First Impressions of the Nintendo Switch and Breath of the Wild

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The initial release weekend has come and gone. Finally, am I right? How long has Nintendo been hyping this game in particular?

I will preface this by saying that I spent the weekend constantly trading off my playtime with my boyfriend, who works significantly different hours than I do, but we both can safely agree that we love this new system.

The portability is amazing, and any graphical quality reduction that might occur when moving from a TV screen to the Nintendo Switch’s screen is more than forgivable, assuming I even noticed it in the first place (which I haven’t). No longer are you tied to Wii U’s exact location, unable to take the controller more than 10 feet away  before it starts fussing. Now, you could take The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on a several-hour car trip, provided that it is properly charged on the docking station beforehand.

I’m saying all of this because I started playing the Switch almost completely blind. Unlike my boyfriend, who has been watching updates on the system and the game for months, I ignored all news, obsessing over other things in my hope to make the time go by faster.

It worked, by the way. I was excited, but not agonizingly so, like someone I know…

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The switch controls were a bit confusing and awkward at first, but you can arrange and rearrange them at your leisure. The system comes with a classic-style controller, into which the joy-con controllers can be snuggly inserted. Otherwise, you can strap them to your wrist, much like the original Wii’s controllers. The flexibility is a welcome change, and while I was dubious at first, I’ve come around to it very quickly. Overall, the Nintendo Switch feels like a fully realized-realized innovation over their original Wii system, whereas the Wii U was, as I’m sure many will agree, a floundering, confused half-step in the right direction.

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As for Breath of the Wild (hereby referred to as BotW) itself….my God.

The comparisons to The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim are apt, but at the same time incomplete. Both games have impressively large overworld maps to explore, numerous side quests to choose from, vast amounts food to prepare, and various different weapons to pick up along the course of your adventure, but Skyrim allows for a complex job system with its enhance-able skill trees. For example, a person could, in theory, choose to improve their magic spell-casting and nothing else, and spend the game as a mage. In BotW, you have that one “job” you always have in The Legend of Zelda series: Swordsman Hero of the Land. Sure, you might employ a bow, hookshot, bombs, etc., but at the end of the day, you’re going to use the Master Sword to defeat Ganon.

I don’t even need to finish playing this game to tell you that.

The towns are fewer than in Skyrim, due to much of the population being scattered one hundred years prior to the time of the game. They are also very Japanese. It’s almost like being back in something like Okami, but with less Ukiyo-e.

Or like stepping into a scene out of Princess Mononoke.

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The roads between locations are more visibly populated with enemies as well; the encounters tend to be less random at every time but night, when skeletal monsters can pop out of the ground, but even then, the location still feel like they have been pre-ordained by the programmers. The only enemies that seem to truly appear out of thin air at any given time are the Guardians, the ancient, large, autonomous, mechanical beings that move quickly and shoot death beams at you. But I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on game design. I just tried returning to a location where a Guardian was meandering around before, and it wasn’t there anymore.

I won’t go into any spoilers here, but BotW is very addicting and fun. Exploring the land feels organic and engaging, and once you get the Paraglider, there is no limit to where you can go. You can go straight to Hyrule Castle at that point, not that it’s advisable.

My favorite things, as with Skyrim, are hunting enemies and animals out in the wild. You use the parts and meat collected from your kills to make different food and elixirs, which grant health and status effects depending on the combination. Link’s cooking and eating animations are adorable and hilarious as well, and I personally feel that they help to break up the monotony of long cooking sessions.

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I also like finding wild horses. I’m a bit confused by the ones that appear to be blue and pink, but otherwise, the experience of catching and taming them is not too terribly removed from actual riding and training (keeping in mind that this is a video game). Each horse almost has a mind of his or her own, and he or she may try to fight your control occasionally, especially if you have a heavy hand with the reins and don’t soothe your mount at all. It’s not as difficult as riding Agro in Shadow of the Colossus, but it’s not as easy as riding Epona in earlier games like Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.

The camera system also feels much less out-of-place than it did in The Wind Waker (regular and HD).

BotW feels new and different, but recognizable enough as a Zelda game. It is just as ambitious as it looks in the previews, but by no means feels like it’s taking on too much. At least, not in the beginning.

We’ll have to see as the story progresses.

But I think that long-time fans of the series will adore it, provided they can comfortably adapt to the less linear, more open-world elements. Those who prefer the 2-D games may find themselves presently surprised, as this might just be the 3-d iteration they’ve been waiting for. It seems to be marrying story and exploration very well, but keep in mind, I haven’t even reached the first dungeon yet. My boyfriend has, however, and he definitely agrees with me in this aspect as well.

 

So far, 9/10

*The images in this post do not belong to me. They belong to Nintendo.

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