Posted by: seanmalstrom | April 1, 2017

Email: Thoughts on BotW from a longtime reader, longer-time Zelda fan, and fellow Aonuma-Hater

Hello, Malstrom. I have emailed you about the Zelda series before (mostly around the time of Skyward Sword, a game I hated). I’m another old-timer like you, and I agree with you on nearly everything you’ve said regarding the Zelda series and Eiji Aonuma’s decades-long efforts to destroy it. I have said the same things myself many times (although I’ve never had a platform on which to express my views like you do with your blog. Thank you for what you have said and done. In some way I feel like you are almost responsible for Breath of the Wild. You are doing the Lord’s work.). I’d been waiting until you got to Hyrule Castle before I emailed you, since I wanted to let you discover that area on your own, without prompting. Now that you have done so, I figured the time was right to chime in with my two cents. I’ve been playing Zelda games since the very beginning, way back in 1987. I consider myself in the top 1% of tenured Zelda players worldwide. I’ve followed this series through every day of its existence, and I’ve seen it go up and come down and go up again.

This game’s very existence invalidates everything Aonuma has tried to do with this series since 2002. This game alone is proof that Aonuma has no business making Zelda games and should not even be allowed near one ever again. His direction for the series (which led us down the dark, dark road of Wind Waker-Twilight Princess-Phantom Hourglass-Spirit Tracks-Skyward Sword, with TP being the one bright spot in that bunch) was such a dead-end that the only way the series could continue after Skyward Sword was for the next game to do everything exactly opposite what Aonuma had spent the last decade and a half doing. I know you know this, but I wish everybody reading your blog would stop a moment to really let this fact sink in. The only way for the Legend of Zelda to be reborn was for a game to come out that took everything Aonuma had ever done, every stupid design philosophy that he had ever had, and make a game that was 180 degrees removed from it! For Zelda to excite people again, it had to go as far in the complete opposite direction as it could possibly go! Eiji Aonuma had spent fifteen years bulldozing the Zelda series into the ground, and it was only after he had reduced it to rubble and ash that someone made him stop and ask himself, “Is it possible I was wrong?” I honestly don’t know if there is an equivalent example of this in the gaming industry. I, at least, can’t think of one. I’m not entirely willing to give Aonuma the credit here: it’s possible he was given the order, back in 2012 or whenever, to do things right this time or else (but given Nintendo’s reluctance to fire people, even people who should be fired, I doubt it); and I also think it’s likely that Hidemaro Fujibiyashi and other younger designers were primarily responsible for the positive changes made, with Aonuma merely managing not to screw things up this time. I know for a fact that the Xenoblade team had a huge, huge influence on Breath of the Wild’s direction. They were the ones who actually made the map, and I feel certain that the original Xenoblade, which did such a better job at providing a Zelda-like experience than Skyward Sword did, was largely responsible for rekindling a fire inside Miyamoto and the other older designers that had long since gone out. Not Aonuma, though, since he’s proven over and over that he can’t buy a clue. (Did you know that he recently admitted that he still can’t play the original Zelda game? It was in one of the video interviews Game Informer did back in February.)

I will give Nintendo this: this game’s mere existence has made me reconsider some of my previously held convictions about Nintendo’s stubbornness. Nintendo is an extremely proud, even haughty, company, and the people who work there do not like giving the fans what they want. Nintendo wants to dictate the terms to the fans: they want to give us what they want to give us, and then they want us to like it and ask for more. But Breath of the Wild shows that Nintendo does know what its fans want, and will eventually give it to them if the alternative means losing their business forever. I was inches away from giving up on Nintendo for good. I will still have them on a lengthy probation period (I had a Wii U, but do not plan on buying a Switch until possibly the end of the console’s life), but I might consider coming back as a purchaser at some point in the distant future if they remain on good behavior (although history indicates that they likely won’t). At any rate, Breath of the Wild makes it impossible for Nintendo to continue putting their fingers in their ears regarding the direction of the Zelda games. If they do end up returning to Aonuma’s design principles, they will have absolutely no justification for it. All the world will know the truth, and the truth will be so self-evident that it cannot be denied.

Some random bullet points:

— There should have been more areas like Hyrule Castle. Hyrule Castle is what I’ve had in mind for the last ten-plus years as I’ve been talking about what I want the puzzle dungeon formula to change into. I honestly thought there would be more areas like it in the game, and I’m disappointed that there aren’t. If Nintendo were smart, they would expand upon Hyrule Castle’s design in the future and make more areas like it. I’m hoping the DLC dungeon will be another Hyrule Castle-esque dungeon, but I’ve got a feeling it will be another go-round with one of the Divine Beasts.

— Despite all the efforts that went into scrubbing out Aonuma’s crap from the game, he did still manage to slip a lot of his own touches in there. The puzzles shrines and, especially, the NPCs all scream Aonuma. It’s both amusing and sad that the only way to fit in Aonuma’s junk was to stuff it all into its own little box and cut it off completely from the rest of the game. And I now see the reason why Nintendo was so reluctant to show off the NPCs before release. Nintendo knows that the NPCs are so bad that they actively hurt the selling power of the game, so Nintendo does not want to feature them in advertising. However, the NPCs are Aonuma’s babies, so they have to be in the game somewhere. At least they aren’t such a drawback that they make me feel ashamed to be seen playing this game, which is something I could not say about Skyward Sword in particular.

— Breath of the Wild definitely overstays its welcome, which is why I didn’t even bother trying to find everything before I finished the game. I went to every region, activated every tower, found every memory, and completed the Divine Beast quests. By then I was feeling a bit burned out on the game, so I went ahead and cooked myself a bunch of meals and went into the castle and beat it. Ganon is surprisingly easy if you complete all the Divine Beast quests before you fight him. I only found about half the shrines, and I didn’t go out of my way to look for them. I really don’t recommend forcing yourself to slog all the way through it before you consider yourself done with it. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the stuff you still have to do, and lose sight of all the things you’ve already done. I think it would be better to focus on completing the Main Quests and then beat Ganon. Then, if you feel like it, you can start the game again and go about playing a different way. This is the sort of game that can tempt you into playing it and playing it and playing it and playing it, but it’s actually better to restrain yourself and not get burned out. Doing it this way saves the replay value of the game, too. There won’t be another Zelda game probably for six years, so there’s no need to go through this one so quickly at this moment in time.

 

I’ll be done with the game soon enough. I still have Joe Camel Beast and region along with Hebra mountains. I’m guessing another 25 hours? hahaha.

It will be interesting to see how people, especially Zelda fans, react to replaying older Zeldas after playing Breath of the Wild. Is anyone interested in replaying the older Zeldas after Breath of Wild (aside from nostalgia)?

The reason why the old Zeldas feel so broken (outside of the classics like Zelda I) is because they ARE broken. They were never good enough to be a Zelda game in the first place.

While I have issues with Ocarina of Time, it did sell N64s, created excitement, and still sells well today. Majora’s Mask? Nope. Wind Waker was a COMPLETE DUD on the Gamecube and Wii U. Wind Waker should have sold Gamecubes left and right like Breath of Wild is doing to Switch. But Wind Waker did not because Wind Waker was a terrible, terrible, absolutely terrible game. Twilight Princess, a little better, wasn’t a hardware seller. While it is unfair to compare a game to Wii Sports (what can sell as well as Wii Sports? Really?), Twilight Princess didn’t sell Wiis left and right. Skyward Sword was a DUD.

I am all for games taking chances and doing something new. But when I play Aonuma Zelda, I feel like he is at war with the Open World. During Skyward Sword previews, the idea of an Open World was mocked and ridiculed as constant praise went on how ‘the entire world is like a puzzle’. Zelda games began to cease having overworlds.

Zelda Breath of the Wild is making everyone realize what Zelda is about: the Open World. Aonuma style puzzles cannot co-exist with Open World.

I submit that Nintendo make two types of games. One is filled with Aonuma puzzles. Another is strictly an open world like Breath of the Wild. Which one do you think would sell more?

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