A Spoilerific Look at Breath Of The Wild

Well friends,

it’s been a ride waiting all these years for the release of The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. Not only is it finally here, but some have finished it — myself included. My original plan was to play a bit of it, give my impressions, and then do a spoiler-filled post about it. My plan fell through completely as I was simply enjoying the game itself far too much and kept wanting to come back for more. Having recently finished the game and having seen the credits, I do feel a sense of closure. No, I didn’t get every last shrine or armor nor did I fill the Hyrule Compendium, and I didn’t even find every Korok. What I did do however was climb every tower, free each Divine Beast, and reclaim all of Link’s memories. In this post I am going to bring up moments and sequences that can be called spoilers therefore you have been warned that I may discuss events that you may not have seen.

Still here? Wonderful. Let me first address the Vah Ruto in the room: Breath of the Wild is a remarkable open-world game. Some worlds, including Oblivion or Assassin’s Creed, never felt inviting or offered a sense that I could explore and be rewarded for it. Breath of the Wild offers this in spades thereby instating my belief that this game should be regarded as a masterclass of open-world design. Even ruins had tantalizing prospects of treasures hidden in them. Everywhere you go in Breath of the Wild there are both enemies to combat or wildlife to hunt. The game simply never feels barren or desolate.
Yet despite this, it makes for one of two things: either an imperfect Zelda game or a reimagining of what a Zelda game can be/is. Consider for a moment the beginning of the game: you are stuck on a plateau where you are tasked (among other things) with clearing four Shrines that each gift you with a rune that you use for the entire game to solve puzzles. This means that once you receive the bombs, magnetism, stasis, and cryonis runes, most if not all puzzles found in the game can be solved with these abilities. During my playtime the only times I felt like I couldn’t complete a Shrine were when I came across the combat-oriented ones. Furthermore, the Divine Beasts (which are game’s equivalent of dungeons as we have known them) don’t have boss keys and can be completed in any order you desire. You can even choose not to complete them at all. Breaking from Zelda conventions is one of the things the developers wanted to do and they did so with aplomb. Does this mean we have a new kind of Zelda game? Yes, absolutely. This is the most risk Nintendo has taken with Zelda as a franchise since Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. While I do believe that Breath of the Wild isn’t perfect, I do feel that the risk paid off and this will be a title that brings in plenty of new fans.

But for the returning fans, there is plenty to love. References to multiple games can be found (nevermind which timeline this may or may not be in) but no title is referenced quite like Ocarina of Time. Dialogue throughout the game points to the various races being very aware of who were made Sages, going so far as to say that the Divine Beasts were named after Ruto, Nabooru, Darunia, and Medli. Medli being the lone sage reference to Windwaker. Additionally, Urbosa, the Gerudo Champion, speaks about the legend that Ganon once assumed a Gerudo form. Even the music while working my way to Hyrule Castle itself was very reminiscent of the organ playing that Ganondorf plays in Ocarina of Time.

Speaking of Hyrule Castle, I tweeted that I had a lot of thoughts about one room in particular. While climbing the Castle Walls, it’s very possible to run into Princess Zelda’s room. Aside from a bow and sword I hadn’t seen before, I found Zelda’s diary which was very eye-opening. In the pages of her diary, Zelda expresses resentment towards Link at first. She quickly changes her attitude on him once she witnesses his courage first hand and then appears to develop feelings for him. Among the entries, Zelda discusses a conversation between herself and Link about why he is so quiet and doesn’t usually express himself. Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this give characteristics to an avatar Nintendo typically left purposefully blank? I’m intrigued to learn if fleshing Link out further was ever discussed during development.

While on the subject of Zelda herself, I am absolutely thrilled with how she is characterized in Breath of the Wild. In the game, all of Hyrule is not only aware of Ganon, but actively takes steps to prevent the Calamity his arrival brings. This all weighs heavily on Zelda, who through the course of Link’s memories, is unable to summon forth the power that is expected of her until a dramatic climax. This understandably brings forth feelings of anger, jealousy, fear, and ultimately, failure. Why am I so thrilled with a downtrodden heroine? It’s another breaking of convention for Zelda as a character. In prior games, Zelda was usually featured as someone who understood her place in guiding Link to his duty against Ganon and sometimes also as a damsel in distress. In Breath of the Wild, Zelda is trapped in Hyrule Castle with Ganon, but is there willingly holding him back from taking control of the rest of Hyrule. She has some real gumption y’all!

Now, on the bosses, I think it’s a great idea to have the random bosses strewn about the environment. You don’t need to face them at all, but they do present solid challenges, and offer some great loot if defeated. But of all the bosses I encountered, none were as challenging as the version of Ganon in Vah Naboris. During this encounter, the boss moves quick as lightning and is difficult to counter due to the sheer speed at which he moves. I’m still not certain how I beat them, but it is the most memorable.

In addition to the subject of bosses, I love the design of Ganon, it looks very much like his exposure to the Guardians affected him as he attempted to assimilate the technology and use it as a means to achieve a physical form. I was intrigued by his spider-esque form as well, but it was something positively new for him. And I really enjoyed how the fight against this form was varied enough that it felt as though I could use any of my weapons and skills against him, and they weren’t “wrong”. I will say that I was disappointed by what was a by-the-numbers form in Dark Beast Ganon: a hulking beast that is very much like older forms of Ganon. Furthermore, to make things even more generic Link is required to shoot at glowing spots on his body highlighted by Zelda with a special Light Bow. We’ve seen that segment a few times over, and I was surprised after such an inspired first form that we would have that segment to fight.

Now these are just my thoughts on the latest Zelda, but they may change with the DLC that is expected to release this Summer and in the Fall. But what are some of your thoughts on Breath of the Wild Right here is a great outlet to be as spoilerific as you’d like, so go ahead and leave a comment and let the words flow.

Mass(ively) Effect(ive)

This Tuesday sees the release of the latest entry to the Mass Effect franchise, Mass Effect: Andromeda; a game where players get to explore the Andromeda galaxy. Given that Andromeda begins following the conclusion of Mass Effect 2, I wanted to offer an overview of the series in order to add context.

In 2007, Bioware – opting for their own take on sci-fi after making Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic –  released Mass Effect, their take on a third-person shooter/RPG hybrid. What’s very notable, is that not only were they creating their own mythology and universe, but actively envisioned a trilogy of games from the very beginning. Additionally, Bioware focused on creating a system for player choice to be a vibrant component to facilitate true impact from these choices. The player assumes the role of Commander Shepard, being able to determine how the character looks, acts, his/her background and specialty, all based on user preference.

Personally, I am a huge science fiction fan and Mass Effect seemed to be an experience I couldn’t pass up once I heard about it. As I began to explore the Mass Effect games, I was quick to realize that childhood sci-fi favorites like Star Trek had nothing on the lifeforms created for this franchise.

Mass Effect‘s alien species feel very alive and most of that comes from the shipmates you encounter on your journey. Through characters like the weapons specialist Turian Garrus Vakarian, the Asari Dr. Liara T’Soni, the Quarian engineer Tali’Zorah nar Rayya, and the Krogan warrior Urdnot Wrex, each of the major races you encounter feels more fleshed out, allowing the player a more personal connection to some of the large scale conflicts happening in the game.

One of the larger aspects of the game is the in-game character-to-character dialogue one can choose to engage in. Speaking to your shipmates will reveal conflicts and point you in directions to solve them. Black Market trades, war atrocities, and issues stemming from belief and religion rear their heads during play. It was common in my own playthrough to have my morals challenged knowing full well it would affect not only the characters in the vicinity, but would undoubtedly create unforeseen circumstances later in the game(s).

With Mass Effect giving the player a way to control their own future, it gives true weight to the decisions you make as Commander Shepard by having them be reflected and recounted by NPCs. The story of the game does traverse along a path, but the player has the ability to add variances to the story and in this way make it their own. Before Mass Effect, I had not experienced a video game that accomplished such a branching story to such a successful degree. During my own playthroughs, it felt like I was getting closer to these characters and doing my own self-discovery. It ended up being that much more rewarding since I had to bide my time and ask these characters questions in order to dig a little deeper and learn more about them, their motivations, and what makes them tick.

Mass Effect is truly a fantastic introduction of a living and breathing sci-fi world that isn’t perfect. That imperfection drives a lot of the drama, and from there arises an interaction and experience that blew me away. Coming up on the 10th anniversary of the release of the game and given that no game is without flaws, I would say that it is one of the best RPGs to have come out for the last generation of gaming consoles. Since release, Mass Effect has earned 12 awards including RPG of the Year (2007, TeamXbox), Best Original Score (2007, IGN), and Best Story on PC (2008, IGN).

If you are interested in trying Mass Effect out for yourself, here are some links to get you started:

Steam on Windows for $20

EA’s Origin Service for $15

PlayStation 3 for $15

On Xbox 360 and Xbox One for $20

In addition, a box set of Mass Effect is available for $16.95 – $29.99, depending on your preferred platform on Amazon. Or, as always, check with your local used game shop!

Switch Previews

On March 3rd, Nintendo will launch their latest video game console, and for all of the hype, there’s an awful lot of question still lingering around it. I can’t answer a lot of them just yet, but what I can do is go over the launch titles expected to be available in retail or as a download once the Nintendo Switch goes on sale. Let’s get right to it with the most hyped title – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda has long been a series of certain expectations, you go through the story of the game, visiting dungeons and collecting items that you all of a sudden conveniently need. Well, like it or hate it, that and other conventions for the series are thrown out the window. Once the game begins, it’s expected that you will have very little to tell you where you should go. Instead, Breath of the Wild will encourage you to pick your own path and carve out your own adventure. This may very well be the game Zelda fans have been waiting for, and previews of the game tell of a game that packs a wallop. It’s being called the greatest Zelda title since Ocarina of Time, and possibly the game that will force Ocarina to settle for 2nd best Zelda game. All of this praise means even more once you understand that the developers wanted to bring back that feel of wonder and exploration that the original Legend of Zelda on NES gave. If there is a must-own title at launch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks to be that game. Breath of the Wild is a $60 grab physically or digitally.

1-2-Switch

It would be easy to dismiss 1-2-Switch as “just” another collection of minigames, but these are designed for parties and to be the center of everyone’s attention. Not only that, but they showcase the Joy-Con controllers of the Switch with extensive use of each feature. The game packs in 28 different mini-games for you to choose from, or you can have the CPU choose games for you. Previews so far have compared 1-2-Switch to the Warioware series, suggesting a lot of the minigames are relatively quick and simple to play through. But it has already attracted criticism for not being a pack-in title for the Switch. While the title is tailor-made for party or game night scenarios, there is no sign of a single-player mode. All signs point to 1-2-Switch being a hard sell unless you regularly have friends over. 1-2-Switch will be a physical or digital purchase for $50.

Fast RMX

Little seems to be said of this indie racer, but you’re most likely be able to find videos on YouTube. But, Fast RMX is a racer that is best described as a cousin to F-Zero. It’s a futuristic hover racer that emphasizes speed above all else. Fast RMX has 4-player split screen and 8-player online multiplayer options. Further, this is the third game in a series that has been only on Nintendo consoles since the Wii. This is a digital-exclusive offering and will be a $20 purchase.

Snipperclips

Snipperclips is a unique co-operative title where up to 4 players re-shape each other to solve assorted puzzles. Expect this game to be a source of equal parts fun and frustration depending on who you get to play with. Players will need to work together to come up with inventive ways to solve puzzles, and sometimes combine shapes to create something else. This may be the most inventive puzzle game in years. Expect this to be one of the most downloaded titles of the launch lineup. Snipperclips will be a $20 purchase.

Just Dance 2017

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Just Dance 2017 is coming to the Switch, which will support up to 6 players for your latest dance party. Featuring over 40 songs included with the game, and over 200 through a subscription based service. Just Dance 2017 for the Switch will utilize one Joy-Con per player, and features the same gameplay you either love or love to hate. Just Dance 2017 will be a $60 physical or digital title.

Skylanders Imaginators

Just in case you don’t use Amiibo enough, Skylanders are here to get you to buy more figures! A starter pack will be in retail that offers two figures, the game card, and a portal for use with the figures. For the uninitiated, Skylanders is a combination action and platforming game that has a pretty loyal fanbase. Also, this version adds in a Crash Bandicoot cameo and allows players to make their own Skylanders. The Starter pack will roll you back $60.

Super Bomberman R

Super Bomberman R is the return of the Bomberman series after an absence of seven years. In this edition, up to 8 players can compete and cooperate towards laying bombs down in order to progress through levels. Some previews have painted the picture that the game is a tad clunky, but of the launch lineup, this may be the most accessible multiplayer game around. Further, expect this to be a general pallet cleanser compared to the monstrous size of Breath of the WildSuper Bomberman R will set you back by $50 in physical form or digitally.

I Am Setsuna

I Am Setsuna is an RPG made in the SNES-era fashion, and has it’s roots deep into the classic title Chrono Trigger. When Setsuna is selected as a sacrifice to appease demons, what should be the end of her life turns out to be the beginning of a true test. I Am Setsuna takes plenty from classic RPGs including passive bonuses, and a combat system almost taken from Chrono Trigger itself. I Am Setsuna and it’s classic RPG experience will run you $40 as a digital download.

Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight already was on the Wii U, but it will be coming to the Switch on launch day with every piece of DLC in tow in Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove. In Shovel Knight, you guide the titular character through an 8-bit adventure on a quest to rescue his beloved from the clutches of the Order of No Quarter. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove also boasts up to 4-person multiplayer, and 3 additional campaigns involving different characters and abilities. Lastly, a new mode of play will allow you to alter the body and pronouns of each playable character. Meaning, if you want, your Shovel Knight can have the appearance of a woman but be referred to with he/him/his pronouns. Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove will be a $25 digital download.

There you have it, the nine titles confirmed to be launching on March 3rd alongside the Nintendo Switch. There’s plenty of other titles coming soon like World of GooMr. ShiftyMario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Stardew Valley, plus more games are coming every week for this brand new system. What will you plan on grabbing? I’ll hope to see you back here to see my thoughts on two of the titles, Super Bomberman R and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.