The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild seems like the game Nintendo always intended The Wind Waker to be. In many regards, Wind Waker is my favorite Zelda game to date. The aesthetics were more on-point than anything else in the series, the world felt wide enough that anything could exist in it, and the dungeons were just side attractions to what the game was really about: Exploring. I don’t know that anything outside of the Souls series has ever matched the feeling of sailing to a brand new island for the first time and discovering what secrets it had in store. A lot of the time…there wasn’t much, but the feeling of wonder and excitement about just the possibility of new things to see was enough to keep me sailing through that incarnation of Hyrule for the past two decades.
Breath of the Wild is that feeling over, and over, and over again. Seemingly forever. I honestly don’t know how this game exists.
Nintendo mixed the philosophies of Wind Waker (Explore this huge world and find awesome stuff) with those of A Link Between Worlds (Play this game in any order however you see fit) to create the best thesis any Zelda game has ever proposed: “Have all of the toys you could ever want, and enjoy the largest, most varied world ever created in video game. Bye.”
That “bye” is important, because it isn’t said after several hours of hand-holding. Breath of the Wild says it forcibly and quickly, and wants you gone. It doesn’t want to talk to you, it doesn’t want to explain puzzles to you, it expects you to put on your adult pants and figure it out on your own or ask somebody else. The conversations I’ve had with people about Breath of the Wild are ones I haven’t been able to recreate since Dark Souls or Dark Souls II. “Did you see ___???” “How in the world do you do ___?” “DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD ____?!?!?!?”
I’m roughly 40 hours in, and I’m still uncovering mini games, characters, towns, and systems that I wasn’t aware were even in the game at all. Breath of the Wild keeps its secrets close, which makes them all the more satisfying when you finally tease one out. 40 hours…and I’ve yet to uncover every huge area on the map. I’d say there’s maybe 40% I’ve never seen or stepped foot in, and the parts that I have are still hiding more than I can remember to go back and check. I haven’t had a single moment where my mental checklist of things I was very excited to do dropped down to a single item. There are so many places I keep wanting to see, things I want to try, but as soon as I start off in one direction…another dozen or so get me sidetracked and I’m off on a quest to figure out how to navigate a brand new secret forest I didn’t know existed.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the most exciting Zelda game I’ve played in over a decade. I’ve played a lot of games that I truly love, and this one earns its spot very, very near the top of that list.