Note: Minor spoilers about certain items and actions are included here.
Back in the 1980s I played and beat the original The Legend of Zelda game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was a fun but challenging game and it’s likely that I used a strategy guide to make it through. Sometime later I tried Zelda II: The Adventure of Link on the NES but it didn’t capture me; I did not care for being pulled into battles without any warning when exploring the overworld map and the side-scrolling was just an odd fit.
With the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) I was sucked into the world of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Just when you think you’ve defeated Gannon you learn that not only did you not beat the game but that there’s a whole other part of the game that was nearly as long as the first. It’s remained one of my favorite Zelda games over the years and I thoroughly enjoyed reliving a slightly different experience on the 3DS with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
In the years since I’ve played the many of the Zelda games at some point, excluding some of the handheld editions. While I’m aware that many may have very high opinions of those games, and I certainly can’t say that they were bad, none have captured my attention for very long and certainly not to the point that I thought I might actually strive to finish those games. I spent several hours enjoying The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess when it was released for the Wii but after complete a handful of dungeons I decided to move on.
I have discovered that, for me, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a very addictive Zelda game that I expect to finish. I have already put in countless hours within a matter of only a few weeks, typically playing late at night. It’s one of those games where you continuously feel compelled to do “just one more thing” before ending a gaming session.
My best description of this game is to call it a cross between The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Shadow of the Colossus. I’ve enjoyed the differences between this game and past games while also being able to capitalize on my knowledge of previous games. If I see a pile of boulders or a wall with a crack in it then I automatically know to grab a bomb and see if there’s a secret. And this game is full of secrets. Spread across this enormous world map are hidden characters called Koroks that can be found by moving something that they are hiding in or under, or completing a puzzle, will reward the player with a Korok seed. These seeds can be used to expand the players ability to carry melee weapons, bows and arrows and shields. There are 900 hidden in the game! (Less than half are actually needed to fully expand all the ability to carry those items).
This game doesn’t tell you much. Most of what you need to know you will learn on your own but it does this through a very intuitive progression. In the beginning you may start out avoiding certain enemies but over time you’ll power up and be able to take out those same enemies with a single kill.
I won’t be surprised if some do not like this Zelda game because of its differences. Instead of needing to find empty jars and purchase healing or other potions to carry in the jars you instead rely on your ability to find items and more frequently to cook meals and elixers. Meals are made from found and purchased items and elixers are a mix of captured critters and moster parts from enemies that have been defeated. Rupees are actually very rare to come across but if you’re willing to spend some time farming things that you can find in the wild then you can very quickly cook them up and make a hefty profit selling meals and elixers.
But don’t sell all of them as you’ll need meals and elixers to restore health in battle, provide resistance to elements such as heat and cold and even restore your stamina when making a long climb.
The stamina element, combined with the open world and atmospheric effects, is what reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus. Link can climb nearly anything, which can be extremely useful for gaining the high ground on an enemy or simply avoiding enemies and obstacles completely.
If you’re a fan of the Zelda games then I highly recommend that you give this a try. The structure of the game provides multiple ways to play. One can just jump right into the fray and take enemies head on or try to sneak around them and work on building up one’s inventory. There are also many story elements, characters to talk to and countless puzzles to solve.
I’m also rather fond of the travel options available. In the game there are 120 shrines spread across the land. Each shrine offers a trial (perhaps a puzzle or a combat test). One doesn’t have to complete the shrine to unlock the ability to use a shrine for fast-travel so simply reaching one and activating it ensures that it will be much easier to reach that region of the map quickly. Each individual region, and there are around 15, includes a single tower that once climbed and activated (and often reaching the top is itself a puzzle) will unlock the map element for that region, making it easier to find your way around the area. Towers also serve as fast-travel points.
Early in the game, in fact one cannot leave the first region without first collecting these, the player must complete some shrine trials to unlock Runes. Runes are key to solving most puzzles throughout the game and most can be used to combat enemies as well. Once the Runes have been collected they can later be powered up but in order to leave the first region one must acquire the Paraglider, which gives link the ability to glide (though not actually fly) long distances when starting from a great height; the Towers are great points to travel to and then glide toward a target.
It’s difficult to describe everything about this game because it is simply an enormous game. Another aspect of this game that I like is that a player is often still able to accomplish a goal by not following the obvious path. For example, many other players have figured out to do certain stunts that will get them to the end-point of several shrines without having to complete the puzzles; the game still allows them to access the goal despite not having completed the puzzle (in some cases, at least) and I can’t list the number of times that I saw a powerful enemy, decided to go another way, and was able to complete a goal or access a tower without losing any health.
Most weapons and shields have a limited durability and will eventually break; at first I thought this would be very annoying but it doesn’t take long to get used to it and I think it helps add a variety of experience to the game. As you build up weapons and your ability to carry more you’ll end up having a hard time deciding which ones to keep and which ones to drop (or store up to three somewhere else but more info would be a spoiler).
I’m simply enjoying this game to a degree that I haven’t experienced in a very long time. The only other games that I have dedicated a comparable amount of time playing would be the Mass Effect series.