The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is the newest entry in Nintendo’s iconic franchise. For those who don’t know, this is an open world action-adventure game that has been in development for quite some time and makes many changes to the franchise-defining elements while simultaneously returning to its roots. Many of these changes were a long time coming and many came out of nowhere but all of them are welcomed additions.
Release date: March 3rd, 2017
Approximate Size: 13.4GB
Genre: Open World Action Adventure
Developed by Nintendo EPD
Published by Nintendo
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch; also available on Nintendo Wii U.
Breath of the Wild is a different Zelda game that prior entries but at the same time it is a return to form. The original released back in 1986 and its story was explained briefly in an opening prologue at the start of the game and in the instruction manual provided with the game. After that, the game sends you out to explore this new world and to proceed forward however you want with very little guidance. 2017’s entry of the series does the same, it thrusts you into this new world with very little story and guidance unless you want it. This was a direct answer, the freedom, to the negative reception Skyward Sword received with the way it heavy-handedly leads the player and not allowed them the freedom other entries allowed. Nintendo, at the time, unfortunately, underestimated their fan base but they learned their lesson.
The story begins with Link waking up after a one-thousand-year slumber to find the Kingdom of Hyrule in ruins. Yet despite the destruction of a once great world, there is a certain sense of peace that has overcome the land. A calm before the storm. The calm after the storm’s destruction. From the moment you wake up, you proceed however you want and it’s very possible to not learn anything else in the story because of how captivating the world is. However, for the sake of this review, I will give you a very brief, spoiler-free, synopsis of the story.
The goal of Breath Of The Wild is for Link to make his way to Ganon and defeat him to bring true peace back to the Kingdom of Hyrule and to rescue Princess Zelda. Pretty straight forward. What this game does that no other entry has yet is allowing you at any time to go and face off against Ganon. You read that right. Within the first five minutes of starting the game, you can go directly to the final boss and complete the game. This is an example of player freedom not offered by Nintendo before and a nice little challenge for speed runners. Should you choose to actually experience the story, there is a beautiful one present.
Over the years, we’ve all come to the general understanding that there is somewhat of a romantic vibe between Zelda and Link. We base this off the old clichéd concept of the damsel in distress. Skyward Sword tried to make it feel more organic by making them childhood friends and classmates.
This release gives a different interpretation of their relationship. Zelda is not a damsel in distress and is, in many ways, the actual central character in this game. She isn’t weak, she is strong and independent. She is smart and driven. This is the best representation of the princess we’ve seen and a sign of Nintendo moving forward with the times. Watching Zelda as she goes out to be everything she is expected to be and to also see her struggle with who she wants to be is a beautiful story in its own right. When she feels frustrated, you can understand why, and when she breaks down, you feel for her. Sometimes destiny isn’t always what we want it to be and we struggle with accepting who we are and what we’re meant to do and be. Zelda, as a character, encompasses this completely and I applaud the writers for doing something different and new with an iconic character in one of the greatest franchises ever.
Link has also gotten a drastic change. Unlike prior entries where Link really has no connection to Zelda and they meet through a series of unfortunate events, Link knows Zelda in this game. Link is a knight assigned to be her royal protector and he witnesses first-hand everything the princess goes through on her journey. In many ways, he is her support structure and her confidant. The story truly is wonderful but you have to go out of your way to experience it, you have to find it.
For once the story does have some depth to it and it isn’t solely focused on saving Zelda and defeating Ganon. It’s more than that. This is a tale about a young woman who is torn between two desires and the main character who struggles to recall what it is he is fighting for. If I had to find some fault with the story, and I mean I would truly have to really search for something, it would be that it lacks the impending doom that, say, Majora’s Mask had or the epic cut-scenes found in Skyward Sword.
Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is a massive game with a lot to do. No longer are you given a sword, sent to various dungeons where you retrieve items and get new weapons, and no longer is the Master Sword your main weapon. Actually, it’s very possible to complete the game and never find the illustrious sword. Instead, you know where the four main dungeons, and Ganon’s location, are and you are given the option to tackle it however you see fit. Or, not at all. Once you awake and enter the world, it is up to you on how your journey will unfold and at a level of freedom not really available in other games, let alone Zelda.
Let’s start with the Sheikah Slate. With this Wii U inspired tablet, you can: use amiibo, take photos (yes, selfies included), crystalize water into ice, momentarily freeze items in time, draw metallic items towards or away from you, and form two types of bombs. This is the futuristic aspect of this game and with the story and how the world is, this so-called ancient technology is not out-of-place. Nintendo has managed to craft a world that makes sense and just ever so slightly test the suspension of reality we have in these folklore, fable, legends. The versatility of this tablet allows you to tackle puzzles and the world itself in different ways. This is true player freedom because there is no wrong way to move forward or to solve an object, the only thing that can hinder you is your imagination. It’s a welcomed addition to the game and series, and it isn’t a gimmick as one might have feared when it was first unveiled.
Weapons in this game are huge, varied, and healthy when it comes to how many are available. In prior entries, there were about three shields and two swords (depending on the game) and that was pretty much it in terms of weapons, with some items found in dungeons like bows and boomerangs but nothing as substantial or able to take the place of your blade and shield. In Breath Of The Wild, you have swords, spears, axes, elemental weapons, bows with different abilities, various shields, and so much more that I couldn’t accurately list them all. Some weapons are available in high volume, like the Travelers sword and Knight’s shield, and some are rare and made to keep as a decoration like the Forest Dweller’s Bow and Spear. You can carry more than one type of weapon and switch between them on the fly depending on the situation. The responsiveness and fluidity of it all are truly remarkable and something that needs to be a mainstay in the series going forward. It’s up to you if you want to go to an enemy encampment axe drawn running like a madman or you can wait till nightfall and sneak kill them as they sleep in a way that would make Naked Snake proud. Combat and weaponry are perfection in this game and is sure to inspire others.
Speaking of combat, there is a parry system and a dodge mechanic. Yes, parry and dodge mechanic in a Zelda game. Both of them are implemented wonderfully. As you engage with an enemy you can time as they swing a swing of your own with your shield that will send them stumbling slightly back and left open to an attack. The parry system feels like it belongs and it will make going back to prior entries a little less satisfying because of how natural, organic, it’s all implemented. Rarely do I use a parry mechanic in a game, with exception to the wonderful Souls series, but not using it in this game is a shame and I found myself using it more than I would have ever imagined. The dodge mechanic is implemented by when you’re in a fight, as an enemy goes for an attack, you jump to the side when timed accurately. This slows down time and allows you to unleash an onslaught of attacks on your opponent. It’s wonderful and can easily save you from sudden death and provide you with an extra set of attacks to bring you victory.
In this game, you also collect resources for either currency or as materials to upgrade equipment. Gone is the iconic tonic you wear through the majority of the game and in its place is different combinations of clothing that you can mix and match as you please, some even provide some character effects. As you collect items you can apply them to your clothing to increase their durability and lower the damage you take. Running low on hearts? Not a problem, go to the forest and hunt a goat and cook yourself a meal. Want more health back? Add some herbs and rice for a full gourmet meal that’ll increase your health, oh and if you add certain items you can temporarily increase your stamina, add some defense boost, or grant you the ability to withstand extreme temperatures for a certain amount of time. Need to travel a great distance? You can ride a horse, a deer, or even a bear. That’s right, you can ride a bear.
If I’m going to be completely honest with this review, no review can do this game justice. There is a ton of content available and players are discovering new and exciting items, locations, and scenarios every day. The number of gameplay options in this game should be intimidating with its vast variety but the way everything is subtly available makes it absolutely player friendly. Zelda has once again taken the crown for one of the best games ever made and if you only had one game for the rest of your life, this isn’t a bad option. You will always have something to do, whether that’s shield surfing down a snowy icy peak or decorating your house, there is always fun to be had. For this game to launch a console and show how fabulous a well-crafted game can be and makes owning a Switch a must. It’s even crazier that you can play this massive game wherever you are and it always runs, looks, and plays amazingly. Do yourself a favor and go purchase Breath Of The Wild.
Before we get into how gorgeous this game is and trust me it is spectacularly looking, let’s address the negative. One glaring blemish on this phenomenal game is the frame rate. On day one this game suffered some rather unpleasant frame rate issues, some so bad that the game stopped and was unplayable. It was weird and something a Nintendo game, from my knowledge, never suffered from. I mean that’s what the whole Nintendo seal of quality stood for, right? Well, unfortunately, the game had a few mishaps with the frame rate. Nintendo, determined to make it right and prove that quality did mean something to them, vowed to address this issue. Several patches have been released since March and the game has nearly zero framerate issues. I say nearly because even though I haven’t had any issues since the last major patch address this, its possible someone out there is still having issues. I also do not know the state of the Wii U version. All I can say is that right now, for me, I have no issues with the framerate anymore, not even in a certain area in the woods that was the biggest issue for most, myself included.
The game does have some pop up as you traverse through the world. It’s nothing as bad or horrible as I encountered in Ghost Recon Wildlands, but it is there and if I’m going to be fair and unbiased, I have to acknowledge it. You will not, at least I didn’t, notice it when using the Switch’s screen but you will when you play on television. It’s more noticeable when playing at 1080p as opposed to the 720p on the Switch’s screen but it isn’t anything that will ruin the experience. The draw distance gets worse as the resolution increases. My recommendation, do not play it on a 65” 4K T.V. like I did because it becomes very apparent and it’ll ruin the experience for you (still not as bad as Wildlands). However on a standard television at 1080p and you’ll be fine and it is nearly perfect but my ideal way to play Switch games is laying on bed in handheld mode and it’s, to me, perfectly perfect.
One thing Nintendo has been great about is coming up with beautiful art styles that always look amazing no matter how long they age and this is no exception. Breath Of The Wild is gorgeous in every area and in every aspect. You can see every blade of grass as you run in a forest, trees have leaves and fruits growing on them, the water has a realistic look where you can see fish and frogs swimming through it depending on where you are at. They took their time with this game and they made sure everything was crafted with the highest quality in mind. Character models, NPC’s, and animals all look amazing. To be honest with you I could go on for pages about how great the game looks. It’s funny that the smallest home console on the market is able to produce one of the most beautiful games available.
The game has a vast world with different scenarios, everything from lush forests to snowy peaks to scorching hot deserts and everything in between. No two places will look the same and every locale has something to differentiate itself from the other. It would have been easy to have two places look the same or have similar structure and items but that is not apparent in this game. To craft a beautiful world with so much life, vegetation, originality, and detail is a testament to how much went into this amazing game. You will lose yourself in this world. There are also great weather effects in this game and the passing of time is done most realistically. The shadows all move as the sun follows its travel path and depending on where you are and where the sun is in its rotation, everything changes. You might have an overcast or it might be a bright day, it may be extremely hot outside and you need to change some clothing or clouds might cover the sun and provide a nice breeze. One of the best effects in the game and graphical marvel is when it begins to rain. The transition is breath-taking as it starts with a light drizzle and slowly gains strength and speed before evolving into a massive thunder-storm. Lightning streaks across the sky as the thunder marks its arrival with tremendous force. This is a beautiful world that has that beauty matched with its difficulty because if you aren’t prepared, the environment and weather can destroy you. Many open world games fail in aspects like this, almost like they are an afterthought, but in Breath Of The Wild, it is perfect and amazing.
This is the first game in the series to have a physics system and it adds to the realism. In prior games when you were killed, Link would go into a defeated pose and the game over screen would show. Enemies that were defeated would do a death animation and then explode into nothingness. In this game, thanks to the physics, Link will react to the impact of being hit and if he’s hit hard enough he will fly and collide with the world. I know physics is nothing new for other games but it is new to Zelda and it makes a world of difference for the better. Watching Link get hit, fly into the air, smash into the ground, roll down a hill, fall off a cliff, and die by falling into the rocks in the ocean was amazing to witness. Another cool thing is to grab an axe, spin it into an enemy, and send them flying. All in all, the physics system is great and needs to be a mainstay in the franchise going forward.
The U.I. in the game is designed to organize everything and streamline everything for the player because there is a lot of things to do in this game and it’s nice they designed a great looking set of menus. Every area in this game is beautiful, it truly is, and I’m glad I own it. I’m always in awe whenever I’m playing it at some point because you never really get over how great it looks, how great it plays, and the fact that you can take this game where ever want. That’s the beauty of the Switch version. This game looks just as beautiful in handheld mode as it does on a 4K television (even though the game does not have a resolution of 4K, I believe it has a max resolution of 900p). There is no input lag, no difference, from playing in any of the Switch’s versatile playing styles. All in all, if you are one of those people who love graphics, you will love the way this game looks. For those who play games for fun, well, you’ll have a blast in a beautiful world. Anyone who owns a Switch or a Wii U needs to own this game.
I want to start with voice acting because it is a first in the series and it could have gone very, very, wrong. Nintendo manages to nail it and I know we were all scared when it was announced that the game would have voice acting. Over the years, you sort of come up in your head how you expect these characters to sound and a bad cast, poorly delivered dialogue, and/or horribly written lines could destroy that mental image we had as well as how we view this game. Having played the game in English, going through a second playthrough in Japanese, and having heard praises with the Germany cast I can assure you that the voice acting is superb. Perfect. No line seemed out-of-place nor any of the character voices miss matching the character speaking. Zelda in the English version sounds like the royalty she is with how she speaks and the words that were chosen. In the Japanese version, when she wails in traumatic sorrow, it pulls at your heart-strings and shatters your heart. I was the most skeptical when it came to voice acting because I like to believe that if something isn’t broken, you shouldn’t try to fix it. I am happy to say that I worried for no reason and if this is a sign of how the franchise will be moving forward, I am happy to go along with it. As for Link, he is once again a silent protagonist.
The decision to keep Link silent was the right one because he doesn’t need a voice because everything he should be saying, the player is thinking. They learned that lesson with Jonathan Plotts back in 1989. The truth is that you could probably get the best voice actor in the world to voice Link and it could be great but so much more is given by having him silent allowing his expressions to do the talking. With all that being said, should they decide to one-day voice him, I will be fine with it because this game shows that no matter what Nintendo will always go for the highest quality with their love and care for their intellectual properties.
For the most part, the game relies less on epic orchestras that have defined the series and more on ambient sounds. As you traverse through the world you hear the wind around you, the leaves brush on tries, and the sounds of animals moving about the world. What Nintendo has achieved is making the world sound and feel like a real place and it’s amazing. One moment you’re walking around heading to your next area of choice and out of nowhere you hear a nearby pig grunting as it goes on with its day. It’s remarkable because it’s real. Music only truly makes itself known, besides the few notes mixed with the ambient sound, when there’s an enemy nearby or you’re engaged in combat. Music also presents itself when you’re in a town. The more substantial the current moment, the more epic the music. This is how open world games should be and it’s another example of Nintendo having listened to their fans. The fan base wanted a more organic, real, world and that’s exactly what they are given.
Enemies make grunts and blow horns to communicate with one another. It is a nice realistic touch to see them communicate and strategically plan on how to deal with you. Weapons make a great impact sound as they collide with different items, producing different sounds, and bows in particular sound amazing to me. It’s nice that such a small part of the game, which can also be the biggest depending on play style, was not overlooked. Simple things like a flame turning into a gushing fire and jumping into a large body of water all sound organically produced and less as someone went with a recording device to capture the sound. Link also makes realistic sounds in whatever it is he is doing. Falling off a cliff, getting hit by an enemy, it all makes the sound you expect it to make. Even when you die there is some impact when your lifeless corpse hits the artificial dirt in this world. It’s great and I may have allowed it to happen more than I care to admit. I have no complaints with anything in regards to the sound and can only praise this game for going all out.
Breath Of The Wild is one of the best games ever crafted. It is a wonderfully beautiful game in a realistic world with an amazing cast of characters and fulfilling adventure. I recommend everyone to play this game regardless of your opinion on Nintendo or the Zelda franchise because it’s a fun game that looks great. As someone who grew up with the franchise, seeing where it was to where it is, it’s nice to see the series at its pinnacle and once again the game, and franchise, to beat. I look forward to seeing how the series progress and having the freedom to play it on the go, or on the T.V., makes it even more spectacular.