Nintendo Sceptic’s Journey through Zelda+Switch [part 1]
As you may suspect from the title this may not be the usual song of praise to Nintendo & Zelda Breath of the Wild. Others have done far more and better than me in this respect, for example check out HaikuHunter’s fantastic Zelda review or his cool Switch review (with a great test!). If anything I come from a very different background and it seems with very different tastes/values than most reviewers of the game, if anything seeing all those fantastic youtube/IGN/GameSpot/IGN/metacritic reviews got me quite critical as I was comparing what I was seeing with other contemporary and past games. Many people respond by saying that the game should be taken into itself but I am a person who’s played games for >25 years and when looking at a new game I can’t just pretend a lot of the great advancements we’ve made in the field in the past 10+ years were not there and just act like this one game just invented all that or lives on it’s own. By that logic I’m convinced if i took a badly rated metacritic game and gave it to a person who’s never played a game they’d be blown away. So, I will be judging this Zelda in the context of all the other games in the recent years, in relation to those, and not at all in relation to other Zelda games (which I haven’t played), and as a person who just bought his first Nintendo console. The fact that I bought this console is a testament to the fact that it’s the first time I saw a possibly play-worthy Nintendo game after the Super Nintendo which I respect for the 90s which I only admired form a distance though and later via some emulation. But with Zelda Breath of the Wild, an open world, and a handheld which I think is more powerful than the aging Vita. This makes Zelda: Breath of the Wild the most expensive game I’ve ever bought, game + console reaching to about 400$. I’ll give my first impressions in bullet points.
Special note: I have to mention that again there’s going to be a lot of “relative context”, in that in some points I’ll not just be addressing the game but also all the praise of it in criticism to other games which I found totally unjustified and shaped my expectations and where I’m coming from (and why I payed so much pretty much for one game). I’ll mark these with * .
+, + [Switch] feels like a nice solid construction
+, + [Switch] Quick and smooth start from unboxing to being right in the game
-, – [Switch] I was rather disappointed with the display quality, on a sunny day it was quite hard to play without going inside (which sort of beats the point). In particular that starting room I kept bumping into walls
– , – [Switch] very very very poor selection of games, never seen such a short list of games in a store, and for me it’s even worse so far Zelda is for me the only game … I can only hope that in the years to come some devs will take a risk and at least port some old titles for the platform.
+, +, + “switch”-ing from docked to portable mode feels awesome, still a miracle even after doing it dozens of times.
-, +, – [Switch] The controllers felt rather tiny, got used to them in the end but they still have signal problems when even slightly away from the TV and i reaaaly dislike the asymetric joystick combined with the (to me) strange button placements and uses which contradict my PC, ps3, ps4, xbox 360 and bit of Xone customs
And now moving onto Zelda tself:
+, +, +, + Looks fantastic on the tiny screen. Just amazing to be seeing such small things with such detail. On the small screen the cell shading did indeed have a charm of it’s own and helped with contrst videwing
-, – in docked mode though things look pretty empty. The graphics feel ps3 level, sometimes even ps2 level. I definitely and strongly disagree with all those portraying it as a current-gen platform. It feels last-gen at best, sometimes worse, with bland washed out textures without character and very few objects in the world, mostly just rolling hills terrain.
+ but the smooth open world makes up for a lot
– the colors feel pretty washed out. Initially i thought maybe it’s the feeling of a sunny day, which i like, but then i remembered a lot of games which have sunny worlds and yet decent contrast which doesn’t feel like i’m playing things on an aged tv
+, +, + I enjoyed the feeling of exploring the world, the openness was I think a fantastic decision
* So many people have said this game is so different and revolutionary to other games that it allows you to go anywhere and just explore. I didn’t find this at all as different as other games of this type: the moment i strayed of the path to just go another direction I was hit 2x to go back 1) by cold weather i couldn’t resist 2) by the game reminding me that I’m supposed to do something and go somewhere, something which happens later in the game too. Also the game clearly expect you to get the basic powers before proceeding, with the initial area serving as training ground. This is a typical game trope, nothing wrong with that, but I do resent all the statements/reviews which made it seem like this is never done before revolutionary.
-, + The music i heard (unlike the selections above) felt mostly bland and generic, semi-generated, with some chords and sounds, with only the occasional memorable song. Again, nothing wrong with that, just not the aweeesome sountrack i was lead to expect. Mostly the game gets away with ambiental sounds of the world. I have yet to find in it though super memorable songs that stick or blow away like I did in other games. To take one example I think the soundtrack isn’t as memorable/professional as the Witcher 3 one, and i didn’t particularly love the soundtrack there, just saying.
-, – the whole world feels very “for kids”, from world to story to everything. For some this might be a plus for me it’s a minus.
* people kept saying how different from other games and unique this game is, particularly how much better it is than the worn out formula of AC games… yet what’s one of the first things I did and patterns I learned in the game?!? You climb a tall tower to reveal/conquer a big map section. duuuuh
-, -, – really low budget feeling with NPC interactions, silly sounds instead of voiced over, a place where i feel the game feels decidedly 10 years+ ago
+ the animations however are pretty nice
– the stamina indicator is i think really badly designed, a circle straight on the character, at the very least it should have been on the edge of the screen if not subtle animations or some overall screen effect like most games do such feedback, they instead placed a 2d distracting animation exactly center screen
– the black & white loading screen felt really not fitting. Might’ve worked for a stylized game like Persona but here it just felt out of place. I would’ve much rather had scenes from the landscape or screenshots or something that was visually fitting (for example handle it like Oblivion did with those frames)
+, -, – while exploring the world was fun, like a mixture of Minecraft, Grow Up, Gothic & Oblivion, as soon as I went into the big village the game showed it’s shortcomings even more compared to other games in the past decade, with the silly sounds instead of dialogues it was barely better than Okami on the ps2, and no longer doing things but rather having interactions the game felt even more backward and underproduced. Couldn’t wait to get out of town.
+ the environment interactions are pretty nice, enemies dropping weapons and being surprised when you take them, flames making fields on fire, nice stuff. Nothing I hadn’t seen done much better in Farcry Primal, Farcry 3 & 4, but still it’s nice to have it there.
* the restriction of some areas via clothing keeps making me think of the much better experience i had with that in Farcry Primal
– didn’t really like the cooking mechanics. It could’ve been much simplified, just interacting with a fire should’ve put you in cooking mode, instead one has to go into inventory, click once, click again to select, and only then begins making a cooking selection. Unoptimized!
* I particularly resented how many reviewers started their Zelda review by criticizing Ubisoft games, and this for a game which I feel in most places does not live to the high standards raised by those games. For example they would often start by saying that those games feel like a colect-a-thlon, unlike Zelda, but this game also feels to me exactly like that. You go around picking up things, finding places, picking up more things. Nothing wrong with that, I just find incredibly untrue how they put it. Sure, there’s moments when you’re delighted in Zelda by finding something unique, but I’ve found even more unique and interesting corners in other games from Assasin’s Creed to Dying Light.
+ I liked the things the game took from Shadow of the Colossus, from the big open areas with sun to the stamina for climbing, great things!
* Again contrary to all the praises I’ve heard i feel the game does a lot of the rinse & repeat type activities, unlike all the praising reviews that said this game is so different than that. You find a shrine, you solve it, you do it again, you find a tower, you climb it… and so on… And here too i saw other games do this more originally and with more variety: take for example the Oblivion gates/dimensions: they felt totally ‘deja vu’ and repeat, just like the shrines, yet some of them had fully lovingly crafted worlds in there, with interesting unique back stories and *fully voiced* interesting characters. Or even in a smaller scale, the towers of Farcry: all the same, and yet with subtle variations and challenges in figuring them out, they were mini shrine puzzles in themselves that I’ve never heard anybody make a big deal of.
Well, that’s it for now. Been playing a lot of Zelda, will play more, these are some of my thoughts so far…
TO BE CONTINUED