Op-Ed: Where Breath of the Wild Went Wrong

No game is perfect!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/07/2017 08:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a marquee title for Switch and Wii U, but that doesn’t mean it’s without any faults. Even the greatest of games aren’t beyond reproach, and I’m going to touch upon a few areas of Breath of the Wild that could have used some improvement.

WARNING: FULL SPOILERS AHEAD


Ganon the Afterthought

I’ve never played a Zelda game where facing Ganon felt so anticlimactic. Don’t get me wrong, the battle is an intense, vibrant spectacle that’s both challenging and fun. What left me underwhelmed was actually seeing Ganon for the first time. The narrative spent hardly any time throughout Breath of the Wild establishing Ganon as anything more than an angry black cloud that swirls around the crumbling ruin that is Hyrule Castle. Arriving in Ganon’s chamber and watching him emerge from his cocoon didn’t have nearly as much impact as it should have.

I will admit that this was the most monstrous and unsettling interpretation of the character I’ve ever encountered. As his various appendages unfurled and his massive, spider/scorpion-like body slithered around, I dreaded to see him turn his head and look at Link. When Ganon finally did, there was barely a glimmer of his former (presumed) humanity on his face, a mangled mockery of a man more beast than anything else. Yet, as powerful as this moment was, what it really did was reveal to me the wasted story potential in Breath of the Wild.

Nintendo should have taken the time to give us glimmers of Ganon in the lead-up to the final confrontation. Nothing too heavy handed; I’m not asking for Wind Waker Ganon, here. Rather, what I would have liked to see was Ganon sprinkled into the story in small doses, to be built up as a force of genuine evil so that the last battle had a more personal feel to it. He slaughtered the other Champions, who were Link’s friends, put Link himself at death’s door, and decimated the majority of Hyrule to the point that it’s sparsely inhabited… and yet, by the time I’d come to slay him, I couldn’t feel much beyond “here’s the last bad guy.”

Ocarina of Time arguably handled Ganon best; from Link’s time as a child to the final showdown in Hyrule Castle, he’d been featured just enough to add some edge to that last brawl. He was an oppressive force, shown from his humble beginnings as a man to his ascent as the tyrant of Hyrule, until the bitter end when he transforms into an enormous pig monster. Without that build-up, the finale wouldn’t have been as impactful. I looked at Ganon in Breath of the Wild, transfixed by his mutated body, and wondered just how much more horrifying he would have been if I’d known what he looked like before his transformation. Ganon is the greatest villain in video games—he deserves as much spectacle and attention as either Zelda or Link every time he rears his head in a game.


Timeline Mind Bender

Before the book Hyrule Historia, fans had concocted a number of excuses and explanations to resolve the Zelda series’ numerous continuity contradictions. When Historia dropped, it finally put to bed all the debate and gave a definitive account of which games went where in the timeline of the series. It also divulged that all the fuss over a single timeline was inaccurate—Zelda actually has three. Needless to say, it didn’t please everyone, but it provided some sense to all the chaos of mapping why certain game elements didn’t line up, no matter how much the details were wrangled to be made to fit.

Breath of the Wild has blown these three timelines into pieces. There are elements from virtually every single Zelda game in this lone entry. Theories abound that position the game at various points on the three timelines, but none of them are perfect. Some have even posited that Breath of the Wild represents a fusion of the timelines into a single one, which would make sense given how much of the old games are all mixed together seemingly haphazardly. Whatever the actual story is, though, is a mystery. An annoying mystery.

Why bother revealing the timelines in Historia only to then leave the rest of us in the dark moving forward? I want to know how the Rito, who were previously intimated to have evolved from the Zora once Hyrule was flooded… are suddenly standing right next to one another! Rock Salt comes from the remains of what was once a great sea? Where did the sea go? Was it Wind Waker‘s sea? My mind is racing with all these questions—I wanna know the answers!


No New Game +

I worked my butt off to power up Link and maximize his gear, yet all I can do is keep trudging over to wipe out Ganon with it all, over and over, for eternity. It would have been great to be able to take Link in his state at the end of the game and tackle the whole thing all over again souped up to the max. If that would’ve meant a harder version of what came before (like the original Legend of Zelda!) then so be it, but not being able to bask in my accomplishments in some other way than smooshing Ganon into dust was a letdown.


Give Zelda a Chance to Shine

Zelda was a great presence in this game, but that’s all she was—a side character. Now, I never want to play a mainline Zelda game where Link isn’t the star, but I would like to be able to run around as the Princess herself at some point. Remember back when Paper Mario launched on N64 and Princess Peach had her own segments of gameplay? Zelda is long past due for a moment like that. Heck, I’d have loved to have been able to do entire chunks of the game as her or even switch between her and Link at will. She’s said to be fighting Ganon for the past 100 years, so why not let players experience some of that? Or at least come to Link’s side and join him on his journey for a change!


Horseplay

The Lord of the Mountain is freaking awesome and it’s a travesty that he can’t be registered. For that matter, there shouldn’t have been a cap on the number of horses able to be registered, or at the very least the number should have been higher. That is all.


The Hestu Gag is Funny for Three Seconds

Seriously, 900 Korok Seeds later and he drops a golden deuce in Link’s hand as a reward? If it’s some kind of meta commentary on collectathons I guess I can appreciate where Nintendo is coming from, but honestly… we’re talking hours and hours of dedication to find the stupid things. The reward, I suppose can be argued, is the expansion of Link’s inventory that the seeds bring, but c’mon, give me an unbreakable Great Fairy’s Sword or something after all that effort! Shimmering poo, who does that?!


Hylian Hipsters

Localization is something that Nintendo of America does perhaps better than any other developer, but some of the dialogue in Breath of the Wild fell flat. Mainly because it didn’t fit within the world of Zelda in any way that made sense to me, no matter how much I tried to wrangle it into working. Case in point: registering your horses. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes every time I read that I’d be receiving a “locally made bridle and saddle” for my horse. Uh, locally made versus… what exactly? Is there some giant factory out in the wild that I didn’t see on my travels? Is Ganon running some chain of warehouse stores that’s ruining small businesses in Hyrule? I’m pretty sure everything in Hyrule is as locally made as it gets. I think someone at NOA needed to lay off the kale during Breath of the Wild‘s localization!


Those are my complaints! Do you agree? Disagree? Have some of your own? Share with us below!

3 Responses to “Op-Ed: Where Breath of the Wild Went Wrong”

  • 219 points
    PanurgeJr says...

    For me, I thought the design was brilliant but some of the parameters of the design could be better. I love the stamina meter–but felt it was consumed too quickly during running and swimming. When Link was knocked down by an enemy on a slope he’d fall too long until the physics engine relented. A weather system is good but OH MY GOD HOW IS IT RAINING AGAIN. And I didn’t mind weapons breaking from use, and never was in danger of running out, but they broke too often and many times I’d be stuck with a slower, heavier axe when I wanted quicker swords. That Nintendo got all of these systems to be fun is a testament to their consummate skill; but personally I would have tweaked them a bit.

    Thumb up 2
  • 378 points
    geoffrey says...

    My big issue with it is that the game spends the entire experience teaching you that Lynels are brutal monsters which you really just need to avoid ever going anywhere near lest they mercilessly slaughter you, and then forces you to fight one in a tiny room in the castle. Now, I’m notorious for not finishing games, but I got to that point just as Disgaea 5 came out, and I haven’t gone back to the game – which I’ve dropped over 100 hours into – since. It totally killed it for me, because the game had taught me to have no concept at all of how to fight them.

    There are few things I hate more in games than when they brickwall the player right near the end (see: Kinggom Hearts: Chain of Memories), and that’s what it felt like to me.

    Thumb up 0
  • 219 points
    PanurgeJr says...

    You don’t have to fight that Lynel. Just jump into the water on the left and climb up to further along the path. Just be quick so he doesn’t see you.

    Thumb up 0

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