Game Title: The Legend of Zelda ~ Breath of the Wild
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Download: 13.6 GB
NA Availability: Retail and Digital
EU Availability: Retail and Digital
Supported Modes: TV, Tabletop, Handheld
With the release of the Nintendo Switch, there are 2 big things that handheld gamers are looking for in Nintendo’s new hybrid console. One of them is open world games on the go. The Switch will get Skyrim later on this year, and people are looking forward to playing it and similar giant open world games on the go.
The second is the new Legend of Zelda game, which caters to both reasons. This new game has been a big hype train ever since it was announced, plunging the world of Zelda not only into a cell-shaded game that isn’t in the chibi Toon Link style, but also because it brings Zelda to the Open World genre. As such, I’ve spent most of my Switch time with that very game.
For my first Nintendo Switch Game Review, here is my review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild!
Long ago, the land of Hyrule was ravaged and wiped out by a force known as “Calamity Ganon”. 100 years later, a young warrior named Link awakens in an ancient Shrine of Resurrection with no memories of his past, called by the one whom is attempting to keep Ganon from freely roaming and destroying the rest of the world. The young Link is then tasked with venturing out into the vast lands of Hyrule, appease great machines once used by Ganon, and heading to Hyrule Castle to take out the Calamity once and for all.
The plot of Breath of the Wild has a lot more story to it than any other Zelda I’ve played. You’ve got all of your current things happening with NPCs, but the overall timeline and the backstory of how Calamity Ganon destroyed Hyrule in memories you unlock as you progress through the game. Those memories dive quite deep into both Link and this game’s version of Princess Zelda, offering a deep amount of character development not seen much in the series before now.
Breath of the Wild is an open world action-adventure game that takes the Zelda series to new depths of exploration. When I say open-world, I don’t mean like Ocarina of Time open. I mean The Elder Scrolls and Fallout open. To give you an idea, the web did size comparisons of maps and found that Breath of the Wild’s explore-able world is BIGGER than that of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. That’s how big the game truly is.
Progress in the game basically has you trapped on a plateau for the first couple hours of the game, having you tackle dungeon-like shrines to gain special powers needed for the full open world, like Bombs, the power to move magnetic objects at will, and the ability to stop time for moving objects that would otherwise run into you and kill you. Once you get those, you get a Paraglider that lets you glide through the air and the full open world opens up to you.
Exploring the world isn’t as easy as it sounds, though. Besides the intimidating size of the map, the game is also heavy on survival elements. First, you’ve got a durability mechanic where weapons only last so long before they break and a stamina gauge that depletes as you run, swim, climb, or use your paraglider. So, if you run from enemies, you have to watch that gauge unless you want it to run out and have you slowly walk for about 10 seconds until it recharges. And without heart drops from enemies, you must rely on enemy and harvesting drops like food to refill your HP. There’s also a crucial Cooking mechanic that is designed to take your base food and make it into a meal to better replenish HP.
On top of this are environmental hazards. You’ll come across a lot of areas where you take constant damage because of the environmental changes. From snowy mountains too cold to bear without warm armor to a hot mountain that causes anything unprotected to burst into flames (including you), there’s a big focus on getting the right equipment in the equipment and armor system. The game has armor that customizes your look (especially if you have Zelda-themed Amiibo figures for special outfits like Link’s Twilight Princess or Ocarina of Time tunics), but a lot of armor sets are required for certain portions of the game. Otherwise, you must buy constant potions to protect you from environmental conditions instead of just wearing the proper armor that you can buy at a nearby town.
Now outside of the survival elements, when you reach the open world, you have a lot of options made available to you. There are 4 main dungeons you’re supposed to clear before tackling the final dungeon and boss, which can be done in any order. And, if you don’t care about getting the True Ending, you could go straight to the final dungeon from the start and try the final boss. Or do one or two dungeons and then the final boss. To put it simply, there are a lot of options available to you and you have the freedom to do as you choose.
With that being said, there’s an intimidating amount of content available in the game. You have the 4 dungeons to clear and the final dungeon. For the True Ending, you’ve also got 12 memories to find specific locations for to gain access to more of the game’s backstory and working through the various shrines located across the world map to increase your heart gauge until you can grab the story-focused blade from a special dungeon hinted at when you clear the main dungeons.
And that’s just for the main objective. If you’re talking about side objectives, there are dozens of side-quests for random NPCs in the various towns and settlements you come across. And past that, you can catch and customize wild horses to ride on, buy and customize your own house, build a town up from scratch, protect NPCs from mid-boss monsters, and the list goes on. For not being an RPG, there is a staggering amount of content packed into this game.
Being open world and Zelda doesn’t mean that this game is a nice easy trek of exploration. This is one of the most difficult games in the series. Across bosses with intricate patterns and attacks to learn to losing stamina while climbing a cliff and falling to your death, there’s a lot of strategy involved in almost any sort of exploration through this world. You will have to be tactful and only Zelda experts will be able to get through dungeons or bosses their first try.
As far as time is concerned, expect a time sink. If you do the game right and go for that True Ending, don’t expect to spend any less than 40 hours in the game. That is including completing the 4 main dungeons and collecting all of Link’s lost memories in order to unlock the True Ending instead of the normal Alternate Ending if you go in without recollecting those memories. And once you do beat the final boss, there’s all the other side quests that you didn’t already do to complete while waiting for the first wave of DLC to roll out this summer with Hard Mode and the Cave of Trials.
Controlling this game is pretty simple. Note that you do need both Joy Con Controllers to do this. Moving Link around is done with the Left Analog Stick and the Right Analog Stick is used for moving the camera. Clicking the Left Stick lets you crouch and clicking the Right Stick activates your map and zoom for placing markers for places you want to go. Then we’ve got the four triggers. L is used for activating runes/subweapons and LZ is used for defending with your shield. R is used for throwing subweapons, and R2 is used to aim with your bow.
Now, the 4 directional buttons are used for actively swapping equipment without going into the customization menu. Up for Runes. Left for Arrows. Right for melee weapons. And Down for whistling to call your horse to you. And the face buttons. A interacts with objects and NPCs. B puts away your weapons. X is for jumping, and Y is for melee attacks.
Overall, not a very difficult control scheme once you get used to it. But one feature I especially like is motion-controlled aiming. When you are aiming your bow, you can slightly move your Joy Cons to use motion controls for precise aiming, which I find extremely useful.
First of all is presentation. Visually, the game looks beautiful. In TV Mode, the graphics look near-flawless with little not even smaller jagged edges to be seen anywhere. In handheld mode, there are a few jagged edges here and there, but it’s beyond anything you’d find in a handheld like the 3DS or PS Vita. It’s a very beautiful game.
The music score is also excellent. You have calm piano tunes out in the world, but key locations have magical remixes and mashups of previous Zelda titles. I especially love the Hyrule Castle theme, which melds Ocarina of Time’s Ganon’s Castle song with the traditional Legend of Zelda theme song.
Now, performance. Breath of the Wild on the Switch is not without a few frame drops here and there. Most of the time, we’re running a nice and smooth 30 fps but in some heavy areas, you’ll see it drop down to 20-25. Surprisingly enough, running the game in handheld mode significantly reduces how often these drops appear.
This is where I think to myself on how my review standards should be. Is it acceptable for a Nintendo Switch game to have something running under 30 fps? On the Vita, it was okay if it was small, but with the Switch? For now, I’m going to make 30 fps my standard for frame-rate and I’ll take a point off for these frame drops. They’re not severe enough to affect your game, but they’re noticeable.
Now that we have Presentation out of the way, let’s talk about Battery Life. In my tests, different games have drastically different Battery Life results. So, I’m going to include Battery Life information in every Nintendo Switch Game Review I do. So, if you are taking Zelda on the go, here is how long your unit will last until it gets down to 15% Battery, where the system informs you to plug in a charger:
• Max Brightness + Wi-Fi On – 2 hours, 36 minutes
• Max Brightness + Wi-Fi Off – 3 Hours
• Low Brightness + Wi-Fi On – 2 hours, 50 minutes
• Low Brightness + Wi-Fi Off – 3 hours, 12 minutes
So, Breath of the Wild is likely to give you around 2.5-3 hours of battery total. That’s pretty low, especially compared to the much longer times I recorded for the Switch version of I am Setsuna, but that’s plenty of time to do what you need to do. At least for a while.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes the series into the open-world genre, showcasing a beautiful world, a breathtaking amount of content and options, and a challenging survival experience. The frame drops will annoy you in TV Mode, but it is a small blemish on an otherwise fantastic game.