GAME REVIEW: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)
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The amount of hype that comes with the release of a full-on installment in one of Nintendo’s big three franchises (Mario, Zelda, and Metroid respectively) is always palpable. In some cases this hype train can lead to disappointment, as in the cases of Metroid: Other M or Super Mario Sunshine. However, once in awhile, Nintendo really outdoes themselves and creates something truly magnificent and, luckily for us all, this is absolutely the case with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
After two major delays and a complete re-working of the game to adapt to their new console, the Nintendo Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had reached the kind of nuclear levels of hype that few games could possibly live up to. Somehow though, the game not only lives up to the hype, it actually exceeds it.
Let me just put it to you as clearly and concisely as possible: Breath of the Wild is the sort of effortless masterpiece that leaves you in awe nearly every time you pick up the controller to give more of your life to it. And make no mistake, if you come on this adventure, you’ll be giving a lot of hours to this mammoth of a game.
Much like Majora’s Mask, there is only 4 required dungeons in the main quest of BOTW, meaning the remaining 23 hearts that will go a long way to keeping you alive on your journey must be collected independent from the central goals of destroying Calamity Ganon and taking back the fallen kingdom of Hyrule for good.
“23?” you say. “Surely you meant 13 Mike, you old such and such, you!” No, I’m afraid I didn’t, there are indeed 23 hearts to collect in this massive, massive game, as well as armor and stamina upgrades to boot, and believe me when I say you’re going to need them. Never has death come to call as regularly as he does in the latest installment of The Legend of Zelda.
Riding into battle without checking out the camp first? Expect an arrow in the back and a couple of quick sword slices to leave you bloodied and whimpering as you breathe your last. Enter a thunderstorm with metal equipment on? Well you’ll be meeting with a lightning strike before you know what’s even happened. Get too close to an open flame? Whoops, Link is on fire and he’s dead again. Seriously, you will die a lot in this game.
However, like From Software’s brutal Souls series (which was clearly a major inspiration for BOTW), the regularity of death and the stunning whip crack with which it can be dealt makes victory all the more sweet when it is finally achieved.
Not only are enemies plentiful, so are dangerous animals like bears and wolves. Luckily though, not all of the world’s wildlife wants to see you cold and dead, much of it just scampers about willy nilly, making the land of Hyrule feel truly alive. Foxes scrounge for berries, birds fly in formations throughout the skyline, and rabbits and deer sprint and gallop majestically past you as you make your way through a forest or meadow.
This is probably one of the factors that makes Breath of the Wild so satisfying and successful. The world is always changing around you, and you never know what will be over the next hill or beyond the next pasture. In a single half hour of play, Link can go from limping through the sweltering heat of a desert to scaling the peaks of an icy mountain, and take heed for these brutal climates can absolutely kill you as well.
If this all sounds a bit daunting to you then you’ve been paying attention. It is daunting but the slow speed with which these new elements are introduced to the player make them bearable to deal with, while also having the effect of never allowing the player to become complacent.
The other proudest strength of Breath of the Wild is the freedom it gives you to solve problems. Let’s say you need to climb a tower but there’s some pesky spiked vines growing up the bottom. You can either opt to burn them off with fire or alternatively find some high ground close by and glide down to a safe spot above the dangerous flora. The countless shrines of the world (which allow you the means to increase your health and stamina) grant you even more freedom in how to solve them, really allowing you to flex your creative muscles rather than forcing you to scratch your head while you search for the one proper solution.
Like the last mainline Zelda title, A Link Between Worlds, Breath of the Wild gives you access to every power you’ll need to take care of business with shocking speed. This time around, you will literally have every power in the game within the first two hours of play, allowing you a crazy amount of freedom as to how you want to explore this world and take on the hundreds of challenges it will be throwing in your general direction.
By now you’ve probably heard the echoing cries of thousands of happy gamers who have found themselves lost in this seemingly endless adventure, but trust me when I say that when you finally get your hands on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you will still find yourself blown away by just how intricately designed, frightfully addictive and daringly fun the game truly is. Games this excellent don’t come along very often, and if you have even a passing interest in action-RPGs, open world adventures or the fantasy genre, you owe it to yourself to experience everything this glorious adventure has to offer.
While you may find yourself intimidated by the scope and size of Breath of the Wild, persevere and you will find yourself playing perhaps one of the finest games you've ever laid your hands on. This game is truly something special and will be long remembered as the classic game it is destined to become.
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