You cannot give someone something that you don't have. You can't lend someone money if you don't have money to spare; you can't offer a suffering person peace if you yourself are wrought with worry; and how can you bring life and creativity to a project if dullness and boredom eat away at you? It's this simple truth that leads me to marvel at a game like Breath of the Wild, because it gives so much.
Aonuma, Miyamoto, Kataoka, the late Iwata and the entire Breath of the Wild development team were able to give me an adventure that I'll cherish for a very long time, and that is a very precious gift.
Mere hours into the game I had an epiphanic moment in which the sheer breadth of freedom given to the player hit me suddenly. Making my way to Hyrule field I passed bugs of all shapes and colors that would buzz away into the air as I passed by. Their gentle hums punctuated a silence that was otherwise disturbed only by the occasional stirring of the breeze. I caught a cricket and stashed it in my pocket; it would soon be part of an elixir.
I passed a few enemy encampments. Most I ignored, but one skull-shaped, burrowed-out cave in particular drew me in. It had a lighted lantern hanging in each eye, and I noticed explosive barrels resting dangerously on the floor beneath where some goblins where chatting. Quietly I crept within bow range of the cave and pierced the lanterns' cords with arrows - gravity and chemistry did the rest of the work. A great flash and some booms, and moments later I continued my journey to Hyrule field with a new spear, some smelly ingredients, and a handful of rupees.
As I stepped into Hyrule field, swept as it was with great strokes of green and brown that signal the coming of spring, the moment occurred. It was like magic. In the real world my window was open since we had been enjoying an unseasonably warm night in Tennessee, and a steady breeze brought in the sweet fragrance of rain in the air. On my screen, as the sun dipped below some of Hyrule's grander mountain peaks, there came suddenly a great wind that swept through the fields causing all of the tall grass to lean and whisper. As if eager to join in the natural chorus, a few meditative chords spilled gently from a piano like water from a fount.
I took a deep breath in, and I smelled the air around me. For a moment the outside world and Hyrule came very close, one bleeding into the other like shades of color on an artist's palette. I was completely immersed, and the experience resonated deeply in a soul spot that I hadn't felt fully present since I was a kid. I was free and on an adventure.
It's been about 25 hours of play time since that moment occurred, and for as much of Hyrule as I've discovered up to this point, it still remains an enormous and alluring mystery to me. Link is outfitted with all kinds of exotic armor and decorated weapons, and every single item has a story.
Ask about the bow on my back and I can tell you about a wild friendship between myself a legendary hero's ghost, and the time I saved an entire village from a terrifying airborne monstrosity. Ask me about the truffle that I'm cooking into a dish, and I can tell you a story about a hostile hillside overrun by ancient machines.
Breath of the Wild, while it boasts perhaps the best narrative of any Legend of Zelda game ever produced, will be remembered as one of the best open-world games ever produced. There is a main objective that you will feel compelled to pursue with meaning and urgency, but it unfolds in such a way as to never obstruct you from creating and pursuing your own objectives at any time.
In field, in village, in wilderness - there are people and landmarks and landscapes that you'll love getting to know. Link awakens to a world that is at once completely lived in, aged, and autonomous, but also intricately intertwined with his own being and fate. You get the feeling that you're meeting everyone for a second time, now as strangers, but perhaps once in a dream you had known each other. That's how everyone in Hyrule engages with you, and it makes this story and this world all the more enchanting.
I can say with confidence that this will be unlike any Legend of Zelda game you've ever played. For some that will be music to your ears, and for others it's disheartening. Many of you are craving more of the same, but you're not going to get it here. Please, whatever you do, don't let that turn you away.
Everything that Breath of the Wild does differently, it does masterfully. While you no longer have the four main temples, each with its distinct theme and puzzles and solve, you will have four "main" dungeons to master. The main dungeons here have a very unique twist of their own, and feel like living and breathing things. You'll come to understand that statement more clearly with time.
Otherwise there are seemingly innumerable Shrines scattered throughout Hyrule, and each one presents an imminent and satisfying puzzle. No foreplay, no preliminary mazes, no checklist of endless switches to swipe and blocks to push... When you enter into a Shrine, you begin solving a wonderfully designed puzzle right away, and the rewards (not the least of which are additional fast-travel spots) are always worth it.
It doesn't feel at all hyperbolic to say that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be remembered for generations as one of the best games ever produced. The development team had something truly special to give, and they gave it their all. I consider this to be Nintendo's magnum opus, and one of the few games that will define this era of entertainment generally. I wish Iwata-san were here to see it all.
There's a tremendous adventure out there waiting for you. Open a window, set aside the busyness and clutter of your mind, indulge your imagination, and let Breath of the Wild sweep you off your feet.
WWG's Score: 10 / 10