After two months of mashing at Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve made pretty good progress… but I still have plenty of work to do to finish the game. Sixty six shrines complete. Two sub-bosses subdued and two more on the verge of confrontation. Many of the sub-quests quashed. Master Sword owned. Wardrobe polished (though not quite maxed.) And of course the entire map unlocked. I’m going to keep pushing, of course, because it’s truly one of the most amazing video games I’ve ever played. But two things: spring might actually be here (fingers crossed) and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch comes out this weekend… so… there will be some hard choice to be made.
So much Zelda: BOTW that it’s not even funny anymore.
If ever I had a moment of fire-hot regret for my hasty and impulsive pre-order purchase of Nintendo Switch earlier this month, those feelings have long since been quenched by my time in the overrun kingdom of Hyrule, the open world wonder that is the basis of the game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I could probably be content at that.
This is my new favorite game.
Most games that I’m playing “right now” are in some way held high in my esteem, true. Most games that are locked by your focus are considered at least marginally “favourite” else you probably wouldn’t bother playing them, I recognize that.
But this one, somehow stealthily and unexpectedly, quickly moved into the coveted category of “The Top Five Games I’ve Ever Played”™ …and now I’m juggling the thoughts in my head of what else would rank so dearly for me. Skyrim fits into that list. Final Fantasy VII has held a place in my gamer’s heart for a couple decades. Stick a generic MarioKart title in there (for the nostalgia factor) and the fifth slot would probably be a rotating, ever-battling list of hot titles that have peppered my gamer’s history rising and falling with the waves of eclectic moods and memories that flit through my life.
But then I was sick all weekend with the sinus cold to rival all sinus colds and so spent (modestly) a solid twenty of my waking hours immobile on the couch, cuddling a box of kleenex and multiple cup of hot tea, useless to most any chore save for the flicking of my my fingers on a pair neon Joycons… and so Link’s adventure through this unbelievably immersive world had a good-and-proper opportunity to sink into the depths of my soul and take root.
This is my new favorite game.
I could gush about the technical achievement of creating a uniquely broad game with a rich and immersive physics engine. I could wax poetic on the satisfaction that comes from building to a level of skill that feels as more earned than merely grinded. I could ponder the nuances of how valuable the tapestry of a carefully balanced yet seemingly unpredictable world set against an implied deep history sets a story of patient urgency into a subtle motion that compels the play to peek around every corner and climb every cliff and nudge every stone. I could.
I could also gripe about the deficiencies. Yes, the voice acting is mediocre. The rain conveniently seems to drizzle down on me whenever I find an alternative route that involves a long cliff climb versus fighting a powerful baddie. And some of the characters seem to be silly, cringe-worthy & tacky archetypes pulled out of some anime fever dream.
But even that is just small forgivable things in the context of everything else. It’s the 2% mediocre contrasted against the almost perfect 98% rest of it that is so damn good I can generously overlook the if onlys.
This is my new favorite game.
I know that many of my readers are not gamers. I know that many of my readers find the idea strange of someone being drawn into a multi-hour interactive story like this.
The world of video games can definitely be one overflowing with violent, shallow experiences that seem trite and burdened with a conflict to elevate the game aspects above a tacked on story. But occasionally there comes a title that is so much more than just shooting guns or kart racing or candy crushing: occasionally there is a game that compels you to enter a world that is layered with, yes, some of those things, but that also works very carefully to build steps above it to tell a story about a world and a place and a group of people that is, in a way that manifests from the drivel games with awesome graphics and photo-realistic blood spatter and ends up instead as good as any great cinematic experience, as good as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad or even rivaling the merit of a compelling novel, all this in that it transcends the medium to entrance your mind and heart.
It’s just a game, but a game that leads to something that might even be considered –dare I suggest it– art.
So, yeah… this is my new favorite game.
It’s been about a week since the Nintendo Switch was released and (apart from a weekend ski trip we took IMMEDIATELY after unboxing the darn thing) about a week that we’ve had one plugged into our media ensemble.
At this point we’ve bought just three games: SnipperClips (a kind of two-dee puzzle game like you might find in an iPad app that Claire paid for with some money she earned), 1-2 Switch (a get-off-the-couch and shake your booty… a little too much and too literally sometimes that Claire loves) and Zelda…
And it’s a good thing that we’re having an epic mid-March cold snap (minus 25 Celsius anyone?) because I’d probably feel a little more guilty about the fifteen or so hours I’ve put into this game in that aforementioned single week.
First of all, some housekeeping.
1) The console is pretty cool and we haven’t had any of the technical fubars that seem to be haunting social media. No dead pixels. No screen issues. No connectivity issues. It works fine.
2) The console is not perfect. For example, it has no web browser… to which you say, so what? To which I say, just trying signing into one of the thousands of wireless hotspots around town without a web browser. At Starbucks to play something: Click “Accept” to… oh wait. Ain’t gonna happen. So that needs to be fixed.
3) The only way I currently have of extracting screenshots from the Switch is by tweeting them to myself, so if that annoys you ignore my twitter for a while because I’m going to be spamming it with screenshots… which are dumb-simple to grab as your playing.
4) The other two games are fine… not awesome, but interesting enough to get some play time. I’m waiting for a couple other releases this summer –MarioKart 8 and Splatoon which I’ve pre-ordered– but for now Claire is happy enough with her games and she’s even dabbled in Zelda a bit too.
So, yeah… Zelda.
On the one hand it draws you into the exploration of this massive world, a world which I’ve just barely glimpsed a fraction of, and tempts you to reach just a bit more… a bit more… one more hill… BAM! Something shows up and electrifries your brain before you can turn around to see what creepy is looming over your dissolving corpse.
Like that. There’s no XP. There’s no grinding. There’s no leveling up. At least nothing obvious. Like other Zelda games I suppose, but I don’t feel all that improved in my skills after all this playtime. You just acquire more health and stamina, and then after a particularly draining fight you’re standing beside a river in the middle of nowhere with no weapons –because they all broke in the battle– no more arrows –because you used them all– and a blood moon rising because the game just wants to mess with you a little more. So you teleport-travel the hell out of there and go back to the town where you try to pick up the pieces of your adventure seemingly no better off than the day you stepped from the tutorial screen.
Overall, as the first time I’ve stood among the console early adopter set, I’m excited to part of the mid-release culture of game, exploring it along with millions of other people instead of three years from now from a bargain bin.
The gaming review sites gave The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild an average Metacritic score of 98%… which is like saying that this is the best damn game you’ll ever play, probably, because it will suck in your soul and consume every waking and dreaming thought until you wake up in the middle of the night haunted by the howl of a silver bokoblin climbing in your bedroom window…
…or something like that. I mean, I’ve heard.
I wouldn’t say that my favourite video game franchise is Zelda, but over the last thirty years I’ve played a solid third of the eighteen or so titles in the series on various consoles dating all the way back to the NES.
Twenty-seventeen is set to go down at our house as the year of Nintendo. I’ve owned a total of three Nintendo consoles (not counting our replacement Wii) over the years —soon to be four— and two of those four will have been acquired in the first three months of this year. And while I picked up a copy of a cute little game for Claire (which six weeks later she’s still obsessed with) my indulgence on the 2DS/3DS console I bought shortly after Christmas, was a Zelda game.
…and I’ve been playing through it at a respectable clip when I can squeeze a few hours in between parenting duties, work, runs, violin practice & sleeping on the couch after a long, exhausting day. It’s a good little game, but hearkening back to my NES/Zelda memories, it’s a very-small scale RPS-meets-puzzle solving game that seems quite strictly entrenched in the entertaining, but old-school RPG-on-rails formula of the nineties.
The thing is that I spent a good three years picking away at Skyrim, and that technically fits into the same genre as most of the Zelda games, but even now that I’ve been spoiled buy that experience the open-world sandbox nature of that game seemed so vastly different experience compared to the RPGs I’d played in my youth that I struggle to even compare them.
I’ve already regaled you with the story of why and how I’ll be acquiring Nintendo’s newest console in a short two weeks, but I didn’t mention that one of the two games I’ll be getting with it is the newest Zelda title — The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — a game that in pre-release reviews is shaping up to be a bigger-and-crazier-than-skyrim open-world indulgence of not-your-grandparent’s-zelda experience.
To say that I’m more than a little stoked is a fair assessment, particularly since as a day-one adopter of a new game (which I rarely am these days) it will be weeks before the trolls crush it or ruin it or just spoil it online. Sure, it might suck. But it also might be the most amazing installment of this RPG series ever. Or it will likely just be good, which is basically what you want when you queue up to spend a hundred hours of your life absorbed into any video game world… and maybe I’m becoming a Zelda fanboy after all.
Either way, I’m primed for some quality time with this classic franchise and I’m sure I’ll have some old-guy-gamer thoughts on it in a month or two.
My gaming tastes have veered into the eclectic and strange category lately.
I won’t even bore you too far with the details of my recent infatuation with the unlikely tractor porn sim “Farming Simulator 2015” which I pulled off Steam and have been zenning out with on the couch while harvesting virtual crops.
And I won’t dabble in attempting to justify the clutter of dorky mobile gaming titles that are becoming one of the major double-digit percentage battery-drain items on my phone each day, themselves a kind of un-agriculture coin farming experience in the form of building tiny towers or tiny cities or tiny economies of pixelated wonderment.
I won’t tell you too much about that.
I will tell you that I discovered my old Gameboy Pocket in a box in the basement a few weeks ago, dusty and packed together with a small stack of cartridges for such awesome titles as Zelda, Mario (the Super and the Doctor varieties) and a little bit of red-hued Pokemon to boot.
The nice thing about classic consoles, of course, is that a pair of triple A’s later and the little beast works as well as it did the day I bought it from a train station kiosk in Dusseldorf, or some German city, circa my late-nineties European adventure where I learned that dozens of hours on a train without a book or much of a view is only romantic and interesting for about ten minutes. I hadn’t budgeted for buying a video game system on holiday, but I did anyhow.
I popped in some batteries, dusted off the cartridges, and boom… There are no firmware updates or network authentications or accounts to verify. It just works.
And hey, a few of my save games were still kicking around.
Of course, when you sit on the train in late 2014 playing a Gameboy, you’re just another person with a portable device of some kind. The guy who was sitting beside me today was crushing candies on an iPad Mini with more resolution in the corner of the screen covered up by his thumb than there were pixels rendering the entirety of my rehashing of the Adventures of Zelda’s Link.
But then, that game was probably published before he was even born and I was just a middle aged hipster playing with an antique toy on my way to work.