Disclaimer: I have yet to beat this game.  These are my impressions of it thus far and a discussion of it's praise by the media and fans alike. This is not a review. 

 

Sorry for the terrible pun in the title, if you can even call it that and not a complete failure at an attempt at the easiest form of comedy there is. 

 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released March 3rd to rave reviews and for once, people are actually all on the same page with how they feel about this game, for the most part.  What has been widely regarded as a masterpiece thus far, has people thinking that the second coming of Ocarina of time has finally arrived.  Take away all the hand holding and annoying tutorial sidekicks and multiply tenfold the sense of adventure, exploration and danger that comes from exploring a world like the world of Hyrule inspires in fans both young and old and you have Breath of the Wild

I missed the Nintendo 64 boat by being too young.  I've a handful of experience with a console from that era in the form of the original Playstation, but that is almost completely restricted to Crash Team Racing and a few wrestling games.  My experience with console gaming didn't really begin to form fully until the age of the Playstation 2 and Gamecube.  Two consoles I owned, but that era began my love of Playstation and it's suite of IP's. But what I did play during that time on the Gamecube, was a little game called The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.  I loved the art style, and the snappy feeling of swinging my sword around.  Alas, despite my love of the game, I never finished the game due to a short attention span, lack of patience for puzzles, and an unhealthy infatuation with Pokemon Sapphire. 

So began my first and last experience with the Legend of Zelda franchise for some time. So I'm by no means an expert on this series and wouldn't try to make you think I was. I'm also ashamed to admit that the only game in this franchise I've beaten thus far is Skyward Sword, so...yeah, sorry about that.  My experience with the series' most influential and well known entries have been restricted to video retrospectives on youtube. I've played bits and pieces of your Link to the Past's and your Ocarina's, but playing these games well outside of their time frame of release doesn't have the same impact, nor is it very entertaining.  No, I do not insult these games, and will refrain from discussing them at length. While I never played these games at length. However, I do know their impact on the series and I do know about all the additions they made to the Zelda formula.  Whether you love them or you hate them, the design choices made in Ocarina helped shape the franchise for a long time.  Which is why I think Breath of the Wild has been refreshing to a lot of people.

Let's be clear, Zelda games are by no means bad.  They're well loved for a reason.  They're fun and accessible.  But there are those who would say putting this focus on making sure anyone with half a brain can pick up and play these games without issue dumbs the experience down quite a bit.  Thus far, it looks like those fans have gotten the Zelda game they wanted. One that respects their intelligence and resilience as players.  But it's not for this reason that I love this game. No, despite characters like Navi and Fi being irritated, they themselves would not have hampered my overall enjoyment of the game.  What makes Breath of the Wild fun is it's open world design.  Yes, it has borrowed elements from it's contemporaries, but actually makes those conventions and actually makes them worthwhile (see, the synchronization points of Assassin's Creed versus Breath of the Wild's towers).  I've yet to see climbing a Sheikah Tower in Breath of the Wild to be a chore.  Each one feels like a different challenge as opposed to just scaling a random building with no in game significance.  And that's only one way in which Nintendo has managed to make Breath of the Wild's open world so addictive, and quite a small way in the grand scheme of things.  

For once the promise of being able to travel to those far off mountains in the distance is realized, as opposed to just being met with a message or invisible wall placed there to tell you that this is the end of the line.  In fact, not only can you go to the mountains you see in the distance. You can climb to the very top.  There may be a secret up there.  There may not. That's part of the fun.  Despite a slightly better than Skyward Sword, but still inconvenient stamina wheel, climbing sheer rock faces feels like the most amazing thing I've been able to do in a game to date.  Which brings me to another point: Nintendo's use of vertical space in this game is masterful.  I could go on about how you could climb a cliff and then jump off to glide over and get the drop on an enemy camp (literally), but it extends to more than just the open world.  Breath of the Wild's Shrines (mini dungeons as I've taken to calling them) use verticality in solving it's puzzles beautiful.   And unlike other Zelda games since Ocarina of time, Breath of the Wild's use of three dimensional space makes good on what Nintendo started with the Ocarina of Time.  You can see this in just how compact, yet dense the Shrines in Breath of the Wild can be.  

Okay, now let's talk about game feel here.  This game just feels fun to play.  I can't speak for the Nintendo Switch version of the game, but it's been a long time since I've picked up a game where moving felt so natural.  Where navigating and interacting with my environment was quite this fun.  You can talk about the addition of voice acting and a slightly different take on a Zelda story than past iterations and probably discuss it's merits (or lack thereof, for some) for quite some time. But that doesn't effect just how fantastic moment to moment gameplay in this game feels.  There are some Nintendoisms here, as I like to call them, which I use to refer to nintendo's sometimes unnecessary addition of gimmicks into its games and hardware. In this case, there's nintendo's use of the Wii U gamepad's gyroscope to aim your various assortment of tools.  You'll like first notice this when using one of your runes or your bow and arrow, which mercifully allows you to use right stick to aim in a more traditional manner.  Other than that, this game feels like the most straightforward game that's been produced in a while, by anyone, but especially Nintendo.  You are free to explore a section of the open world in minutes after the game first boots, and the Great Plateau hides an ingenius tutorial by conveniently housing everything you'll be interacting with in the rest of the games world in this smaller (but still rather large area).  You learn what towers and shrines are, how to cook and you get introduced to combat, all of which you can approach in any order you'd like.

Which brings me around to zeroing in on the combat.  Breath of the Wild has been, at least in my experience, one of the most challenging games in recent memory.  And in most ways, that's good, but in some not quite. Weapon degradation early on is a real problem, and once you play the game, you'll understand why it's become something of a meme online.  There is no combat tutorial here. You pick up a weapon and start swinging.  Whether you survive is based on how good you are at timing your dodges, managing crowds, and deciding whether it's best to fight or flee. And combating Ganon's minions is all the more rewarding because of this more free form version of fighting.  

This game takes you seriously.  It let's you find out things on your own, in any order you wish.  It's this kind of game design that has gotten this game quite a bit of praise.  And as someone with substantially less ties to this series than most of the people who review these games as a living, I can verify that after playing it, that their reviews were spot on.  Not a product of bias towards the franchise or nintendo in general.  I'm far from having this game completed, so things could change in the late game, but based on my experience thus far, this game has been worthy of it's praise.

 

So that's my take on Breath of the Wild.  If you have a Wii U or a Switch, I'd strongly suggest you give it a try. I doubt you'll regret it.  

 

Now if you'll excuse me, It's time to get back into Hyrule :)