Today I will get my Nintendo Switch. I’ll get two, actually. I’ll see if there is any way to buy a Special or Masters Edition of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but if I can’t find one I will likely buy it on cartridge and from the eShop. Yes, I will buy it twice so that I can play it while my digital copy downloads.
This may sound both excessive and obsessive. It is. But what you need to understand about me is that The Legend of Zelda series has impacted my life more than anything I have ever been a fan of. I can point to how bands like Gorillaz and Red Hot Chili Peppers made me feel safe to be different in middle school or how the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph helped me feel connected to my kid sister after I moved away to college. The few fandoms I participate in hold vast significance for me, but Zelda occupies a special place in my Heart Container.
Put Your Rupees Where Your Mouth Is
We now have a brand new Zelda on a brand new console that promises to be an experience nobody has ever experienced on a Nintendo console and, quite frankly, anywhere. But words are cheap. Would the biggest Zelda game ever actually deliver on its promises or would we have waited over six years for a disappointment?
I remember playing Breath of the Wild on the Wii U at E3 last summer. I remember the peace I felt. True peace. My heart beat fast and steady. I was in a trance. The hundreds of people playing around me, the overwhelming amount of noise, it all just faded away. It was me, Link, and this vibrant world. I was home.
I talked about my experience with the demo to an eager audience at a party later that week. A game developer among us told me not to get my hopes up for the final game, that a demo build is slaved over to be a great experience, and that the full game likely won’t be as polished. It was easy for her to say that. She didn’t PLAY it. Yet it was the first time a negative thought about the game entered my mind. What if it wasn’t good? I never forgave her.
Finally, a Chance to Breathe
The reviews are in. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is currently sitting pretty with a 98 on Metacritic. All the big dogs I follow — IGN, Polygon, GameSpot, Giant Bomb, Game Informer, Nintendo Life— have given it perfect marks. Compare that to Horizon: Zero Dawn, a wonderfully beautiful open-world game with robot dinosaurs, which came out Tuesday and has a respectable but notably lower Metacritic score of 88.
This is the Zelda game Nintendo evangelists and would-be fans have been pining for. We have seen very little of the game. There is enough to know what I’m getting myself into but nothing more than back-of-box footnotes. That’s more than enough for me. I’ve been on media lockdown avoiding spoilers at all costs, but luckily the community has been very respectful in preserving the experience for all its fans. Nobody wants to ruin this for anyone else. Thanks everyone and I’m with you.
Because who would want to miss out on great moments like impaling Ganondorf through his skull in Wind Waker? Or what about that puzzle in Phantom Hourglass where you had to close your DS to stamp an image from the top screen to the bottom screen? And who could forget finding out that Sheik was Zelda the entire time?! Zelda games are rife with some of gaming’s best plot twists and surprises. I can only imagine what awaits me in Breath of the Wild.
Breath of the Wild is More Than A Zelda Game
When I finally start my new adventure in Breath of the Wild later today, it will be the beginning of a new chapter of my life. Sound melodramatic? Maybe it is, but withhold your judgment until after my explanation.
What makes a Zelda game a Zelda game? It has been said by series producer Eiji Aonuma that he took a lot of inspiration from Skyrim, another large open-world game in a fantasy setting with endless quests and a world that feels alive. Does slapping a Zelda coat of paint on top of Skyrim make it a Zelda game? It certainly helps, but there’s way more to it.
Breath of the Wild features a world where all the systems can interact with each other in a way that is consistent, albeit fantastical, with real world physics. There is an intricate weather system, fire and other elemental propagation, and dynamic physics that work together seamlessly. At least, that’s what Nintendo has promised. The game is non-linear and the dungeons can be completed in any order. In fact, you can reach the final boss from the start of the game if you wanted to.
There are also deep RPG mechanics like stat-based armor, some sort of leveling system, and weapon durability, all a series first. Link’s main clothes are blue instead of green and the game is fully voiced. The game lacks traditional battle music, dungeon maps, and that iconic jingle that plays when you open a treasure chest. So again, what makes a Zelda game a Zelda game?
For me, it’s the battle between good and evil. It is Link and Zelda fighting against the corruption brought forth by the evil Ganon. It is the Triforce. The Master Sword. It’s the memorable characters and the emotional cutscenes. It’s bombing the walls and getting new items. It’s breaking pots and cutting the grass with a spin attack. It’s the Great Fairy’s boobs. It’s Link’s unabashed courage that empowers me to face my fears in real life. It is the unmistakable assurance that selfless love casts out all fear.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a quantum leap forward for the series but make no mistake, it is a Zelda game. In the same way, I realize that I have gone through many changes in my life, even since the start of 2017. I’m very different from the bald boy I was in high school to the tender-dreaded man I am now, yet the core is the same. I would love to think that who I am now is a just an evolution of who I always was. I never want to forget where I came from but I’d rather die than stay the same.
Breath of the Wild forces me to engage with the reality that for better or worse, I am not the same person I was a 5 years ago, 1 year ago, a month ago, yesterday. I hope it will also teach me that change is a good thing and remind me that wisdom, power, and especially courage are the greatest defense against the stagnation that leads to irrelevance.