The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild

One of my good friends described this game as “the modern Zelda 1″ and I think that is just about perfect.

Zelda games have been criticized lately for being too beholden to their formula.  While in a lot of ways I’ve thought that criticism was mostly unfair (really, only Twilight Princess felt formulaic to me), this game really does boil Zelda down to its most essential elements.  There is no 4-6 Dungeon act divided into two parts, where each dungeon contains a map and a compass and a tool that you need to beat the dungeon and the boss.   You get all your tools within the first hour of the game, and it’s up to use them to solve the various puzzles of the 100+ Shrines in the game, which mostly serve as the replacement for the dungeons in the game, and in general are dispatched with as quickly as you’re able to solve the particular dungeon’s puzzle (there are still boss dungeons that are closer to what you’d expect from Zelda, but even these tend to be different).

Recent Zelda games also have been criticized for being too easy, or maybe more accurately, more nannyish.  In some iterations of Zelda, literally every time you pick an item up a tutorial window pops up to tell you how to use it.   This game is quite different: it has very little in the way of tutorialization.   Other than a few scattered recipes (found in diaries, or as throw away lines in conversations, or, hilariously, on wall posters) the game leaves it up to you to make the things you find useful.  It’s also a game that has some stakes to it.  Even twenty hours in, there are still encounters that can cause instant death if you’re not careful.  While it’s never going to compete with Dark Souls in demand for precision, you’re not going to have to have a base level of respect for the enemies in this game.

I was actually kind of worried when I heard these things in the pre-release coverage of the game.  Because gamers often say they want something, and then get mad when they get it.  I figured this was likely to happen with Breath of the Wild, simply because I’ve observed so many current gamers attempt to play the original Zelda and bounce off of them because they’re too hard.  Firstly, that’s ludicrous to me, because I played and beat the original Zelda when I was nine years old.  If I can handle a game at nine years old, there’s no reason a modern adult can’t handle it now (by the way, this is in no way an attempt to shit on millennials or whatever we’re calling the following generation now.  People two or three years older than me have whined about how difficult Zelda is).

I’m happy that I was wrong about people.  I’m happy to see people actually embrace the world of this game, and I’m happy that Nintendo trusted them to do it.   I’m sure some stupider adults and children will find it too hard at first, but I think if they really want to play this game that they can practice and get good at it, and if they are too lazy to do that, then fuck ’em, I say.  Not everything has to be for the lowest common denominator (and it’s not like there isn’t a ton of stuff out there for people looking for that sort of thing).

Just like the original Legend of Zelda game.  It dropped you in a world with three hearts and a wooden (or rusty, my friends long debated this) sword, maybe five screens away from enemies who could kill you in one shot if you wandered the wrong way.  And it was great.  You were left to figure out what to do with this world on your own.  The game and its designers respected your intelligence.  Breath of the Wild respects its players in the same manner, and feels equally great to play.


No, this is not “Neo” from the Matrix, although the title of the game might cause you to believe that!!!!!!  No, the game is about the a samurai that uses the power of guardian spirits to help battle his way across feudal Japan.

This game has been called by many “Samurai Dark Souls” and while not wholly inaccurate, the game has a fairly unique take on the Soul genre (this genre really needs a new name, because every time I type “Soul Genre” I start to picture James Brown sword and boarding his way across Drangleic, battling the forces of the undead as he tries to fend of his own hollowing).

The various set pieces of the game are divided into distinct, discrete levels.  I found this surprisingly interesting, and a nice way to take the air out of people who complain when Souls games are not unified worlds.  This game makes no illusion to this unification so can’t be criticized for failing to deliver it.   And, the reason that my interest in this format is surprising, is that the main reason I enjoy the souls games is for the fun I have exploring the hostile environments; the discreetness of the levels in no way hampered the fun I had exploring them.

The story is also presented in a forthright narration, and while there is definitely subtext left to be analyzed by gamers who are into that sort of thing, one is not going to have to pour over the layout of the vine textures to derive the distill story from the game.  I kind of like the fact that Souls games are shrouded in mystery (even if I don’t ever bother to investigate these mysteries further that deeply), but I don’t think every game in the genre needs to have its story told the same way, so I was not offended by the change.  I don’t know if I exactly loved the actual story that was being told, but I found it inoffensive enough to avoid detracting from my desire to play the game.

All in all, I found this game a lot of fun. and while it didn’t quite captivate me the way that the souls games did, I still enjoyed my time with it, and figure it’s worth a play if you like these sorts of games.