The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.

Nintendo Sets New Standard With Zelda Masterpiece

YBLTV Review: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

After an hour, I realized this was a great game. After 50 hours, I realized this was a landmark game. After 100 hours, I realized this was one of the best games Nintendo has ever made—and perhaps ever will make.

And after 200 hours, I realized this was more than a game.

I play most games to, you know, play games. I was playing this for something else. I was finding solace in its environments, spectacular settings filled with light, color and gentle reminders that the world is beautiful. I was finding comfort in its understanding, as it never placed a single expectation upon me. No matter how I felt like spending—or wasting—our time, this game was along the ride. And that’s when it hit me.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had become a companion. It had become a friend. And beyond any superlatives about the game itself, the scope and power of its escapism are what make Breath of the Wild so extraordinary. This isn’t just a game you play.

It’s an experience you cherish.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.

“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild isn’t just a game you play. It’s an experience you cherish,” – Derek Buck, YBLTV Writer / Reviewer

Veterans of the series will no doubt find Breath of the Wild’s setup familiar. Evil has awoken and threatens to destroy the land of Hyrule, and as the prophecies have foretold, so too awakens the kingdom’s hero, Link. His mission is generally the same as it’s been since his 1987 debut—solve the puzzles, slay the demon, save the princess. None of that is new. In fact, neither are the game’s mechanics, which are built around the same targeting system established in the 1998 masterpiece Ocarina of Time. None of that is new.

Except that in Breath of the Wild, Everything Feels New

What sets this Zelda game apart is the space in between. And boy, is there a lot of it. Breath of the Wild sees Nintendo give its long-running series a trendy open-world facelift, and while it’s tempting to say this is a first for Zelda, it’s more of a return to form. While Breath of the Wild takes inspiration from most titles in the series, its closest relative is perhaps the original 8-bit classic, a game that dropped players into a huge world with no direction and a vague warning that it’s dangerous to go alone.

Only this time, that world is bigger.

Much bigger.

The actual size of Breath of the Wild’s game world has been debated, but I didn’t visit 100 percent of its map locations until I’d played for about 200 hours. That’s more than a week of my actual, real life. You can visit 100 percent of Vermont in like two days. That’s how big Breath of the Wild is. And the game’s appeal isn’t just its enormity—it’s the freedom players are given to unfold that enormity however they choose.

Playing Breath of the Wild is empowering, and even after 200 hours, that feeling never went away.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.

And its size has purpose. The star of Breath of the Wild is its environment, and it’s designed to constantly emphasize that environment, its beauty and its unyielding natural power. Rousing Zelda anthems have been traded for subtle piano melodies and wind-grazed ambience, and I’ve never played a game where so much development effort has been put into grass, swaying in the wind with a calm, hypnotic rhythm.

In fact, the game’s most memorable character is Hyrule itself, and its beauty and promise of discovery are so deliberately alluring, it’s clear that ignoring objectives is the objective.

In Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the intended path is no path at all.

Pros

  • A massive game world brimming with discovery
  • Freedom to experiment and explore is rewarding and addictive
  • Hunting and cooking gives new twist to Zelda’s health and hearts
  • Open-world design results in interesting, open-ended storytelling
  • Arguably the most beautiful game Nintendo has ever made

Cons

  • Occasional frame rate issues, particularly in grassy areas
  • Rewarding difficulty wanes quickly as you power up
  • Main “temples” are visually similar, unlike those of prior games
  • After a while, the game’s 120 shrines become repetitive
  • Unfortunately, Breath of the Wild ends
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.

For newcomers to the Zelda series, Breath of the Wild is the perfect starting point. It preserves many of the franchise’s most identifiable elements, from its target-based swordplay to puzzle-packed dungeons, but it also updates these elements for a new generation of gamers. No Zelda experience is necessary to dive into this spectacular new world, but proceed with caution—it’s likely you’ll never want to leave.

And for longtime fans, Breath of the Wild marks a new beginning for the Zelda series. It stays faithful to the franchise’s traditions, but its reverence for the past is never limiting. In fact, it’s out of that love that this game summons the courage to push the Zelda series forward. You’ll recognize plenty of splashes of Wind Waker, shadows of Twilight Princess and flashes of Skyward Sword, but they’re almost always presented in an interesting new context that fits seamlessly within its open-world design.

Breath of the Wild reinvents. It never retreads.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. YBLTV Review by Derek Buck.

Final Thoughts

Just as Ocarina of Time inspired the gaming industry in 1998, Breath of the Wild is likely to redefine adventure games for generations to come. In 15 years, when younger developers are asked what inspired them to design games and push the industry forward, they’ll discuss Breath of the Wild with the same respect with which its developers discuss Ocarina of Time.

After all, for two decades, that was the greatest Zelda game ever made.

Hey, nothing lasts forever.

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