Like anyone else, I was very excited to play Zelda
2015 2016 Breath of the Wild when it came out. Although the waiting was almost painful, I’m glad it happened because it could have met the same terrible fate as countless games. The overworld is massive, and rushing the game would’ve ruined its charm and fun. There’s so much to do in Hyrule, and without the love and care Nintendo gave it for the years it was in production, the game wouldn’t have reached its full potential.
The game offers quick travel, and it’s useful if you’re trying to get somewhere fast. However, if you decide to walk there will be shrines to conquer, monsters to kill, towns and stables to explore, merchants to trade with, travelers to talk to, animals to hunt, trees to chop down, ore to mine, fish to catch, and guardians to fight.
Before I talk about all the good stuff, I want to get the bad out of the way first. Every Zelda game has that one annoying enemy that you hate fighting. In Breath of the Wild, that enemy is the guardian stalkers. They become a bit more manageable later in the game, but they’re still a source of frustration. The only other major annoyance is the occasional frame drops. It doesn’t happen too often, and when it does it’s only for a few seconds, but if it happens when there’s a guardian around it can push you into rage-quit territory.
Now let’s get to all the good stuff. As much as I enjoyed Skyward Sword’s emphasis on storytelling and character development, I understand that people disliked how it diverged from the traditional Zelda style. The same storytelling is in Breath of the Wild, but this time it’s optional. Link lost all his memories, and you find them by traveling the overworld. If you want to see them, you’ll have a lot of fun going to find them. If you don’t care and want to play the game like you played the original, you can ignore the optional cutscenes. You can even skip most of the “mandatory” ones without feeling too lost. It’s an excellent way to solve the story vs. exploration problem that plagued Skyward Sword without detracting from the autonomy.
It’s fun and rewarding when you learn how to access the last area.
On the topic of autonomy, you can do the dungeons in any order you want. Storm Hyrule Castle as soon as you leave the tutorial area if you want. You’ll die, but try it, it’s fun. There are four major dungeons, one for each race. These “dungeons” are the Divine Beasts, mechs shaped like animals piloted by one champion from each species. Ganon corrupted them and turned them against the people they were to protect. Each dungeon has a theme that fits their species. The Zora have water, the Rito have wind, the Gorons have fire, leaving the Gerudo with electricity. After subduing each divine beast, you climb aboard. The spirit of the champion encourages you as you slowly reclaim the dungeon from Ganon and the guardians. After getting the dungeon map, you can manipulate each dungeon to allow you to access new areas. It’s fun and rewarding when you learn how to access the last area.
As is tradition, each dungeon has a boss at the end. As cool as it would have been to revisit previous bosses, what we have is good enough. A beast in Ganon’s image that killed the previous champion emerges from the final room, attacking you with the dungeon’s associated element. My personal favorite was Fireblight Ganon, Scourge of Vah Rudania (the goron boss). When I replay the game (and I will be replaying) I’m going to save the best for last. Each boss left me with a power rush after beating it, boosted by how happy the townspeople become.
And the best part? After freeing the beasts, the champions have it climb to the top of a mountain and take aim at the castle. You can see this from anywhere in the world, and it builds the anticipation of getting stronger until you’re ready to fight Ganon.
How do you get stronger? As I’ve mentioned, there are only four dungeons before Hyrule Castle. Sounds like Majora’s mask, right? Sure is. Majora’s Mask had a lot less focus on the dungeons and a lot more focus on side quests. There are two kinds of side quests: Side Quests and Shrine Quests. Shrine quests help you find one of the 100 shrines scattered across the world. Most shrines are puzzle shrines. You have to solve a short puzzle, like one room of a standard dungeon. Others are combat shrines. You fight a Guardian Scout that drops guardian parts and weapons. The shrines from the shrine quests will reward you with an armor piece or weapon simply for being able to find it. At the end of each shrine, you get a spirit orb. You can trade four of these to increase your health bar or stamina wheel.
Side quests don’t reward you with a spirit orb, but give you either money or rare objects. My personal favorite is “from the ground up”: a construction man decides to build a town on an island. He asks you to help collect wood for houses, but also find one member of each species to help. You need a Goron to clear the land, a Gerudo to repair his clothes, a Rito to run a store and a Zora to officiate his wedding. Every time you visit you see the town get bigger and bigger. More and more people move in, and it’s rewarding to see all your hard work pay off. The three diamonds you get as a reward don’t hurt either.
In most games, you have a few weapons and armor pieces to choose from, but in this game, your weapons (except for the Master Sword) will break after too much use. However, weapons are everywhere, in large packs of monsters at least one or two will drop them. There were times where I worried that I’d run out of weapons, but it’s balanced well enough that I never ran out.
Manaka Kataoka’s musical genius boosted the atmosphere tenfold.
I have to discuss the music. Every single Zelda game has an amazing soundtrack, and this game is no exception. Not only is it amazing, there’s a lot of it. The music in each dungeon varies as you get further and every boss has a different song for each phase. From the moment I snuck into Hyrule Castle to felling Ganon’s final form, Manaka Kataoka’s musical genius boosted the atmosphere tenfold. Hyrule castle is an epic medley of previous tracks, and the boss themes are among the best I’ve heard in any game. Even if you don’t like Zelda, I implore you to give the soundtrack a listen. Even the minimalistic Hyrule Field theme, which I didn’t exactly like, complements the mood of the overworld.
There’s so much more I want to talk about, such as the Sheikah towers, or needing 13 hearts to get the master sword (like in Zelda 1!), but I need to wrap up. Throughout the review, I’ve been making comparisons to previous games. Breath of the Wild takes the best parts of previous games: the massive open world of Wind Waker, the nonlinearity of the early games, the rewarding side quests of Majora’s Mask, the races and places from Ocarina of Time, the storytelling of Skyward Sword… this is evolution, and I’m almost shaking with anticipation for the future.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to go see what’s over there.
Final Score: 10/10
This Review of Breath of the Wild is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
Max is a student at Rutgers who likes writing fantasy and playing video games such as Zelda, Mario, Undertale, Earthbound, and Stardew Valley.