Why Zelda Breath of the Wild is The Best Zelda Yet

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Why Zelda Breath of the Wild is The Best Zelda Yet

Zelda Breath of the Wild Review

To put it bluntly, I’m a huge Zelda fan. Ever since my friend lent me Oracle of Ages on the Game Boy Color, I’ve adored the entire series. Every game feels familiar, yet different, with their own unique style. In a fanbase that is very divisive over which Zelda game is the best, I’ve loved them all. I still think Ocarina of Time holds up, and despite its flaws, Skyward Sword was a lot of fun.
So I’ve been around when it comes to the Zelda franchise, so I was obviously excited for the latest entry, Breath of the Wild. But even my fanboyish self-was a bit skeptical with its open-world turn. I do love me an open-world adventure, but there are a few series that went open world, and they lost a lot because of it. Plus, many open world games tend to be glitchy or just be a vast field of nothing. But just how Ocarina of Time showed us how easily Zelda could transition from 2D to 3D, Breath of the Wild showed us that Zelda can expand from a large, yet contained adventure to a much more ambitious and open world title.

THE GRAPHICS

Zelda amazing graphics
There is no arguing that Nintendo has been behind in the graphics department in the past few years, but they do a good job disguising it through their artstyle. For instance, The Windwaker’s cel-shaded, cartoony design still looks breathtaking 15 years later, whether you’re playing the GameCube original or the Wii-U remaster.
This game is no exception. The game goes for a cel-shaded artstyle, but keeps it more realistic. The environments are lush, and the superb draw distance allows you to see for miles. Link goes through a multitude of unique character expressions as well. When he’s cold, he’ll shiver and his cheeks will go red. When he regains his energy, he’ll do a victory pose. These sound like trivial details, but they really add to the style and keep this game’s look up there with the PS4.

MUSIC AND SOUND

When it comes to music, Zelda has always had discography of iconic tracks. To the unforgettable Overworld theme to the jovial, yet sinister, Clock Town theme, it’s no wonder people are lining up to see these tunes be performed by a live orchestra.
Breath of the Wild is no exception. The music is heavy on piano. As you’re exploring the lush fields of Hyrule, you’re greeted to a score of quaint pianos. And then the pianos will suddenly change into a deep solo that gets your heart pumping. A Guardian, a robotic creature with a killer laser beam, has spotted you, and you’re about to meet your doom unless you’re prepared. The music perfectly adds to whatever mood the game is trying to showcase.
This is also the first Zelda entry (well, minus those unforgettable CDi games) that has voice acting. Adding voice acting has been a topic of debate in the Zelda fandom, with some fans saying the series needs to get with the times, and others saying the lack of voicing is an icon of Zelda.
The series does well to please both sides. Most of the major story events have voice acting, but the rest of the game does not. The voices themselves are quite serviceable. Zelda’s awkward British voice does take some time getting used to, but at the end, I found it charming. I would love to see more of the game have voice acting, but I understand why they made only the story parts have voices. Speaking of story…

THE STORY

Now, the Zelda franchise hasn’t always had the deepest stories. At their core, they’ve always been a tale of good vs. evil. The later games add twists to the stories, but even then, they’re basic. It’s the characters that make the story great. Who can forget Midna’s snark, or your love-hate relationship with Groose?
But even by Zelda standards, the story is lacking, not having much more than the original on the NES. Link wakes up after a hundred years of rest in a revival chamber, and hears Zelda calling out to him. There is a lot of mystery, but you find out what happened quickly. Ganon, this time in the form of pure calamity, destroyed Hyrule 100 years ago, and Zelda has been keeping him at bay since. You have to free the Divine Beasts, giant robotic animals under Ganon’s control, and use them to help stop Ganon.
There isn’t much story beyond that. You run into plenty of unique characters, and get to see memories of life before Ganon attacked, but there aren’t any twists or turns, really. But like I said, Zelda has never been a game dependent on the story anyway, so I’ll let it slide. It’s not like Metal Gear Solid V, where the lack of story ruined the game for many. However, I do wish there was more meat to the plot.
Speaking of meat, let’s get to the meat of the game, shall we?

THE GAMEPLAY

Where to begin with the gameplay? Should I talk about the dungeons, or discuss the many recipes you can make?
Well, I think the best way to begin is to talk about what has changed in the world of Zelda. Odds are, you’re familiar with how the Zelda formula works, and if you don’t, I suggest you play a couple of games to get the feel. Breath of the Wild takes many of the Zelda tropes and changes them, but keeps them familiar.
For example, getting rupees is harder. No longer can you cut grass or break pottery to make bank, but now you have to craft dishes and potions and sell them, or fine some minerals. You can still find some rupees in chests or even on the ground, but it’s much harder to be rich. I like this, as many of the recent games were just handing you money.
Another change are how weapons are handled. In the older games, you had only a few swords to choose from until you got the Master Sword. Same with shields and bows. Now, you have a wide variety of weapons and shields found in the wild, and they will break after too much use. You can use swords, clubs, even skeleton arms, to attack enemies, but they’ll all shatter. Even the iconic Master Sword and the Hylian Shield, both optional, by the way, can break, with the Master Sword being temporarily unusable after some use. This adds much suspense to the game. While the older games did have shields that can burn up, this game takes it to a new level. You always feel underprepared, and that’s a good thing.

Zelda Costumes in Breath of Wild
The game also has many costumes and armor to choose from. Gone is Link’s green tunic, now only obtainable through an Amiibo, and instead, you can purchase and find helmets, armor, and leggings, each with their own effects. For example, you can purchase a Sheikah outfit in Kakiriko village that increases your stealth, but has low defense. Some armor allows you to brave the elements, letting you survive cold environments or preventing you from burning up on Death Mountain. And you have the Gerudo outfit that is breaking the Internet, where Link dresses like a Gerudo to sneak into the women-only town. There is no perfect armor, and you’ll be changing your look constantly. It reminds me of all the masks in Majora’s Mask, in a way.
So what about the items? In previous Zelda games, you find a unique item in each dungeon, and the item can be used to solve puzzles and progress through the game. Well, what’s interesting is that you get everything you need near the beginning of the game. You’ll obtain bombs, magnetism, the ability to freeze water, and even a camera. I do wish there were more abilities like this, and you unlocked them gradually, however.
To travel the vast world of Hyrule, you can go about it many ways. You have a glider, which lets you travel in the air, or you can capture wild horses and tame them. Again, Link’s iconic horse, Epona, is only obtainable through Amiibo, instead replaced by whatever steed you can find. Fast travel is possible as well. Across the land, there are towers you can climb, and getting to the top creates a travel point, as well as revealing the map for that portion of Hyrule. You can also warp to the shrines you discover. More on that later.
The world around you has many things to discover, from catching crickets to picking animals. These spoils can be cooked to create a wide variety of items to help you. With some monster parts and critters, you can create potions, no bottle required. You can cook meals that restore your health and add effects. For example, cooking a meal with peppers can increase your resistance to cold temporarily. You need to cook things for many situations, and the game doesn’t hold your hand and tell you what to do, which is great.
Throughout the game, you’ll run into dozens of sidequests, too. Like many open-world games, the bulk of the game is optional. If you really want to, you can storm into Hyrule Castle and beat Ganon in less than an hour, although you may not get too far.

However, the best part of these optional quests are finding the shrines.

Zelda BOTW ShrinesHundreds of shrines are scattered through the land. When you find one, you can warp to it. Inside the shrine is usually a challenge. The puzzles in the shrines are well-done, with some of the coolest puzzles in recent Zelda history. Sometimes, the challenge is getting to the shrine itself, where you have to solve a labyrinth or survive an island full of enemies to make it there. Whatever the case may be, you’ll be rewarded with a spirit orb. Collect four and you can either upgrade your hearts or your stamina bar. Stamina allows you to run further and climb higher, so it’s a great upgrade. The shrines are a fun mechanic, and it’s entertaining trying to find them all. Sometimes, they do get lazy and have the same challenges for different shrines. For example, there are a few dozen shrines that involve you fighting the same Guardian over and over. However, they are mostly unique and entertaining.
Since we’re talking about shrines, let’s discuss the biggest part of any Zelda game, the dungeons. And here is where the game stumbles a bit. First, there are only four main dungeons. This isn’t unique to Breath of the Wild; Majora’s Mask did something similar, but the dungeons are extremely short. They all take place inside the Divine Beasts, and all have the same goal. First, you find a terminal that shows you the map. With the map, you can manipulate the dungeon a bit. For example, with the bird dungeon, you can tilt it, letting you access places you couldn’t. You then activate five terminals scattered throughout the dungeon, and then fight the boss.
The problem is that all the dungeons look the same, and can be completed in a few minutes if you know what you’re doing. And the bosses, while they can be challenging, look the same as well, with them all being a part of Ganon’s evil.
With the previous Zelda games, every dungeon had a unique design. Who could forget the pulsating insides of Lord Jabu Jabu, or exploring the Forbidden Woods? With each dungeon, there was always an awesome-looking boss. Remember running away from the hands of Bongo Bongo, or growing large and taking on Twinmold?
Breath of the Wild lacks that, and it doesn’t have as many unique enemies as previous games. For an open-world adventure, it’s weird that it lacks many of the series’ iconic monsters such as Skulltulas or Dodongos. Hopefully, updates or DLC can bring this.
There is so much more to talk about with the world, but I don’t want to spoil too much, so here are the basics.

OVERALL

Breath of the Wild is a fantastic adventure. It’s both a swan song to the Wii-U and a great launch title for the Switch. It’ll keep you engrossed for a long time, and I do look forward to seeing what the DLC will offer in the future.
As for the next Zelda game, I do want it to keep the open-world style, but add more Zelda elements to it, such as unique dungeons, more enemies, and dungeon items. I do miss them, but I understand that you can’t have everything in your first open world title.

9.5/10

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