both massive and breath-taking (again with the puns). I can remember in the opening moments of the game I actually felt daunted by the sheer breadth of it. The game opens in an area called the Great Plateau and - to put things into context - this area alone is larger than the entirety of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time! Then when I finally broke free of the Great Plateau and had the fullness of Hyrule to my disposal to explore, I felt completely overawed.

The beauty of Hyrule

The only thing I can suggest is that you just shed the old mentality of "do x, get y, beat bad guy, move to next area". This game has been made completely non-linear. You're given a loose idea of where to go next, but there's no reason you should follow that. Let the open road take you. See that strange object in the distance? Go there! What's up there on top of that mountain? Climb and find out! Just let the land lead you and you'll get so much more out of the experience than just trying to get to the end.

By the time I decided to finally finish Breath of the Wild I had clocked 115+ hours. For me, that is absolute madness. I haven't cracked 80 hours in a game in years, let alone over 100. I would just turn this game on and travel around from place to place for hours aimlessly. You're often rewarded for doing this, either by new items or Shrines, which act as the games puzzles. There are 120 Shrines hidden all over Hyrule and the only way you're going to find them all is to check every nook and cranny the map has to offer. That's what took me so long to finish the game, honestly. I had to have them all! Finally, I found all 120 and that's when I decided it was time to face the final boss.

My 120th shrine

If you find I'm being vague and explaining very little about how the game plays, you're right. I'm being intentionally nebulous, because I don't want to ruin anything for someone that may not have played the title.

In fact, I think I'm going to leave it there. This is my third full draft of this article. I've tried explaining every facet of the gameplay. I've tried gushing about my personal experiences. I've tried being over-analytical and pointed.

The hero of  Hyrule

The fact is that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game changer. Or at least it was for me. I haven't done so yet, but I think I need to re-order my Top 10 favourite games of all time, that's how much this game meant to me. I can say this, without a doubt: Breath of the Wild is my favourite Legend of Zelda title of all time, ousting Ocarina of Time. And I've played a lot of them (except A Link to the Past - maybe we'll talk about that some other time).

Looks like it's time to face the final boss

So for me, this is a must-play. Whether you snag it on the Wii U or pick up a shiny new Nintendo Switch, I think you owe it to yourself to try this game. There's a lot of content here, so book out your calendar. And remember, let the adventure take you and enjoy.


P.S. I still have not played any of the DLC, but I plan to pick it up later this year, once I've played something else for a bit. I'll update on that when the time comes!