When the Nintendo Switch Teaser Trailer was unveiled in October, my family were among many - seemingly - that loved the idea and the concept. My brother, who hadn't been in on the Wii U generation, was very much attracted to it and wanted one, while my mum is a Nintendo enthusiast in any case and decided she'd be buying one. My dad for his part thought it looked like a clever piece of technology.
At times I've wondered whether my family's interest in Nintendo is only multiplied because of what I do for a day job, but by the time Nintendo's January Switch event happened I sensed that wasn't happening in this case. For different reasons they all loved what they saw, thanks to the games shown, the cool demonstrations of the concept or simply that neat Joy-Con technology. As I flew to London for a press hands-on my folks were waiting on Amazon to get pre-orders in and were genuinely excited about it.
When it came to the launch line-up of games there was only one way to go - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Out on Wii U too, of course, it nevertheless became the go-to day one release on the new hardware. Both my brother and mum pre-ordered copies to go with their systems, but I was quietly worried (before playing it fully) whether it would do the business in terms of providing a truly memorable opening gambit on Nintendo Switch. Then I played it for an extended time and came to the conclusion it was pretty special, awarding it a 10 in our review. I wrote that review in isolation, of course, and will admit to having 'the fear' as the embargo loomed. Would it be well received elsewhere, or could I look forward to trolls accusing me of being a grovelling fan-boy?
Well, it did pretty well, and I figured I wasn't the only one that truly fell in love with the game. I was pretty confident my brother would also love it, as he had the foundations from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in his gaming history and has played more current- and last-gen open world games than you can shake a stick at. My only hope would be that he would adore it as much as I do; if anything, I think he likes it more and would give it the non-existent 11 /10.
I'll be honest, though, I was worried about how the game would sit with my mum (I've told her this multiple times, so don't sweat it). Over the past 5-6 years she's got a lot of use out of her 3DS and Wii U with games like the LEGO series, Animal Crossing, Story of Seasons and so on. She had started to get a bit more serious in the past year, though, graduating to (and beating in one case) Dragon Quest VII and VIII. This is a gamer that mainly played Columns on the Mega Drive in the '90s and took a while to get used to 3D movement in LEGO City: Undercover back in the early days of Wii U, but things change.
Gaming is like any other skill, it needs to be learned and then practiced. We don't hop on a bike or drive a car perfectly right from the off, but take time to get better. Playing video games is the same, but I'd bet many reading these pages have forgotten that. Using the analogue sticks, all those button combinations, at some point we're all beginners that find it strange.
I've seen that evolution with my mum, but I was nervous about her getting a Switch and relying upon Breath of the Wild as the game. It's a lot of money to buy into it (over £320) and my concern related to the fact that she hadn't actually played a game in the series before; it would all be new. Yet here's the thing about BoTW - it's designed so that those sorts of concerns are irrelevant.
I'm a terrible backseat gamer, awful in fact. If I'm watching someone do something wrong I say it, and get frustrated; frankly I can be a bit impatient in that situation, though I have gradually started to improve. The answer with BoTW and my mum was simple. Stay out of the way, don't get involved.
Early on I provided some basic tips and pointers when asked, little things like how to use the map, be aware of the elements and so on. I pointed out the My Nintendo guide (yours for 10 Gold Points) and some that were starting to pop up here on Nintendo Life, but otherwise I didn't butt in. My mum, I later learned, was taking notes as she played anyway, post-its with controls and little remarks on what works and what doesn't.
It's been two and a half weeks and they're both still playing. My brother, I reckon, could have beaten it by now, but he clearly doesn't want it to end. No side-quest, area or collectible is being ignored by him, and he has some cool stuff I didn't even know was in the game. For review I messed about for around four days like this, but then saw the embargo looming and went into 'story mode'. It was still a playthrough of between 40-50 hours (as an estimate), but I hadn't been able to embrace the wanderlust as much as my brother. I actually created a second profile on my Switch about two weeks days ago just for a second save, which I'm tackling slowly and at leisure.
My mum is still going too, and what's wonderful is how different her experience has become. Unlike my brother she's a way off tackling Ganon, but she ignores convention and the way I would play the game. She's been exploring, and just recently blew my mind by clearing a really tricky part despite Link only having five hearts. Sheer persistence and curiosity are enough for progress, and she's utterly hooked.
In fact, whenever my mum and brother are in the same room they just talk Zelda, all the time. They're talking about areas, encounters, gear, recipes. My dad smiles at it all, and I'm left amazed by it. Never before have I seen a game utterly engross and connect two entirely different gamers. Their paths through the game have been so different, yet it's a shared experience. I think Alan Lopez wrote beautifully about this from his perspective when he spoke about Breath of the Wild as a multiplayer experience.
The thing is, I also have 1-2-Switch and a few other early titles, but all the family seems to play and talk about is Breath of the Wild. 1-2-Switch is too awkward and embarrassing, in a way, and there are other good games that don't have such universal appeal. Breath of the Wild's greatest achievement is taking a 'gamer' series and making it an awe-inspiring adventure for everyone. I have colleagues who say they have kids that play it like a new take on Minecraft, a point also made in this excellent video by Mark Brown.
For these reasons I'll probably argue in the future that Breath of the Wild is in the conversation of the greatest games of all time. I've never seen a game engage so many varied players in such unique ways. For my part I should be burned out, having 'beaten' it in a little over a week for review and then started it again. Yet I still love it, I keep going back.
Whether treated as a final hurrah for Wii U or a launch game for Switch, Breath of the Wild is something special; unlike anything that came before.
Nice editorial! Didn't really view BotW like that to be honest (I've shown my console to a lot of family friends with children, and they seem to like Snipperclips and 1-2 switch more since they're wholly multiplayer experiences).
For how challenging it is as a Nintendo game, BotW never once felt unfair or frustrating to me. This game goes out of its way to enable curiosity and exploration by making it as easy as humanly possible to get back to where you died and try something different while also not shielding you from the consequences of your own stupidity. It's a fine balance, but one that BotW very gracefully achieves.
Dont really see it as something special for me that will be remembered for a very long time. But nonethless i really liked it and had a nice journey. Best moments for me were just journeying and enjoying the peace. Had a magical vibe like when Ashitaka from Mononoke left his village.
"Switch launch game" I feel like I'm the only one here not perceiving this as a launch title. 2015-or-so enchanced port that was delayed on Wii U, so Switch could have its spotlight - it's more like it.
Still, may play this one if I get the opportunity in the future. I like Zelda games and this one looks special enough.
@Jhena A "magical vibe" sounds like it was atleast an ounce special for you haha.
Nintendo made some very smart decisions to update Zelda for "the new generation" of gamers. That is, people who want an in-depth gaming experience, but don't necessarily have large blocks of time available.
One example--instead of the large, complex puzzle dungeons of OoT, we have the smaller, more distributed Shrines of BotW. It is pretty much the equivalent experience, but in more time-friendly chunks.
@Nintendoforlife Yeah thats why i said not really.^^
I love the game. My single complaint is the lack of variety in the divine beast dungeons. One of the cool things about Zelda dungeons for me was the setting. For example, the Deku Tree in OOT was inside a tree, and you had to bore your way to the very roots to find the boss. The shrines are awesome, the divine beasts are cool from a puzzle perspective, but the interior settings are just bland to me and something just feels like it's missing. Still well deserving of its perfect 10 though, the world is amazing enough to make up for it and I recognize my complaint as being grounded in pure nostalgia.
Edit: Found a way to sum it up: The puzzles are fun, but the shrine and divine beast environments feel sterile.
Totally agree. That was one of the most astonishing design decisions about this game.
I have co-workers that never have touched a "hardcore" adventure or RPG game, too much for them. But they are enjoying Breath of the Wild like kids! I'm very surprised.
Accesible and hardcore at the same time. This is 2017 game design, guys, take note from Nintendo!
This very much echoes my experience, except on Wii U. My father isn't a gamer, but does play games occasionally. He watched me play, and saw how much fun I had with it and decided that he wanted to try. He hasn't gotten far yet, but has been really enjoying it, which suprised me. What suprised me the most was his choice of play. Instead of playing on the tv, he voluntarily chose the gamepad! It is amazing how accessible and how this game can be played different to different people.
It's certainly a huge moment in the history of Zelda games, Nintendo games, and, well... probably games in general.
If anything I think the game it as its best when it's beating you senseless for doing something stupid. Because there's nearly always a cleverer way, and the auto-save feature is so well implemented that it feels neither punishing nor forgiving; merely instructive. Try again - it says - but smarter. And you're nearly always only too happy to oblige. It's heartening to hear of people who may be new to the whole thing (like your mum), that have been allowed to grow through the game.
Yes, the game often tells you to "git gud", but more than any other game I've played, it has a very open interpretation of what "gud" actually means. This is a theme across many of the reviews I've seen; a decent chunk of them dedicated to telling the reader of their maniacally convoluted solution that actually worked. I feel you can beat almost anything if you're crafty enough, and rather than the game complaining that you didn't follow the correct path, it rewards you. And if you veer off the path to some godforsaken peak, instead of trying to force you back, there's nearly always a little secret to say "Oh hey! Fancy seeing you here!".
I don't think I've ever seen a game so receptive to the player, and in that respect, it really is something special.
Great article, and truly an amazing Zelda experience. First time I've been enthralled in a 3D Zelda since OoT/MM. LBW had me hooked so hard I had to finish reg and hard mode back to back within 2 weeks 100% both files. Anyone with a Wii U or Switch truly needs to add this game to their library.
My mother too is a gamer, but more of the old school or casual variety. She plays Pokémon Go, Animal Crossing New Leaf, and NES Mini (Mario and Bubble Bobble) daily. After reading this article, I do believe that even she could pick up and play the game.... and more over, enjoy it. Bravo Nintendo, bravo!
I absolutely love BoTW top to bottom but, I do share the concern of missing proper dungeons. The Divine Beasts are cool, as are shrines, but I still feel like something is missing. This is my only complaint though. Hopefully the next Zelda is a massive open world with shrines that also has a handful of more classic style dungeons. Not having unlocking paths into the depths of the world itself feels like a missed opportunity.
@NoxAeturnus yeah I concur. The shrine idea is great for pick up and play, and has allowed me to be able to make progress in 30-60 min chunks.... unlike ANY other open world game. 30 mins in Skyrim? Yeah, you just opened the first of 4 doors in a cave.... 2 hours later you'll exit. (Don't get me wrong, LOVE Skyrim and Fallout, but yeah, you NEED 2 hours per session to make progress there)
That said, I like you, would love more dungeons. Don't remove anything to add them thou! Just add em. Lol.
Some have complained about the over world being sparse, but I'd counter with the vast majority of Skyrim or Fallout not having people/creatures in areas either. Sure in all three there's plenty of scenery, but BotW is no different in terms of "monster/people density".
I don't think Breath of the Wild is accessible, but I do like the fact it's not punishing. I've actually found it very hard to recommend to those who aren't up for an open world game, even if they're Zelda veterans. The reviews did not exaggerate with their 10/10s - it is awesome - but for me, it scores a bit less than that as an overall game.
I'm having similar conversations with people at work. There are people who have never touched a Zelda game before and can't get enough of BOTW.
What's interesting is where Nintendo is going to take this franchise in the future. If the core fans are satisfied, and the game brings in a whole new audience, it will fundamentally change the direction the series takes from now on.
There wasn't much competition either.
Just further proof that it's all about the GAMES, Nintendo. Not your gimmicky hardware.
Imagine a world where BotW isn't a Switch day 1 game. In that world, the Switch is DOA. Switch should take BotW out for dinner or something.
It is a good article, and the author's opinion was well articulated. That said, I strongly disagree that this is an easily accessible title. I tried showing it to my wife, she took one look at it, and thought that the menus, systems, etc... were for too complicated. She also thought some of the more simple shrines were too difficult, I hate to think how she would have felt in one of the dungeons. Like the author's mom, my wife loves games like Story of Seasons, Stardew Valley, anmial crossing, and just about any platformer. I would also ague that the author's mom isn't as casual of a gamer as he thinks anymore, considering she's enjoyed games like Dragon Quest in the past and now Breath of the Wild.
All in all, I don't think this Zelda is any more accessible than any other past Zelda, and perhaps it is even slightly more difficult to get into (My opinion, of course). It's easy enough for gamers (Or relapsed gamers) to get into, but for someone that has been strictly a casual gamer/non-gamer, I don't see them enjoying this game. Of course there are always exceptions, and it's good to read stories like this, but I think this is more of an exception than the norm.
I think it's the worst Zelda game!
Not very accessible if you can't find a Switch to play it on.
My 9yo son is well into it at the minute. I think the 'go anywhere' attitude of the game works so well because it's impossible to get stuck on anything! You can either skip round a tough bad guy or come back to a tough puzzle.
I like how after the plateau he's gone off on a completely different path to me. I keep pushing him towards Rito Village though. I wish If have done this first. The cold-proof armour is arguably the most useful in the game.
That's a heck of a story, and pretty cool that it's working out like that. Personally my opinion is that BotW is a love letter to gamers familiar with both classic and modern gaming conventions and is arguably one of the least accessible Nintendo games in many many years short of Fire Emblem. It uses every button on the controller, some of them in multiple ways/combinations, and still has pages of things tucked away in a fanfold of menus to navigate. Combat is not forgiving in any way, and puzzles in shrines and approaches to divine beasts tend to rely on having a sort of instinct level reaction to modern gaming conventions.
I'd posted in the Zelda thread I don't know how you could give this to someone unfamiliar with prior gaming experience and expect them to have anything but a time of extreme frustration.
It's not a complaint, but I'm not sure I could give this to someone as their first game and expect them to make it off the plateau, basically ever. I wish I could though because it would be one heck of an introduction to gaming.
@Lone_Beagle - Well stated. I'm not a "new generation" gamer, and I thought it was sacrilege when I heard Nintendo had cut back on the temples/dungeons, but it hasn't even crossed my mind while playing the game. I have a toddler and an infant, and I only get an hour or two at most out of a play session. I'm just about ready to tackle the Divine Beasts, but so far; this iteration of Zelda has perfectly suited my play style.
@gatorboi352 - Yep, gimmicky hardware. This whole portable thing is soooo stupid. Such a fad. And table top mode, don't get me started, it's so inconvenient and gimmicky. HD rumble, pffft, it'll be gone soon just like the old non-HD rumble. How many systems ever used THAT?!?
My 10 year old daughter plays it exclusively to raise horses, cook new dishes, and buy clothes. It's also her favorite game of all time (knocking out Tomadachi Life, Nintendogs, and Style Savvy). All of this is sort of amazing. She is pining for DLC that will let her play as Zelda, however.
Completely disagree - when you think of an accessible game, you think of games like Wii Sports...somehow I can't see my Nan getting in to Zelda - no matter how much of a BEAST she was at Wii Sports bowling!
Breath of the Wild is hard - even just figuring out what all of the 18 different buttons do would be quite a daunting prospect to an inexperienced gamer - I would not recommend this game based on its accessibility...no, 1-2-Switch is accessible, SnipperClips too - Zelda is almost the polar opposite.
...I really hope that no casual gamers buy the game on the back of this irresponsibly titled article - they'll be in for a shock if they do.
@gatorboi352 In a world where SMB wasn't a day 1 game NES was DOA too. Even moreso than Switch. Gaming itself was on the ropes at that time.
In a world where SMW wasn't a day 1 title nobody would have upgraded from NES to SNES, it would have been DOA.
PSX was the sole exception to that rule. It had no strong launch software, but launched strong anyway due to the shift in graphics design and and the improvements the storage medium brought. And lets face it, it was a $300 CD player in a time when CD players still cost more than that. That drove sales more than anything.
Myself and my 2 sons are all playing this. No internet cheating, just all trying to explore the world. My 6 year old is more excited about this game then any other game he has ever played. My 15 year old(yes that's right) has quit battlefield to play this. I am playing on my switch while they play the Wii U version. It feels like it's setting a new bar for this genre in its own Zelda way.
We have it on Wii U, and my five year old son is playing his own file alongside me. At times it's like we're playing two different games! The vastness of it, the freedom, the multiple solutions, the difference between day and night... it's just incredible. My partner & daughter tease us that all we talk about is Breath of the Wild, but what's really amazing is they are both happy watching us play! Incredible stuff
The complexity of the controls alone preclude this game from being accessible. There's no chance this could be somebody's (especially an adult) first video game without significant frustrations. My parents, who played the older arcade and atari games couldn't understand smash bros. I shudder to think how they'd handle this.
I've just started scratching the surface and for the first hour or so, I was not enjoying it at all. I felt directionless and left to fend for myself. However, after a bit, I had a lightbulb moment that I was free to do what I wanted and that the game wasnt being obtuse, it was all gently signposting me, I just wasn't paying attention. After that, well I have now gone with the flow and it is liberating.
For me, that is the strength of this game. The familar tropes of open world games or RPG's just don't feel relevant in this game. If the Switch succeeds, it will be because of this game.
I really liked the shrine system in this game. They were never as big or memorable as traditional Zelda dungeons, but they allowed you to have the dungeon experience, but in little snippets instead of big, giant dungeons that took quite a while to complete. That was one issue I had with past Zelda games. I had such a good time exploring islands in Wind Waker, for example, but you always knew there was some massive dungeon on the horizon that would take you away from that for quite a while. I find it works better, for me at least, to have the world itself be in the spotlight, and the dungeons, AKA shrines, be little side activities that were never overbearing or even really necessary to do if you didn't feel like doing them. The freedom of choice in this game was really nice for a change. It really was everything I had wanted in a Zelda game, albeit with some flaws.
One of the biggest issues I had with the game was the side quests. They were really not memorable at all. They were just fetch quests and "go here, kill this" quests and other boring stuff like that. They felt like filler more than anything, and that was really disappointing. I think Nintendo-only gamers that enjoyed the side quests in this game will have a lot of fun with Skyrim when it comes out, because even though that game has some fetch quests and "go here, kill this" quests and whatnot as well, it has plenty of actually interesting and engaging side quests with characters that are a lot more memorable than the characters in Zelda. I honestly couldn't even tell you a single person's name in Zelda that wasn't part of the main questline. I can wholeheartedly recommend Skyrim to anyone who likes the sandbox thing that BotW has. It's clunkier and less polished overall than Zelda, but it's a great game for people who like open world sandbox RPGs, where exploration and freedom of choice is the whole idea behind the game.
Overall though, Breath of the Wild is a great game, and absolutely my favorite Zelda game of all time. I really hope the next game in the series can match or even surpass how great this one is.
Climbing, hunting, mining and bomb fishing simulator...oh and kill that Ganon dude. Seriously my Link is just rambling all over Hyrule...the world is doomed.
I have Snipperclips and Fast RMX but haven't played them yet. Any time I can spare is spent playing Zelda. I have to go back into this world and discover more because there's so much to do. Possibly the best in the series and one of the best adventure games I've ever played. I hope this wins game of the year.
@KirbyTheVampire I agree with you on the side quests comment. Other games certainly had more memorable side quests, and they were often times more engaging than the main plot line. What I do think Zelda gets right, more so than any other open world game, was just how it rewarded you for exploration and how interesting the world was. There were so many cool things hidden all throughout the world, and I find myself constantly rewarded (Being it side quests, treasure chests, korok seeds, shrines, mini-bosses, etc...) for exploring and climbing things. I would be exploring like this in any open world game anyway, but more often than not, the only thing at the top of that mountain off in the distance was the top of a mountain. In Zelda, you can rest assured there's going to be something cool.
@roadrunner343 That's definitely true. I think because there was so much focus on the world though, some things like the side quests, and the story to a degree, fell a little flat. As a general package though, it's a really amazing game.
Brilliant editorial, thanks.
I for one was all aboard the hype train and trying desperately to manage my expectations pre-release, so as to not be let down. However I knew within the first couple of hours that this was a refreshing take on gaming in every sense of the word. From the learn by doing tutorial style to the sheer scope of the lovingly crafted world, it oozes style and grace. It definitely takes practice, you're right, but I can't play it for even an hour without utilising the entire skillset in one way or another.
Over 50 hours in, no rush to take on the fourth divine beast and I'm still excited to pick the game up every single time. Nothing feels like a chore, even hunting various critters etc. to upgrade my gear, because the environment presents diverse challenges and distractions at every turn. There's so much to do but it doesn't overwhelm you with icons.
As someone who is now (but was not always) physically challenged (not just a clever name, see) I can no longer go rock climbing or fell running but my thirst is sated by this wonderful game and it's seeming endless sense of adventure. So many hours in and still so much to see and do. I can't wait to see what the next 50+ hours bring.
And that trailer STILL gives me chills...
Seeing my 8-year olds become absorbed in BoTW, and their 40+ yr old father (me), I have to agree with the premise of this editorial.
Maybe your mum can play Zelda, but I can't imagine my mum handling a game with such complicated controls. She can play Minesweeper with a mouse and Wii Sports, and actually I was surprised I got her to play Bit.Trip Beat and like it, but even for me a game with this many buttons confuses me at times. Sadly, I think my mum would find 1-2 Switch more accessible than this.
Completely and wholeheartedly agree! I have never in all of my 35+ years of gaming been so engrossed in a title the way I am with Breath Of The Wild, and I count GTA 5, Resident Evil 4, and Metroid Prime as some of my all time favs, and this one blows them away in every sense of the word! I am now having dreams about what to do next and I'm a zombie at work thinking about what I'm going to do in the game when I get home, I never sleep or eat anymore- I'm just as engrossed as I was three weeks ago and I can't think of a single game in my life where that has happened, amazing..
Oh and one thing I left out- Shrine quests- seriously these are the best side quest I've ever experienced in an open world game- they are truly special
BotW is probably the most accessible Zelda game ever. Then again, my experience with the inexperienced involved showing Twilight Princess (Wii) to a lapsed gamer, who ended up not getting past the starting village. To be fair, I'd already finished that game once and still got just as stuck---if I'd remembered that TP started like THAT, I'd have not even shown that game.
And for all the complaints I might have about BotW, it was still the most engrossing Zelda I've ever played, offering countless hours of enjoyment before the inevitable burnout. I'd take it over any Ubisoft or Bethesda game anyday (no, id games don't count ).
First Zelda game where I haven't needed a guide all the way through. I've felt myself puzzled and challenged but a good beard rub has seen me through. It's the perfect difficulty level
Good Article. I would agree as well. I switched from console gaming (PS2 was the last console I bought in the early 00's) to PC gaming and haven't looked back since. The Switch has caught my attention like no other system has, and after watching my wife play BOTW on her WiiU, I decided I was making the "Switch". I was actually able to score the last one in stock at a rural Gamespot 45 min away from my house so I am a pretty happy camper
I don't agree! The game is great, but not that accesible for casual/non-gamers. Even I needed to get used to it. For example, the game uses all the buttons. Its more accesible then Xenoblade chronicles X, but less accesible then other Zelda's!
@Lone_Beagle and thats why i finally ordered it...as a 62 year old gamer, I don't have large blocks of time...but can see myself sitting down in table mode in my study enjoying the game for 30 minutes or so a night....Thanks for some great perspective..
@BrownGamer4 While I agree with everything you've said in your post, and this will certainly be one of my all time favorites, that alone does not make the game more accessible. I think the added complexity for controls, cooking system, breakable weapons, difficulty, etc... make this one of the least accessible entries into the franchise.
My wife has been playing and enjoying it, which is no small feat as she rarely plays any games at all. Despite its mechanical complexities (there are a ton of button commands and shortcuts) the way it encourages you to experiment and rewards you for exploration and experimentation, plus the fact that no two people are likely to have the same path through the game makes it more fun to blaze your own trail.
I think that the old Zelda formula, which hinged on there being a definitive right and wrong approach to each dungeon, puzzle, enemy, and problem was much more excluding for many players, and given how much my wife loves playing BotW, I'd say its accessibility level is through the roof.
Just read this and I can't believe your mum plays video games. That is so cool. I don't think my mum has even played a game since Pong. My dad used to dabble in Sonic when it was on Mega Drive, but my mum missed the Tetris craze, the Wii Sports craze and the Brain Training craze. She doesn't even play smartphone games. Having said that, she's recently found Candy Crush on Facebook about 5 years late. My dad has always taken an interest in technology so he's aware of what consoles are on the market. My mum however still calls everything that plugs into a TV "the Wii" or anything you hold in your hands a "Gameboy". I even had to remind her multiple times what Nintendo Switch even was despite telling her about it tons of times. I wish I had parents who played video games, let alone would want to pre-order a Switch and have conversations about Zelda.
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