Posted on June 12 2017 by Andy Spiteri
In addition to appearing on the Zelda Informer podcast every week, I try to take in a lot of other gaming podcasts. Video games are my curiosity and my passion, so the more I can listen to smart people talk about them, the better. Lately I’ve been falling behind on my listening, so I decided to start listening to a podcast every day on the drive to work. One episode that caught my attention was an episode of IGN’s Game Scoop! from a few weeks back. The title of the video in question was “Does Nintendo Get A Pass?”
They were referring of course to the fact that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was heaped with praise and perfect scores despite the open world concept in a game being done before. The question was whether the game would be looked at as fondly as if it wasn’t a Zelda game made by Nintendo. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard someone say this either; a quick tour through any video game forums will surely turn up someone echoing these sentiments. And this interested me.
Of course, my initial reaction is ‘No, Breath of the Wild deserved all of the praise it got because it’s an amazing game, not because it’s a Zelda game’, and while I still stand by that, I did stop to play devil’s advocate for a second and came away with an appreciation for why some people might feel that way.
There’s no doubt that Breath of the Wild was a monumental evolution for the Zelda series. But was it an evolution for video games? Not really. The open world design is nothing new to gamers and the ability to progress in the game without any linearity has been a feature for many years now. Likewise, the gameplay was nothing really groundbreaking; Link can jump and climb now, but is that really something we Zelda fans want to boast about since it took 30 years for Link to be able to pull that off?
I’ve seen people take issue with the occasional drops in frame rate or lag in draw distance. The open world has been accused by some of being baron and empty. The side quests are hardly anything more than trivial fetch quests. And as almost any Zelda fan will tell you, Breath of the Wild falls short in comparison to some other titles in the series when it comes to its story, its dungeons, and its bosses. And yet, not a single reviewer really cared. You don’t hear people point out these flaws when talking about the game. Why?
Many of the people that reviewed Breath of the Wild have said they grew up with Nintendo or loved Zelda as a kid; does this mean they’re more apt to let certain things slide in the game that a new IP might get dinged for? Does the fact that we waited so damn long for Breath of the Wild contribute to people really wanting to like it, to justify how long we had to wait for it? All of these questions have contributed to the free pass notion for some fans looking at Horizon and seeing a similar game with not so similar review scores.
It’s interesting to think about, and I can understand how someone who hasn’t played the game and looks at it might think it was overrated, but in the end, I just can’t help but disagree.
Maybe it’s the die-hard Zelda fan in me, but when it comes down to it, no, I don’t think Breath of the Wild got all these perfect scores and accolades simply because it was a Zelda title. I think it got them because it was am amazing adventure.
It didn’t gave a revolutionary concept or control system; it just took what had existed before and perfected it. It did have some frame rate issues and other glitches; what game that size doesn’t? It didn’t have an overworld spilling with people or animals; it has an overworld spilling with character and history. It didn’t have the best sidequests in the world; but it did have charming characters and a sense of fun. It didn’t have the world’s best story or bosses; it didn’t need to. The world told the story. The world was the obstacle.
I wouldn’t say Breath of the Wild is perfect. I would say almost no game is. But I think that people who accuse Zelda and Nintendo of trading on their name to get an easy ride to good review scores are missing the point of Breath of the Wild. To really understand why Breath of the Wild is so good, you need to climb that mountain and finally reach the top. You need to find an ingenious solution to a puzzle that no one ever dreamed of doing. You need to sail in the sky and look the dragon Farosh in the face as a calmly floats by you, majestic music playing and stars falling in the sky.
Only then will those people see that maybe Breath of the Wild isn’t the perfect game, but an experience unlike anything else.
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