Zelda: Breath of the Wild GOTY

Yay. Zelda won GOTY at the Game Awards 2017! *claps* yay :3

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*this is probably going to be very pro Zelda, so be prepared*

I’m happy. I haven’t played all the games nominated, but I’m happy. The general consent seems to be: thank god PUBG didn’t win. Zelda? Fine with me, it’s not PUBG. I’m actually very glad a lot of people feel this way, because it just feels wrong to even nominate a game that hasn’t even seen a full release yet and is basically still in testing phase.

In general the reception of Zelda as Game of the Year seems to be quite good.

Then there’s the Horizon-fans complaining Horizon didn’t win anything and I’ve seen some individuals from different fan bases saying Zelda just won because it’s Zelda and everything Zelda is just being praised and loved because fans blindly love Zelda.

First of all: I don’t own a PS4. Therefore, I didn’t play Horizon. What I know about this game is, that it’s very good and therefore I think it’s sad it didn’t win anything. It probably deserved to win at least something.

Second: the assumption that Nintendo fans just blindly love everything Zelda because of the name is just plain wrong. We’ve seen in the past several times where Zelda was met with huge criticism or downright hate, because it didn’t deliver what fans wanted.The Zelda franchise is one of the highest acclaimed franchises in video game history and has produced top-tier games of outstanding quality for over 30 years now most notably in its main series on home consoles. Therefore, expectations for any new Zelda release are astronomical high and what happens if these expectations are not fully met, we’ve recently seen in Wind Waker and Skyward Sword in particular. There’s always hardcore fans defending everything, that’s normal, but I believe there’s a fair share of fans who are very critical towards Zelda, because they are very spoiled by the average quality of the franchise.

Wind Waker was met with a storm of rage due to its cartoony graphics. It took fans years to come to terms with it and appreciate the outstanding game behind it. When it was initially released? Oh boy, that was a riot, because everyone expected realistic graphics that Nintendo didn’t deliver. The game itself wasn’t even bad. Sure, it’s not perfect: travel can be boring over longer distances and the triforce quest was just way too long, both issues got fixed in the HD version. Other than that, the game was truly awesome. It was the art direction alone, that made fans hate on this game. And hate they did.

Other example: Skyward Sword. And it was, once again, primarily one feature, that made fans collectively hate this game. Fans. Not media. I believe this game was actually rated a bit too high by the general media, but is rated way too low by fans – even today. The feature in question is… motion control. Contrary to what many people try to make other’s believe: it works fine. I’ve played it and barely had issues with it at all. I’m not trying to defend a bad game, I’m trying to be honest and I can honestly say: the motion control worked great for me. Many gamers hated it for the fact alone that is was mandatory and you couldn’t play the game with a classic controller. The other problem with this game is that it’s not the game fans were asking for. Around the time when Skyward Sword was released, fans have been asking for an open world Zelda for quite a while already and got a very linear playing-it-save type of Zelda with lot’s of handholding, which disappointed fans even further.

I personally believe Skyward Sword was a fantastic game and a very solid Zelda with some nice boss fights, enjoyable worlds, great dungeons and interesting items (I love the beetle). Just like I think Mario 3D World is a fantastic game and a very solid Mario. Both games were met with lukewarm receptions by gamers -Skyward Sword more negative than 3D World- simply because they weren’t the type of games fans wanted.

Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey both are the games fans have been asking for a long time and were both met with euphoria from fans – so much, I believe fans tend to be more forgiving to these games, because they’re both basically 100% fanservice. This is Nintendo listening to their fans and giving them exactly what they wanted and people are responding accordingly.

And both games are fantastic! So much, they both got nominated for GOTY at the Game Awards, which I believe was very well deserved. I’ve been a long time Zelda-fan, but I’ve been playing Mario platformer even longer. I’ve been playing Mario for 20+ years across 7 generations of home consoles and their handheld counterparts. Both franchises have been a huge part of my gaming life and I hope to be as fair as possible, even though I personally just prefer 2D or 2+1/2 D platformer over 3D collect-A-thons, because I love tight 2D platforming the most – which is the reason why I prefer Donkey Kong Country over Mario, btw. I usually try to appreciate the good in games, even if they’re personally not to my liking. I know there’s a lot of people who’d be so mad at me for saying this, but at one point, I got bored by Mario Odyssey.

Mario Odyssey is a consistently great game and getting all moons is one hell of a hard  quest. While I thought most moons during the regular playthrough are too easy to get, there’s some real challenges, if you try to collect them all. The game doesn’t really has any low points, it has a very high average quality without any real dips downwards, but also without many spikes upwards. My one and only big moment in this game was the festival in New Donk City. That was plain awesome, no question and New Donk City by itself was the most enjoyable part for me due to all the vertical platforming involved. I also loved the pipes that sent you to these very hard platforming sections post game. There’s nothing better than finally clearing these mini-levels after 20+ tries, there’s finally some actual sense of accomplishment involved, like… I earned that moon. Oh, and while we’re at it, I applaud to the game for calling them moons in mushroom kingdom, even though they’re clearly stars.

However, in a way, Mario Odyssey was playing it kind of save. At least compared to Zelda. Mario Odyssey was basically Mario 64 2.0, it was the Mario 64 successor fans wanted ever since. Since the first time I was able to get my hands on na demo, I’ve been saying: guys, this game does not reinvent the wheel, it’ very much Mario like we know and love, nothing more and nothing less. After playing this game, I still believe the very same about it. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy or appreciate the new features, like the 8bit segments in the stages or the capture feature that basically replaces power ups. Mario Odyssey is an outstanding game, it just doesn’t dare to go one step further.

A step Zelda dared to take. Just like Odyssey, Breath of the Wild is still very much Zelda, but with the formula we’ve come to know for such a long time removed for the most part. There’s still hearts to collect, the Master Sword to find and the Princess to rescue, but they turned it from a linear formulated experience to a free open world game. By going back to the very first Zelda and take inspiration from modern open world games, Nintendo nailed their very first try at making an open world game out of one of their most well-known and beloved franchises. And like I said: fans are critical about Zelda. If this didn’t work out, the backlash would’ve been huge. But it worked out.

Once again this game has a very high average quality with more drips downwards than Odyssey, but also with more spikes upwards. For all the weaker parts of the game, there are others done so phenomenally well, they overshine the bad ones. In terms of game design, even though I didn’t play every game this year obviously, but the game design in BotW is insanely good. The physics engine, the game mechanics, the freedom and the lack of handholding it all turns this game into a truly great experience.

BotW dared to be more daring, but was executed so well, the flaws of this game are simply being forgiven. I hope Nintendo can work on the remaining flaws of BotW and make the successor even greater, because I believe BotW might have just managed to do what the original Legend of Zelda and Ocarina of Time did before: change the way we look at games. Especially the world as one huge living interactive being  has not been done quite like this before with so many possibilities given to the player due to a phenomenal physics engine and something very simple like the ability to climb everything. Whatever you think should be possible, is possible and that opens up a whole new dimension of gameplay. This goes beyond a fish fleeing from you or arrows flying in a naturalistic curve and being collectible even under water.

BotW pushed the genre forwards, a genre it just entered. It also pushed the franchise forwards and gave it a much-needed overhaul. I don’t think Nintendo will entirely drop the classic Zelda formula, but it would be nice to see different kinds of Zelda coexisting alongside each other.

I hope the successor to this game has better item management. Going through all the pages of food and gear and weapons to whatever you’re searching for at the moment was annoying. I would also love to see traditional dungeons back. I liked the approach of huge 3D puzzles, but 4 traditional dungeons would’ve been more to my liking. And for the love of god, maybe one day we’ll have a Zelda with an actual great story and characters? Maybe? I’m supporting the weapon durability aspect, btw.

And we definitely need more Sidon.

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Damn, this post got way longer than I anticipated…
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