Why Zelda: Breath Of The Wild Is Vastly Overrated
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Director: Hidemaro Fujibayashi
Genre: Open-world RPG
Release Date: March 3rd 2017
I have to make a confession.
Up until last weekend, I hadn’t played a Legend Of Zelda game since Wind Waker came out for the Gamecube back in late 2002. I have just never been a big fan of this series and have always thought of it more as a children’s franchise than anything else.
However, after the sequel to The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild was announced at this year’s E3 livestream event during Nintendo’s direct. I figured it was high time that I revisited the series. Although I don’t own a Nintendo Switch, my niece does, so last weekend I sat down with her and played through 2017’s Game Of The Year.
When this game came out, I remember it has taking the gaming world by storm. I remember reading the reviews at the time and critics were claiming that this game, ‘writes a new chapter in the videogames industry,’ and that it is an, ‘evolution of everything that has come before.’
Did I play the wrong game?
I am left truly stumped as to why these wild statements were ever perpetuated. How exactly was this Zelda game so revolutionary?
Whilst I appreciate that this is a well made game and it most likely did new things within the Zelda franchise, these statements stick in my throat a little. This isn’t because I don’t agree that this is an impressive game, because it is. Other than the odd frame rate drop, there aren’t many flaws with this game and I did enjoy the few hours that I spent with it.
My problem comes from the fact that this is a well made game that isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been done before a million times and frankly been done better.
Full disclosure; although I have never been a Zelda fan, I wanted this game to convert me and I’m sorry to say that it didn’t. The purpose of this piece isn’t to attack the Zelda franchise, so you fanboys can put your pitchforks down. What I want to discuss is how when Nintendo do anything that is even slightly better than a disaster, it is heralded as the brave new step in video games by a large portion of the video game press.
I get it, nostalgia is a powerful lens. Most writers in their 30’s working in the industry grew up playing on Nintendo systems and franchises like Mario and Zelda. However, as someone who is around ten years younger and grew up with PlayStation, I don’t feel that Nintendo games have advanced a great deal since the turn of the millennium and frankly, I don’t see Nintendo as having broken any new ground in the last twenty years.
If Breath of the Wild had come out exclusively for any other console, it simply would not have been lauded as the best thing since sliced bread. In fact, it sort of already has and it is called Horizon: Zero Dawn! When Horizon released, it received a positive critical reception and high sales, but no one was writing articles claiming it was the next step in the evolution of video games.
Splatoon was also put up on a pedestal when it was released and was described as ‘fresh,’ and, ‘unique,’ even though it was never anythingmore than a dumbed down version of Team Fortress 2 for a younger audience. Super Mario Maker was released back in 2015 and it was essentially a $60 level editor. Level editors have been included in other games since forever and no fuss has been made, but when Nintendo sell an entire game based on the concept, it is hailed as another, ‘triumph by Nintendo.’
When you compare Breath of The Wild to other open world games that have released in the last ten years like The Witcher or Skyrim, there is nothing that makes it unique from a design and functionality standpoint. If Breath of The Wild came out in 2008, then sure you could get away with labelling it as revolutionary, but in this day and age it isn’t any more special than Horizon or Skyrim.
Let’s go deeper and look at some of the specific features that were called unique in the game’s reviews. The ‘climbing a tower to uncover zones of the map,’ mechanic has been done already in the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry series’. Using plants for crafting and cooking was done before in Far Cry and Skyrim. Far Cry 2 and Dead Island had degradable weapons. The inventory system is very reminiscent of multiple Ubisoft titles; essentially Breath of The Wild has taken various different elements from other games and thrown something together based on that within the Zelda universe.
This may sound patronising, but it honestly isn’t intended that way. I get it, in 2017, Nintendo fans hadn’t had anything to be proud of since the launch of the Wii and they were having to stand by their console of choice and defend it with very little ammo to defend themselves with. From 2012 to 2017, in the dark says of the Wii U, Nintendo fans had a rough five years, so they were desperate for something to justify the existence of the Switch and Breath Of The Wild gave them that.
However, the long term result seems to be that now, when anything better than a car crash is released by Nintendo, it is inflated by a significant portion of industry. This then gives Nintendo fans grounds for putting their mediocre games on a pedestal. This is also why to the rest of the industry it appears that Nintendo fans can’t accept things for the way that they really are and everything is blown so far out of proportion.
Some examples of Nintendo games being blown out of proportion and reviewers being clouded by nostalgia are available to go and check out right now on Metacritic. Zelda: Skyward Sword is currently sitting at a 93, Zelda: Twilight Princess is sitting at a 95 and Metroid: Other M has a 79.
All three of these games are widely considered as being sub-par and once the novelty wore off, even the most hardcore of Nintendo fans would agree that these are forgettable, black marks on the respective franchises track records.
Not that BOTW isn’t a game for Zelda fans to be proud of, because it is. I can see why this would be considered as the best Zelda game, but to someone that isn’t a fan of the Zelda franchise, that praise is meaningless. While there is no doubt that The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is vastly overrated, there is some fun to be had with the game. That said, it is far from the groundbreaking masterpiece that it was lauded as upon its release.
In summary, the inflation of mediocrity in the industry has to stop, if we want gaming to improve. If we want to break new ground across the gaming media, these sycophants and apologists living in a false perception of reality have to go. These novelty games that are applauded for simply carrying the title of a beloved franchise, have to stop being praised so highly and given a free pass of any sort of criticism just because of a nostalgic lens.
If you enjoyed Dan waxing lyrical about how overrated Zelda: Breath of the Wild is overrated, you can check out his review of Cyberpunk: 2077 here.
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