03 March 2017 (released)
13 March 2017
Let’s get the hyperbole out of the way right now. This is NOT the best game ever made. This is NOT the game I was most looking forward to this year. This is NOT the best Zelda game (that title belongs to Majora’s Mask, in my opinion) and despite many people saying otherwise, I feel that Ocarina of Time is a better game. This is NOT a perfect game. It’s nowhere near perfect. And lastly, I am NOT giving it a 5/5 score.
Now, putting all of that aside, is this a good game?
As the first open-world Zelda game at such a scale, the game feels very in-depth with what you can do with it. Whether it’s utilising the many different weapons available to Link, cooking a stew or elixir to boost your resistances and heal up, or traversing the varied and vast areas of the game, it’s very easy to find something to do at almost any point in the game. What will also strike players is how non-linear the main story is. Things that have been done in every Zelda game since their introduction here are sometimes entirely optional. Hell, after you leave the starting area, you can run straight to the endgame area if you so wish. You’d probably end up dying in a speedy fashion, but the mere fact that it’s possible speaks volumes. This is not your typical Zelda game, not by a long margin.
Even the story can be progressed through in manner that leaves many parts of it undiscovered. There are many things for Link to do that bear a direct association with your primary task, but none of them are absolutely essential. Even more impressive is how the story does not feel disjointed by this. You can progress through without doing any of the extras, and yet you still understand what is going on, and it doesn’t feel like large portions of vital information are being left out. However, going the distance and completing all of it is most definitely worth it, to see all of the lore and plot in its glory.
The world itself can also be a marvel to look at from time to time, with the variety of areas that exist. From flatlands to jungles, from deserts to volcanoes, the map feels carefully crafted and perfected. Sadly though, the textures can let the game down at times, making the game look like it was made for a console two generations old. Even worse is the harsh frame rate drops that can occur under various circumstances, be it the weather, or the game deciding that too much is going on. I had hoped that, at the very least, the Switch version would be able to stabilize the frame rate, but it sadly doesn’t feel much different (if at all) from the Wii U version, which this game was originally made for.
And therein lays perhaps one of Nintendo’s greatest crimes with this game. This game marks the first time ever that a Nintendo console has not had an exclusive Zelda title to its name. This one was originally just for the Wii U, but they decided to make it also for the Switch. Now, this is not something I am against. After all, this is pretty much the only title worth having from the launch line-up, something the Switch sorely needed. However, what is unfair is the gimping of the Wii U version to avoid it being seen as equal or better than the Switch version. If you take a look at the Sheikah Slate found in-game, it’s very obvious that it’s a dead ringer for the Wii U Gamepad, and that was intentional, as the gamepad would have allowed you to access it’s features on the fly. However, this was removed from the game prior to launch, as it would have been a feature the Switch could not support, as it must be docked to play on TV. It feels like one final smack in the face to all those who supported the Wii U through all these years from Nintendo.
And then there are the Amiibos. As you would expect, there are many for this game, and they have a variety of effects. Some, however, can be hilariously unbalanced. For instance, the best horse in the game, Epona, is locked behind a Link Amiibo, from the original run of Smash Bros characters. Want a trusty wolf to fight by your side? Have the Wolf Link at the ready. How about the best bow or shield in the game? The new Link or Zelda Amiibos can give you that in an instant. And they can all be redeployed to you once every day. Hell, Epona can be kept forever if you register her, and she doesn’t need to be bonded with, unlike all the other horses out there. I understand the argument of ‘it’s optional, so just don’t use it’, but the fact is that its mere presence bring with it temptation. And the fact that the new run of Amiibos all sold out quickly speaks to the success of this. It’s ridiculous, almost on par with some of the game-breaking pre-order DLC that we see so often in other titles these days.
Still, in spite of that, Zelda is a good game. It’s a welcome entry to the series, and perhaps speaks to the possible directions that Nintendo may take with its star franchise going forward. And many of these directions lead to welcome and interesting changes… but not all of them.
But as I already said, this is not a perfect game.
+++Wide variety of areas to explore
+++ High amounts of gameplay
++ Story does not suffer from fragmentation
+ New direction for series
+- Minimalistic soundtrack not for all
-- Amiibos make game too easy
-- Switch version not much better than WiiU
--- Wii U version gimped
(Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)