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Breath of Fresh Air

By Lizzi Nielsen

Feb. 5, 2019

I am a Nintendo kid through and through, though I have to admit that I am one of those fans that saw any new Nintendo system as a means to an end, where “end” equals “every Legend of Zelda game.” See, it’s just that I was raised by Link and Zelda. Okay, not really, but I grew up watching my parents and older brother play the original three games until I was old enough for my own play-through of Link to the Past. I was hooked by the lore, the myriad of puzzles and problem solving, and all of the iconic music.

Despite being my family’s audience for the entirety of Link to the Past, it still felt like a brand new game since I didn’t remember many of the specifics regarding how to solve the puzzles or beat the bosses throughout the Light and Dark Worlds. I remember getting stuck and crying to my Mom about how Agahnim took Zelda through a wall—“a wall Mom, how did he even do that!?”—and that meant the game was too hard. (Please note that I was only single-digit years old at this point so crying and underdeveloped resilience is allowed.) She patiently reminded me that the game wouldn’t let me be in an area that I wasn’t ready for and that whatever tool I needed to overcome this obstacle was already in my possession. Through trial and error as well as some teary eyes, I finally *nearly 30-year-old spoiler alert* cut the middle curtain and went on my way to saving Hyrule.

My Mom’s wise guidance was true for every following game in the series. That is, until Breath of the Wild. Its open world allows for countless paths to get from A to B or from A to G and then back to E while going through Q, I, L, P, and X. There was no longer a sole or even correct way to play through a Legend of Zelda game, which totally changed the way fellow players talked about their progress with one another. That realization hit me while discussing a certain shrine in Zora’s Domain with my then-coworkers a few weeks after its release. The four of us had played through the Ne’ez Yohma Shrine (“Pushing Power”) and we quickly learned how differently we had completed the “massive Plinko machine from another world” as David called it in the Top Ten Shrines episode from Season 1 of Another Zelda Podcast.

My solution was very similar to Polygon’s, mostly utilizing Statis to move the orb and only using Cryonis to block holes and stop the orb as it rolled down the ramp.

Another engineer did it more like the video below, launching the orb from its pedestal with a bomb, hoping that he didn’t overshoot the entire ramp, and controlling it with Statis the rest of the way.

The designers were better at following the intended solution, using Cryonis to guide the orb up and over the blocks peppered along the slope of the ramp.

My coworkers and I laughed as we analyzed the how and why behind our varying solutions, and this novel joy was refreshing and significant. My ah ha! moments after solving puzzles and completing tasks were now accompanied with fun musings of “I wonder how else people have done this” or “Was this designed with a primary solution in mind?” Of course I still have a deep affinity for A Link to the Past and the subsequent Legend of Zelda games that I played, despite playing through them in basically the same way and order as everyone else. This new dimension of gameplay has deepened my adoration for the entire Legend of Zelda series and I, for one, welcome our new open world overlords.

Share in the comments below if you had a similar experience to me and my coworkers while playing and discussing Breath of the Wild!.


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