We are a little over a week away from the launch of Nintendo Switch and along with it, The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild. The entire world has been drooling with anticipation to get their hands on the newest Zelda, myself included. You would think with the short time in between now and then, I’d be able to maintain my patience like the rest of the masses. I thought so too, until Daney dropped this tweet in my lap.
Being the faithful sheep of a Nintendo fan that I am, seeing this news set off an impulsive, primal need to experience whatever was going on at that place. How could I NOT chase the opportunity to play the newest Zelda on a giant 15 foot screen?
I patiently waited at my place of work, counting the minutes while I performed my duties. I knew each passing minute would mean a longer wait to play. At one point I looked at Nintendo NY to find I wasn’t the only one excited about this news.
Well then, I’m clearly not the only one with Zelda on the mind.
When I finally got there, the line was nine people deep. The Nintendo employee kindly reminded us all that each person was allotted 15 minutes to play. I’m no Rainman, but it goes without saying that nobody has time for that kind of wait. Admitting defeat, I held my head up and went home. “It’s no big deal” I thought. After all, I can count the days on two hands until I will have the full game to myself!
This morning though, in genuine Charlie Bucket fashion, I took a detour on my way to work to see one more time. My hopes were low. It’s early in the morning on a weekday, the Nintendo store is located next door to the filming location of The Today Show. Surely there would be another enormous crowd waiting to see the awe inspiring demo that’s revving up everybody’s engines. As I turned the corner of 48th and 5th, I noticed a small line of people.
I knew it…
Walking closer, I counted an identical number to the line I approached yesterday. It was too good to be true. This dream just wasn’t meant to be.
Passing by the line, I nodded at the line’s participants. They had won, this was their day.
Then, the voice of an angel came from the door:
“If you’re here for an NES Classic; we are out!”
Begone ebay Scalpers!
Almost immediately, the line cleared out. Trust me, If there is ever a time to believe in miracles, this is it.
Suddenly, I was standing behind two people who were waiting for the same thing I was. Together, we walked into the store and took our place in line. Yes, I had to wait 30 minutes, but I finally got some hands on time with Breath Of The Wild, as well as the new Pro Controller for Switch.
How was it? Before I answer that, please remember: I am an unapologetic Zelda fan. It’s been my favorite thing in life since I had a personality as a human.
Okay, with that out of the way here’s what I thought of my brief moments with Zelda:
Link controls Beautifully!
The controls in Zelda games have always been pretty tight, but this Link moves like a dream! Not only is he responsive, but the added control styles that are a first to the series make our hero seem more alive than ever. A click of the left stick will cause Link to crouch, moving slow and stealthy, allowing you to sneak on enemies. (You better believe I did.) Climbing more surfaces was a fun change, allowing mobility that I hadn’t seen before in a game. Even a dedicated jump button, which admittedly worried me at first, was a handy tool to in getting from place to place. This world isn’t flat and barren, so having the assistance to be as mobile as possible feels great.
Still measuring my thoughts on Stamina.
Stamina was introduced in Skyward Sword. With it, our hero now has to monitor his movements a bit in order to stay fresh for battle. Running will drain your stamina ring, as will climbing, jumping, etc. It’s not that it’s a bad mechanic, just unfamiliar for a series I’m so accustomed to. I’m sure it will help with balance and make for a better overall experience in the long run.
Loot seems to be pretty important
I only had a short experience, but in that time I came across numerous objects in the world. Some from slain enemies, some strategically placed for the purposes of the build. While I didn’t get to do any sort of crafting, the abundance of these items paint a pretty clear picture that you will be doing just that. On a related note, I really liked how health regeneration works. Rather than picking up dropped hearts, I stumbled across a prepared slab of meat, which granted me a 2 heart boost. I would assume that coming across a raw version of this meat would give less regeneration. It will make for interesting inventory management and strategy against tougher opponents for sure.
Weapons are varied and plentiful
The Master Sword may be the blade of evil’s bane, but it’s got some company this time around. My demo brought me to all kinds of melee companions; basic tree branch, a heavy wooden club, a large wood axe, and finally, a proper blade. Admittedly, I was after the blade the entire time, and only got to spend a few seconds with it, but I did learn that spin slashing is still very alive, and VERY consuming of stamina!
OH! We can’t forget the bow! Slaying a random Bokoblin gave me access to a standard bow. This is what I spent a majority of my time in combat using. Shooting bows works amazingly well and the game has even implemented a nice headshot mechanic, offering 2x damage for well placed shots.
For those of you who care about the lore of Zelda, I tried to avoid as much story as possible to hold off for a proper full version play though. Judging from what was going on around me, and the interactions I had with the world’s ominous voices, I would probably assume that the place of this game on the Zelda timeline fits somewhere between Ocarina of Time and A Link to the Past. That puts Link in the category of “The Hero was Defeated” on the Timeline.
Unrelated to Zelda, the Switch Pro Controller feels pretty good. Admittedly lighter than an Xbox 360 or Xbox One Controller, it shares the same joystick placement and button layout. The face, d-pad, and shoulder buttons all feel great. The best part? The analog sticks are concave! I’ve never understood the idea of convex buttons. Be it console or arcade, your fingers just kind of want to slide off. Buttons are for pushing! On the Wii U pro controller, the analog sticks were a bit rounded which always felt uncomfortable. This controller’s new joysticks allow your thumbs to sit and stay put.
I was hopeful that the demo would be using the Switch’s Joycon controllers. But as another fan pointed out to me, the Joycons come with the console. This is a great opportunity to sell me on the Pro Controller and how it compares. While I can’t see myself needing one out of the gate, I will definitely enjoy this thing in my hands when a more competitive game like Splatoon 2 releases.
On a final note, I would like to point out that this demo stuttered multiple times through my playthrough. Mind you, it wasn’t terrible or unplayable frame rate drops. But occasionally, when the view of the world was vast, and rendering needed to happen en masse, the frame rate would drop noticeably. It’s worth mentioning that this build is almost certainly the same build that’s been used for nearly a year to demo to the public. Whether or not the final game will see these hiccups, I don’t know. But it would seem VERY un-Nintendo for that to happen in the final product. Then again, Nintendo has never taken on an open world quite as vast as the Hyrule we see in Breath of the Wild.
It was a very short experience, but after all that trouble, I’m glad I got a chance to play. I walked away, not only with the Zelda fun I was after, but a firmer grasp of what Switch will do and how its hardware will work. Unfortunately, after all this, the wait for March 3rd is starting to feel longer. HURRY UP SWITCH!