So, I don’t know what all the fuss is about, but apparently there was a big console launch recently and people are super excited about some new Zelda game?
In all seriousness, I’ve been following the Nintendo Switch pretty closely since it was announced. Likewise, when I heard that there would be a new Zelda game coming out, I was both excited and anxious. You see, I’m a pretty big fan of the Legend of Zelda series, and the first probably 5 consoles and handhelds that I owned were all Nintendo. Even if I’ve been a bit distant from the company lately (a Wii and 3DS are the newest Nintendo devices that I own), I still like to know what’s up and what they’re coming out with.
Why am I anxious, you might ask? I’ve been extremely disappointed with Nintendo’s state of affairs lately. Their consoles have lagged behind competitors for several generations now, in terms of specs, features, and game catalog. And with the Zelda series specifically, I felt like only 1 of the past 5 games released before Breath of the Wild was worth anything. Even if critics are singing Nintendo’s praises, I’m not convinced until I experience it for myself.
The Wii was good for party games, it was kid friendly, but it didn’t really wow me with anything for hardcore gamers. Plus, it pushed those awful motion controls so bad, and they always felt just half-baked to me. Even with the Wii MotionPlus accessory, motion inputs never felt close enough to what I was physically doing. And the calibration process that you had to redo every time it disconnected was very frustrating. I don’t regret getting my Wii, but it’s probably had the least play time out of most of the consoles I own. Lately, I haven’t touched it except to play Mario Party or Guitar Hero when I have friends over.
The Wii U never really felt like a full step forward as a new generation of console. The marketing almost pushed it as a tablet accessory for the existing Wii. I never got one personally, not because of a lack of games or anything, but I just feel like I wouldn’t play it as much as my PS4. Mario Kart looks great, Smash Bros is always fun, and various other first-party games seem really fun. Still, I just don’t feel like it was ever worth my time to upgrade. I may still pick up a Wii U if they drop in price after the release of the Switch, but it’s not something I have my eyes on in the near future.
The Switch, as much as critics seem happy with it, look gimmicky to me. If Nintendo is truly abandoning motion controls (or at least not putting them front and center), it’s a step in the right direction. The modular controller design is… interesting, and it may turn out to be really convenient and useful, but I feel like that should be more of an afterthought. Having the console itself basically double as a tablet is cool, especially for those who might travel a lot, but I can’t see myself need to lug a console around with me everywhere I go.
As for the Zelda series, most of the past few games have been uninspiring. Twilight Princess was great, even better than Wind Waker in my mind. After that, though, the series has just floundered.
Phantom Hourglass was an obvious purchase for me. I loved Twilight Princess, Minish Cap was really good as the last handheld Zelda, surely Phantom Hourglass would be good as well. Nope. I played a good bit of PH, and I really tried to enjoy it, but the game was just terrible. Combat was very clunky, the story was boring, I pretty much hated everything about the game. It seemed to try to capitalize on the success of Wind Waker with all the sea travel, but failed miserably.
Spirit Tracks launched, and I never even gave it my attention. As bad as Phantom Hourglass was, I had a feeling that Nintendo wouldn’t be able to turn it around so quickly. Watching some gameplay of Spirit Tracks, I felt that my opinion was confirmed. It looked like garbage, so I figured I would just write it off as a loss.
Skyward Sword would surely be the redeeming entry for the Zelda series. It tells the origin story of the Zelda Universe, tying everything together with a nice bow on top. In theory, Skyward Sword would be fantastic. In practice… not so much. As I’ve written about before, I didn’t enjoy Skyward Sword. The wonky, terrible motion controls that the Wii shoved in your face made it where I was fighting against the game more than I was fighting against the foes within the game. The story was just alright, certainly not the compelling origin tale that I had hoped for. It wasn’t as bad as Phantom Hourglass, considering that I actually finished Skyward Sword, but it was definitely a disappointment.
A Link Between Worlds had me super excited. A Link to the Past is my personal favorite Zelda game, and ALBW promised to be a sort of spiritual successor. How could Nintendo possibly screw it up? Just make basically the same style of game with modern visuals and whatnot. Still, somehow managed to let me down. ALBW wasn’t bad per se, I just feel like it fell quite short with following up ALttP. Honestly, it’s my favorite Zelda game released after Twilight Princess. I just really didn’t like the fact that basically all of the dungeons are opened up from the start of the game. Zelda games should have a sense of progression, and this was more open world. It didn’t feel right.
Tri Force Heroes came out, and I decided to ignore it. I’ve just been let down by Zelda so frequently in the past few years, I didn’t want to get my hopes up and have them crushed again. I’ll probably get Tri Force Heroes eventually, when I’ve cleaned up a bit of my handheld game backlog, but I’m not dying to play it right now. Reviews were decent, at least, so maybe it’ll be alright. On the bright side, Tri Force Heroes isn’t really a spiritual successor to anything, so it can’t be a scar on the legacy.
Breath of the Wild
All of this has culminated in the release of the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as a launch title.
Leading up to the release, major critics had nothing but amazing things to say about the game. Reviewers are calling Breath of the Wild possibly the best game in the Zelda series, tying or even beating Ocarina of Time. Metacritic has it listed as one of the best games of all time. The release of this game is nothing short of phenomenal.
I’ll admit, it looks really good. I’m trying my best to keep it spoiler free, but clips that I’ve seen here and there look amazing, regarding both graphics and gameplay. To play a real Zelda game on a proper controller once again will be absolutely fantastic. I genuinely hope that this game lives up to every bit of hype that critics have been generating about it.
Still, I have my doubts. Until I play the game for myself to see how good it is, I refuse to buy into the hype. I’ve been let down by Nintendo and the Zelda series too many times to bother getting excited about another release. If this is the turning point for Nintendo and they become a major contender in the video game industry again, I will be absolutely ecstatic. I miss old Nintendo, with their amazing games and solid consoles. But until I see this first hand, I refuse to accept it as anything more than marketing and hollow praise.
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