Okay, I’ll start off by saying that I have been a bit braindead lately. So I really wasn’t sure what topic to go with for this month. I have also been feverishly trying to complete at least three different games and so my mind has been in absolute shambles. So I decided that we are going to play it safe again this month and keep things casual by running back to Nintendo, the poster boy for casual gaming. I figured I would go with one of their other big series that I really enjoy and talk about The Legend of Zelda franchise this time. The thing about this franchise that really sticks out to me is it’s exploration aspect where you can go around finding things to make you stronger. However it feels different from the Metroid way of doing things where you roam around the area in search of things you need to find. For most Zelda games you can find everything you need to beat the game just by exploring each dungeon you find and getting the required item. You can feel yourself grow stronger and get a better arsenal, but you always know what to expect when you enter a dungeon. The process is you go through until you find the item needed to defeat the boss, then you defeat said boss. At least that was how I felt until they made The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and I was reminded about how much exploration helped with progression since with the new ability in that game I could explore every nook and cranny that I wanted to and constantly find something new. Most of the time I just found money which is par for the course, but I find that game to be one of the few Zelda games where accumulating money is actually useful. And then to surprise me even further they came out with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This game takes exploration to a whole new level. The reason being that this game leans heavily on exploration as a way of completing the game, something that hasn’t been done in a similar fashion since the first game in the series. However, it feels both different and similar to that game and I will explain why.
Now I will be honest and say that I have never beaten the original game. It isn’t as though I don’t like the game, but it is more like while the game has a solid focus on exploration, it is not structured in a way to fully make use of it. For instance, when I first played the game the first dungeon was actually the third dungeon I found in the game. The first two were the fifth and the sixth dungeon respectfully. Unfortunately for me, there were certain items I needed to progress further in those dungeons that I didn’t have access to yet because I had skipped four dungeons. It is the exactly same situation as going through a Pokémon game except you manage to skip four gyms ahead by accident and can’t go any further because your Pokémon will get wrecked. However, in the latest Zelda game, you can run off after finishing the tutorial to do whatever you want because you already have everything you need at that point to defeat the final boss. It will definitely be a difficult fight, but it is not impossible to do it as long as you have a decent amount of determination. You see, I feel as though that whenever I have found myself enjoying Zelda games, it is because of the freedom with which I am allowed to explore. The more I can explore and go at my own pace, the more enjoyable I find the experience to be. After all, I am the type of person whose first thought in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was to dump my points into stamina so that I couldn’t climb any mountain even if it was raining. Of course this includes Zora’s Domain because why not right? I just really enjoy the feeling of conquering obstacles in my way, what can I say? I just appreciate that the game allowed me the freedom to do that rather than trying to railroad me. While I don’t have any ill feelings towards the first Zelda game, since I can find all these secrets and heart containers without getting closer to finding the last dungeons, it can be a bit disheartening knowing the biggest obstacle I have to face is the map (if you can even call that a map). I appreciate that more recent games in the franchise are still laying out a path for us to take while not forcing us to go down that same path each time.
If I am admitting to Zelda games I have yet to finish, another one that I will eventually probably sort of get around to maybe finishing at a later date. In case you couldn’t tell, I don’t have much enthusiasm to return to this title right now. There are many reasons for this. In fact, this game could and probably will be a blog post just by itself. However, the main reason is how repetitive the game feels. Now only does the game hold your hand constantly, but it feels like you are going through the motions even more than usual in this game. Which is a shame because I actually do find some of the dungeons to have interesting designs. I know I have been talking about exploration over puzzle solving which is a key component of any good Zelda game, but I feel as though the best parts of a Zelda game are when both exploration and puzzle solving go hand-in-hand. That being said, I would say that since the game is constantly railroading you and is often quite linear, the game’s puzzles never truly shine for me which is a shame. You go to get an item at a dungeon in one of the same three areas over and over again and the sky world looks so barren that there is barely any reason to want to explore. I am all for having go dungeons in Zelda games, but can we at least have it so that the puzzles don’t just start and end with the dungeons. And for the record a puzzle is not finding the item I need to get to the next area. At least get a little more creative than that. I am glad that Zelda games seem to be breaking away a bit from the old formula. I don’t know how long it will last, but I am fine with it as long as there isn’t someone constantly screaming at me to tell me how I should progress with my fantasy videogame adventure.
As a side note, I realize this post is later than usual. I did not mean for this to happen and since I feel guilty I will shamelessly place the blame on Tainted Lazarus who frustrated me to no end this week and as a videogame character, cannot defend himself in any way. I mostly just wanted to get a little dig at him before the end of the week. Especially tomorrow.