The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the Greatest Game I’ve Ever Played

This “review” began life as a typical Craig Lupienski review: wistful childhood memories married to emotional analysis of a present-day video game. That’s fine usually. That’s how I write. But that’s not good enough for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

My writing ability cannot match the feeling of joy, discovery, melancholy and exhilaration I felt playing what is the single greatest video game achievement in beauty and design. Breath of the Wild so wisely leaves gaps with which to fill one’s imagination, and my imagination is not yours.

Instead, please enjoy this photolog of my 100 hour journey through Hyrule. I hope it captures even a portion of what I felt.

Please be advised, the last few photos contain what some would feel are spoilers of the endgame.

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Nintendo Switch is the System I’ve Always Wanted. Now What?

I have no interest in a new console, Nintendo or otherwise. I only occasionally use my Wii U and I don’t think I’ve used my Xbox One since Rare Replay came out about a year and a half ago. Between my girlfriend and I, the PlayStation 4 sees a lot of use, but even then you can boil the bulk of our playtime to just a few games in the more than three years we’ve owned it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved handheld games, but that love never came at the expense of enjoying console games until recently. Playing on a console is an exception for me at this point in my life. It’s hard for me not to see consoles as hulking anchors, tethering me to my living room and weighing me down with lengthy updates and installations. Given the choice, I’d rather just play a handheld game and enjoy the flexibility it brings.

 

Old Nintendo Game Boy Ad

 

And hey, Nintendo’s newest thingamabob does give me a choice! The Nintendo Switch is either a console or a handheld. Or both! It’s whatever you’d like it to be in that moment! You’d think I’d be over the moon, but as much as I like the Switch, I’m not over the moon. I’m not so sure I was actually ready for a new handheld.

The 3DS is six years old this month. Its technical capabilities were only modest when it released and so it’s pretty long in the tooth now. But the thing is, good games are still coming out for it. I’ve long lost interested in chasing the best tech specs, so a dumpy handheld with a consistent selection of fun games is just fine by me. If 3DS releases had dried up, it might be a different story.

Nintendo knows this, and they’re not in an enviable marketing position. They can’t market the Switch as a 3DS successor (that also happens to play on the TV) because they still have 3DS games in the pipeline and the 3DS still makes them money. Nintendo has to replace the thing that doesn’t make them money and that’s the Wii U. A console.

 

Nintendo Switch Dock

 

Broadly speaking, Nintendo is positioning the Switch as a kind of lifestyle gaming device one might play at home on a big TV or on mass transit or at a rooftop party, which is actually a clever way of skirting the issue. But when faced with an either-or dichotomy, Nintendo refers to the Switch as a console

Which is unfortunate, because when viewed as a handheld, all of Switch’s shortcomings suddenly seem like selling points (or at least, not quite so bad). Its horsepower doesn’t match the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but it’s by far the most powerful handheld gaming device. Handheld gaming devices traditionally come packed with no onboard storage, so while the Switch’s 32 GB is paltry by console standards, it’s a step up from previous handhelds. And the Joy Con controllers aren’t as ergonomic as other console’s controllers, but handheld gamers are used to sacrificing a little comfort for the sake of portability.

The truth is, Nintendo is selling the Switch to the wrong demographic. Console gamers are usually unwilling to concede power or comfort for novelty, but handheld gamers are.

 

Nintendo Switch Kickstand

 

As much as the Switch is the handheld I’ve always wanted, and as much as I really like it, I actually really don’t know how I feel about it, you know? I don’t want to play the console Nintendo is selling and I wasn’t ready for a new handheld. I should be the easy sell on this thing, but I don’t know where it will fit into my life in the near future.

Right now, it’s a Zelda machine, and that’s fine because I actually think The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild may just be the greatest video game I’ve ever played.

But I’ll rarely be playing my Switch on the TV and I’ve only been to one rooftop party in my life and I won’t be doing it again. I will be playing the Switch as a handheld, while wearing a sweatshirt and PJ pants lounging on my couch with one leg draped over the side. I don’t really care what Nintendo calls the Switch, or how they market it, and I know it only just launched, but if the direction of the games and features don’t match my kind of usage (especially when the 3DS still does), I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the gaming machine I’ve always wanted.

 

Nintendo Switch Handheld

 

Nintendo Switch and the Buffet You Will Never Eat

Craig Lupienski

I like Nintendo’s new system, Switch. I’m not necessarily going to regurgitate its features and games and accessories here. I don’t feel like typing it and you can find that somewhere else. Sorry.

As primarily a handheld gamer, the idea of a hybrid system is very appealing to me. I do occasionally play games on the TV, and sometimes even games that aren’t Overwatch, so it’s a nice feature to have! This is a system designed with me in mind.

Nintendo Neon Switch

The current and known 2017 Switch library seems a bit thin when measured by sheer volume or recognizable brands. I think there’s a tendency among gamers to hoard games, both in practice (as one may do during Steam sales) and in spirit (as in endless lists of titles forum warriors may use to justify the value of their chosen console). I think a lot of gamers appreciate the confidence that comes from the support of major franchises and publishers, even if they will likely never play most of those games. I know because as a teenager, I felt the same way! So on the one hand I can understand this mindset, but I think we should stop pretending we want a buffet when our own behavior suggests we really only want a few comfort food entrees.

And when it comes to comfort food, Nintendo is head chef. I prefer a new Zelda and a new Mario, both of which look the best their series have to offer, a new Bomberman, a new Splatoon, half of a new Mario Kart, Puyo Puyo Tetris, Has Been Heroes, and Rime (in less than a year!) over a slew of EA Sports titles I will never, ever play and will end up in the Walmart clearance bin for $9.99 a month after release. Even Nintendo’s stranger offerings, such as Snipperclips and ARMS, a multiplayer puzzle game and a one-on-one brawler respectively, look increasingly creative and engaging the more I see of them. ARMS in particular looks like the beautiful love son of Teleroboxer and Dissidia Final Fantasy.

 

Nintendo Switch Arms

 

The real takeaway from Nintendo, both in hardware and in software, is to purposefully not expect the same thing that Sony and Microsoft are doing. It’s foolish, and yet, without fail, folks walk away enraged that Nintendo has not revealed a samey black box with a samey black controller to play samey big budget AAA Activision games. It’s a blessing few recognize that the gaming space can accommodate three competing manufacturers (plus PC!). Sony and Microsoft operating mostly in lock-step with each other producing predictable machines and games gives Nintendo the breathing room to conduct the experiments I would argue the industry needs. If you want to play Ubisoft games scattered with a million tedious icons, there are three platforms to already do that. What is with the whining for a fourth? Why would we not want to leverage the fourth for something different and take comfort in knowing that the different has its own home?

(For the record, I sometimes like the drudgery of Ubisoft open world games. Far Cry is terrific, delicious busywork.)

This is all to say I accept and even enjoy the reality of a Nintendo console and its library, and not to say I don’t have any grievances with any of those things. I don’t have any complaints about the price of the system itself though. I’ve read comparisons stating that one can purchase a PlayStation 4 for the same price and that’s somehow a biting critique or something. That’s a great value if you want a PS4, but it doesn’t do you any good if you want a Switch. I don’t care if the specs are better in the PS4 if I can play the new console Zelda on the shitter with the Switch. Three hundred dollars is competitive. It’s fine.

I am disappointed that Nintendo’s new minigame extravaganza designed to highlight the unique uses of the controllers and console, 1 2 Switch, is not packed in at $300 though. I’m not disappointed for me, I get it, but I’m disappointed for the normies. Nintendo waffled on packing in its last minigame compilation, Nintendoland, and only included it with the the more expensive version of the Wii U. I still think that was a mistake. The Wii was a good system and deserved to succeed on its own merits, but let’s be realistic: Its success was due in no small part to packing in Wii Sports. Why would you not want to duplicate that business model?

 

Nintendo 1 2 Switch

 

It seems absolutely insane that Nintendo dreams up these weird systems and controllers and expects consumers to figure out the benefits on their own.  The Wii was a smash hit because they didn’t have to figure it out. It was right there in the box. Don’t tell me how great your bizarre Joycon controllers are and then ask that I spend another $60 to actually see it in action. I’m sure some bean counter thought it more profitable to sell it separately, and it could be argued that 1 2 Switch is a great game that stands on its own two legs, but none of that matters if no one buys the system in the first place. To wit, every non-gamer at the office that I told about the Switch thought it was a great idea. They didn’t even balk at the price tag! But they’re unlikely to understand the true value without something like 1 2 Switch in the box.

Swallow your pride and pack in the fucking game.

It’s also frustrating that the Switch’s internal storage is hilariously scant. Nintendo is very economical with game file sizes; whereas Doom, a 10 hour linear shooter consumes 75 fucking GBs on my PS4, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, an expansive open world RPG, is only 14 GBs. This is good! But the Switch comes with 32 GB built in and although it will support MicroSD cards up to 2 TB, 1 TB cards don’t even exist yet, let alone 2 TB, and the cards that do exist are not cheap. This is bad! If it’s a matter of cost, drop all the crazy bullshit in the Joycon controllers and build in more flash storage. As neat as the controllers are, I guarantee in three years none of that nonsense inside them will matter, but storage will.

I think the last thing that bothers me is that less than two months from launch, Nintendo has almost no details on its online plans other than they will now be charging a fee for online play. I can’t begrudge Nintendo for wanting to be dealt in on a game Microsoft and Sony have been playing for a while, but Nintendo has no credit in this casino. If you liked to casually play Mario Kart and Splatoon with your friends or strangers, both the Wii U and 3DS were functionally adequate in this regard, but in basically no other regard. The biggest issue is that Nintendo does not tie your digital purchases to your account, but rather to your hardware, which is a disaster if your Wii U explodes or your 3DS is stolen. You can’t simply buy a new machine, log in and redownload your purchases like you can with literally every other similar appliance on the planet. Even if you just upgrade to a new 3DS model, you have to lay the old 3DS and new 3DS side by side to transfer the purchases from one to the other in a lengthy process that leaves your previous 3DS empty. Heaven forbid if two people played your third Virtual Console copy of Super Mario Bros 3 at the same time!

Needless to say, Nintendo has a lot of work to do before their online services are worth paying for. They’re barely worth tolerating for free. The lack of online details and Nintendo’s aversion to showing the Switch’s OS leaves me to believe all that stuff is coming in hot for launch. Like, on fire hot. Not really surprising given both the 3DS and the Wii U had similar launches, but I wish Nintendo would have learned by now.

But that’s Nintendo! They’re the mad scientist who can’t tie their own fucking shoes. The things they screw up are obvious and irritating, but Jesus, have you played Splatoon? It’s incredible. Nintendo at their best are absolutely, unequivocally unparalleled. Their top tier games are well worth minor annoyances and forgoing the buffet I’ll never eat anyway.

 

Nintendo Switch Splatoon 2 Dab