It’s here. The latest entry in the long-standing and iconic Legend of Zelda series makes its debut as both a swan song for the Wii U and an opening act for the Switch. This game promises many things, and main console entries have always delivered in one or more aspects that maintain the series’ reputation. Does Breath of the Wild continue the traditions?
In a way, no it does NOT continue the traditions. Thinking about those dungeon specific items and bosses that require said item? Those aren’t here. Thinking about massive dungeons filled with puzzles that have you perplexed like the Water Temple? Also not here. What Breath of the Wild does is toss out most of what you know about the Zelda series, and instead sets you loose in an open world with all the things you need to succeed after a short time in the game’s “tutorial” area. From there, it’s all on you, and this is where a new tradition has been born. The vast majority of the game is optional, and this surprisingly includes the iconic Master Sword and Hylian Shield! This is where this game sets itself apart in a way that is best experienced, not explained. The open world and its mechanics is an amalgamation of many other open world games, so it’s not that it necessarily does anything new, it’s that it puts it together in a way that welcomes ALL player skill types. If you’re a casual, you don’t have to do everything to eventually get there. If you’re a hardcore, you can turn yourself into a total badass like I did and end up destroying everything in your path including Ganon with little effort. This is what makes Breath of the Wild’s gameplay so enthralling: no matter how you play, no matter what you want to do, it all brings you to the same end result. This is no easy feat: Nintendo has been known for combining accessibility and challenge; and while this game may not have innovated open world mechanics, it has instead polished them beyond any open world game I’ve ever played before. It’s never too easy, never too hard, and to design an open world game to always be “just right” for whatever type of person is playing demands the highest possible marks of design achievement. There’s never a clear path, only you pushing yourself forward however you see fit.
It’s a main Zelda entry. Though, in case that means nothing to you, there’s a lot for you to do. As mentioned, just about everything in the game is optional. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it: part of why I surmounted this game with relative ease is BECAUSE I took some time to do the optional things. Upgrading armor goes a long way in this game, as does spending some time cooking. Completing shrines goes an even longer way towards your benefit, and I recommend about 50 of them in which I completed 55 before taking down Ganon. The good news is that you’ll probably do these optional things anyway: the open world is just the right size so that a random carrot is always dangling just to your left or right wherever you go.
The truth of the matter is that this might just be the worst framerate dip offender in Nintendo’s first-party lineup history. Right out of the gate (and quite literally) through to the end of my experience, there were frequent framerate dips both in and out of combat. The worst offender is easily grassfires, but the point is: this is not a good showing on brand new hardware releasing in 2017 that clearly lacks the overheard to simply port, upgrade, and perform better. You’ll try to tell yourself you won’t get any framerate dips or that you will conveniently not notice them, but you’ll only be kidding yourself because these dips hit pretty hard. Why Nintendo has not adopted adaptive v-sync like just about everyone else is beyond me. Moving beyond that, however, is back to mostly positives: the 900p presentation may not impress, but is easily hidden by the combination of cel-shaded and anime-inspired graphical designs. Speaking of which, the story (which is also mostly optional) delivered in artful simplicity. It’s still standard boiler-plate Zelda stuff, but it replaces the Triforce topic with characters, and these characters become the real key to unity. It does beg the question, though: why was the Triforce barely touched upon? Here’s hoping a sequel answers that…
Breath of the Wild isn’t a game I can say does new things. It’s a game I can say does things better. There’s a polish here in the gameplay department that doesn’t redefine, but instead outshines all before it. An open world so perfectly adjusted, so meticulously balanced, and so inviting to everyone of all skill types is the new Zelda. While I will miss some of the old traditions, I welcome this new breath of fresh wilderness. Thus, the game was named perfectly for what it is, even if its framerate and story don’t top the traditions it left behind. Here’s to another five year wait to see what’s next.
I give The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild…