The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is incredible. Don’t worry, no spoilers below.
I’ve never bought a console at launch. Launch games are usually serviceable but nothing to remember, and fade out of existence in a few months. However, I am a HUGE Zelda fan. So when I found out that “Breath of the Wild” was a launch title for the Switch, I was intrigued. Since I was able to trade in my Wii U and 3DS to pay for a Switch and Zelda in full, I was in.
Nintendo has taken a very hands-off approach with this edition of Zelda. Gone are the endless tutorials about everything under the sun. This is a game that allows you to explore the controls and abilities at your own pace. One great example of this is the second room of the game. There are several items that you can push and throw, but there’s no annoying message forcing you to. It’s just a room that let’s you walk up to an object and see what the context menu brings up. The game respects your time.
Another great example is the game’s Shrines, which are the equivalent to mini-dungeons. Each Shrine has a puzzle similar to what you would find within a dungeon in a previous game. They start of moderate and increase in complexity rather quickly. I’ve played through 12 of them so far, and they never get frustrating. You always feel like you just need to stretch your brain a bit to get it. The moment that I said, “I’m stumped” was usually seconds before the, “Eureka!” moment occurred.
Combat is also a joy in this game. There’s never been a Zelda were you can defeat enemies in so many different ways, which often have hilarious results. I’ve dodged enemy charging attacks only to see them fall off of a cliff and drown in the water below. I’ve interrupted their cookout dance parties (seriously, they get down) with bombs to the face. And I’ve used classic Zelda weapons like shields and boomerangs to take them down.
Enemies are not easy to take down. You can only take a few hits, and you have to forage for food to replenish a tiny bit of health. Recovery of health and stamina (used to run, swim, and climb) is improved if you cook the food or even combine various foods in recipes in the cooking pots that are littered all over Hyrule. Crafting and juggling inventory is a must if you want to survive.
Survival was definitely tested against the larger enemies that I encountered while exploring. They are most likely defined as mini-bosses, but they are often not tied to specficic objetives or areas that require you to be leveled up. Because you can go anywhere in this game, you may run into the huge rock monster that obliterated me with one hit. Or the buried machines called Guardians that killed me with a heat seeking laser I was climbing a tower. Or the huge Moblin that lit his tree branch on fire and killed me with one hit. There are many, many times when you will die. The game allows you to explore but keeps you humble.
Visually, the game is stunning. It feels like a surrealist or impresisonist painitng. Nintendo visuals are always best when they bend away from realism and towards a dreamlike state. The game literally feels like a dream, and flashbacks and sequences with the game back that up. There are random frame rate hiccups like most open world games, but none that distracted me during gameplay. The presentation transitions from TV to handheld very smoothly.
I was very impressed by the music in the game, which was composed by Manaka Kataoka. There are very few overworld themes, opting for simple strings and horns, are intensified or calm depending on the situation. The villages do have a standard Zelda sounding looped theme, but they are very catchy. The game knows when to be silent, when to tug at your heartstrings, and when to send you running away from a fight in fear. Masterful job.
All in all, this a fantastic game. Arguably in the conversation with Zelda 3, Wind Waker, and Ocarina for the title of best Zelda game ever. Launch games don’t get much better than this. Pick it up!
Shareef is a friend of 42 and a passionate science blogger, tutor and teacher who is passionate about diversity. His numerous podcasts, include Math and Science Tutoring: @MathLooksGood, Podcasts about diversity in gaming: @SpawnOnMe @GamingLooksGood, working life: @OperationCube, and STEM education: @SciLooksGood. Shareef recently appeared in an article in the New York Times.