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Why Zelda Games Will Never Be the Same Again

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Following the release of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” opinions among fans stood divided. While some hailed it as the paramount Zelda experience, others lamented its departure from the traditional Zelda essence. In this commentary, we delve into why this shift signifies a step in the right direction.

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Two Reasons Why Breath of the Wild Sets a New Standard

In 2017, the Zelda community found itself split into two camps. One adored the captivating open world of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” while the other despised its deviation from the familiar series norm. Count me among the former, as I strongly doubt Nintendo will revert to the old formula.

No official word yet on what lies beyond “Tears of the Kingdom,” the sequel to Breath of the Wild. However, two significant indicators suggest the preservation of the open-world formula.

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Reason 1: Sales Figures

A glance at the sales figures of all Zelda games speaks volumes: “Breath of the Wild” stands as the indisputable champion of the franchise, surpassing its counterparts by a staggering margin. With 29 million copies sold, it dwarfs the second-best selling entry in the series.

“Twilight Princess” barely reached 8.7 million units, while “Ocarina of Time” hit 7.6 million. As much as fans yearn for a return to the old, relatively linear formula, the numbers speak a different narrative.

Reason 2: Evolution of the Series

Nintendo understands that stagnation breeds obsolescence. Continuously reinventing their brands, rather than treading water, remains their modus operandi. And rightly so. Nostalgia holds its charm, yet masterpieces like “Breath of the Wild” (and once upon a time, “Ocarina of Time”) don’t materialize by rehashing the same formula. The series’ evolution into the open-world genre constituted the next logical step. It aimed to rectify several issues prevalent in older games—a point I’ll delve into shortly.

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Hence, why should Nintendo revert to linear, puzzle-heavy games? Frankly, there’s simply no compelling reason. Perhaps a spin-off or a smaller-scale game is conceivable, but prospects for a flagship title resembling “Majora’s Mask” or “Twilight Princess” seem bleak.

What Makes Breath of the Wild Superior?

I’ve already hinted at why I appreciate the genre shift: Older Zelda games harbored several issues that “Breath of the Wild” and its anticipated successor seek to rectify, particularly the linearity plaguing most titles. My favorite entry in the series was, until the advent of “Breath of the Wild,” “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.” Not solely due to its buoyant ambiance or being my inaugural Zelda experience, but because it felt remarkably more unrestricted than its counterparts.

The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild (1)

The keyword here is “felt.” Despite the freedom to explore the sea and its myriad islands, a predetermined sequence governed dungeons, weapons, and pivotal story points. Conversely, most other installments failed to offer even a semblance of freedom, merely shepherding players from one location to another—a tedious affair!

Even the dungeons followed a standardized routine: solve predefined puzzles, dispatch a few monsters, acquire a new weapon, use it exclusively within that dungeon, only to have it languish in your inventory for hours until the next suitable puzzle emerged.

A Paradigm Shift in Open-World Gaming

In contrast, in “Breath of the Wild,” anything can be your weapon. From a mere stick picked up on the way to the modules unlocked at the story’s onset. The ability to explore at your own pace instills a sense of forging your path—doing what you fancy, not merely following the prescribed trajectory. For me, that’s immensely more enjoyable.

I confess, upon “Breath of the Wild’s” release, I held extreme skepticism. I wasn’t particularly fond of most open-world games—especially those following the Ubisoft formula. Yet, Nintendo single-handedly revolutionized the genre from the get-go. The influences of “Breath of the Wild” remain discernible even today, whether in titles like Genshin Impact, Pokémon Scarlet & Violet, or Elden Ring.

As regretful as it may be for ardent nostalgists, “The Legend of Zelda” will never revert to its former glory. And that’s for the better. Yet, who knows, perhaps a few remasters might grace the Switch, offering solace to the longing hearts.

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