January 20, 2018
It’s been six weeks since Zelda fans were mind blown by the trailer and same-night release of the Breath of the Wild DLC 2 release. Personally, it was bittersweet for me as I was leaving for my Christmas vacation on the same day, so I would have 3 weeks of avoiding spoilers. Nevertheless, being the Legend of Zelda fanatic I am, I managed to complete 2 hours of game-play before I left for the holidays. Upon return, I finished the whole playing of The Champion’s Ballad in 5 days.
Overall, many Zelda fans would agree when I say that The Champion’s Ballad both started and ended with a bang. The One-Hit Obliterator Sequence on the Great Plateau brought both novelty and ingenuity to the game. It was a blast having to kill a vast array of enemies with one hit, while protecting yourself from a one-hit demise. The shrines in this part of the game were exciting and challenging, especially one involving Link walking completely in the dark and another being a major test of strength with a twist. The Divine Beast at the end brought all the aspects of the 4 main Divine Beasts together and was all the more challenging and the final battle with Monk Maz Koshia can now be regarded as one of my all-time favorite final bosses in the entire Legend of Zelda franchise. However, most of the Champion trials were on the mundane side, speeding through light hoops and fighting basically the same overworld bosses, albeit bigger versions. However, the most disappointing aspect was having to fight the blights all over again. Out of all the four battles, I only died once, and that was only because I paced myself poorly with arrows and it was my first battle. After that, the battles barely took 2 minutes, even Thunderblight Ganon, who tormented me for three hours previously.
From a game play aspect, especially the beginning and end, The Champion’s Ballad was a fun play, however, given the variety of storyline predictions ranging from an all-out war with the Yiga Clan to even the return of the Usurper King himself Zant, the overall premise was a disappointment. We only really got some extra, although powerful, memories with the Champions. However, at this point I am trying to think what the whole point was behind completing the trials. Was it for Link to become the Ultimate Champion? Even so, how does it really benefit the player? Without the faster recharges of the Champions’ abilities, beating Calamity Ganon is very much a cakewalk, and the ultimate prize of the DLC, the Master Cycle Zero, is slower than a normal horse.
For a while, we have heard the Zelda team talk about taking the franchise down a new path, as we have seen with the blockbuster success of Breath of the Wild and its open world setting. Also, this is the first Zelda game where when we press the start button, we can see the main quests and side quests. This reminded me of the Batman: Arkham series, where there are both main and side quests with Batman as the main character. But if the Zelda team really want to take the franchise into brand new territory, they could have taken further inspiration from the Arkham Series, especially Arkham Knight. Here, characters such as Nightwing and Robin help Batman during the main quests. Subsequently, DLCs were created where these side characters became playable with their own short stories. For example, Nightwing was given a short DLC add-on where he would fight to stop a prison break by the Penguin and Red Hood had a short story-line of shutting down Black Mask’s drug empire. In the same vein, Breath of the Wild has side characters who are important to the story and help Link in the main quests. These are none other than the Champion’s Descendants, Sidon, Yunobo, Riju and Teba. It is clear that these characters became popular with many fans, and theories were abound that The Champion’s Ballad would see these characters become playable. This would make a lot of sense in many aspects.
Firstly, with the demise of the previous Champions, Hyrule needs new champions to take their place. However, in order to take this mantle, these new potential Champions would have to prove themselves. Instead of Link undergoing the pointless endeavor of tackling the Champions trials, these could have been undertaken by the new Champions. Hence, we should have been swimming up waterfalls and fighting flying guardians as Sidon, shooting bomb arrows at King Molduga as the Gerudo Chief Riju and so on. Completing these trials would increase their worthiness of being new Champions. However, the battles with the blights in this case would have been perfect. It would be the final trial signifying that the new Champions must succeed where their predecessors fell and victory would also be sweet personal revenge against the blights for slaying their family members. We would then get a cutscene with the previous Champion and the new Champion, and each of these would have been unique. We have seen many emotional moments over the years in Zelda games, but a brother-sister reunion between Mipha and Sidon really would have been a tearjerker, especially given the actual memory featuring the two. She would have seen her brother become the man and protector of their people she hoped he would. The cutscene would have been even more powerful given how much Sidon shows he remembers his fallen sister. Yunobo is shown not to be the bravest Goron, so meeting his ancestor, ‘the almighty Daruk’ would certainly be the character development he needs to go on and become the new Goron Champion. As for Riju, she is constantly shown as being insecure with her title as Gerudo Chief and time and again mentions the name of Urbosa to seek guidance. A cutscene with an interaction between the two would give Riju all the inspiration she would need to fully succeed as a chief of her people. And finally, we are all well aware of the, let’s just say high degree of confidence Rito Champion Revali has in himself. The memories and diary well document the disdain he had for Link being the main Champion, so in a cutscene with Revali and Teba, it would have been enthralling to see how Revali would behave towards someone who is striving to take the mantle of Rito Champion and how Teba, with his no-nonsense personality, would react to him.
The way The Champion’s Ballad should have been structured would have been to keep the One-Hit Obliterator sequence with Link, however, it should have been used as a key straight to the 5th Divine Beast. This would have been an adequate additional mission to the main game. The Champion’s descendants DLCs should have been add-ons in the main title screen. Each one of these should have begun with the memories Link sees after defeating the blights again, then each Champion descendant completing the Champion trials, albeit more than 3 for the purpose of adding content, followed by the blight battle and subsequent cutscene with the previous Champion. Then each DLC sequence should have concluded with the new Champion standing atop their Divine Beast, signifying their status as the new Champion, and the lovable Kass singing his song, which should have included verses about both the old and new Champion. After completing all four DLC segments, there should have been a final cutscene with all four of the descendants being officially crowned as the new Champions by Link and Zelda. This would have completed the game, which is based on sadness and tragedy, in a hopeful tone. Overall, this would have given the new DLC pack much more storyline purpose and would have really been a statement by the game producers towards their future plans for the franchise.