A new console has traditionally needed a selling title. Something unique to the new hardware that is good enough to start sales and get people buying. Microsoft has Halo, Sony Uncharted and Nintendo decided to use the much delayed Wii U The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to launch the Switch. I’m going to skip ahead here as there’s practically no chance you don’t already know this – it worked. Breath is a masterpiece of a game and the reviews have been nearly unanimous in their praise. So is mine.

Most Zelda games have a fairly similar formula. Play as the knight Link and try and rescue the princess Zelda from Ganon, the bad guy. Breath is (arguably) the 28th game in the series and turns the formula around somewhat. You still play Link and need to rescue Zelda, but you are placed in a huge open world with few restrictions. If you want to charge straight off and challenge Ganon? You can. If you want to find yourself a house and start collecting special weapons to hang on the wall? You can.

That feeling of freedom permeates through the game. Breath’s cartoony, but perfect graphics with its occasional voice-over and small animations gives the story an emotional punch that I really wasn’t expecting. It draws you in and Hyrule is perfectly realised. It feels like a real place. I’ve played more hours than I should have over the last couple of weeks and while I could have rushed through, I find myself taking time to explore and savour the experience.

Product Information

Retailer: Amazon, Nintendo +                   

Price: ± £50 to £67 depending on console, downloadable or cartridge version
Paid extras: Season pass DLC for £18 to include bonus launch treasure chests, and expansions in the summer and winter 2017.

About Nintendo

Nintendo needs very little introduction. They started life making playing cards and went from market to market, settling on toys in the 1960s, then moved on to electronic games in the 1970s. They rose to dominance in the 1980s and 90s and are one of the major gaming companies worldwide. The last home console generation was a bad one for Nintendo with very poor Wii U sales, but they’ve remained dominant in the handheld market with the 3DS.

They’re also one of the most prolific game publishers and have many IP’s that everyone has heard of – Mario, Fire Emblem, Pokemon, Metroid, Star Fox, Smash Bros, Splatoon and many more. Zelda – or rather the Legend of Zelda Debuted in 1986 and has had many incarnations since. Most have done well and nearly all have been critically well reviewed.

Design

The story begins with Link waking up in a huge bath of goo inside a cave. Little direction is given and the storyline is gradually revealed. In a few minutes you’re out into the starting zone and the adventure begins. A short introduction follows where players are introduced to the main game principles and then you’re free to follow the main quest line or just head off in any direction following your whim.

The UI is simple and familiar – health, skill and weapon status are at the top left and the local conditions – temperature, noise, time and a minimap at the bottom right. The menu system is broken down into System, Adventure Log and Inventory. All are accessible at any time (including in combat) and pause time in game. The Inventory breaks down what you have by ranged or melee weapons, shields, crafting supplies, food and key items.You can change weapons, eat food and change clothes mid-combat or even mid fall, which can be very helpful. The Adventure Log is a quest log and lets you set map markers. System includes basic controls, how to use special abilities and lets you play with a few different perspectives and key switches.

The game runs smoothly and is rendered extremely well. I’ve had a couple of instances where the screen has glitched and paused for a few seconds – both times when the system was overwhelmed with things going on and it cleared up immediately afterwards.

The freedom of choice also extends to your inventory. See an interesting herb? You can pick it. See a rock? You can blow it up and collect the bits. Everything goes into your materials tab in your inventory and you can carry a nearly infinite amount. However, there isn’t any form of cookbook or list of recipes, so assuming you want to avoid being spoiled by Google searching your only sensible option is systematic experimentation followed by careful recording of what works. It can easily get overwhelming – take time to stay on top of it before it gets unwieldy.

Trigger warning

triggers 100

Zelda is a remarkable family friendly game with no gore, bad language, sex or explicit violence. There is some mild alcohol use but you need to look to find it. PEGI 12 rating (suitable for ages 12 and up)/ ESRB E10 (suitable for ages 10 and up).

Environment & People

Build quality

Cost-Effective

One of the few criticisms that has been levelled at Breath of the Wild is that it’s cost is high. The standard Switch version is £60 and there’s a DLC which is another £18. There’s no argument that’s an expensive game, but for the potential length and depth of it has – it’s worth it. I’ve been playing for a lot of hours and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Specification

Platforms: Nintendo Switch and Wii U
Downloadable and cartridge/DVD versions available
Genre: Fantasy Openworld
Layout: Open world
Length of game: Speed run’s have been done in an hour but most seem to take around fifty hours
Number of players: single player
Difficulty settings: one setting although the DLC promises a hard mode

Requirements

None. The game does not require an online connection to play. The downloaded version takes around 13gb of space on the Switch or Wii U’s storage which is a large proportion of the space available so investing in a microSD card would probably be sensible.

Verdict

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best game I have played in a long while and one of the best games I have ever played. Nintendo have managed to combine an entirely unexpectedly good storyline with an immersive aesthetic and a sense of freedom and surprise that has me climbing the next hill, not for a reward, but just to see whats there. I’m still playing, but already it’s lived up to all the praise that’s been bestowed on it. Breath of the Wild should be at the top of  your list to play. Highly recommended.

essential200

The review is based on the Standard Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild kindly provided by Nintendo. This article was first published on the 17 March 2017.