With the recent announcement of the Switch’s release date came more news for two exciting entries into Nintendo’s vast library of games. Not only were we graced with more footage of Breath of the Wild, but we also got to watch open-mouthed as that new Mario game finally got a name, Odyssey. Super Mario Odyssey, that is. I’m not usually the type to record an in-depth analysis of my reaction to a game trailer, but I guess the Switch’s hype coupled with Nintendo’s lack of interesting games over the last few years has made these games all the more exciting to me. Today I’d like to begin the discussion with Breath of the Wild. Odyssey will follow next week. So, without further ado…
While Odyssey’s trailer provided me with a first true glimpse of the next Super Mario Bros. game, I was already somewhat familiar with Breath of the Wild thanks to past videos and screenshots of it, meaning I will need to talk about my revised impressions rather than my initial one. The new Breath of the Wild trailer shows a vast wilderness even larger than I had expected, and it is also here that we catch glimpses of various characters, including Zelda herself.
The first thing one notices besides the enormous world are the graphics, which are nothing new, but since I failed to talk about it in the past, I will now. Visually, this game makes me think of a mix between Wind Waker and Skyward Sword. And to be honest, I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t go with an improved Twilight Princess aesthetic. I personally prefer the more “realistic” color palette of the N64 Zelda games and Twilight Princess to the colorful style of Wind Waker and the like.
Of course, graphics are a largely superficial aspect, and I’d be willing to overlook the graphical style of the game if it weren’t for the fact that I don’t think it looks like a next-generation game or even a current one. Let me go out on a limb here and say that Breath of the Wild does not look like what I’d expect from games released in 2017. I don’t mean that all games are obligated to look photo-realistic. In fact, I want my games to look like games. I simply expect current games to look clean and polished (think Pixar movies), and if we were to compare Breath of the Wild to another colorful game like Ratchet and Clank on the PS4 (whose visuals have, in fact, been compared to a Pixar movie), you can see the clear difference.
Moving on, a much larger concern of mine is whether or not Nintendo has adequately fleshed out this huge world of theirs, as this is something they weren’t always great at in the past. Ocarina of Time had the barren and empty Hyrule Field. Twilight Princess had an even larger barren and empty Hyrule Field. Most of Skyward Sword’s world’s felt pointless to return to once the main objectives there were complete. And Wind Waker had 49 islands, most of which were essentially empty rocks with nothing on them. Of course, Nintendo has already stated that there will be about 100 shrines in Breath of the Wild (mini-dungeons, I guess), so that should fill out the landscape, I suppose. But will these shrines offer satisfying challenges, or will they be like Wind Waker’s various islands?
I also want to discuss the general feeling I get from the game. With the new trailer came an altered perception of what Breath of the Wild would be like. When I initially watched footage for the game, I saw this vast wilderness. I saw Link mountain climbing and cooking and…there were deer and… Um…what I’m saying is, everything about the game, from the footage to the very title itself, Breath of the Wild, gave me this very specific feeling. Quoting my previous post on the subject, I think of isolation and survival. I think of loneliness and relying on one’s own wits. I felt like Link was going to be exploring this huge, empty land a century after Hyrule’s destruction. I thought he was going to have to survive all on his own. I thought there would be very minimal sentient life, and I had hoped that maybe we could have uncovered what had happened to Hyrule through…I don’t know, simple exploration and poking about, if you know what I mean. The way you had to uncover the story in Metroid Prime or Portal 2. If we were to be dropped into this huge world with little guidance like with the original Zelda, I guess I had just hoped we would have had the same lack of guidance with the story, without cut scenes and dialogue and narration.
That probably sounds like a weird expectation, but it’s just the vibe I got from a game called Breath of the Wild. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that my expectation of the game changed; I’m just saying it changed. After I saw that new trailer, I saw a bunch of characters in quick succession, and it made me think we wouldn’t get that alone, lost-in-the-wilderness kind of feeling I was hoping for, after all. Furthermore, it made me think the game’s story would follow a more traditional pattern. Instead of discovering what happened on our own, I just have a feeling some character we meet along the way is going to explain the whole thing to us. Probably the Great Deku Tree.
And I do wish there wasn’t voice acting. At the risk of sounding like a complainer, I grew up with the Zelda series, and there was never voice acting before this game. Starting with the N64 entries in the series, all we heard of a character’s voice were little sounds here and there. Just citing some examples from Majora’s Mask, I remember Kotake’s shocked gasp when she heard that Koume had been injured. I remember the various noises the Deku made. I remember Skull Kid’s cackle. And this was something I always really liked about the series. It was like the characters’ “voices” in Banjo-Kazooie and Tooie. It added a certain charm to the games, and it gave you an indication of a character’s voice while still allowing room for interpretation. But in Breath of the Wild, we lose that. In fact, it is almost jarring to hear characters’ voices that differ from what I had imagined since 1998.
Okay, okay, I know I’m sounding rather critical. I guess when a series I’ve loved for years changes, there are always concerns as to how these changes will affect it. I’m disappointed about the voice acting. I’m concerned this game is going to give up large, complex dungeons in favor of a bunch of little ones. The dungeons have always been my favorite part of the series, after all. That’s why I love Twilight Princess more than most, as the dungeons in that game were not only huge, but plentiful. But I digress. This game is going to be very different from what we’re used to. That much is certain. And as much as we so often resist change, I suppose we don’t want all of our games to be identical, either. A little bit of change is a good thing as long as the important parts of a game aren’t sacrificed.
Despite all my concerns, I’m still pretty excited for such a massive Zelda game. I don’t have a whole lot of games with huge worlds, so I look forward to getting lost and exploring all that this new world has to offer. Most of all, I feel like this game is a second chance of sorts considering I failed to complete the original Zelda, which had a similar concept of dropping you into an open world with no set order of dungeons to complete. And this time, I plan not only to succeed where before I had failed, but I plan to excel at it and uncover every secret I can. After all, this is a new Zelda game, and that alone is more than enough to get excited for.
Breath of the Duck…Eww