The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review: Nintendo has created an almost perfect Zelda game

Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Wii U - Nintendo - £59.99

Jack Shepherd
Thursday 02 March 2017 11:56

If you’ve pre-ordered a Nintendo Switch, chances are you’re a feisty Nintendo fan eagerly awaiting the latest addition to the Zelda series, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Your faith, dear Nintendo worshippers, has not been misplaced as Breath of the Wild marks a fantastic addition to the already mighty series.

Breath of the Wild sees our elf-like adventurer wake from a 100-year slumber with no memory and Calamity Ganon ruling over Hyrule. From here, Link must piece together his memories, discover his true purpose, and attempt to save the world and Princess Zelda. If losing his memory wasn’t bad enough, Link must also free four gigantic divine beasts and traverse an open world where almost everything is deadly.

This, of course, marks the most significant and overwhelmingly positive change to happen to the long running series. Breath of the Wild may be the 19th main-series Zelda game but it’s the first to be completely open-world. Being free to roam the expansive (read: overwhelmingly huge) pastures of Hyrule is magnificent.

Want to delve into a shrine you spotted seemingly miles away? You can! Want to forget the main quest and document everything on your camera? You can! Want to speak to the local village and complete side quests? You can! Want to spend all your time feeding apples to your horse? You can! The possibilities feel limitless. And for those wanting to complete the main quest, there’s a quasi-structure that requires a lot of exploration but nearly always makes you feel that you’re progressing.

A little on the aforementioned shrines: unlike in previous Zelda games where each cave was few and far between but were long and challenging, the new system means caves are relatively short, offering one or two major challenges. However, there are dozens upon dozens spread throughout Hyrule so their brevity doesn’t matter as another challenge awaits around the corner. Importantly, completing each shrine rewards you an orb: four of these you can exchange for either a heart container or more stamina. You'll need to upgrade these sooner rather than later because, guess what, you'll be dying. A Lot. We're talking dozens and dozens of times. It's wonderfully challenging.

Another major new change to the series is that swords, shields, and bows break relatively often, meaning you will have to find new equipment to use. This can be frustrating, as your favourite sword won’t be around very long if you're swinging like a mad man. Luckily, each enemy drops their weapon when they perish, meaning you can save that favourite sword for when the inevitable boss appears. One little nitpick here is that the system to select weapons is slightly difficult to maneuver: obviously, it was built with the Wii U’s second screen in mind. Still, you get used to it eventually.

There’s also the Sheikah Slate, which is basically Link’s very own Switch/Wii U controller. The Slate has two functions: firstly, it provides a map that can be used to create waypoints and see where major quests need you to go. Second, as you progress, you acquire runes that give Link certain powers, such as creating bombs and stopping objects from moving for a limited amount of time.

These different powers are used to traverse different obstacles in unique ways, offering enough variety and upgradeability to keep you more than occupied. The only disappointing Rune is the literal camera, which can be used to capture creatures, monsters, and areas, adding their picture to your compendium. Compared to bombs, it’s not exactly exciting.

Of course, there are core Zelda mainstays that keep Breath of the Wild a Zelda game. Not only are Zelda, Link and Gannon back, but so are the classic sounds, Rupees, and some enemies. The combat system also remains similar, with swords, bombs, and your bow and arrow remaining the main way to defeat enemies.

Having been in production so long, many fans have been worried about the game’s graphics. On Nintendo Switch, the stylised look works fantastically, even on the small screen. On TV, though, the game comes into its element, the long draw distance being absolutely breath-taking. More importantly, though, like that Lion King meme, everything you see can be yours (to explore).

That’s just the half of what Breath of the Wild has to offer. Earlier, I called it ‘overwhelming,’ which has somewhat negative connotations. At times, there feels like there is just so much to explore - where do you begin? But, somehow, Breath of the Wild keeps you on track. You don’t feel lost at any stage as you know, quite simply, that Ganon needs to be defeated. By keeping things simple while giving you seemingly infinite things to do, Nintendo has created an almost perfect Zelda game and one I can’t put down. A must-have for any Nintendo lover.

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