Like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess before it, Breath of the Wild almost didn't release on the console that it was originally intended for. Unlike Twilight Princess, Breath of the Wild actually released side by side with the newest console and its version of the title. Was it worth it to do both hardware generations? I would say so.
I'm going to start by stating two of my biggest issues. The first? To be expected, Breath of the Wild is graphically inferior to its Switch counterpart. Yes I believe that we all saw this coming but I still expected smooth edges like Twilight Princess and Wind Waker instead of fuzzy ones when it came down to the character models. The second? The original concept saw the use of the Wii U Gamepad for inventory and anything else that would have otherwise been on the screen to leave a clear view of Hyrule while also leaving all the the other information in your hands. This was scrapped instead lining it up with the Switch's version. It's not to say that you can't hide the HUD (short of your hearts), but if you do you still won't have the information in your hands as the only option that it gives you is to play off the Gamepad instead of your screen.
With that out of the way? Wow. The rest of Breath of the Wild is gorgeous. The vast landscapes are incredible to explore and the colors that are used only complement these explorable reaches. Grassy hills, mountain ranges with snow covered tops, you name it, it looks pretty. This is only accentuated by the trees, the animals, the fish, the swamps and the monsters that live in them making the world feel alive. The best part of it all? If you see something in the distance you can get to it.
For once on his adventures our re-re-(add exponent here) incarnated protagonist Link is unrestricted in where he wants to go. There are no invisible walls. There's no getting stuck on a tiny ledge that a simply larger step could cover. It's too high to walk up or jump? Link can simply climb up. You want to go left instead of right? Nothing is stopping you. This time the adventure takes you where you want to go. Something you just have to think about it. Oh yeah! Link can also actually jump. That wasn't a typo.
This new freedom for the series is more than just where you want to go. It also brings in a freedom from the hand holding that the series has been known for in the first few hours of most of Link's adventures that simultaneously act as the tutorials. Now? Just like the world you are free to learn as you explore. Would some details have been nice off the bat? Maybe. Did they need to be? Nah. You'll learn the new dodging system soon enough after seeing a Game Over screen or two.
Like exploring the world, there are also plenty of ways in order to bite the dust. Fall from too high, jump into an icy cold late, run out of stamina while swimming or taking on a badass that can cut you down in one hit. If Link loses all of his hearts then it's Game Over. Running out of stamina while swimming or falling off of a bottomless cliff will remove health and put you back onto the ledge as is standard for the series. Making it through these sections just means that you sometimes have to be a bit more creative with your approach and there's plenty of room for creativity.
Breath of the Wild while not being as technically advanced as Horizon Hero Dawn (which Breanna, Marc, Robert and I are all currently going through), is a lot more free in its approach and design. Nintendo have knocked this one out of the park. You can climb, you can swim, you can surf down a hill on your shield or sneak up on an enemy to take them out silently. Link can now stealth as well as instantly switch between his available shields, swords, hammers, two-handed weapons and his ranged arsenal. Further equipped with Runes and a slate that half looks like a Wii U Gamepad and half looks like a Switch (You know with the Switch really being a Wii U Gamepad with removable sides) there's more than one way to approach a situation.
A lot of these features are nothing new to gamers but they are new to this series. I used Twilight Princess as my benchmark for "maturity" but between this somewhat darker story line with bright colors AND gameplay elements? Breath of the Wild can now take that crown as well as my number one replacing A Link to the Past. This new adventure with its freedom also leaves room for the above mentioned creativity. Want to take out a group silently at night in their sleep? Go for it. Want to hit the explosives nearby taking out an entire other group around their campfire or inside of their skull shaped cave? Go nuts. Have enough arrows to shoot them all down so you don't even need to take out a melee weapon? Make sure you aim for the head as headshots are a thing and they do double damage. Just make sure that your gear is up to the task.
Link's gear now comes in a "durability format"! Shields can only take so many hits, or hills to be slid on, weapons can be used to hit so many times and range weapons can only fire so many shots separately from the ammo count. There isn't a counter for these which would have been nice but there is a warning that your gear is about to break and when it does? It slows down time as the gear explodes in a shower of sparks giving your brain the two seconds to catch up and hit the weapon selection options.
The first pieces of equipment that you pick up are about as useful as firewood. No really. You can set things on fire. Grass, trees, weapons, shields and even enemies! The later aren't fond of it and come to think of it neither is nature. But anyways. The first stick you pick up is good for a couple of hits before breaking. Breaking this stick over your enemies head yields your first weapon however so the stick served its purpose. Then you get the next one, and the next one, and then you realize that your weapon inventory is full. Don't worry as it'll be empty soon enough though you are never truly without the resources to save yourself. Unfortunately Link can't just punch someone...
If, and I mean IF, you manage to go through all of your weapons and all of your arrows you will still have your Runes that provide you with Bombs. Bombs are interestingly enough not out of a pouch with a limited number but instead an unlimited resource with a "respawn time". Coming in either circular format to roll around or square format to simply sit there, either of these can blast an enemy away which if it doesn't outright kill them could possibly have them drop their weapon for you to use. Any bad situation can be turned around if you are resourceful enough. That or just lucky.
This is not The Legend of Zelda that we grew up with. We are not given a sword because it's dangerous to go alone. We aren't given a sometimes… no… often annoying companion that spells everything out for you. We aren't even given jars to worry about as we wonder when the next one will show up. Given nothing from the start but a pair of pants and a shirt, it's up to you to take control of Link and figure everything out. Just keep in mind that you never know if it will work or not unless you try.
Taking a club to a tree and you may hear your subconscious laughing at you. Take a sword and it may start to worry a little bit. Taking a woodcutter's axe and you can yell timber as it's coming down. Use a bomb? Get out of the blast radius you fool! Bright side is that it will come down. Flipside is that unlike the axe you won't really be able to control the fall. Why would you want to? You would want to because a falling tree could be used as a bridge which is another area in which Breath of the Wild shines. There's more than one way around and trial and error is the only thing that stands between you and wherever you are trying to go. Which leads to cooking.
Like your equipment, food plays an integral part of your adventure. You can pick up apples, fish, hot peppers and meat from animals on the field but it isn't until you find a cooking pot that it hits its full potential. By placing up to five ingredients into the pot wonders can be born. Mushrooms skewers, spicy peppercorn steak, roasted Hylian bass and so much more. The base ingredients will restore a bit of health but the advanced dishes will restore health as well as add in some bonuses such as faster stamina regeneration or protection from the cold.
Cooking pots can do more than just cook food. By adding in monster parts to a "recipe" Elixirs can be created into of food dishes that while they will not restore any health, they can do a number of other things such as protect Link from electricity or make him run or swim faster for a period of time. The concept is the same as making a food dish I just hope that you don't mind mixing in bugs and monster parts such as their guts or horns.
All of this comes full circle while exploring as one element always adds to the next. Keeping warm when in the snowy reaches can be done with a spicy dish or with warm clothes if you have some. Just remember that if you do the cooking route you need the ingredients otherwise when Link gets too cold he loses health. Climbing a hill or a mountain becomes a lot harder when it starts to rain and then to downpour making you have to find another way around which could lead to monsters and if you're not prepared it won't be a pretty fight. Get too hot? Layers have to come off. Just remember to take off your metal equipment during a thunderstorm.
With all of this, all of the features, what's the point? There's no sugar coating this time around. Ganon one-hundred years ago attacked and decimated Hyrule while also defeating you. Placed in a rejuvenation chamber by the Princess Zelda, you are only now waking up and will need sometime to get back on your feet. Don't take too long though as Zelda is waiting but somethings can't be rushed which is why there are loads of distractions along the way.
The map of Hyrule is enormous and is split into regions with giant towers, ala Assassin's Creed, in which if you climb to the top you can gain a lay of the land. From up here it becomes easier to plan your route by placing waypoints that will act as marker on your minimap. More than that is that up here you can more easily spot challenge Shrines that act as both quick travel locations and a source of upgrade points.
These challenges are nothing like an actual "Temple" but they are fun and act as a good distraction to the main quest. Not only are they a good distraction but seeking out these locations can really help moving about the world because of the quick travel possibilities that they offer. Nothing is required to fast travel. No money, no resources, just good old fast travel from one unlocked point to the next. More than that, is upon completion of a shrine the monk at the end of the trial will grant Link an orb that can be used to increase his health or his stamina when four are offered up to a statue of the Goddess. This leads into your final set of choices.
Do you upgrade your carrying capacity for your weapons? Your shields? Or do you upgrade your carrying capacity for your ranged weapons? These choices come from collecting Korok Seeds from the children of the forest and bringing them to a very large fellow who's pretty good on his maracas. Like the health and the stamina, like the direction you choose to explore, that choice is up to you and how you feel at that particular moment. I quite liked expanding my melee repertoire first.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an amazing experience. While the Wii U version isn't as pretty as the Switch's, it still looks great once things get running and your eyes adjust to how it looks compared to its upgraded form. I am disappointed in the lack of the original Gamepad features that I had been looking forward to but compared to the rest it's something that disappears fast enough. Wii U owners do not have anything to worry about if they didn't manage to get a Switch as the core experience is of the same grade.
Nintendo Wii U
Article by Pierre-Yves