The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Looking back at Nintendo’s console legacy, we came to the realization that history has a way of repeating itself. The swift arrival of the Switch, which signaled the premature retirement of the Wii U, mirrored the discontinuation of the GameCube following the runaway success that was the Wii. In both instances, an oft-delayed new installment in The Legend of Zelda series served as the swan song for the fledgling system, while also pulling double duty as the must-have launch title for the new console.
As the 19th entry in the long-running franchise, expectations were at an all-time high for Breath of the Wild, and the five years that went into crafting the massive open world of Hyrule was evident in the way its breadth of gameplay mechanics are cleverly interwoven into just about every facet of the in-game world. Upon awakening from his 100-year slumber, Link found himself with no memory of his past, but is impelled to defeat Calamity Ganon and restore peace to Hyrule by the urging of a mysterious female voice and subsequently, a strange old man that he encounters outside the Shrine of Resurrection. In a series’ first (and no, the Philips CD-i titles don’t count), the story cutscenes feature voice acting, although Link remains the silent protagonist once again.
No more handholding
Unlike the slow, drawn-out tutorials of Skyward Sword, Breath of the Wild drops you into the Great Plateau and Link is free to explore his surroundings,
somewhat like The Legend of Zelda on NES/Famicom. Frankly, there’s nothing to stop you from heading straight to Hyrule Castle for the final battle, but whether you can survive the encounter is another story entirely. Such is the openness of the exploration that the map is purported to be 12 times the size of the overworld in Twilight Princess.
The vast, desolate landscapes – made believable by the watercolor-like visuals, soft piano score and ambient sound – can feel remarkably lonely as you trek across ruins and remnants of a long-gone advanced civilization. Occasionally, when Link is not chopping down trees or scaling cliffs, you’ll come across friendly NPCs outside of their settlements and towns. There are also many ways to take down enemies at their campsites. Link can go head on with the right weapon (and shield), on horseback or employ sneak attacks by way of explosive barrels and boulder rolls. Due to the disposable nature of weapons, you’d do best to leave no stone unturned when it comes to scavenging for food, materials, and resources. We do enjoy cooking up new recipes that not only restore hearts, but potentially add stat bonuses for a given duration of time. The Sheikah Slate, a multi-purpose tablet that Link picked up at the beginning of the game, allows you to activate towers to fill in the gaps in your map, place markers on said map in telescope view, gain access into shrines, and a few other surprises that you can discover on your own. Shrines are essentially minidungeons that are more about puzzle solving using a combination of Runes that are at your disposal. These do get challenging as you progress, but you’ll be rewarded for your efforts in the form of rune upgrades and treasure chests.
Beware the Guardians, especially in the early part of Link’s journey.