Hi there, I’m Jack Longman, the Editor-in-Chief of Miketendo64 and armed with a Nintendo Switch to call my own, Miketendo64 is now putting out Nintendo Switch related reviews to match all our other Switch content! Having already reviewed the console itself, in today’s piece we’ll be reviewing one of the Switch’s launch titles, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild!
Typically one of the first things I do with my reviews of video games, is I start with the story, (but obviously I don’t when the game doesn’t have one as not every game does,) however I will not be doing that today. In fact I’m actually going to cover the story nearer to the end of this review and the reason for doing this, will become apparent as this review goes on, so please bear with me and now we can properly get started.
If you want to know what kind of a game Breath of the Wild is, it is one that will take your breath away. A game packed with stunning scenery, filled with wildlife that can be killed, which turns them into instant food items that can be used to restore life and a game that will have you playing for hours on end. Furthermore, it is not easy either. I have died so many times in so many times that it is both funny and unfunny at the same time. Breath of the Wild isn’t just another Zelda game for home console, it’s a Survival Zelda game that even non Zelda fans can enjoy, especially those who enjoyed Darksiders and Skyrim!
With plenty of enemies encounterable all over the vast world, home to lush forests, large stunning waterfalls and plenty of mountings to climb, death awaits around every corner. Sure one minute you’ll encounter one group of Bokoblins that poses no real threat to you, but then you’ll encounter another group who have more life and deal more damage thanks to their much more powerful weapons. But with the right strategy, death can be avoided, just try not to drown or plummeting to your death from great heights. The fall will more often or not kill you and if you’re low on hearts whilst swimming and your Stamina meter runs out, drowning will lead to yet another Game Over screen. However should you survive that, there’s still the Guardians, big mechanical beasts that can be encountered all over Hyrule and they are just eager to blast you with their deadly blue beams and even if you dodge them, there’s still the likes of the Lynel, and a Waterblight Ganon who are more than be happy to introduce you to the Game Over screen.
If it seems like I am trying to deter you from playing the newest instalment to the Legend of Zelda, I’m really not but players do need to know going into this game that they will die. It really doesn’t matter what you do, or how you play, or even what clothes and armour you’re wearing, you will die. You will die a lot, but as long as you know and accept this, then you can enjoy the game more for each death will help teach you to play the game better, as you’ll find yourself trying new things and new ways to get the job down and kill the opposition before you. Although sometimes the answer can be really obvious. Instead of just charging at a group of Bokoblins by a barrel that is prone to exploding, why not shoot the barrel with a bomb arrow? And just in case you don’t have any bomb arrows, use a bomb instead. The Runes are perfect in this game and are incredibly useful, although despite being upgradable, you will find your trusty remote bombs do far less damage to the enemies you encounter further on in the game.
Or if you really insist on charging in like Galahad, why not change your clothing first? Even if you don’t like the look of the suit of armour you possess, if it gives you more protection than what you’re wearing, it will reduce the damage you receive. Changing to a full set of clothing (matching trousers, “shirt” and head coverage), will grant the player some added bonuses and even if you don’t like the colours of what you’re wearing, take yourself over to Hateno Village. There you will find a dye shop and you can dye pretty much every piece of clothing you get, but there some are exceptions to the rule. (The Nintendo Switch T-shirt from the Day 1 Expansion Pass dlc being one of them.) Or you can simply buy/find clothing items that you do like the look of, or forget about the clothes completely and just equip a much powerful weapon! Anyway weapon will do as long as it has a higher damage than the one you’re using now and it doesn’t matter if you wield with two hands (spear, axe, etc.) or one hand (sword, boomerang, etc.) and occupy the other hand with a shield because believe me, shields come in handy big time!
Not only can shields be used for your own defence, but you can surf them too, be it down a snowy mountain, or just a grassy hill. This however will cause them damage and they will break, so you will need to pick the right moment to shield surf, unless of course it’s a shield you just want rid of, in which case surf away to your hearts content, just make sure you replace it at your first opportunity. Same goes for pretty much every weapon in the game that you can encounter all over Hyrule. Some will last longer than others, but they will break when you really wished they didn’t, so using particular weapons at crucial times is especially important, but because there are so many weapons in-game, there is no point in holding on to the weaker ones whenever you encounter one that is much more powerful.
I’ve partly touched on this, but something I really enjoy about this game is the how there is just so much to it, including customisations. With so many weapons and clothing items available, which can be dyed, players gave design Link to appear however they like and fight equipped in the style they like as well, but then those items and clothes can also be upgraded. Got a favourite shirt that is really poor in stats? Visit a Great Fairy and see her satisfied and in return, she’ll power up your clothes and make them even stronger. As for expanding your inventory, find some Koroks, who by the way are hidden all over Hyrule and require some extensive searching to find them. Collect their seeds and then hand them over to Hetsu and he’ll repay the favour by expanding things like your weapon and shield slots by 1 space. As for expanding your life and your stamina that’s also something else easily done and rather critical if you hope to live longer. But in order to expand your lift or stamina, you will need Spirit Orbs.
In order to get Spirit Orbs, players will need to complete Shrines and there are over 100 Shrines in the game to be discovered and beaten and most have a unique puzzle of its own that can take no time at all to best, or forever depending on how long it takes for you to figure out what needs to be done (I’m talking to you Mogg Latan Shrine!) Whereas some Shrines are as simple as walking forwards, or having to engage in a battle. Once you have beaten 4 Shrines, you will have 4 Spirit Orbs in your position. By taking these orbs to a Goddess Statue, (which can be encountered in various places that includes villages and the Temple of Time) where upon praying at the statue, the player will be asked if they would like to expand their life. (if you’re just starting out, picking the heart container is a wise choice, as upgrading your stamina can be something you do when you have more than enough hearts or wearing good armour that you’re no longer dying in just the one hit.) Although Goddess Statues and Spirit Orbs aren’t the only way to get Heart Containers as beating bosses such as Waterblight Ganon, is a good way to earn them as well, provided of course you can beat the bosses you face. (I’m not saying you can’t, but it helps to have a ton of life/hearts, or skill or just some really powerful weapons when going up against them.)
Still, there’s more to just fighting and expanding your gear in this game, there’s a ton of Side Quests to be done, Shrine Quests, Main Objectives and of course exploration. If it wasn’t for Breath of the Wild’s vast world to explore, then Breath of the Wild would not be the game that it is and that is an open-air masterpiece. Feel like killing literally any animal you encounter in the wild? You can and you can eat it raw, or cook it, along with other items you have gathered and foraged, which includes monster parts, in the hopes of cooking some fine foods or concocting useful elixirs. Or instead of cooking them and mixing them, you can sell the items and materials you acquire for Rupees (no longer found by cutting grass sadly, but they are in chests and some enemies do drop them), which you can then put to good use by buying things that you do want!
Breath of the Wild is without a doubt a game where the player can make things happen, because if there see a location they wish to go to, they can. Sure they might not be able to climb the mountain in one hit due to a poor stamina meter. There is always a way to do something in this new Zelda game, but you have to look for it and this is what it means to properly play Breath of the Wild. It is not a linear game, if you wish to run straight towards the final battle then go do so, but what Breath of the Wild is really about is exploring. To run wild in whatever direction you choose and make your adventure, your own.
But if you don’t want to quest alone, you can of course quest with a companion, in the form of whatever wild horse you choose to tame and make your own. Or in the form of a Wolf, as Breath of the Wild takes full advantage of amiibo support and by scanning the Wolf Link amiibo, Wolf Link will join human Link and remain with you until it dies in battle. Although should he be able to find and eat any food he encounters, he will soon replenish some life and is a fantastic hunting buddy. As for the other amiibo, they come in handy as well, not nearly as handy as Wolf Link, but they each have their own way of enriching the player’s experiences and helping them acquire some needing items, whilst at the same time, being a non-necessity. By non-necessity I mean, if you don’t own any amiibo, or all of the Zelda related ones (including the Zelda ones that are part of the Smash Bros. line), there is no need to go out and buy them as the game can be played as it is, it just means you do so without some perks that the amiibo offer. (Perks like Epona and getting clothing items worn by Links from previous games.) That being said, right now using the Smash Bros. Link amiibo is the only confirmed way of getting Epona and the tunic Link wore from Twilight Princess.
Something else that of course adds to the experience, is playing in Pro HUD mode, which means goodbye mini-map and thermometer and all that other stuff as “I’d rather quest the hard way, with only a reference point to guide me!” Playing with the Pro HUD “on” reiterates the whole, “making the adventure your own thing and truly immerses you into all that Breath of the Wild is, which if it isn’t painstakingly obvious, a game with just so much content and so many things to do that it isn’t possible to compact it all into the body of this review.” So it goes without saying Breath of the Wild is unique. So unique yet incredibly similar at the same time.
Time and time again it was said that the development team wanted to change the conventions of what a Zelda game is, yet I don’t see it at all. Sure dungeons don’t really have a presence like they do in other games, but there are dungeons in some shape and form and I’m not just talking about the Shrines. But just looking at Breath of the Wild, it is so easy to see influences from previous Zelda games. The puzzles used here are similar to those from TriForce Heroes, in terms of size and the duration it should take to solve them. (There’s also clothes.) There’s races and locations from the Wind Waker Trilogy, (The Wind Waker, Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.) There’s art influence and style from Skyward Sword and of course Hylia and just so many other things from other Zelda titles. So yeah I don’t see any conventions being broken here, just a lot of great elements from great games in the same series given another chance of life in this fully evolved 2017 Zelda title! Also when playing on Switch, it doesn’t matter what mode you play, Breath of the Wild offers the same experience, even when you’re playing it in handheld mode whilst riding as the passenger in a car. Although my preference is TV Mode, there really is nothing quite like playing Zelda on a big screen with the volume on loud!
Now having just noticed the word count and remembering the fact I have yet to cover the story, I think it’s time I talk about the box art quickly, then the music and the story. (Wait the box art?) Yeah I thought I would do something random and talk about the box art for the Switch, the European image is nowhere near as good as the North American one, but it is nice to see that Nintendo have gone to the effort of making the inside of the book look nice as well instead of leaving it plain. Although the Switch game card is nowhere near as nice looking as the disc for the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild, as that thing is gorgeous. (So much so it’s making me consider buying the Wii U version as well, even if I don’t play it on the Wii U.)
As for the music and delightful sounds this game is packed with, it goes without saying, the soundtrack is simply divine (like always with a Zelda game) and is the perfect blend of new themes and old classic. It’s a shame the same could not be said about the voice acting. While I didn’t mind having voice acting in the game and rather welcomed it and applaud how it was done, there are two characters that immediately spring to mind whose voices I wish had a little more life to them. (Or was just voiced by someone else entirely, but there’s no changing that now.)
But I’ve delayed it too long, it’s time to get on with the story, (which I am hoping to keep spoiler free, out of respect to those playing it and the ones who aren’t.) 100 years before the present, Link is a Knight with the title of Captain. He serves the Princess Zelda, along with a team made up of members from different species, who are referred to as Champions. This team was created with the sole purpose of stopping Calamity Ganon, by using a method that was previously used to stop Calamity Ganon 10,000 years ago. (I could say exactly what it is, but like I said, I’m trying to keep this spoiler free.) But being a Zelda game, everything went horribly wrong. So wrong in fact that the game begins with Link waking up in the Shrine of Resurrection, with all his memories gone and a mysterious female voice calling out to him, offering him guidance.
Upon his awaking, the time to play arrives and from beginning to end, Breath of the Wild’s story is then teaspoon-fed to the player, so as to not reveal everything at once and not overwhelm the gamer. Now that’s not uncommon as far as Zelda games go, but usually the story is revealed more often and in bigger doses, whereas Breath of the Wild’s is less often and in smaller quantities, but then that is probably the fault of the player, because if they choose to follow the story by obeying the Main Objectives and then go off randomly adventuring for ten hours before continuing on with the story, then they have only themselves to blame for waiting so long before there next spoonful.
While randomly adventuring does have plenty of benefits, following the story diligently pays off as well since the story, which I found to be poor and very lacking to begin with, does getting better as the game goes on. Although being as this is a spoiler free review, I can’t specify by how much and in what way. What I can say though, is it took me a long time before I even began to appreciate the story because it is very slow to start and not exactly the best story in the world, but that’s my opinion and mine alone. The characters however, someone of them were simply superb and I wish there was more to them, as I felt we really didn’t get to know them as much as we could have, which is a great shame in itself.
It is because of Breath of the Wild’s story that I find myself oh so very conflicted. I think it is a great, amazingly beautiful and vibrant game. But as a writer and a gamer who cherishes story above all else in a video game, I did initially expect a little more from it, especially since Top reviewers the world over have been constantly comparing Breath of the Wild to Ocarina of Time and stating there is a new King in town! Now as for why I said initially, back during E3 in 2016, Aonuma actually stated the story took a back seat on this one. It’s a good story that drives the game, but it’s not the main focus and it’s true, because the story does take a backseat in Breath of the Wild but it’s pretty enjoyable to say the least.
Nevertheless, even with all the delightful twists and surprises, I still find myself being torn. Ocarina of Time is an exceptional game, it always will be and the story it had, moved me, as did the one in Twilight Princess, a game I absolutely love almost as much as much as I love Ocarina and it is because of its story. The journey Link finds himself on and the world around him. In a lot of ways, Breath of the Wild seems like an evolved version of Twilight Princess, with characteristics and species from titles such as Skyward Sword and The Wind Waker, but I would have liked the story to have been a little better. Had it have been just a smidgeon more, there wouldn’t be a battle raging in my head, Breath of the Wild would be an immediate Champion (pun intended) and would reign supreme over all Zelda games.
Trying to give this game a score it deserves and not one based on bias and hype is a tough challenge and one many other reviewers seemed not to have, but I can not deny that Breath of the Wild is a phenomenal game and one of the very best we have seen for quite some time. A game that goes above and beyond and does justify its lengthy development, so with that in mind, I am going to say that that Twilight Princess is no longer my second favourite Zelda game of all time, because I love Breath of the Wild and Ocarina of Time equally. I can’t choose between them, I really tried to but I just can’t do it and because I prefer to give whole scores, I have no choice but to score Breath of the Wild 10/10 because even with its story that could have been better, for it is a truly great game and one well worth the asking price. (Even if that asking price includes you having to buy a Nintendo Switch just so you can play the game on the Switch instead of the Wii U.) I do however want to make it clear though that while I score it a 10/10 as far as Zelda games themselves go, it is 9.9/10 because it is not better than Ocarina of Time, but it is every bit as great and timeless as Ocarina of Time is!
THE VERDICT: 10/10