With a release date finally announced for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, fans and sceptics alike have a renewed sense of curiosity in the latest iteration of the series. As a lucky Club Nintendo member, I was fortunate enough to attend a private New York City event hosted by Nintendo. My first endeavor – check out The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Happily, as the door for the event opened and a slew of endorphins pumped me up, I finally got my hands on this game, and with it, some fascinating thoughts on it.
(Possible spoilers for the first twenty minutes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild)
As the game begins, you hear a mysterious voice as your character, Link, awakens from a 100 year slumber. After learning that the Sheika Slate (a slab with a mysterious eye engraved) can open the door out of your slumbering cave, you stumble through the entrance and are exposed to the outside world of Hyrule. An old man sighs by your appearance and encourages you to explore a decrepit building. The same mysterious voice from earlier implores you to follow your Sheika Slate to another destination. Upon arrival, a dock appears, opening a slot for the Sheika Slate to be placed. Shortly after placing it there, a giant tremor below the earth begins, resonating across the plains and numerous towers emerge (one in your immediate area along with several in other locations in Hyrule). The mysterious voice returns and explains that if a beast terrorizing the world for 100 years gains its true strength, then the world ends. “You must hurry” is the voice’s final warning.
Though this was just a drop in the story within The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I was much more interested in exactly what I could do in this world. Immediately into the experience, I was able to pick up various food items, discover new weapons, and stumble into several scrimmages. Giant boulders littered the area, mentally challenging me to push them to see what would happen. Beautiful grass around me was “accidentally” incinerated once I discovered the uses of fire. In essence, Great Plains of Hyrule seems vast and littered with goodies – a drastic improvement from the illusioned vast, yet empty, world of its predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
With the exploring, I found myself in various fights that challenged my very short tutorial on its mechanics. Initially, I kept throwing my weapons (unintentionally) at the enemies due to my difficulties with the button mapping. After two or three fights, I had a much stronger understanding of the layout. Timing blocks and dodging became second nature – until my weapon broke and tasked me to swap in a new one. Sadly though, I broke all my weapons and was forced to practice my running skills – I became really good at that. Eventually, I found a larger blue Bokoblin enemy that destroyed my three full hearts in one powerful swoop. What hurt even more was when the creature chuckled when I died. Since the demo was just an appetizer, I expect a much deeper system with varied weapons, boosts, and more opportunities to dabble in your fighting skills.
What I did not expect was the quality of the Nintendo Switch’s capacity to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the go. Halfway through the demo, I was encouraged to swap from TV Mode to Handheld Mode where I continued the adventure seamlessly. Frame rate was unchanged and graphic fidelity was just as strong. The grin on my face grew larger, mainly due to the concern that there would be performance differences between the modes. The system did get warm, which could be problematic for long-term gaming, but the Joy-Con controls felt comfortable enough for a lengthy gaming session. Exploring this new Hyrule on the go could be the game-changer everyone is hoping The Switch can deliver.
The subtleties of the game also resonated profoundly. The score of a full orchestra and voice acting finally brought the Zelda-Universe to a compelling new level. Clothing, weapons, and food recipies can bring a deep RPG-style of gaming, along with the incredibly vast open-world that has since been lost over the newer games of the franchise.
My trepidations for the game and system have been subdued drastically, but not eliminated. Though the opportunity of having hours of hands-on experience with the system and twenty-minutes with a game months before release is invaluable, it is not enough to say without a doubt that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild nor the system are flawless. What I can say however is the system will only enhance the gaming with the on-the-go option in a crisp, beautiful, and well crafted world. My countdown for The Switch is ticking away until March 3rd when I can completely immerse myself as Link in this new adventure. Until then, only 46 more mornings where a mysterious voice whispers, “open your eyes”…