Release Date: March 3rd, 2017
Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development
Rating: E for Everyone
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U
Given that Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild got immense praise from (almost) all critics and fans alike, with 2017 Game of the Year honors to show for it, it would be a crime for anyone to not induct this game into the Last Token Gaming Hall of Fame. I decided that my fate for writing this Hall of Fame review was all but decided after putting in 50 hours into this game. I could have figured this as much after hour 10, but I ended up getting engrossed in this game for another 40 hours.
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The expectations for BotW were pretty high ever since its initial reveal back in E3 2014. It was expected to give the doomed Wii U console the life boost it needed to survive. This much anticipated title was expected as much, until they later revealed that it was going to be Wii U’s swan song. Concurrently, it was to be the Nintendo Switch’s launch title, with hopes it would give the Switch a much needed solid start to make up for their previous console. Given the outstanding success of this game, it’s safe to say that Nintendo hit a home run on this title, helping to kickstart the success of the Switch that still continues to this day. You can find some other interesting games where you can make some money by looking in to BETEND.
It’s easy to see why Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild became one of the most successful launch titles in recent generations. LTG’s own Isaac Smith even wrote a review on why this game is amazing. Thus, I don’t need to write another full fledged review telling you how amazing this game is since Isaac did the job well. Instead, I will go into my take on the game, touch up on what was already said (only relevant for the context of this review), and go over why this game is Hall of Fame worthy just one year after its release.
The Legend of Zelda series is well known for exploring new areas. Yes, it’s mostly about defeating Ganon and rescuing the princess, but what hooked players into the series in the first place is the vast world they find themselves exploring. It was prevalent in Legend of Zelda for the NES, as well as Link to the Past, and countless other LoZ games that followed. Breath of the Wild manages to take this motif to levels beyond what any player could have imagined, and even pushing the limits of the Wii U hardware to achieve a giant world for players to explore.
Let’s address Breath of the Wild’s most outstanding strength, which was also its biggest risk. They took the formula that every gamer has come to expect from series and gave it a massive overhaul, while keeping the core elements that made LoZ stand out from other franchises. And there were many changes made to the game that ended up making it so refreshing; it is altogether a breath of fresh air for the entire series.
First off, the campaign itself is different like we’d come to expect, but what’s different is that the usual linear format that previous Zelda titles have is non-existent. Instead of being forced to go to one location and then the next, and so on, the players are allowed to tackle the Divine Beasts (Breath of the Wild’s version of dungeons) in any order they’d wish. Whether they want to go to the volcano where Gorons reside first, or to the seas where Zoras live, there is nothing stopping them from making their own campaign. The player can even go straight to Hyrule Castle and defeat Ganon right after completing the tutorial if the player wishes. It’s almost like Choose Your Adventure, with some very risky choices.
Secondly, there are mini dungeons for the players to complete. For each shrine, there is a puzzle that the player must solve in order to complete it. Upon completion, the player will receive an orb, which can be exchanged for a heart container or a stamina upgrade. Part of what made these shrines work is that the variety of puzzles that these developers had to create for the players to complete. Some shrines consist of puzzles that can be solved in the land of Hyrule, whether that will require one to go through a maze, solve a riddle that was given to them by an NPC, or any other variations. The Eventide Island trial is certainly the most memorable of them all. (if you haven’t completed this one, go back to the game and try it!)
Other shrines will make you go through trials inside them that will force you to use your smarts. Some consist of defeating a weapon-wielding Guardian. Completing each and every one of them felt refreshing, as a lot of puzzles felt new. There are different variations of similar puzzles, but the developers spent their time on creating new ones without resorting to recycling ideas too often, and it shows. The fact that there were 120 shrines total just make this even more amazing.
I really can’t figure out where to begin with the presentation of Hyrule. The land itself is one of the most beautifully crafted playgrounds that any game developer has created. The art direction and the aesthetic choices made for every varying environment just brings out the best of Hyrule, making the players curious to explore a lot of nooks and crannies just to see what’s around the corner, or over the hill, or across this river, etc. And giving the player the maximum agency to explore Hyrule in its entirety is one of the most beloved parts of the game. If you can see a mountain, you can climb to the top of the mountain. You can find a foot trail to the top, or you can climb all the way to the top given that you have enough stamina (and potions to help you recover your lost stamina).
You are given the maximum agency to explore any area using any method that is available to the player. Do you have a horse? You can ride the horse to the mountain. Do you want to get back down from the mountain? You can ride your horse back, or you can glide from the mountain all the way back down to the ground. There is no part of the map that the player couldn’t reach, especially with a variety of tools available to the player to help them traverse the land. Of course the music that accompanies the exploration (or riding your horse) helps make environmental immersion much more effective. There are quite a few tracks that still get stuck in my head to this day.
Now how can you have a Legend of Zelda game without having enemies to fight? For as big as Hyrule is, it’s surprising how many varied enemy camps they were able to pull off. Being able to successfully eliminate enemy camps are different puzzles themselves. I don’t recall coming across any camps that restrict the player on how they can eliminate the enemies. Do you run at the camp with weapons blazing? Or do you detonate explosive barrels with fire arrows? Or maybe you can do that with remote bombs. Is there a metal object nearby? Why not use your magnet power to lift it up and drop it on one of the enemies?
The options are so plentiful, even I couldn’t recall a time where i was able to eliminate the same enemy camp using the same methods. This was due to a huge variety of factors, including what weapons were available, what angle I was heading into the same enemy camps, how effective I was able to sneak around the enemies and kill them without my presence known. These are just a few that I can think off the top of my head. Once you get over the learning curve of how to eliminate an enemy camp, you’ll learn how things can go wrong at any time. And you’ll also be reminded that no matter how well prepared you are, things can go terribly wrong if you make too many mistakes.
Fighting the enemy base camps becomes a lot of fun once you play the game long enough. However, before it becomes enjoyable, you’ll have to go through a relatively steep curve to learn how to defeat them. When you start the game, you’re pretty weak, causing almost any hit to become instant death for the hero. Of course, learning how the mechanics work as well as Link’s limits can also be a bit steep, as often hard lessons result in deaths for Link, which makes people view the game as the Dark Souls of the franchise.
All of these factors can be one of the most frustrating aspects of Breath of The Wild. But this learning curve is also one of its greatest boons. Due to the player’s ability to explore other areas, and harvest the weapons and tools needed to take down fearsome foes, this helps the player learn more about the game and help them gather the resources they need to best the enemies. In due time, this would help the player master mechanics and weapons to destroy enemies just as easily as walking.
If you read the previous 5 paragraphs, you’ll start to notice that there is a motif of sorts. Campaigning, exploring Hyrule, and fighting enemies all seem to have the repeating theme of exploration. The game doesn’t really hold your hand that much. It lets you explore, discovering things on your own, learning hints of some things by talking to people, and learning where things are, all of which are done with exploration in mind. And that’s how everything manages to work so beautifully together.
Of course the exploration theme has been utilized to a fault. The weapon duration system forces the players to explore different weapons picked up through various means. For almost every weapon obtained in the game, the acquired weapon has a limit on how many times it can be used before it breaks. The idea sounds good on paper. It could have worked perfectly, had the developers make a few more tweaks to the system. The problem with this system is that the weapons break too quickly. Of course, it’s to be expected when you have a weapon that breaks out on you in the middle of disposing an army of 5 bokoblins. But it can annoy a player when they have to go through over 3 weapons before they can finish off the aforementioned army. Thankfully, The Master Sword becomes the most welcomed weapon in the game, as the weapon only becomes unusable for a period of time before the weapon becomes combat-ready again.
While Breath of The Wild has more than enough content to make the game stand on its own, Nintendo added 2 DLC packs that enticed players to come back to the game, and indeed the extra DLC made it even more enjoyable and added much more replayability. The Master Trials pack added The Trial of the Sword (one of the toughest trials to complete if not THE toughest trial, but very rewarding) and Master Mode, which is Hard mode for the game. Both of these additions made the game even more challenging, yet it manages to be relatively fair to any player brave enough to try out something even harder. The Champions Ballad DLC pack added more trials for each champion along with one last trial to complete. For the fact that this was the selling point of the DLC, I feel that more work could have been done to make this better, but the Champions Ballad quest was still enjoyable to complete. Being able to drive a motorcycle around was really worth the time spent completing the quest. Overall, Nintendo did a stellar job adding more to the amazing game that doesn’t really need the DLC in the first place.
Without a doubt, Breath of the Wild is the best 3D Legend of Zelda game to date. Ocarina of Time was, without any doubt, an amazing game. Perhaps even the best for the N64 platform. But Breath of the Wild manages to even one-up its early 3D ancestor by not only providing a massive and immersive world, but also providing the player almost limitless freedom to explore the world as well as tackle challenges. Even OoT, or any 3D Zelda game that came after Ocarina, provided no freedom on how the player can tackle the story. But Breath of the Wild manages to break the mold by allowing the player to tackle the Divine Beasts in any order they choose, or even skip those beasts and head straight for the boss. What other Legend of Zelda game gave you that freedom that didn’t involve glitching the game?
Not only did this game become one of the games that every Switch owner should own and play, but it served amazingly well as a launch title for the console. Nintendo knows that any game console should have a great title to launch, as they had seen huge successful console debuts time and time again with Gameboy (Tetris), Super Nintendo (Super Mario World), Nintendo 64 (Super Mario 64), and the Wii (Wii Sports). Now they have struck gold once again putting this game as a launch title for the Switch. About 10 months later, the Switch console manages to sell more units than Wii U ever did in its life span of 5 years.
Surely there were a lot of factors that didn’t involve the Switch, and surely there were great games for the Switch that were released after the console launch (Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, etc), but first impressions are just as important as the company willing to continue to crank out more games for the console in terms of justifying its purchase. Given that this game became one of the best LoZ games after Ocarina of Time, it’s no wonder that the Switch console had an amazing launch that brought out the amazing momentum that still goes on to this day.
This is the type of game that Zelda fans have been waiting for all of these years, ever since the idea of open world became popular with the masses. People have wondered what that kind of the game it would be like, and now we have the game that surpasses their expectations. Even fans who couldn’t have imagined this kind of game are now loving it. This idea has been executed so well, the developers are now considering going with this format going forward with the future Legend of Zelda games. If this is the future of how its games look like, it’s definitely something that I’d continue to play.
If you owned the Switch, and if you haven’t owned this game yet (for any reason), you owe it to yourself to get this game. Give it a few hours, and you’ll be hooked for hours on end. It’s the best game made to date, and it certainly earned The Best Game of 2017 honor. Out of all of the titles I played, this is easily the best I’ve played in 2017, and maybe the best launch title I’ve gotten to play. Oh, and you best get used to the Game Over screen. You’ll get that a lot when you begin to play. But it’ll still be enjoyable no matter how many times you get to see that screen.