I am a long-time Zelda nerd. I started my love of the Hyrule universe back at the age of four with the very first The Legend of Zelda game, and I’ve played and loved every Zelda since. I own the Hyrule Historia, I’ve read up on all sorts of theories and timelines, sorted through the lore of the franchise, and I even have a Master Sword tattoo. Before E3 2016, if you would have asked me which game was my favorite, I would have told you, “Hands down, A Link to the Past with Between Two Worlds as a close second and Ocarina in third.”
Now there’s a new player in town, and Breath of the Wild is a breath of fresh air for the Zelda franchise. It also appears to be everything I’ve ever wanted in a Zelda game. The whole point of the series is to be the hero, explore the land, and save the world from evil. Due to limitations in programming, this has been done throughout the franchise, but never to the extent of what I saw revealed at E3.
I watched Link climbing, jumping, burning grass, and setting up traps. I saw the vastness of the Hyrulian landscape and the open skies overhead. There were no bustling shops or towns or ranches, just an emptiness that made Link seem as if he were truly adventuring in a world devoid of civilization, in ancient lands that were once prosperous but now have been overrun by nature. There was little in the way of backstory as Link wakes up to begin his quest. It was thrilling to finally see what I’ve been wanting in a Zelda game for so long — an open-world adventure that is truly lifelike in the actions you can make.
While I have heard grumblings in the gaming community about the addition of crafting and the degrading weapons system to the Zelda universe, I can’t be anything but excited about it. For once, I will feel like I am earning the title of “Hero” rather than having it tossed onto me due to fate. In gaming, immersion is key, and Breath of the Wild seems to have that covered. Adding crafting only adds to that. So Link can no longer gain hearts by cutting grass, and he has to make a meal in order to keep his life up? That’s just adding to realism. I never found an energy drink while mowing my lawn.
As for the argument that this isn’t a true Zelda game due to the addition of survival, I have to wholeheartedly disagree. I believe it adds to the heroism of Link. I can finally explore Hyrule the way I feel it was always meant to be explored. So many times have I wondered how the retro games would look with updated graphics. It would have been a lot more fun and way more realistic to find my way through the forest maze if I could have climbed a tree to look beyond. Link is no longer just being handed a sword and a fairy and sent on his way. He will have to fight to survive in order to become the hero that Hyrule needs. And we, as the players, will need to make sure he does.
I welcome the changes, and I honestly believe that because of them, this will be the best Zelda game that has ever come out.