Zelda’s Breathtaking Ascension

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer/Publisher – Nintendo
Directors – Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Daiki Iwamoto and Takuhiro Dohta
Producer – Eiji Aonuma
Programmers – Kenji Matsutani and Hiroshi Umemiya
Artist – Satoru Takizawa
Writer – Akihito Toda
Composers – Manaka Kataoka and Yasuaki Iwata

Platform – Nintendo Switch Wii U
Release – March 3, 2017

There’s something special in the newest iteration of the Legend of Zelda series. I’m convinced that Breath of the Wild may go down as one of the most remarkable entries to date in this seminal video gaming property. At roughly 80 hours in, I have visited roughly half of the shrines, surveyed the full map, collected numerous hearts and stamina containers and experienced items that prompt memories that recall early experience playing as Link dating back to the late 1980s. Beyond magical, this Zelda experience hedges toward a spiritual interlude that defines present day RPG gaming in a sphere on par with other great art forms being produced today.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo, 2017

As I’ve played Breath of the Wild I have noticed a sense of semblance. There is the feeling of nostalgia through the ability to explore unknown terrain with some familiarity and a bonding with the characters and story. These elements are frequently common in many of life’s more engaging episodes. In considering how I have transformed myself over the years, tenets within the game remind me of early decisions I’ve made. What I mean by this is that through Link I see my naivety from a different standpoint. There’s something precious in this experience. I can amble about with limited aim exploring Hyrule while simultaneously knowing that threat resides at any turn. This uncertainty and ability to make mistakes is key as I reflect about the past and present. And, for me all of this illustrates to me that Breath of the Wild goes beyond being merely a game and proves itself as great art through connecting on various levels. This type of bonding with the narrative and Link’s experience is on the same level as my experiences viewing films by Kurosawa, reading poems by Bukowski and engaging paintings by Rembrandt at the Rijks.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo, 2017

The visual and sonic aesthetics are remarkable due to their distinct minimal approach. Lead artist, Satoru Takizawa has transformed an 8-bit Link into a stunning character that is easy to embrace. The simple design through trimming down ornamentation keeps with the universal nature of the overall concept of the Zelda series. The world in which you travel is full. There are snow filled mountains, windswept deserts and dark and dank caverns. There is much to explore. Manaka Kataoka and Yasuaki Iwata have composed a series of music arrangements that compliment the gameplay in a manner that is fluid while setting a tone that is on par with other great Zelda sound. I would be surprised if there is not a symphony out there somewhere looking at the potential of translating this material into concert form.

Link battling a Guardian, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo, 2017

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of Breath of the Wild is the impact this game has had on the launch of Nintendo’s newest console, the Switch. I, like many, thought that this generation was a must win for the gaming giant. At present, the PS4 and Xbox One hold sway. With few games at launch (I counted less than 10), Breath of the Wild appears to have once again piqued interest in Nintendo properties not seen in close to a decade. I’m happy to say that the experience I have had playing is well worth the price paid for the Switch. I see myself replaying this game multiple times. And, I look forward to expansions. I have confidence that Nintendo will sort out the online multiplayer issue in months to come.

Link fleeing from Guardian, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo, 2017

As I sit down in an attempt to make my way through another dungeon puzzle, I look forward to the problem solving that merges physics and timing. These thoughtful challenges reminds me of the ability to continue to learn through simple tasks, informative undertakings that can be applied to everyday life. If you have not played “Breath of the Wild”, you are missing an experience that will go down as one of the seminal games made in recent time. I do not state this lightly. Here, there’s something in Link’s journey that truly goes beyond video game development and casual gameplay that is equal to other great works of art being made today.

Link surveying Hyrule, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo, 2017

Review by Chester Alamo-Costello