A Breezy Take on a Wild Zelda Game
You turn the game on, and you just start playing. You have no idea why you are playing. You are some naked dude coming out of what looks like a tanning bed-induced coma. Your first thought is, “Where are my clothes?” You find some special-looking treasure chests, you stick your head inside, and find a dirt-stained shirt and some well-worn trousers. The thought crosses your mind, “Who would store these in a treasure chest?” Shrugging it off, you pull out the clothes and hold them over your head; a fun and rewarding chime rings in your mind — *da Da DA DAAAA*. You get dressed, walk outside, and immediately are captivated as you gaze over a ridiculously vast landscape of hills, valleys, and an ominous volcano.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is quite a stunning feat. It boasts the largest overworld in video game history. You can run around for hours, fighting the same seven or eight variations of the same monsters. I enjoy the fact that the enemies are generally all the same because it allows the player to get used to the combat and become unbeatable. To compliment this, we are given colourful visuals to enjoy as we roam endlessly through the most non-linear landscape in video game history. You can go anywhere, climb anything, kill anything, die from anything, and overcome any obstacle. This is further complimented by a powerful array of weapons to be found scattered all across Hyrule. Sadly, nothing is permanent in Breath of the Wild, but isn’t that a little bit like life? (Too much?) Weapons will wear and tear, eventually disintegrating in your very hands; best not to get too attached to that King’s Claymore. Since there is an abundance of weapons, we are encouraged to use them up, rack up a body count, and find yourself endlessly rewarded with more, better weapons (consumerism much?). This is as much a downside as it is a perk because running around for hours, smiting the baddies of Ganon is a staple in what makes Breath of the Wild such a fun game. Nintendo keeps things entertaining, and I think this latest Zelda installment is one of the most fun I have played since the Four Swords Adventures; not to digress.
But is it as 10/10 as Ocarina of Time? I am afraid not. While Breath of the Wild is extremely grand in scale, there are staples from the Zelda series that are missing, staples which could have been incorporated. I have to be very clear with this point because people may just call me out on my nostalgia if I get too reminiscent. This poses a challenge, but bear with me. Breath of the Wild is vast. The vastness of the game creates a void. Zelda fans who have played any of the previous installments might agree that it seems like Breath of the Wild took place 100 years after Ocarina of Time’s world and dark energy has caused a rapid expansion of old Hyrule without adding much to fill the gaps. Where previous Zelda games felt interconnected, intricate, and dense with objectives, Breath of the Wild feels dispersed and disconnected within itself. Now, that is not to say that Nintendo left the world feeling totally estranged within itself. Tall towers, which also serve as fast travel points, connect the landscape by providing sweeping vistas similar to those delivered by the game in its opening sequence. These vistas remind us that the world is larger and is indeed connected. The disconnect, however, comes from the fact that what happens in one part of the map very rarely affects another part. Completing objectives tends to feel overly localized and does not demand adventure or exploration in itself. There are few, if any, epic kingdom-wide, item-trading sequences which in previous installments would tour you across the land and unlock highly prized tools or weapons. Furthermore, every shrine, with few exceptions, is a self-contained mini puzzle which requires limited foresight or experimentation. This I did not mind because the ease of completing them allowed me to readily feel like I was making progress; until it gets repetitive. The shrine mechanic was a fantastic concept, but did they really all have to look and feel the same?
I have spent a lengthy paragraph complaining about the emptiness of Breath of the Wild, however I would be lying if I said that it did not come with its perks. As a game with many gaps in space and effect, it allows the player to immerse in microcosms to uncover treasures and travel seamlessly through a varied and diverse landscape. The ease of transportation across the many unique territories of Breath of the Wild is improved by the fun horseback-riding mechanic, which allows you to take full control over any wild horse running about. Yes, there is wildlife. You can hunt animals or harvest vegetation to cook food – and food is really necessary. The only downside to the food mechanic is that you cannot cook pizza. Not a small sacrifice, but a tolerable one. Pizza aside, the diversity of food dishes you make depends on where you travel. Every ingredient is a part of the wildlife and vegetation. Although the wildlife consists of little more than wolves, deer, cows, horses, the birds, and the bees, thankfully the vegetation is highly diverse, including a selection of mushrooms and herbs which, when prepared correctly, cause Link to enjoy a variety of physical enhancements. He can withstand extreme cold, be super stealthy, walk across an erupting volcano, or even run naked in the frozen alpines. This truly is a game about breathing in the wild.
In summation, I give The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a B+ in Osgoode terms, because the bell curve applies where there are more than 20 evaluations. Meaning, on the bell curve, it is better than most but not among the elites of the Zelda franchise. A B+ is a really good grade! At least it didn’t get the D.
 Yes, there are over 20 Zelda titles. Feel old yet?