With the release of the Nintendo Switch this March came the company's new masterwork, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game achieved its goal of reinventing the franchise, with its giant world, open exploration, and the ability to do anything and go anywhere in whatever order you want. Link can climb up almost any vertical surface, can glide through the air using a piece of cloth and some sticks, and gets all of his tools in the opening area of the game. And of course, we cannot forget the most shocking feature Breath of the Wild brought to the series: a jump button.
The Legend of Zelda follows a simple yet powerful formula. Link, the hero, has to fight Ganon, the evil demon, with the support of Zelda, the princess. The three of them are represented by a set of three golden triangles, the Triforce, bound together in an eternally recurring struggle. Link must search the land of Hyrule for dungeons, where he can find tools which help him reach new places, and artifacts that will open new ways forward.
25 years ago, after a few early Zelda games, the series was defined by A Link to the Past. It was the first to bring out the full potential of all the elements of the formula, which all Zelda games since have followed. A Link to the Past struck the video game scene at the perfect time, when the industry was just seeing its first signs of maturity and developers had started to learn what types of features make games good and what just make them frustrating. The first really good Zelda game, A Link to the Past became the gold standard by which all future games were measured.
Since then, the games have gotten more and more linear. No longer could you choose which order to brave the dungeons, and Link had a companion character constantly nagging him to stop exploring and move on to the next story-related target. While helpful for those who wanted to casually experience the story, it took away some of the joy of exploring a strange new world by following whatever took your fancy.
Then came Breath of the Wild, redefining the formula while at the same time going back to the series' roots. Once again, the world was open for you to explore to your heart's content. If you wanted, you could pick a direction and just run for hours on end. But you would not want to, because something would catch your eye, and you would investigate and find a camp of goblins or a stone puzzle or a beautiful forest glade. If you saw a mountain peak in the distance, you could run there and climb to the top, and then hop off and glide half a mile high above the world.
It seems like this is the culmination of all Zelda games. Where else is there to go, besides making a Breath of the Wild 2, with an even bigger and more diverse world? Well, I don't think that is going to happen, because it is not Nintendo's style. Nintendo is all about innovation, taking the best parts of what it has done before and making something new. Instead, I can see them taking the new ideas they brought to the table and expanding on them. Breakable weapons, choosing whether to upgrade your health or your stamina, and being able to climb most walls are all features that worked really well, and I think we can expect to see them return in future games.
Also, it is worth noting that there are some aspects of Breath of the Wild that leave me disappointed. Sure it's nice to be able to go anywhere, even across mountain ranges, but at the same time the tops of those mountains are often barren, as if they are unfinished. Being able to come to towns and other interesting places from any direction instead of just following the road is a neat idea, but it makes it feel like I'm running around a map instead of a world. In addition, I'm a completionist. When I play a video game, I have to find everything the game has to offer. For Breath of the Wild, which was not designed to be completed but to always offer something new to find no matter how much you have explored before, this took a long time and a whole lot of patience.
Looks like the graphics team messed around in a 3D modeling program
and forgot to do anything else.