Review: Breath of the Wild

I have one big problem with this game.

Why the hell does it have to end?

Complete playlist of my journey on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) for the Nintendo Switch.

This review might be five years too late, but just like my (and the Internet’s) obsession with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, this is just a game that keeps on giving. Breath of the Wild’s absolute grip on its fans is unrelenting, going so far as to cause multiple players to gather 999 (the maximum amount) of all stackable materials. (I heard that some people gather 999 of all materials in master mode, too.) As if 100%ing this game on both normal and master mode is not enough!

Since its release, Breath of the Wild has spawned countless videos and posts revolving around crazy trick shots, fighting styles, tips and tricks, hidden gimmicks, easter eggs, ties to previous games, lore discussion, this guy who draws every day until the sequel is released, mods, challenges, speedruns, glitch exploitation, reaching unreachable chests… So on and so forth. It’s safe to say that this game is a smash hit.

RE “drawing badly until BotW2 [now known as TotK]”: since the initial mention that a sequel for Breath of the Wild was planned and in the works, it was delayed without mention of a target release date. That man was potentially setting himself up to draw every day for years.

Unlike those people, I like this game a normal amount. Yes, definitely.

As usual, I was late to the party. I got this game when I got my Switch, which if you have a keen eye and a spotless memory, was back in June of 2020. Back then, however, I played one game and one game only. It was the height of quarantine at the time, and everyone was playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I was green in the realm of console gaming, and the Switch was the first ever console that was solely owned by me. I didn’t want to branch out, especially not to a game that involves fighting when I know how terrible of a shot I am on a controller. (Yes, I am a terrible shot on the keyboard and mouse, too, but that’s beside the point.)

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t hear about the game, unlike my experience with Cyberpunk 2077. I had a friend who owned a Switch earlier than I did, and when she finally had time to play Breath of the Wild, she made sure to gush about how beautiful it was to the group chat.

I wasn’t phased, but her mention of Breath of the Wild and my previous understanding of the Zelda series made me get the game. Still, I didn’t play until I was further encouraged by another person, being reassured that I didn’t need to know the lore of the entirety of the Zelda series in order to play.

“Link has amnesia, too,” she told me. “He also doesn’t know anything.”

So, on that faithful afternoon one day in August 2021, I played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

And it is as glorious as everyone said it is.

I have nothing bad to say about this game. Other than my disappointment at how it ends, where you are forced to never see the world rebuild itself and if you ever want to keep playing past the ending, you will always have Ganon in the background and Zelda fighting for her life, causing a creeping sense of guilt to always shroud you as you run around looking for little leaf people for their poop, I really have no qualms with it.

There is plenty to do if you don’t rush everything in a week and there are plenty of places to explore if you don’t use a map to speed things along. The absolute enjoyment people must have had when they discovered every single Korok on their own, or every single shrine is something most people won’t soon forget. Sure, the idea of having to explore a map 1.66 times larger than Skyrim’s for 900 tiny, tiny Koroks sounds hellish, but some people really enjoy that.

And some people also like to help, so there’s a handy-dandy interactive map on the Internet that shows you where every single thing is. Koroks, shrines, Towers, enemies, quests, weapons…

Without that map, and the help of one YouTuber for showing all the “discoverable locations” in the game, on the evening of July 15, 2022, I finally 100% Breath of the Wild.

The base game, anyway.

I had so much fun playing the game. It’s such a joy to be in the game because you can never be bored. Sure, there are some moments where the characters could be a little better written, but the relationships between all the characters are believable. It might be a side effect of Link losing his memories, but it was a joy to be shown what happened in the past (in terms of him as a character, as well as his relationship with Princess Zelda) rather than told. Yes, we were told about a lot of things, but the subtle environmental storytelling, musical tells, and easy-to-ignore reading make up for it.

This game is a perfect balance of luring in old and new players. There are enough references to the old games that old players get a kick out of recognizing it, but it’s not out of place or jarring for new players to hear or see. Some references are shoehorned in, but it still works. (Maybe not from a lore point of view, though.)

There are so many mysteries in the game that no one really talks about, leaving the players to guess on their own (i.e. the dragons). Some “mysteries” are tied to actual game mechanics (i.e.: blood moon) that are worked into the game world so seamlessly. It’s fascinating how well all of this just works.

Though, there is one thing.

Link’s diary.

Throughout the game, and like every other RPG, we are allowed to read a lot of characters’ diaries. The base game lacks diaries for the champions, but not Princess Zelda, so through exploring Hyrule Castle, we are able to discover the true depths of Zelda’s feelings toward her appointed knight.

But how did Link feel?

In the Japanese version of the game, the game’s quest log is actually Link’s diary. He writes it from his point of view and reveals his own thoughts and feelings about everything. The most well-known quote in the diary would be how he wants to see Princess Zelda smile again. Coupled with how Kass’s mentor, a castle bard back when there was still a castle to be a bard at, wrote about how “the Princess herself only had eyes for her escort, her knight attendant” in the English version, I think it’s pretty damn obvious what’s going on between the two, whether they themselves knew about it or not.

Link and Zelda’s relationship has been up for debate in every single installation of the series. Most people agree that they are at least friends in most eras, and some argue that they are at most acquaintances (Twilight Princess) or even lovers (Skyward Sword). It’s one of the more luring parts of the game, I think. I certainly was interested to know whether or not they were in love with each other or not, whether in Breath of the Wild or any other game.

That was my stepping stone in entering the Legend of Zelda fandom. In my aim to research the true extent of every Link and Zelda’s relationship, I looked into major installments of the series. I discovered that the games are a lot more interesting than I was first led to believe, and even though all of them contain elements I don’t like, I was still interested in either playing them or watching someone play them.

All in all, I think this game worked really well in hooking me. Not only did it get me to play 300+ hours, and I plan on playing more since I got the DLC and Amiibos, but it also lured me into the entire franchise. I have been watching gameplay videos of Twilight Princess (oh, god, the motion controls are a nightmare and even if I had a Wii I would not play it), and I have started to play the rerelease of Skyward Sword for the Switch (oh, god, the motion controls are killing me). I have also been trying to find a way to play Wind Waker.

It certainly is a change of pace for me, since I don’t play these types of dungeon-crawling, puzzle-solving games, but I like it so far. Hey, you have to try everything once, right? It’s nice to branch out and I don’t regret doing it.

It was a true ride and I would give up everything to experience playing Breath of the Wild for the first time again (just like I would for Skyrim).

Now with Tears of the Kingdom on the horizon, it’s a race against the clock for me to 100% Breath of the Wild DLC.

May 2023 is going to be a hell of a month.


Link’s Diary, Japanese ver. of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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