How Breath of the Wild Helped Me to Love Zelda Games

I have, unfortunately, committed the sin of being a 90’s kid who was not born into a family who were able to afford video games until the DS/Wii era. I know. Please, sir, ma’am, lower your pitchfork. I did not play Pokémon on the Gameboy with friends in primary school, struggle through the water temple in Ocarina of Time, or spend weekends playing Super Smash Bros. Melee with friends. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I had any friends who played games like that (does the Yu-Gi-Oh card game count?).

I didn’t play a Zelda game until Spirit Tracks, got stuck, and never played it again. It was lent to me by a friend’s brother, so I wasn’t particularly invested in it. In 2011, I had a DSi and was largely disappointed with the selection of DSi Ware games. Until one day, boom! Nintendo was giving away The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition for free. I really liked it, and actually beat it. Of course, it wasn’t a real Zelda game, but it definitely piqued my interest. After being underwhelmed by Spirit Tracks, my opinion on Zelda games brightened a bit.

When I got my 3DS, I kept hearing that Ocarina of Time was one of the best, if not the best Zelda game ever made, and that the remake on the 3DS was a great upgrade. I wanted to get the physical copy, but it was out of print at the time, so I waited, finally buying a copy for about $45 USD on eBay.

It was… okay, I didn’t like it. It felt super cryptic, the hints given to you for some objectives were far too vague. I admittedly never finished it, as I don’t really see the point of forcing myself to see a game to the end just because other people liked it. Perhaps if I had played it in my childhood and had friends who were also playing it, we could work together, use trial-and-error with the unending patience children have, and solve the puzzles in a more fun way. Sure, I could have looked at a game guide, but I didn’t want to read alongside the game I was playing for the majority of it, which I think is fair.

I was one of the 5 people who bought a Wii U, simply because I was so sure that an Animal Crossing game would be coming out for the system after they released the Animal Crossing Plaza application. You can imagine my fury waiting year after year only to be given Amiibo Festival.

Anyway, I decided I might as well play some of the other games, and picked up The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker when it dropped in price. I loved it! The colours were bright, which is always a plus for me, as I don’t fancy dreary colour palettes found in many modern games; the music was amazing, and Link felt alive and brimming with personality. There was a clear motive to set off on your journey, and I really felt connected to him. Unfortunately, the main problem I had with Zelda games kept popping up: I kept getting stuck in dungeons.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Zelda games are bad or anything. I just didn’t grow up with them, and I wasn’t used to navigating the enormous 3D puzzle boxes that were dungeons in this universe. It was frustrating and I promised myself I’d finish it, but that still hasn’t happened.

Enter: Breath of the Wild. I’ve probably put in more than 100 hours into this game. If you can’t tell, I love it. I went EVERYWHERE. I explored, I beat the game, went back to hunt shrines and Koroks, and I still check in every now and again to chip away at the DLC when I’m not playing Animal Crossing.

What really, really set this game apart for me was that I wasn’t punished for failing. If I entered a shrine and I couldn’t figure the puzzle out (which has happened more times than I can admit), I could just… move on. That’s it. I’d be able to finish the story at my own pace, experiencing as many puzzles and side quests as I wanted. Even the Blights were optional (sort of, but I won’t say more in case some readers haven’t finished the game yet)!

To some of you reading this, you may be appalled at my inability to be successful in the past games I played. Unfortunately I only started playing games 14 years ago, and only really got into more “hardcore” stuff 7 years ago. This was due to me simply not being able to afford to grow up with games. I don’t think that should bar me from being able to enjoy the medium, though, and as much as people complain about Nintendo “appealing to the filthy casuals”, I’m really grateful they do. Nintendo focussing on accessibility means that I was able to experience the masterpiece that was BotW.

Of course, I do think that seasoned hardcore fans shouldn’t be left out. I think that Pokémon games should have difficulty settings, for example. While some franchises, like Kirby, are made specifically to be easier (with a few exceptions), I don’t think that previously challenging franchises should be watered down and leave those who enjoyed that challenge in the dust.

This might seem contradictory, given that I just praised Breath of the Wild’s accessibility. But Breath of the Wild is as hard as you make it to be. You can choose to run straight to Ganon with just a pot spoon in your hand, or you can spend hundreds of hours honing your skills and completing all the shrines before you finish the game. That’s what I love about it. I know some people were disappointed with the lack of a traditional dungeon feel in the Divine Beasts, but it didn’t bother me all too much because traditional dungeons are what got me frustrated anyway.

I enjoy gaming, it’s my main hobby. I do unfortunately see a lot of gatekeeping by people who’ve been around longer or are better at certain games. I also see a lot of boys/men demanding that girls/women prove their worth in their respective communities, despite already thinking that girls/women aren’t good at video games anyway. Even now, I feel the urge to defend myself, justify my situation, or go and practice older games so I can prove to imaginary people that I deserve to call myself a gamer. But I won’t, because I know deep down that I have a valid place in the community.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you can’t get into the more difficult games in a franchise, that’s okay. If you liked the game lots of people didn’t? That’s okay. If you think that Sinnoh is a better region than Johto? Not okay.

(I’m kidding, it’s fine. You’re allowed to have any wrong opinion you want.)

How did you feel about Breath of the Wild? What’s your favourite Zelda game? Let me know in the comments!

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