So, I’ve spent the last nine days murdering Link in a variety of ways. Freezing, drowning, falling into lava, falling off cliffs, electrocution in lightning storms, standing too close to bombs… occasionally even being killed by monsters, because Breath of the Wild does not think twice about putting Big Damn Gotchas in the middle of areas that seemed fairly safe until I suddenly had a red dot centered on my character.
For all that the main story quest line didn’t have a TON of challenge to it, there were a lot of things in Hyrule eager to kill me, and I like that. It meant that when I geared up and got some health expansions, I was able to go back and give them a hearty hello and a “remember me?”
This is, fundamentally, one of the best bits of any open-world game.
This was the first Zelda game I’ve played to completion, or indeed for any significant length of time, and it joins Metroid, Pokémon and (3D) Mario in the list of Nintendo franchises I finished for the first time this year. It’s also the 125th game I’ve finished this year, which is a nice milestone, and it definitely ranks in the top handful among those.
Frankly, 2017 has just been a crazy good year for games in general.
One of the things I appreciated about this particular variant on the Big Damn Open-World Fantasy RPG game is that, in most similar games, the end of the world is pretty damn imminent and all of the running around your character does seems a little… silly? Like, taking Skyrim as an example, I KNOW there’s a big dragon trying to bring about the end of the world and all that, but gosh right now I need to work on my blacksmithing and if these pesky dragons would just stop jumping me every time I fast travel it would be keen.
Link basically wakes up from a hundred years dead for tax reasons, buck naked and weak as a kitten, and the first few NPCs you run in to are all “boy, if you go after Ganon right now, it would not be a good plan. Go work out some.”
So all of the running around is FINE. Ganon’s been in the Ominous Evil Castle for a century already, it’s not like a couple of weeks is going to make any difference either way.
Because I’ve spent the last nine days either sleeping, eating, or getting elves killed, I really don’t think I need to do too much gushing about the game in general. Heck, according to the in-game completion counter, I’ve seen a hair under 18% of what it has to offer. I only completed 40 of the 120 puzzle rooms you use to level up, and there are something like 900 little collectibles scattered here and there, meaning that I theoretically still have 850 of them to find. It’s a huge world!
So, instead of general gushing, a list of things I liked and could have done without.
Liked: Fish Waifu
Like, Mipha is adorbs AND Zelda is more tsun than dere most of the time. In my head canon, these two right here hooked up and made little fish babies.
Also, this may have been my first Zelda game, but apparently I have absorbed enough by osmosis that actually getting my hands on this thing was a seriously epic moment:
So funny story here, you can’t pull this thing out of the ground unless you are strong enough, which – in game terms – means that you need 13 “hearts” worth of health.
I had 12 3/4ths hearts when I got to the point where I could try my King Arthur impression, it was after 5 in the morning, I’d already been playing all night, and you are damn right that I went immediately to the nearest shrine, looked up a spoiler, and got that critical remaining 1/4th of a heart so I could be in bed by 5:30.
Furthermore, Link exploring his feminine side:
“You need to sneak in to this woman-only place, find a dress” isn’t a terribly unusual gag for JRPGs, but Link really rocks that crop top.
Also Purah, who falls just on the cute side of the cute/annoying divide:
…and who is, of course over a hundred years old and just LOOKS like a little girl, because Japan – even Nintendo – loves its lolis.
Other great things: throwing random things into a cook pot just to see what comes out (if there’s another Zelda game in the same style, though, it needs a damn recipe book and some faster crafting), exploring everywhere by going straight up cliff walls and then jumping off into the void, and in general just careening around the world killing stuff and making stuff out of the bits.
Oh, that’s a second thing a sequel needs: craftable arrows. I swear I spent more on arrows than I did building and furnishing my house.
Things that were less fun: the shrines, after about the 20th one. Running around Hyrule, waiting for my shrine radar to beep, and then hunting them down and getting them on my map was way more fun than the actual bits where I had to go in and solve physics puzzles. There’s a reason I stopped at 40 – I had a good twenty or more on my map that were only ever used as fast travel points, particularly the combat trial and motion-control shrines.
Also: the Divine Beast in the desert was a massive source of frustration, culminating in a fight that was easily the hardest boss fight in the game for me. I still had a pretty tiny inventory by the time I got to him, so I didn’t have any wooden weapons or shields on me. I had a ton of food, so he couldn’t kill me too easily, but I couldn’t do any damage to him. I wound up just letting him kill me so I could leave the dungeon and re-gear.
Finally, if I had to get super nit-picky, I kind of kept waiting for some twist to make the whole “hey, our castle has a bad case of the evil monsters and your girlfriend is trapped in there with them, go fix” plot a little more interesting, but there really wasn’t any of that. There weren’t any big WOAH STUFF JUST GOT REAL bits in the story, which I guess makes sense since all the stuff getting real happened a long time ago and you are just coming back to try to make it… less real?
To sum up: it was a lot of fun, even for someone who’d never been able to deal with any previous games in the series. I can’t imagine how mind-blowing it must have been if you were a huge fan of the franchise, I think there were probably a ton of little details thrown in as fan service and the majority of them just whizzed right by me.