The Legend of Zelda: The Adventures of Soda
The Legend of Zelda is easily one of the most iconic and celebrated video game series of all time. In it's 31 years of existence, it has provided us with possibly the best track record of consistently great games that are well loved and revered the gaming world over. Beyond that, it's also one of the easiest franchises for even non-gamers to identify with, and every release is met with a knowing nod by those that know a gamer. It's kind of a big deal, is what I'm saying. I'm just preaching to the choir here.
So, when Breath of the Wild was finally confirmed for a dual release on the Switch and Wii U, and had a set in stone release date of March 3rd, 2017 to coincide with the launch of Nintendo's newest system, everyone took notice. Many people that I know whom haven't played games in a decade or longer were suddenly starting to ask me questions about the new Zelda game, and if Nintendo's new console was going to be worth it, whether it was for them or their children. It's actually been a very popular point of discussion with me at work for the last two weeks. Obviously, I had already started my Nintendo Switch Holiday Buyer's Guide here on the blog...but there is much more that I can talk about it person than I can on the blog where everything needs to be at least competently analyzed and reported upon, not to mention edited and presented in an easily digestible manner.
This obviously brought back to the front of my mind that I have thusfar ignored most of the major releases on the Nintendo Switch, and that obviously the Nintendo Switch Holiday Buyer's Guide was a perfect opportunity to review these games that have been out for the last 8.5 months. Which brought me to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, naturally. It was the first system seller released on the console, and depending on your personal preferences, possibly the only reason to own a Switch until Super Mario Odyssey released just about a month ago.
So, why isn't this a review for Breath of the Wild? Well, one of my biggest goals when starting this blog wasn't just to review games. I have been planning on making a video game review blog for at least the last three years. I had already done plenty of blogging about various things over the years, starting with MySpace and using their built in blog writer. It was obviously incredibly limited, but it's presence is actually what kept me off of Facebook for many years. About the same time that I did get on Facebook, I also found a new obsession- making homemade soda. Sodamancy was a runaway hit. by my personal standards, and it was because I was in a very niche category. While there are plenty of websites out there that review different sodas, there aren't really very many pages dedicated to the creation of your own sodas. Many of the homemade soda recipes that you find online are one or two- offs written on an organic food site, a root beer experimented done by a homebrew beer blog, or craft blogs talking about making soda with their children as a fun activity, and many of the latter two just use extracts, and only the brewmasters use yeast to carbonate. Anyways, knowing the success of that blog hinged on it's dearth of content in a relatively small market, I knew that if I wanted my video game-centric blog to become successful in any metric, there had to be a hook. What made me stand apart from the many others that were already doing this? Why would you read my reviews over the mainstream game journalism websites? What have most reviewing outlets left out for basically the entirety of their existence? Context.
The way that I wanted to stand out was not only by providing my unique opinion on gameplay mechanics, art styles, and brand recognition, but by trying to frame for you WHY I had those opinions. Why do I rate this or that game highly? Why does something get an average score, but I still recommend playing it? If my gaming life revolves around playing with my family at home, and in short bursts while on break at work, shouldn't my reviews and impressions of games and/or accessories include all of this? I think so. Which is why I will often write first impressions articles. It's why I try to include my children's perspectives about a game in my reviews. It's why I'll sometimes look at a game for it's audience and how that audience will receive it rather than how we see it as veteran gamers. It's also why I insist on reviewing games from genres that I don't usually enjoy. It makes me figure out WHY a specific game might appeal to someone, even if I don't find it to be all that distinct from a dozen other games that don't interest me at all. Many reviewers just like to stick to reviewing things that they love, so it might skew their opinions a bit. Others focus on games that are universally panned because there is humor to be found in the suffering of others, and oftentimes they can present a redeeming feature of those games.
This actually brings me back to the Legend of Zelda series. I grew up playing both of the original Nintendo Zelda games, and I had a unique perspective on them then, and I continue to have into my adulthood, albeit for different reasons, now. As a kid, I always told people that Zelda II was the much better game. Why was this? Well, because I owned it, but not the first one. Also, though, it was because I was absolutely terrible at the first game. Not that I was great at the second, but I essentially knew what I was doing and where I was going- even if this was only due to the fact that I would play nothing but that for hours a day, and weeks on end working my way through the game. I never got that opportunity with the first game. My interaction with that was limited to taking turns with my friends, and usually after failing a couple of times, I had to forfeit my turns and be subjected to watching them play masterfully through a game they had put dozens, or possibly hundreds of hours into.
Even then, though, I realized what made me love the games so much was that they were worlds of such epic proportions compared to every other game that I had played up to that point (most of which were obviously platformers), that the idea of exploring and discovering what was hidden around the map was a wonder. It was a joy to play the games, as long as I could avoid roadblocks and enemies long enough to enjoy that sense of existing in a digital fantasy world. Shigeru Miyamoto has said that The Legend of Zelda was inspired by his childhood in Japan, when he would explore the woods by his hometown.
Then, my sister received a Sega Genesis as a Christmas present, and by that frugal choice (the Genesis was cheaper than the Super Nintendo, and it's games were cheaper, as well), my parents had decided my side in the Great 16-bit Console Wars. While the Sega was for my sister initially, the stream of games that we acquired for the system over the next couple of months basically turned it into my console that I had to ask permission to borrow when friends came over until a year or so later when my sister reluctantly admitted that it could be mine. So, I missed out on a lot of great classics for the Super before I grew up and starting really collecting again back in 2013.
While I received a Nintendo 64 for Christmas in 1996, I sold it off for a Playstation in September of 1997 because my gaming tastes had shifted to RPGs, a genre that the N64 basically had zero representation for, and we all know that Final Fantasy VII had come to North America and basically took the gaming community by storm.
So, fast forward back to 2013. I hadn't played a Legend of Zelda game on a home console since the mid-nineties when I traded away Zelda 2 to a friend. I start getting into collecting retro games and modern handhelds. Virtually everyone is freqeuently professing their love for Ocarina of Time and Windwaker. The latter was strange to me since the only thing I heard about it in the PS2 era was people complaining about the art style.
Apparently, I had missed out on some revolutionary games that defined the 3d action adventure genre! A few times!
I tracked down an n64 and Ocarina of Time, and finally found the time to sit down and play. I was... utterly bored. I just couldn't get into it. Didn't even have the motivation to make it out of the Deku Tree over multiple attempts to do just that. I didn't understand what everyone was raving about. Worse yet, it didn't feel like a Zelda game to me. First of all, it opened with what I consider to be a pretty throwaway introduction of a story. It wasn't much more complex than your standard video game trope of "there's a bad guy, go beat him up. By the way, you're a weak child and need to get stronger first. Then, instead of being turned loose on a seemingly open world to explore, I was tasked with what should have been time wasters thrown in a lull in the action to pad the length of the game.
I had decided that I must not have the patience for this type of game as I once had, and gave up on it for a few years. I finally got my hands on a copy of OoT 3d to see if the ability to take it with me and drop in and out of the game at my convenience would help me persevere through the boring introduction and get to the good stuff. I did finally make it out of the Deku tree, and proceeded to Hyrule Castle. There was still no sense of exploration and wonder that previous titles had presented to me. I snuck around to find Princess Zelda, and was then tasked with continuing forward on my linear path, only to encounter the straw that broke the camel's back. I was supposed to go through the village of the rock people whose name I don't care to look up, and there was a gate in my way, and it was implied that I needed to speak with the elder to unlock that gate. After searching around, it seemed that he must have been hiding at the top of the village on the other side of a narrow sliver of rock that I needed to navigate without falling off. At this point, I feel off about five or six times and just lost my will to continue. While I enjoyed sneaking around guards, I didn't feel tht it was worth my effort to continue playing when I just knew that I would soon encounter another annoying obstacle that would prevent me from exploring or progressing through the super thin story that I couldn't become invested in, and I was just done.
I went back and played both A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening, and was met with the same level of wonder and perceived freedom to explore that the NES titles had established as the familiar Zelda formula. How could they get OoT so wrong? I now chalk up it's continued popularity to a mix of nostalgia, and getting credit for not completely ruining a franchise in it's transition to 3D, like many others had in that era. I afford that it may have the potential to become a great game later on, but I couldn't be bothered to waste any more precious gaming time trying to find it.
In the interim, I had also tried out the other 3d entries, and was met with the same problems in the opening hour or two that just killed my interest in those games. I still feel that the games get too much credit, and that they're overhyped...but I'd like to move on.
You see, when Breath of the Wild was announced as bring the series back to it's roots, with an emphasis on exploration, I was hyped for a Zelda game for the first time, ever. While I realize that it's old hat for most people to be stoked on a new Zelda release, I feel like a lot of the BotW hype was dying off with all of the delays. It was the game that would have made me finally buckle down and buy a Wii U, a console I had ignored for much the same reasons that most other people did- the lack of a strong library and a price point that never felt low enough for entry. Of course, they soon after announced the Switch and I lost every last bit of cool that I may have maintained about new console releases that seemed to have been completely lackluster.
The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild announcement and delay to coincide with launch cemented it for me, and it was the first thing that I pre-ordered after securing my Nintendo Switch.
Come back later tonight to see if Breath of the Wild succeeded in recapturing my childhood wonder at a world of exploration and secrets to discover.
For the record, I now acknowledge that the original Zelda is superior to the second, but I still love the second.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review
Nintendo Switch Holiday Buyer's Guide - 2017 Follow @sodamancer