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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch) artwork

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch) review


"A masterful entry in an open world of similarly minded titles."


Nintendo revitalized the gaming industry at a time when its leaders didnít know what to do with what they had. The Atari 2600 "Video Computer System" was unfocused, but Nintendo realized what the hardware was for: Entertainment. It is in the name, after all. Thus is makes complete sense for them to revitalize a flagging platform, even when it was their invention. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild would not have been the world wide smash hit it was without the portable, convertible Switch.

Breath of the Wild became, over the course of its four years of development, a sacrificial altar for the established conventions of previous titles. Like the features of any product, an extensive list of add-ons and third party accessories can all but obliterate the purpose of the original idea. Imagine a watch with its own accessories and add-ons. No? That's exactly what the BotW team realized.

BotW is a pared down experience, with just two player directives: 1) Defeat Calamity Ganon. 2) Explore Hyrule. All of its quests are optional, even though most players wouldn't stand a chance against Ganon with just three hearts and a cloth suit of "armor". The point is the power was put in our hands, and beyond that, it was done in a way that encourages natural exploration and exploits the raw enjoyment of wanderlust. Or, as my Mom would say "noodling".

Aesthetically this game is both progressive in its breathtaking attention to detail and regressive in its lower than par fidelity and resolution. By setting you on your heels and essentially letting you wander as you please, the journey becomes your own. That does necessitate an introduction to its mechanics and primary means of transport, though. Call it a tutorial if you will, but in no way does it ever feel like one.

You're not going to get yourself killed by overwhelmingly powerful enemies at the outset, not at least until you earn the means of transportation alluded to. Once you have come to grips with your new equipment, you are turned loose to search out those curious making specks you saw on the horizon. That's when you begin to experience the vast depth of BotW's world. Much like one who thinks of a car as being freeing, taking it onto the highway educates you about the truth of the matter: Everything is so much farther away than you first believed, and your stamina wheel empties out pretty fast.

All is not lost, however, even if you are. Along the way, observant players will have been gathering the many collectibles that are interspersed throughout the environment. Nintendo has been teaching you to gather and manage the resources you'll need to survive and succeed in your goals. Climbing for apples, for instance, rewards you for risk taking, even when rain creates perhaps unnecessary frustration. Naturally, you'll improve your stamina with temporary food buffs, permanent stat bonuses and even upgradable gear.

Armor is your best friend, and there is a variety of types to aid you in traversing the vast world at hand. Weapons, however, shatter after surprisingly little use, but it introduced me to a dynamism of combat I have rarely experienced before. There is a natural flow and even layers of strategy to be found in BotW's combat that could be the pinnacle of the industry.

Remember, Nintendo has years of mistakes behind them, and this is a grand summary showcase of lessons learned. A willingness to be flexible and self examine their own paradigms has introduced the world to an open world adventure unique amongst its predecessors and peers. Sometimes the wise owl waits until all of the other prey have fed before swooping in. There is a good reason why BotW doesn't have any tutorial owls in it, after all.

Who needs tutorials when you learn by doing?

If music is a mainstay of Nintendo's franchises - which it is - then the selective implementation of dramatic themes sets it apart from its predecessors. You will at times wonder why there isn't a host of trumpets and tom drums accompanying your quest to restore peace to the Kingdom, but if you consider the nature of the game, you might begin to understand why silence is important. Music is not interjected into your train of thought, but rather allows you to determine the next course of action - even if it isn't the best for Hyrule's future.

You see, there aren't any artificial gates, and no walls you can't just climb over for the sake of your own investigation. You might run into a situation you aren't prepared for, but that's the key to success. If some game theories are to be believed, the Triforce of Courage enables Link to keep trying until he gets it right, rather like Dr. Strange. If you've only to learn from your failures, how can you not help but be victorious, even eventually?

Yes, I am a proponent of Game Theory's theory about Link's triangular wedge of godly power. Nintendo's mum on the subject, but to me it just makes a lot of sense. The remaining component of the puzzle is how Link's Adventure is desirable and entertaining. Which brings me to the pieces of that puzzle.

Visually speaking this game has been scaled to its limited hardware, but you'll cease to notice that when your focus is drawn to the breadth of interaction it provides. Combat is as open ended as the world itself, fleshed out by an infinite supply of bombs, a standard variety of arrows, shields, melee weapons such as swords, pikes, boomerangs, lances, hammers and axes. Variety is indeed the spice of entertainment, here.

Layered upon that is the map system, which gives you the ability to set travel markers - for destinations du jour - quest guides and a way of locating mission essential crafting resources. It seamlessly integrates with the gatherables and shiny distractions that will stock your inventory for the times you do decide to pick up a quest. Believe you me, Ganon is easier to fight when you're equipped with the right food, potions and gear. Some of those quests grant powerful magical abilities that make the game more enjoyable, if easier.

Nintendo has taken the hard knocks, and for once in its history, gotten up off the ground brow beaten and bruised with an idea in its head how not to get knocked out of the arena. If there's anything less predictable than people, Nintendo has elected to allow players the freedom to make what they want of Link's reality. Be it grand or sheer tomfoolery, the controls and mechanics are in your hands, and the result is the finest open world adventure this particular player has ever experienced.

5/5

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (March 29, 2018)

At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.

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Fiddlesticks posted March 30, 2018:

Interesting review for an interesting game I hope to review here within the next few weeks. Iíve been playing Breath on and off for a month and really admire all the details and intricacies the game has on offer. However, maybe since Iím not playing it with a sense of urgency, I almost feel like the whole package is too ambitious at the expense of its own storyline since hereís no penalty for deviating from the main quest by spending an inordinate amount of time ďgoofing off.Ē It seems like Calamity Gannon came out of the depths just to ominously swirl around Hyrule Castle but not cause all that much new age Calamity since most everyone else in the game seem to be going about their business as usual. Too bad a lot of open world games seem to have this pitfall where the main quest often becomes just another side quest. Still, Iím enjoying it quite a bit because itís, you know, Zelda.
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honestgamer posted March 30, 2018:

To BotW's credit, at least it explains why Ganon isn't attacking just yet, as Link goes about his business building up the strength to stand a chance in a showdown. If you haven't already, Fiddlesticks, you should make sure to seek the places throughout Hyrule that unlock more of Link's memories with Zelda and address the matter. But anyway, Zelda games have never been heavy on plot, which is precisely why they're so much better than a lot of other games. They give enough details to provide a purpose and let you fill in the spaces between by having a fantastic time in the game world. Too much mandatory plot would be a crippling liability.
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Fiddlesticks posted March 30, 2018:

Iíve stumbled upon one story driven memory. Just wish the bad guys did something bad for once rather than stand prone at their posts.
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hastypixels posted March 30, 2018:

It's quite natural for a conquering force to become complacent after the work has been done, so to speak, and its also made clear that Ganon is preoccupied, and thus not paying his kingdom any mind. It's easy to over analyze a story and find pitfalls... for instance, why didn't Ganon ensure that Link was found and his body destroyed?

There are answers for that question in the game - or potential answers, but the truth of it is there wouldn't be a game if the villain was able to follow through to that extent. I'd suggest getting into the game as the impulse hits you. Don't push yourself to experience it, that's actually the opposite of what the goal is.

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