Saying Breath of The Wild took the gaming world by storm is a severe understatement. The game has been praised by fans and critics alike, swiftly amassing 10/10 scores all across the globe. It’s been said that the game itself sold more copies than the Nintendo Switch. For a good while, BOTW has been discussed for how different it was from every other Zelda game. Although we may consider BOTW a break away from the traditional LOZ formula, perhaps we should consider Breath of The Wild to be more of a return to Zelda’s origin.
To the developers, BOTW was supposed to be a return back to franchise’s roots: Of being an adventurer exploring a fantasy world without any set direction. In fact, this is something the developers have been trying to bring back for a long time. In Windwaker, for example, you were given an entire ocean to explore that was broken up into grids on your map. With the ability to sail from place to place, you could choose where to go and also explore as you please. It’s possible to come across all sorts of things on the open ocean: treasure chests, islands, giant terrifying squids, etc. Sure, you had to save the princess and stop Ganon, but you were also encouraged to explore. Wind waker was one of their bigger attempts at creating a sense of exploration and a test to see how the concept was received by players. BOTW however does this on a much grander scale, creating a world brimming with whimsy and magic that you’re dying to explore. Breath of The Wild drew from this to make their game a hit and to really bring back the whole feeling of being free to traverse a fascinating world.
But where do we go from here?
Breath of the Wild was such a monumental achievement that it has seriously raised the bar for oncoming Zelda games. When you think about it, many Zelda games had the same structure: Get different weapons in different dungeons, progress gradually and then defeat the villain. BOTW however, adds in and takes out so much that it has completely rewritten the old formula for Zelda games. While the switching of mechanics such as breakable weapons and the ability to tackle any divine beast in any order (or to even go toe to toe with Ganon without saving ANY of the divine beasts) (source 2) is amazing, it also means that there’s a lot of changes going on. Nintendo has been known for its innovative decisions that can keep us coming back for more, but how much of a change is too much?
Not everyone was happy with BOTW and how much it deviated from the formula. Despite how love struck many fans and critics were, there was also some heavy (and quite justified) criticism about Breath of The Wild. Asides from the amount of memes regarding peoples sheer hatred of rain when it comes to climbing, BOTW has pushed the games boundaries quite a bit. Toeing the line between being too stale and being too different is difficult for any game series to pull off. Despite these concerns, Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma have both stated that the Zelda team ‘is always thinking about that as they move forward’. They discussed that the Zelda team has always tried to make each game unique and BOTW was a culmination of some earlier concepts put into one.
It would have been easy for Nintendo to just churn out another Zelda game with the same ideas. The fact they pushed themselves with BOTW however really highlights the company’s innovative nature. Nintendo seems to always strive for better content, but I wonder how the Zelda team will manage with these new expectations. The standard for Zelda games has always been high, but now they’ve skyrocketed due to Breath of The Wild. Whatever the Zelda team is thinking of or planning to do next, it’s easy to say they’ve gotten their work cut out for them.