August 8, 2017
Just because a game is large and beautiful doesn’t automatically make it the greatest game ever. It might not even be the greatest game within its own franchise. Is Breath of the Wild the greatest Zelda game ever? No, it’s not. It was a great game, and it would be hard to argue against that. When it came out, it was definitely worth the wait. In the beginning parts of the game, I was confident that Breath of the Wild would be my favorite Zelda game ever.
As I continued to play it, this feeling retracted more and more. There were key things that I had grown to love about Zelda that were missing in the game. Change is ok, but you can’t get too far away from the things that made you successful. It felt like it had more to offer, and that there was potential there, but it was unrealized. There is only one Zelda game that I feel reached its true potential, and that is Ocarina of Time, and this is why it is better than Breath of the Wild.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!
One of the biggest disappointments with Breath of the Wild was the story. There wasn’t much to it, not for a game this large in scale. We are told that 10,000 years ago, thanks to the technological advancements of Hyrule, they were able to create four Divine Beasts and thousands of Guardians that were used to defeat Ganon. Once the spirit manifested itself again, it fired off its corruption into every machine. In the Great Calamity that followed, the King and Champions were killed, Link was gravely wounded, and most of Hyrule was devastated. This is the majority of the story we get from the cut scenes.
Fast forward 100 years later and we are to the events of Breath of the Wild. Link is awakened in the Shrine of Resurrection, he meets the King who informs him that Calamity Ganon has been sealed in Hyrule Castle, but his power is growing and he must be defeated. After we receive this information, we don’t get much else. Yes, every memory offers an additional piece of story line, but it is not required to get those memories, and the story doesn’t make sense until it all comes together with every collected memory. More so, the memories can be activated in any order, which creates an un-structured story.
I’ve never been a fan of un-structured stories. They are too chaotic. Just because you have an open-world game doesn’t mean you can’t have a structured story. Take Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag and GTA 5. These two games were huge but still had a structured story you had to progress through. Another example within the Zelda franchise is A Link Between Worlds. While not as open world as Breath of the Wild, you were still able, for the most part, to do things in the order you chose, while having a structured story of Hyrule, Master Sword, Lorule, final boss, ending. I think Breath of the Wild could have taken some advice from A Link Between Worlds in this aspect.
Ocarina of Time had a much more structured story that occurred throughout the game, and because of this, it was able to tell a better story. A fairy awakens a young boy in Kokiri Forest and leads him to the Deku Tree. The Deku Tree sets Link out on his adventure in Hyrule shortly before dying. He collects 3 Spiritual Stones, making it possible to retrieve the Master Sword from the Temple of Time. He then sets out to awaken all the sages through 5 temples. After awakening all the sages, he is able to make his way to fight Ganon.
This part of the story doesn’t even include the information we get in the cut-scenes, which expanded on the story from the NES and SNES titles and pushed the franchise forward for the next 19 years and counting. We learn about the 3 golden goddesses, Din, Nayru, and Farore. They created the Triforce at the point where they left the world, and we get a lot more information on said Triforce. We are told Link came from the forest, why the Temple of Time was built, how you can enter the Sacred Realm through the Door of Time, who Ganondorf is and his evil intentions, and much more.
As we now know, Breath of the Wild occurs at the very end of the Zelda timeline. It had the capability to push the franchise forward on that unknown timeline for many more years to come, but we just didn’t get much information to create that push. That isn’t to say that future Zelda games will stink and not have a great story, I just don’t feel that Breath of the Wild gave them a good set ball to spike like Ocarina of Time did. It is also possible that future Zelda games will take place before Breath of the Wild, but that situation doesn’t apply to my argument here.
For the most part, Breath of the Wild didn’t feel “alive”, and that was disappointing. While it was understandable that Calamity Ganon destroyed almost everything in Hyrule 100 years ago, I still hated so many places being in ruins. There were new towns to the series that I wanted to explore and wasn’t able to. I couldn’t get to know the people that lived there. Yes, there were villages/towns/cities in Breath of the Wild, but for how big the map was, I didn’t find it adequate.
Ocarina of Time on the other hand, felt very alive, well at least during the child era, haha. The children were running around Kokiri Forest. The market was bustling with activity, and the catchy theme reflected that. The guards around Hyrule Castle were too busy enjoying the day to catch intruders, construction was ongoing in Kakariko Village, Gorons were rolling around in Goron Village, Zora’s were relaxing in Zora’s Domain, horses were galloping at Lon Lon Ranch, and thieves at the Gerudo Fortress were throwing trespassers in jail. It felt like everywhere you went there was something happening!
Weapons and Items System
At first, I was excited for all the weapons we could get in Breath of the Wild. It was going to be fun testing out these weapons to see what kind of damage could be dealt. This got old really quick, and most of you know why, they would only last a few strikes before breaking. By the end of the game, I just felt drained from switching my weapons in and out. It started to become somewhat of a tedious task. Yes, you can collect Korok Seeds to expand your inventory, but it takes quite a bit to expand your inventory to the max (441 Korok Seeds to be exact).
What was even more disappointing was the Master Sword. I was so ecstatic to acquire this only to find out that it lasted maybe a minute in combat. How does a sword this powerful use so much energy so quickly?! Nintendo really missed on this one. I know there is now a DLC Pack with Trial of the Sword that allows you to fully power up the Master Sword so it doesn’t lose energy, but that is no easy task in itself. I’ve never been a fan of having to go back and re-do stages. I’m even less of a fan now that I have an 11 month old daughter and a wife about to enter her 3rd trimester.
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I attempted Trial of the Sword and made it through 9 stages of the beginning trials. My “run straight forward and attack” style doesn’t always work so well with stages like this, haha. After that, I have never attempted it again. I can only imagine how hard, frustrating, and time consuming the final trials must be. This imagination has somewhat been brought to reality by reading stories online.
I won’t sit here and say Ocarina of Time had better weapons overall, because Breath of the Wild had such a large variety, but I didn’t find the system as frustrating. It was nice to have weapons that didn’t break. Maybe it’s not as realistic, but is multiple swords breaking after a couple of hits realistic? Having to sharpen your sword would be more realistic, and maybe that is what Breath of the Wild should have focused on.
Even though my issue with Breath of the Wild lies within the system and not the actual weapons, there were some weapons in Ocarina of Time that were sadly missing in Breath of the Wild. Most notably is the Hookshot. This has been one of my favorite items in many Zelda games since it was introduced in Link to the Past. In the games where there has been two of them, like Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, the weapon has been even more amazing. Breath of the Wild did introduce climbing (my favorite mechanic in the game), which somewhat replaced the functionality of the Hookshot, but it would’ve been cool if we could have quickly shot up to places instead of taking the time to climb.
As far as bombs go, it was nice in Breath of the Wild that they never ran out. You just had to let your meter fill back up. I was not, however, a fan of the blue, Sheikah technology explosion. A majority of men are weirdly attracted to fire. I can remember it being a cool thing to see since I was young, so going along with this, I always like to see a fiery explosion from bombs in a video game. Sadly, I was not able to get this satisfaction from Breath of the Wild like I did in Ocarina of Time.
With the quantity of shields in Breath of the Wild, I was surprised there was no Mirror Shield. It’s always been my favorite in the games that have it, even if they also had the Hylian Shield. There were some awesome shields in Breath of the Wild. They had the Ancient, Knight’s, Royal Guard’s, and Royal Shield, just to name a few, but there was that glaring Mirror Shield still missing. And I have to mention this, I don’t care to search all of Hyrule Castle for the Hylian Shield just to drop it later and have to pay 3,000 rupees for a replacement! That is, if you even completed the Tarrey Town side quest, From the Bottom Up.
Going along with these missing weapons in Breath of the Wild, I also have to talk about the Ocarina. Not that it needed to be in Breath of the Wild, but it would have been cool to play some instrument in the game. I loved all the songs that came with the Ocarina in Ocarina of Time. It added so much to the game and it was a simple concept. I especially loved the temple songs that teleported you to that temple area. They were so memorable. Many games have had this and I’m not sure why it was excluded from Breath of the Wild. Teleportation was replaced with the Sheikah Slate, but an instrument playing songs could’ve had some kind of use in Breath of the Wild.
I love the music in Zelda. It’s one of my favorite parts of the franchise. One of the musical pieces I love the most are the dungeon themes. I’m always excited to see what new dungeons we will get, and the musical score that will come along with these dungeons. The theme helps set the atmosphere for a dungeon and can increase or decrease its value.
Two dungeons where the value was increased significantly to me were the Forest Temple and Spirit Temple from Ocarina of Time. While these dungeons could be great without a theme, the theme made you feel like you were actually adventuring through the dungeon and not just playing a video game. The eerie sound of the Forest Temple makes you wonder what this place use to be, and what happened to it. It fits alongside the Poe Sisters, and the overall ghostly feel of the place. Its frantic chime makes you feel like it’s important to speed through because you have a much larger task at hand. It was a great first adult dungeon for the game.
The Spirit Temple theme reminds you that you are out in a desert, in a Temple far away from the center of Hyrule. The theme works well alongside the color of the dungeon. You feel like you are in a place of worship, and that the Gerudo culture is so much greater then what you got to experience in the game. It was the proper dungeon to be positioned right before Ganon’s Castle.
What dungeon themes were great in Breath of the Wild? NONE! I did enjoy Hyrule Castle’s theme, but that was just an updated remix of a classic Zelda tune. None of the other dungeons, aka Divine Beasts, had a memorable theme. I would have a hard time telling you what theme went with what Divine Beast, and that was not a problem I had in any Zelda game prior. Going along with not being memorable, they also didn’t enhance the feel and atmosphere of any dungeon like I experienced in Ocarina of Time. At work, I always like to go back and listen to looped dungeon themes. This is something I have yet to do with Breath of the Wild. The dungeon themes were a major disappointment, which was surprising based on how great they had been in other Zelda games.
This is not to be confused with dungeon themes. What I am talking about here are water, forest, fire, etc. themed dungeons. They have been a staple throughout many Zelda games. I always find myself being a fan of the forest and desert themed dungeons, so I am always looking forward to those when a new Zelda game comes out. Ocarina of Time can be credited with creating this excitement. It gave you a variety of themed dungeons to choose your favorite from. You went Inside the Deku Tree, helped a princess through a disgusting fish in Jabu Jabu, searched for 4 Poes in lush vegetation within the Forest Temple, tried to avoid the fiery areas of Dodongo’s Cavern and the Fire Temple, raised and lowered the water levels in the Water Temple, dodged razor sharp guillotines in the Shadow Temple, re-directed desert sunlight in the Spirit Temple, and made you way through many enemies before facing the final boss in Ganon’s Castle.
What themed dungeons were found in Breath of the Wild? NONE once again! One could argue that there was a Fire, Wind, Water, and Desert themed Divine Beast, but that was mostly the backdrop. You didn’t find those elements largely present inside the Divine Beasts. Also, from the inside, all the Divine Beasts looked very similar. Which became boring and stagnant after a while. When you got to the boss at the end, they all felt and looked the same, even though they had different attacks. If you took the first name away before “Ganon”, I’m not sure I could tell you which boss it was. I was very surprised Nintendo didn’t put more effort into differentiating these dungeons and their bosses.
In Breath of the Wild, Hyrule Castle didn’t feel like it was a castle. It was more a series of ramps and walkways that led to different sections of the castle. It didn’t have the structural outline of a castle. It looked amazing from far, but when you got up to it, it was far from amazing.
One thing that I loved about Ganon’s Castle in Ocarina of Time is that we had to make our way all through the castle before we got to meet Ganondorf. In Breath of the Wild, you can walk right up to Calamity Ganon without exploring any of the castle, which is what I accidently did in my first trip there. I decided that it was not the right time to fight Calamity Ganon yet, so I set off to explore Hyrule Castle. I was not impressed overall. It kind of goes back to my “everything in ruins” argument. Yes it makes sense why Hyrule Castle looked like this, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Calamity Ganon was a joke, there is no other way for me to put it. I was hoping for the human form of Ganondorf to be waiting when I got to Hyrule Castle, very much like in Ocarina of Time and even Twilight Princess. When I got there, what I got was this creature that looked similar to the other 4 bosses I fought in the Divine Beasts, and there was hardly any intro cut scene.
One of my favorite memories from Ocarina of Time was walking up the long stairs laid with red carpet before confronting Ganondorf in Ganon’s Castle. He was sitting there playing an organ and the tune set the scene perfectly for the ensuing fight. In Breath of the Wild, all you get is Calamity Ganon dropping down to the bottom of Hyrule Castle. You do get a cut scene with the 4 Champions using their powers to drain Calamity Ganon to half-life (if you completed the 4 Divine Beasts), but I don’t consider that an interaction between Link and Calamity Ganon.
When the fight starts, the battle is already half way won. If you have a significant amount of hearts and elixirs, this fight becomes very easy. You can essentially just run up to him and slash away. While there are different strategies you can use to avoid losing health, there is really no strategy necessary if you are just looking to simply defeat him.
After defeating Calamity Ganon, we are automatically transported out to Hyrule Field, which obviously makes the trip from Hyrule Castle out to Hyrule Field uneventful. Zelda hands Link the Bow of Light and we go about defeating Dark Beast Ganon. If you thought the first stage of the final boss was a letdown, then you are about to become even more depressed and upset with this final boss. It’s one of the biggest disappointments in the Zelda franchise. You just ride your horse around and shoot arrows at certain targets while avoiding his easy-to-avoid attacks. No final boss should be this simple, especially after a game this grand. Dark Beast Ganon did look cool out in Hyrule Field, but just because something looks cool doesn’t mean it delivers a great experience.
Let’s compare this to the final boss in Ocarina of Time. We get a sweet intro cut-scene with Ganondorf playing the organ. Afterwards, we have to avoid falling platforms while also dodging his attacks. After dodging his attacks, we must find a strategy to defeat him, we just can’t rush straight forward and attack. We eventually figure out that we need to shoot him with a light arrow, hookshot over to his platform, and slice away with our sword.
After this first stage, we get a pleasant surprise (you have to remember at the time when this game was released, we weren’t accustomed to there being more than 1 stage of a final boss). As Ganondorf lays wounded at the top of his castle, with his final breath, he brings the castle crumbling down and you need to escape before time runs out. We’ve always made our way up a castle, but rarely have we had to make our way down so quickly. This stage offered some spectacular views that we were only able to get during that short part of the game. It was also very intense as you had to jump over gaps and defeat enemies, all while making sure you didn’t land on Princess Zelda.
After all this, one would think for sure the battle was done. NOPE! We are treated to one final stage with pig-beast Ganon. Just the sheer size and look of Ganon at that time was outstanding. If you don’t know the strategy of rolling between his legs to attack his tail, this boss can actually be very difficult, as a final boss should be. You take all 3 of these stages and it is a tremendously better final boss then the one found in Breath of the Wild.
Going along with the uneventful story line of Breath of the Wild, the ending was also a displeasure. For a game so large, the ending was in comparison short and anti-climactic. Zelda seals Calamity Ganon away, she informs Link that she has been watching his journey and asks if he remembers her, we see the King and Champion’s spirits floating above Hyrule Castle, and after the credits roll, Zelda and Link go to investigate a non-functional Ruta while talking about restoring Hyrule to its former glory. That was it. I was expecting so much more and was hoping we would get some additional story line. It did not happen.
In Ocarina of Time, after Ganon is sent into the void of the Evil Realm by the sages, we still have some communication with him. He informs us that when the seal is broken, he will exterminate our descendants. I loved this communication we were able to have with him after he was sealed away. Zelda then informs us that we must lay the Master Sword to rest and close the Door of Time. This causes the roads between times to be closed. We then hand Zelda our Ocarina and she sends Link back to the time when he was a child. After the credits roll, we find Link back in the Temple of Time laying the Master Sword in its pedestal. Navi proceeds to fly away afterwards. Where she went we will never know. It is up to the player’s imagination. In the last scene, Link is in Hyrule Courtyard about ready to talk to Zelda. What is he going to say? Once again it cuts off and it’s up to the player’s imagination to decide what happens next. How can you beat an ending like that?!
There is one last thing I want to address with the ending, and that is the credits. This is one of my favorite parts of the game as we get a great combination of songs and a tour of all the areas we have visited. Breath of the Wild’s was a little disappointing. The music wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t awesome like in Ocarina of Time. It also incorporated more of the characters then the areas. I was surprised how few areas they actually showed during the credits. When I’ve beaten a Zelda game, the credits has always delivered that sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. I didn’t feel it as much with Breath of the Wild. Maybe this sounds like a petty argument to you, but it’s a feeling I experienced so I had to mention it.
Odds & Ends
There were two more points that I had that didn’t fit into a prior section, but I still wanted to address them. I have always been a fan of the forest areas in Zelda games. I blame Ocarina of Time for this with Kokiri Forest, Lost Woods, Sacred Meadow, and the Forest Temple. Many Zelda games have had a great forest area, but Breath of the Wild was not one of them. It looked like a tropical rain forest, and it acted like a tropical rain forest with how much rain the area got. I thought this area would be one of the places I spent the most time in, but by the end of the game, I would say I spent the least amount of time there. It was surprising and disappointing all at the same time.
How a game like Breath of the Wild didn’t incorporate diving underwater is beyond me. It was a missing mechanic that felt very constraining while in water. There was so much water in the game that diving would have added to the already vast exploration possibilities in the game. There was a whole new world under the water that we were not able to explore. With Ocarina of Time, we had two ways of doing this. We could dive down for a certain period of time (based on which scale you had), or you could equip the Iron Boots and sink all the way to the bottom. If you had the Zora Tunic, you could stay down there as long as you wanted. It seems like a very simple concept that Nintendo could have incorporated into Breath of the Wild.
Hopefully I have given you enough reasons to demonstrate why I like Ocarina of Time more than Breath of the Wild. I believe I have. In Ocarina of Time, it feels like everything comes together in the game. I’ve always felt that the game perfected the “formula”. It had the right combination of elements that makes a game great. Many want to talk about how large Breath of the Wild is, but I always argue that in 1998, Ocarina of Time felt that large. There are many open-world games nowadays with large maps that compare to Breath of the Wild, but Ocarina of Time was a game changer when it came out. It was like nothing else, and that’s why it’s still my favorite Zelda game to date.
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It should go without saying, but I always feel the need to say it. This is an opinion article. It is 100% subjective. It is based on the feelings I experienced while playing both games. Your feelings might not be the same as mine because everyone experiences things different. If you strongly disagree with my opinion, that is fine.
I understand this article comes off as me bashing Breath of the Wild, but it’s honestly my 2nd favorite Zelda game. It is great for many reasons, but that is a different article for a different time. How do you feel about all this? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know your opinion in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter at @2GuysPlayZelda. Until next time, keep on playing Zelda!
This article has now been adapted to video. You can watch it below or on YouTube here.
Counter: Flip Side: Why Breath of the Wild is Better than Ocarina of Time