2021 marks The Legend of Zelda’s 35th anniversary and Nintendo has already let us in on a few things they are working on like the Skyward Sword remake for the Switch during the Nintendo Direct last month. One notable absence though was The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild 2 which many were speculating might be Nintendo’s big holiday release this year. As of the moment in writing this, Nintendo is not yet ready to show us anything related to the game but that won’t stop me from celebrating Zelda this month. The original Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild turned 4 years old earlier this month so I thought it would be a good opportunity to reminisce on some of my favorite moments from the original game.
Learning to survive in the wild
The Great Plateau is one of the best starting areas in any video game because it doesn’t feel like a starting area. The plateau is just as unforgiving as any other environment in BoTW whether it’s the relentless enemy attacks or the danger of the harsh environment. You need to begin to learn ways to stay alive as quickly as you can to progress through this tutorial level. The first roadblock for many people, including myself, is when you need to get to the shrines that are located in the mountains where the temperature drops enough to hurt Link.
Admittedly, I am pretty dumb. I didn’t understand how to progress through the area and I thought that maybe I needed to go do another objective in order to be rewarded with an ability that would allow me to progress. Eventually, I figured it out and my perception of the game completely changed. There are two common ways to get through the cold wilderness. You can make food that will help to maintain homeostasis or you can carry a fire with you. I raided a bekoblin camp and stole their fire in order to survive another day and then climbed to the top of a mountain to find the old man. He congratulated me and I thanked him through chattering teeth as he gifted me a warm doublet for my troubles. I learned very quickly that fire can be used for short term survival but clothing was the best choice in staying alive for longer periods of time.
Playing around with the physics engine
One of BoTW’s biggest innovations is how it lets you manipulate its world and tools to your advantage. Shortly after leaving the Shrine of Resurrection and talking to the old man, Link finds himself on the top of a hillside. Below sit a couple of bekoblins enjoying the afternoon sun. On top of the hill is a boulder and a fallen tree and it turns out you can interact with them. You can push the boulder or tree trunk down the hill to crush the unaware enemies.
This is a pretty straightforward example but the community has thought up a lot of creative ways to use the Shieka powers to do some amazing things. My favorite one is using stasis on a boulder, hitting it until the arrow is in the red, and climbing aboard. The boulder will fly through the sky with you riding along with it. It kind of takes a little bit of the ambience away from the game but it certainly make you feel powerful.
Defeating the Coliseum Lynel
Everyone is introduced to a Lynel at some point in their playthrough. Most of us found our first Lynel on the top of the mountain in the Zora Kingdom and if you are like me you hid in the grass slowly picking the shock arrows from the trees while the Lynel was none the wiser. It was humiliating that I unable to defeat a boss that was just asking to be taken down but at the time a rusty claymore and my lack of ability prevented me from liberating the mountain top. I never forgot that humiliation and I swore vengeance.
I continued to explore the world and slowly marked off my map areas where Lynels spawned and eventually I came across one that was by itself in the ruins of a coliseum. I decided this was the best opportunity to train and learn the best way to defeat them since it was an easy spot to get back to unlike the Zora mountain Lynel. I gathered supplies, unlocked guardian abilities, and planned my attack. I walked up to the coliseum equipped with the best weapons and armor I could find at the time and started the battle with one of the toughest enemies in the game. After dodging most of his swipes and whittling down his health, I was able to land one final arrow shot that made the beast kneel. I gathered my war trophies and from that moment on I felt like nothing in BoTW could stop me.
The reward for completing all the shrines
BoTW doesn’t have traditional dungeons like most Zelda games have, instead the developers chose to have its puzzles split into 3 types. The Korok mini puzzles, the Divine Beast dungeons (which are like full sized dungeons, and the shrines which are like sections of a dungeon split up into their own entities. There are 120 shrines in BoTW and each one gives you spirit orbs which can be used for health and stamina upgrades. Some shrines even give you rare armor and other pieces of equipment.
The shrines themselves are mostly a forgettable experience but they give you something additional to do in the world of BoTW as you explore. There are several fantastic shrines like the labyrinths and Eventide Island but for the most part they are just a fun escape and a great way to obtain upgrades. When you finally complete all the shrines, you unlock one final prize. You make your way to some ruins that, until this point, had nothing special about them and navigate dozens of Guardians as they attempt to stop you from getting the game’s most prized treasure. At the end of the ruins, there are a set of chests and in each one sits the Cap of the Wild, Trousers of the Wild, and Tunic of the Wild. The equipment is in the style of Link’s classic green clothing and is a great way to reward fans for completing all the challenges.
Seeing a dragon for the first time
The first time I saw a dragon, it was only my second day playing the game. I was taking it slow and exploring every nook and cranny I could wiggle myself into. Despite this slow pace, I was still weak and easily discouraged from large confrontations so you can imagine my surprise when I jumped off a tower and from the murky depths of a lake a giant yellow dragon was soaring towards me.
I was too amazed and confused to do much but watch as the dragon flew towards me. Yellow electric orbs flying around the dragon harmlessly as I continued to float along on the Hyrulian wind. The moment stuck with me and I remember telling everyone (who would listen to me talk about a video game) about this encounter like it was one of the most mysterious events of my life. In truth, the dragons aren’t good for much in the grand scheme of the game but their wiggly forms on the horizon always make the world feel more alive and for that they deserve recognition.
The Nintendo Switch has never been known for its graphical power but somehow BoTW managed to squeeze some magic from its limited power. From the moment you leave the Shrine of Resurrection, you are presented with a beautiful vista of the kingdom and that is just a slice of the picturesque moments you will experience in the game.
Nothing can match trotting through knee high grass as the sun slowly sinks behind the horizon making the once green terrain glow in an amber shroud. Even in the dark and snowy North, you can find moments of beauty and serenity as you huddle against a fire, it’s soft glow keeping the shadows and bokoblins at bay. BoTW makes even the quiet moments worth experiencing by making them a painting that you get to explore and ponder while you play.
Retrieving the Master Sword
If you are familiar with the Zelda franchise, you know that the Master Sword always plays an important role in the game’s lore. Yet, at the start of BoTW, the Master Sword was completely absent as it was thought lost during the war 100 years ago before the game. As Link explores the remnants of Hyrule Kingdom, whispers of the legendary hero and his sword can be heard from denizens all over. Yet, everyone was convinced the weapon lost forever.
As time wore on, I became restless to find the sword and hopefully reclaim my title as the legendary hero. What is a hero without his sword, after all?After traveling North a great distance, I was able to see a misty forest and my familiarity with the franchise made me realize that was where the sword lay. I braved the misty Lost Woods and found my way to the Korok’s home where the Great Deku tree watched over the sword’s resting place. If you came to the Great Deku tree prepared, you will be able to grab the sword and move forward in your adventure. If like me during my first adventure, you were not ready to bear its power, you must come back at a later date after you have enough heart canisters to rip the sword from the stone.
A complaint that I have with BoTW is that it becomes a lot less of a challenge to explore the world after you progress enough through the game. You slowly become an unstoppable tank that few enemies stand any chance bringing down but luckily Nintendo thought of that. They implemented a shrine quest where you drop off on an island off the coast of Hyrule and lose all your equipment. To get the shrine to appear, you need to collect several orbs in nothing but your underwear and anything you can find to defend yourself with.
This shrine is my favorite in the entire base game because it made me play BoTW carefully again. I felt like Bryan in Hatchet scavenging to stay alive after feeling like I was on top of the world. Nothing feels better then beating an entire army of enemies with only your wits and some branches. It is one of the best things the developers could have included which explains why they decided to do something similar in the Master Sword Trial DLC which is also a fantastic experience.
Storming Hyrule Castle
The Castle is a constant tease as you explore the land of Hyrule. Ganon’s dark shadow shrouds the once mighty symbol of Hyrulian peace where Zelda is thought to be trapped fending off Ganon with the last of her power. You can immediately attempt to explore the ruins and reach the top at the start of the game but doing so is one of BoTW’s greatest challenges. The castle is defended by several types of guardians who will take you out before you can even whistle for backup.
The castle ruins include the moat around the castle, the cave system underneath, the mountain path leading to the castle grounds, and the castle halls themselves. There is a lot to uncover and it can be a dangerous maze if you aren’t prepared but it is totally worth completely exploring before heading to the top. In the depths of the castle, there rests one of the most iconic pieces of equipment in Zelda alongside the Master Sword, the Hylian Shield.
Storming the castle is like its own adventure in and of itself and depending on your own comfortability it might take several in game days to conquer it entirely. The reward? Taking the fight to Ganon and liberating Hyrule once and for all. And maybe a cake recipe.
The unique thing about BoTW is that you can go straight to Ganon and beat the game if you wanted right after you complete the trials on the the Great Plateau. However, doing so will put you at a huge disadvantage while you fight him. There is a lot to find and appreciate in the game and unless you are trying to speed run there is little reason why you would try to go straight to the castle.
The moment you feel like you have explored Hyrule to the best of your abilities then you can head on over with no fear. With all the Devine Beasts targeting the castle you will be able to start the battle with Ganon at half health as the beasts unleash a powerful blast. Once their surprise attack is over, it is all down to you, the Master Sword, and the guardian abilities you collected throughout your journey. This final battle can be incredibly easy but it feels like a great payoff after hundreds of hours of exploration in one of the best games to release in quite some time.