Standing in line at midnight to buy a console is something I had thought about doing in the past, but not something I had ever done. Sure, I’ve gone to a few midnight releases of video games when I was younger. Now video games do not hold my attention as long as they used to, I’ll get a few hours of play at a time, so I find waiting a while doesn’t bother me. This was the exception.
The Legend of Zelda for NES, the first game I ever remember playing. It is a huge part of my love of video games. There is no hand holding, no tutorial, you just get a sword(if you went into the cave) and off you went. Exploring a vast 8-bit world full of secrets. My parents had played the game before me and had some stuff filled out on the large paper map that the game came with. There were still secrets to be found and every time I came across something new I got the thrill that comes with discovery. Also, this was all in a time before everything could be looked up quickly online. I would have to put it down for a bit to come back to it with a clear mindset or ask others that had the game what they had done.
I’d never pre-ordered a console but the new Zelda game was enough of a reason, or at least that was my hope. Something to live up to the original. I’ve read and heard about how they pulled a lot of inspiration from the first Legend of Zelda and what the creator had in mind a free roaming, action exploration gaming experience. I had seen the demo played and knew it had potential. On March 2nd I went up to GameStop, bringing my Hylian shield with me, to get my Switch and copy of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at the midnight release.
As soon as I got the game started I knew I had made a good choice. Now, I should preface this by saying in my opinion if you are not a huge Zelda fan, the Switch is an amazing console but it is not something you need to get out and buy day one. Its library is very limited at release. I was immediately drawn in and played it for the majority of my whole weekend. Including Friday which I took off to play. It starts off giving you a small push in the right direction in the form of an old man who sets the exception and tone for how quests are done in the game. There is so much more to this than I ever expected, within the first four hours I had all the necessary abilities to play the game and fully explore the world. It really feels like what the first Zelda was in my mind’s eye as a child. They did a great job of building a game with known lore from what seems like, the ground up.
The game feels like it took from the best part of well known popular games. The combat system seems almost like Dark Souls. You have to be patient as some enemies are much stronger than you, and if you want to fight them head on you better be prepared to dodge. You are given a range of options though from sneaking up on them, to dropping in from above and a number of other ways. The way it plays feels like a lot like Elders Scrolls games, there is also a lot of lore and personality that immerses you in the realm of Hyrule. You could spend time just following villages around, they live their lives go to work, run to get out of the rain. You even buy house and help build a new town from the ground up. The last few similarities it has are broad and apply to a lot of games out today but fit well in Zelda. Upgrading armor by collecting items to infuse with it and cooking to create new recipes for health and protection from the elements. This actually brings me to another cool thing, the use of terrain being too hot or too cold to stand and having to have the proper attire for the location you are in, but if you don’t have the proper clothing you can always whip up an elixir for it that will last a few minutes.
I’m going to end this with some of my experiences, so minor spoiler warning ahead. I was at the base of a waterfall somewhere in the southeast I had swam up it but accidently fell back into it. Thinking that I would just end up in the water of the base of the waterfall I let myself just fall. I ended up behind the waterfall and found a shrine (which have challenges for increasing your health or stamina.) There was a point where there was more I wanted to buy, but I had no money. So, I thought to myself how could I get a lot of wealth, there is always money in mining. I set out to death mountain and happened upon a mine. I had no idea it would be there but I spent some time breaking rocks collecting rubies, sapphires, opals and the occasional diamond. Soon I had enough money to go get everything I wanted. I’ve had several times where I’ve seen a mountain and thought there has to be something up there, right? So off I went climbing a mountain. Sometimes to no avail, sometimes I found a shrine with a cool weapon or a Korok, who give you seeds you can use to increase your inventory. I needed to get into Gerudo village, but men are not allowed in. After following up on some rumors that a male merchant has been going into town somehow, I came across a guy who dresses in women’s clothing to get in. He gave me an outfit and I was able to walk right into town. It was by far one of the most funny moments I’ve had.
The point of sharing those experiences is that they are mine. I wasn’t told by the game or a strategy guide fall into that waterfall, climb these mountains, go mine at this location, or cross-dress to get into the town. I had the chance to figure it out myself and if I thought it was realistic or possible it probably was. Despite all the new things I can still tell it’s a Zelda game at heart. It’s clear there is inspiration from the original for all the reasons above. The real difference I see is the hardware limitation at the time. The Legend of Zelda for NES did what it could and with the hardware we have today Breath of the Wild shows what it was meant to be. This is good game design and it’s what I hope to be a part of one day.
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