Welp, they really outdid themselves with this one. Originally planned to be the swan song for the slowly dying Wii U and then ported to the Nintendo Switch. But also released on Wii U...? Eh, at least folks like me who can't get their hands on the elusive Switch still have a way to play what can basically be described as Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2.0. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I mean this one Zelda game is considered one of the best Nintendo games ever and will be considered a revolutionary pinnacle of the interactive entertainment media as a whole and countless devs in the future will look to this game for inspiration.
Random fun fact! Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is actually the third Zelda game I have ever played (the first was Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and the second was Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker!). However, since I love the general style of the Legend of Zelda franchise, I did my research for the rest of the franchise, because, you know, I'm a nerd.
In case you know nothing about the best Nintendo IP ever (come at me, Super Mario Bros!), the general gist is you play as Link (not Zelda, she is another character entirely!), an adventurer on a quest to defeat Ganon, the King of Darkness.
However, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild puts a spin on this tried and true formula that hasn't been seen since Ocarina of Time. Link actually fails to stop Ganon from destroying the kingdom of Hyrule and is mortally wounded. The game starts up a whopping 100 years after this disaster when Link is revived in the Shrine of Resurrection and sets off to stop Ganon once and for all (whether he does this to make up for the fact Ganon creamed him last time or simply wants to save the kingdom is entirely up to your interpretation) as well as restore his lost memory.
An impressive feat on the story writers for Breath of the WIld is how incredibly non-linear the story is. You COULD just make a mad dash for Ganon and fight him the moment you leave the Shrine of Resurrection, or you COULD take your time to restore Link's memories (and even those you could do in any order you want) and you COULD try and free Shadow of the Colossus-esque titans to help you in the final battle against Ganon (again, you can do this in any order you want), or you COULD try and get the series staple that is the Master Sword, or you could do none of these things and go snowboarding. What's even more impressive is how they wrote different dialogue based on all these factors (example, visit the various towns after getting the Master Sword, and almost everyone will become shocked that "the Sword that Seals the Darkness" has been recovered, while doing this before getting the Master Sword will result in everyone doubting Link's abilities at first, and the village elders dropping increasingly blunt hints as to where the Master Sword might be). I always like that kind of foresight on the devs part.
And this incredibly non-linear story fits perfectly with the overall theme of this game: Freedom and Exploration. Breath of the Wild's overworld is the largest in the franchise, as well as one of the largest in video games period. And the attention to detail is very apparent. From the way the grass moves in the wind to the fact that they actually bothered to put in realistic weather psychics (you cannot climb walls when raining, using metal weapons in a thunderstorm will draw incoming lightning towards you, Link has to wear weather-appropriate attire to prevent heatstroke/freezing to death, etc), this world is not only beautiful, but it also feels alive. And while on the subject of freedom, I don't recall any video game that has a story that gives you anywhere near as much freedom as this game.
The only bad thing I can say about the open-world-iness of Breath of the Wild is it uses a LOT of open-world tropes that show up literally everywhere, such as needing to climb towers to fill out the map, or stumbling upon enemy camps that you can raid for loot. While they do work as intended, anyone who played the likes of Horizon: Zero Dawn or Elder Scrolls: Skyrim will feel a little fatigued (guess which one of those two games I actually played)
Did I forget to mention that Link is the ultimate chick
magnet? Seriously, it's a miracle the Internet hasn't shattered
from the sheer chick-magnet-iness of Link!
On another note, the story is good. Like almost every Zelda game ever, it can be best described as a classic battle between good and evil. And Link's chick magnet...ness. It would honestly be easier to count the number of girls that don't go cray-cray for Link (both in-universe and the various female Legend of Zelda fans) . Which is impressive, considering that Link is almost completely mute (some cutscenes imply he can talk but he is for some reason the only character in the game who isn't fully voiced).
Speaking of voice acting, this the first Zelda game that has full voice acting! Granted, said voice acting is kind of hit-or-miss. Some characters, notably instant fan-favorite Prince Sidon along side Revali and Chieftess Riju have really good voice acting that sounds surprisingly believable. Other characters, such as Princess Zelda herself, well... It's not bad, but Zelda's in-game voice doesn't sound how I imagined she would sound like (I have been told her Japanese voice is much better than the voice in the English dub, but I can't switch to the Japanese version because the game doesn't have dual audio. Sadness). On the bright-side, almost every character has some kind of European accent (British, Posh, etc), which fits in the context of Hyrule being a medieval kingdom and also reminds me of the English dub of Xenoblade Chronicles (where everyone had British accents).
Now I know I spent a while talking about the story, but what about the gameplay? This is easily Breath of the Wild's strong point. The general thought process of the game is "You see that location way off in the distance? You can go there!". There is literally nothing stopping you from making a mad dash to anything in the distance that catches your eye. Including Ganon, since you can see his lair no matter where you are.
The combat is also top-notch. Unlike every Zelda game ever, Link gets most of his weapons by stealing them from enemies or simply finding unattended weapons lying around. Said weapons are divided into four categories: Short-swords, Heavy weapons (axes, hammers, etc), Spears, and Bows (which funnily enough almost perfectly mirrors the Weapon Triangle from the Fire Emblem franchise). All of these will break if you use them excessively, and while one of the bigger Zelda arguments is whether weapons having limited durability is a good thing or not, I personally agree that it is a good thing, as it forces the player to try out weapons they would otherwise completely ignore. However, the Master Sword is, for obvious reasons, indestructible, albeit with a 10-minute cooldown to, again, make sure the player experiments with the other weapons.
In addition to the four weapon types mentioned earlier, early on Link acquires Runes that he can perform with a Tablet-like device known as the Sheikah Slate. Runes basically serving as the game's version of magic spells. They can help with combat in a variety of ways, like using the Magnesis Rune to drop a metal crate on an enemy's head, or using the Stasis Rune to freeze enemies in time.
Breath of the Wild also has lots of puzzle-solving, which is basically what the Legend of Zelda franchise is known for. However, unlike the rest of the franchise, the majority of puzzles are put in small mini-dungeons called Shrines that contain a bit of treasure, an item known as a Spirit Orb which can be used to upgrade Link's Health and Stamina gauges, AND double as Fast travel points once visited. Another impressive feat is how every Shrine has a unique puzzle, and none of the Shrines use the same kind of puzzle twice. In fact, sometimes the Shrine's puzzle is figuring out how to get to the Shrine in the first place (my favorite being the one where you have to wander a dark forest Slender: The Arrival style).
Additionally, you can cook food. I know that sounds really mundane, but hear me out. There is nothing more satisfying than figuring out a new recipe, but ignoring that satisfactory sensation, the main reason you want to cook food is because this is by far the most difficult Zelda game, and unless you are prepared for anything, you will die a lot. So my advice? Every time you see a cooking pot, take a break from whatever you are doing, look through your inventory, and cook as much food as possible. The food you cook will also have different boosts based on the ingredients used (example, combine some spicy peppers with a handful of mushrooms and you get a dish that will make you impervious to cold weather for a short amount of time).
You can also take selfies in the game, which results
in pictures like this.
As for exploring the vast and beautiful over-world, Link can climb up almost any surface for... some reason. The only restraints on this being walls and cliffs become too slippery to climb if it's raining, and Link's Stamina gauge serves as a timer for long Link can climb before losing his grip. Also using the Stamina Gauge, Link can sprint like a madman and use a nifty Paraglider to, well, glide. By far the coolest feature is Link can use his currently equipped shield as a makeshift snowboard, which makes going downhill both fun and lightning fast. All of these work wonderfully and add to the aforementioned theme of freedom. However...
My biggest gripe is with the horseback gameplay. You see, Link can tame wild horses and use them as a speedy way to get around. However, the Horse controls are clumsy and awkward, and while the animations for horse riding are fun to look at, more often than not it's just easier to go on foot, especially since for obvious reasons, horses cannot climb or use the Paraglider. And there are a few side quests that require a horse to complete...
Prince Sidon is quickly becoming the most
popular supporting character in a Zelda game
EVER. Not even Groose can stop the fish prince!
The visuals of Breath of the Wild are also really good. They took the cel-shaded, anime-esque art-style of my all time favorite game in the franchise (Wind Waker), and made it better. The environments are simply beautiful and the character designs are also really good (stand-outs being, again, Prince Sidon and Revali). Sadly, as I have played the Wii U version, the game is prone to sudden framerate drops when heading into heavily forested areas. Combined with the fact that the game runs at 720p when not lagging, so yeah...
The game's music is also surprisingly good. Breath of the Wild uses mostly simplistic piano tunes, but does use other instruments as well. My favorite piece of music would be the Hyrule Castle theme, since it sounds like a heroic knight has arrived right on the King of Evil's doorstep, and about to put an end to his reign of terror. Plus, the music itself does a massive troll when you climb up Gerudo Tower, which is the tallest tower in the game, and you almost reach the top, and all of a sudden you hear an accordion playing. Turns out there was a traveling bard who plays accordion sitting at the top of the tower!
Overall, I give Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Wii U version, a 9/10. It's not perfect, but it's nearly flawless. Just fix the horse controls and the frame-rate issues and then it shall receive a perfect score.
P.S. I am one of the few people who DIDN'T give this game a perfect score. It really is Ocarina of Time 2.0, since no Zelda since Ocarina of Time have been met with this much universal praise!
P.P.S. I guess you could say that the graphics in this game are... BREATH-TAKING!!!