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Whilst I haven’t seen an official confirmation of this, it would seem that Nintendo’s pending online subscription service is going to weigh in at between £14 and £21 per year. This is pretty remarkable, given that Sony and Microsoft charge £39.99 for their annual subscription services. If the £21 a year price is accurate, that’s just over 40p per week. Whilst questions exist about the quality and nature of the service (Nintendo plan to ‘loan’ users games on the virtual console, rather than give them away), the price is certainly good.

Will this mean a more reliable, stable service when playing games like Mario Kart online? On the Wii it was more or less a good service, but the sophistication of the consoles and games using the service has increased, as has demand. If Nintendo are going to invest their money in making sure the infrastructure is in place to make the system reliable and quick, then great. If it proves to be unreliable, people will question what they are paying for. We shall see.

Alongside Breath of the Wild came something else – something I had craved since I first learned its true nature back in October. Previously known as the NX, Nintendo gave a glimpse of the Switch, a tantalising look at their home/handheld hybrid console.

Early reactions were cautiously positive. Nintendo, who would often try out new ideas with varying results, were at it again. Just as the Wii was a radical departure from the power battle raging between Sony and Microsoft with its unique new approach, the Switch would attempt to once again redefine the console genre. It’s a clever idea – but does it work? The short-term answer is an emphatic yes! It’s far too early to say what the long-term prospects are, but the Switch has enjoyed a solid debut, and Nintendo have done a much better job marketing their new creation.

In terms of raw power, the Switch is miles behind the PS4 and XBone, but specs have never concerned Nintendo. What the Switch does is different – the Joy Cons can be directly connected to the console itself and the console can be held quite comfortably in two hands – or the Cons can be connected to the Grip, with the console slotted into its docking station (that connects to the TV via HDMI). The switch (get it?) between the two modes is pretty seamless, and there is more. The Cons can be unclipped from the console, which can be stood up on a kickstand, and you can play like that (or pop the Cons into the Grip and use the kickstand. Or hold the Cons and play via the TV). I’ve yet to put it to the test (I don’t have the right games), but you can use a single Joy Con for some titles, and some multi-player games require each player to have a Joy Con. Though the individual controllers are quite small, they are surprisingly easy to hold either vertically or horizontally.

So already Nintendo have scored points for creativity and versatility. What other pluses are there? Well, the Switch is, as to be expected in this day and age, equipped with wi-fi, and can therefore be used for multi-player gaming online. In a move that Nintendo have previously shied away from, a paid-for subscription service will soon be required to access most multi-player gaming experiences, and the details of the cost are not yet known. If this allows Nintendo to develop a more robust system then so be it.

The graphics of the system are surprisingly good, at least in respect of the one game I’ve played in earnest, Breath of the Wild. Nintendo’s flagship franchise is a powerful showcase for the Switch and looks gorgeous. It must be noted that this game was originally designed for the Wii U, so as good as it is, there is almost certainly more to come from the Switch in terms of performance. The interface is easy to use and links in nicely to the Nintendo eShop service. Sound quality is good, even when the console is used in handheld mode. The one main bugbear (and to be honest, one that hasn’t really been an issue for me) is that the battery life, when the console is used in handheld mode and when playing games like Zelda, is around three hours, which isn’t spectacular. This may well prove to be a limiting factor behind using the console during long trips – though I suspect most people would pack the charger.

Another gripe is less to do with the hardware and more the price of the add-ons. The Grip doesn’t charge the Cons – only the console itself does that. An optional charging Grip exists, but it’s not exactly cheap, and nor is the Pro controller. Additional Joy Cons are expensive, and the games are pretty pricey too. The cartridges that the Switch relies on are apparently even more expensive to produce than blu-ray discs, and the eShop prices match the retail prices.

Cost aside, the Switch is a clever, unique system that has the potential to open up new avenues for Nintendo and for gamers. The casual appeal is immediately obvious, whilst Nintendo have been trumpeting their third-party support for some time. If this takes off, it could be as successful as the Wii – a major accomplishment.

It’s been nearly a month since I got my grubby paws on the Nintendo Switch and Breath of the Wild. Nearly a month to savour the experience that I had anticipated almost breathlessly since the first trailer for the game dropped last year. Breath of the Wild was a game that I was prepared to get a Wii U for, but thanks to my amazing Mum, I was able to get it on the Switch instead. As such, any thoughts and observations are based on the Switch version, which has slightly different controls to the Wii U version, so if you’re reading this, please bear that in mind.

So, where do I start? I’ve defeated Calamity Ganon twice, but doing so doesn’t mark the end of this particular adventure, thanks to being able to reload the game from an earlier point and carrying on. There’s still so much to do that I don’t know if I will ever be done. Breath of the Wild is the Zelda game that redefines the genre, and gives future developers of open-world games a lot to think about. Let’s start with that particular point.

The very first Zelda game, all the way back in 1986, offered players a freedom to go more or less anywhere, right from the start. This wasn’t necessarily a good idea, given the challenges that awaited the player, but the option to go anywhere and do anything was a liberating one. Since then, Zelda games have become increasingly formulaic, with The Ocarina of Time in particular accelerating this trend, pushing the franchise into a linear path. There’s no denying that The Ocarina of Time was a ground-breaking, brilliant game, but Nintendo became single-minded in their efforts to repeat that success, and whilst a number of the entries after that were good, they became stuck in a safe rut, which culminated in Skyward Sword. With Breath of the WIld, Nintendo have broken the formula.

After years of hand-holding in the form of various ‘assistants’ for Link (such as Navi, Midna and Fi), Breath of the Wild chucks players in and says ‘figure it out’. Whilst still in the Great Plateau I had a little assistance from the old man you meet, but after asking him the same question for a second time he firmly rebuked me – the message was clear – this game is going to be different.

Those differences are profound. Gone are hearts and rupees in the traditional sense. Killing enemies yields things that can be used in elixirs, and hunting animals and foraging for things to eat is a big part of the game. Experimenting with different ingredients is key to restoring more health or staving off extremes of temperature. Some foodstuffs can enhance Link’s stamina – others grand defensive or offensive boosts, among other things. Discovering these things for yourself is a lot of fun and feels very rewarding.

Another big change is the nature of the open world – you can go virtually anywhere that you can see, though some areas will be tough to get to without having first visited a few Shrines – Shrines are the means to expanding your hearts and stamina, so unless you’re a sadist (you can go from the Plateau to the final boss straight away if you want) it’s worth seeking these out. Related to the Shrines are the Towers – activating these reveals more of the game map, which in turn helps you to find points of interest. The Shrines are quite varied, with numerous challenges that require a bit of thought to figure out, but with all of them, the answer is usually hidden in plain sight. Any problem can be solved with a bit of patience – part from the combat challenges – these, naturally, require a bit of brute strength. Some Shrines are easy to find, whilst others require you to solve a puzzle just to find them – a great challenge involved giant statues of knights in the desert – I found this purely by looking at the map as I sought points of interest – as was the case with a few Shrines.

With tremendous freedom to go anywhere and do anything, came the challenge of how best to tell the story of this game. To that end, Nintendo have injected a few ideas and pointers that the player can choose to seek out, if you’re willing to put in the time to find out all the details. Some characters will tell you more of the history behind how Link ends up sleeping for 100 years – whilst you can also unlock forgotten memories by finding certain locations. The end result of this is quite revealing but I won’t say too much here.

Controlling Link and his various new abilities (like being able to climb and jump) takes a little getting used to – but given that you’re relearning pretty much everything else about the Zelda franchise, this is not necessarily a bad thing. You can still target enemies, but the manner in which you can control the camera and your weapons is a little different, especially if you’ve gotten used to the Wii’s motion controls. Once mastered, the game feels smooth, and handles quite well.

There’s not a great many different types of enemy in Breath of the Wild. Instead, there are variations on themes. The Bokoblin is the most common form of bad guy you’ll find, and they vary in strength, but the key factor is the weapon they use. They can pick up just about any weapon, and even throw rocks at you, plus they can carry shields, so be prepared for a variety of attacks. Plus, they will attack in groups as well. Often I would choose to avoid battle completely, given the odds, but you can exploit various things (from the landscape to the abilities of your Sheikah Slate) to deal with baddies.

Other enemies include the Wizzrobes (which date back to the very first Zelda title), Moblins (bigger Bokoblins) and Lizalfos, to name a few. Wizzrobes have different attacks depending on their type (electric, fire and ice), as do the Lizalfos. There are also ‘boss level’ enemies that you can stumble upon quite easily – which makes the game all the more entertaining – you have no idea what might be waiting for you at any given point. The gigantic Hinox is  a sight to behold, and how about the Stone Talus? Those things do not go down easy.

Because the AI behind the enemies is smarter, you have to be too – as mentioned, sometimes it’s better to avoid battle completely, and I did this quite often. Of course, sometimes it’s fun to fight – and I did this too. The great thing is, you have the freedom to do either – the game doesn’t funnel you down a specific path.

There aren’t many dungeons in this game – depending on how you define dungeon. I would say six, but given the relatively small scale of them, I’m tempted to say there are no true dungeons in the game (if we go by typical expectations of dungeons). In one sense this is refreshing – and you don’t have to do any of them (save one) to complete the main quest. However, having something meaty to sink one’s teeth into might have been nice. This is a minor nit-pick – the nature of the dungeons themselves is quite unique, involving manipulating the layout of them, and you can tackle them in more or less any fashion you wish. Each one has a boss fight at the end, but none of these were especially challenging once you figured them out. Since Breath of the Wild dispenses with the classic dungeon/item/boss relationship (you know the key item from any given dungeon is the means to fight the final boss in most cases), you have to think your way around the boss instead.

Can I take a moment to describe how beautiful this game is? Bearing in mind the Switch is not remotely as powerful as a PS4 or Xbox One, Nintendo have done a remarkable job in crafting a huge world, that is filled with various landscapes that feel alive. There is wildlife everywhere. Trees and bushes and grass that flows in the wind. Snow-capped mountains and scorching desert. Incredible landscapes marked with lakes and waterfalls and beaches and villages and monsters. Considering this game looks almost as good on the Wii U as it does on the Switch, Nintendo have shown developers of future adventure games like this what you can do if you push yourself. The graphics are married to atmospheric sound – creeping through The Lost Woods was a nervy moment, that looked and sounded every bit what you might expect someplace like that to be.

There’s so much more I could say. I could wax lyrical about this incredible adventure until I was hoarse. I still have a long way to go before I can say I’ve 100% completed this game. If you get the chance, play it, and do me a favour – make your adventure unique to you. That’s something that’s a possibility on Breath of the Wild – every choice you make, every direction you turn, is up to you. You won’t be steered into a particular path. Instead, take control and go wherever you want, when you want. In giving players that freedom, Nintendo have made a Zelda game that finally knocks A Link to the Past off its perch – which given how much I love that game, is no mean feat. If this is the future of Zelda, it’s a bright future.

 

I was facing a choice. Did I take my time and continue to explore? Did I seek out all the memories and mysteries this vast game still held? Or did I take on the big bad?

To begin with, I looked for memories. I poked around for dragons. One of my finds was a skeletal Hinox – that actually broke off chunks of its own ribcage to throw at you. As I was doing this, I felt a desire to move forward, to head to Hyrule Castle.

If I were to do this, I would first need to stock up on a few things. Hyrule Castle crawls with Guardians, and this includes the fully mobile kind. The best weapon for dealing with these things is the Ancient arrow, but these don’t grow on trees – and ironically, to get the parts needed to make them, you need to take on and destroy Guardians! I tentatively did just that, actually cutting a few legs off one that I lured toward a small forest – and stocked up. I was committing myself to a particular course of action, even as I found another couple of memories.

I had already poked around Hyrule Castle once before, but this time I was going to be bold and march in through the front door. What would this be like? Well, the Castle wasn’t the labyrinthal structure I had hoped it would be, but I still had fun using my cryogenic power to scale waterfalls and bypass several Guardians. Not every such Guardian could be avoided, but the Ancient arrows proved extremely effective at handling these beasts. I did however, manage to get myself trapped with one of those horrible centaur things – this was a horrible fight, and I ended up using a fair bit of food to maintain health as I fought it.

Beyond that, this was not too much of a challenge – a few narrow scrapes with Guardians, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I had been drawn, instinctively, to Calamity Ganon – would I be able to beat him?

As I arrived, Zelda’s power failed. Ganon broke free of his prison, and the battle was on.

What can I say? Ganon is UGLY. He is a mismash of forms, and the stuff of nightmares. However, the end result of tackling all four Divine Beasts? It was an impressive and powerful barrage that blasted Ganon and gave me a fighting chance.

So, what was it like to fight this thing? Well, Ganon was armed with several weapons and moves. He wielded a huge sword, had a spear too, and pincers – plus, he could throw explosive fireballs at you, ice blocks, mini-tornadoes, and after enough damage, make himself invulnerable. Oh yeah, and he had a Guardian cannon. And he would routinely scale the walls to get out of harm’s way.

So perserverance was the key. A steady supply of food too. It was a case of wearing down Ganon and keeping a safe distance when warranted.

This took ages. Every now and then the chance came up to launch a flurry attack, but for the most part this was a lengthy slog. It was hardly surprising that it felt pretty satisfying to finally beat the fiend…

But recall what I’ve said throughout this story? This is a Zelda game. When you think it’s over, it’s actually not. Ganon’s essence left the Castle and Link’s swiftly followed, with both being deposited on the plains outside Hyrule Castle. Zelda spoke of the courage of the hero, and handed a Golden Bow with the famous light arrows – and it was time to face the final battle.

At first glance this looked like it was going to be horrific. Ganon was huge, and he would spit huge beams of energy that would set fire to the grass. My trusty steed Shadowfax was by my side, but how could I fight this thing? Well, Zelda would use her power to cast golden points upon Ganon – weak points that I had to shoot with golden arrows. Leaping from Shadowfax, time would slow, and I would shoot these weak points, until only one remained – a glowing golden eye that would open as Ganon prepared to fire his weapon.

With that final blow, Zelda burst forth, and lit things up. Her power swept away the weakened Ganon, ending his terrible reign.

So, that was it. Hyrule and Zelda were saved. Ganon was destroyed. The story finished – but the adventure? That continues. How you might ask? Well, I simply reloaded the game from an earlier point and carried on exploring.

But, coming back to the story. How did I feel to have done it? I actually felt a little empty. Link had not recovered all his memories, and the end sequence was all too brief. It’s my hope to uncover other details and then, complete the game again. We’ll see what impact that has. In the meantime, that’s it – that’s my story, from start to finish.

Back to Breath of the Wild

We last left Link facing giant balls (ahem) that would crush him if he couldn’t find a way past. It turns out this Shrine, as with so many of them, was deceptively easy, and the combined use of magnetism and stasis allowed me to grab the metal ball and use it to bulldoze a path to safety. With yet another Shrine completed, the next point of note was to head back to the volcano and unravel the mysteries of the final Divine Beast.

Firstly, I also made another key discovery, one that should help me very much in the long-term. A science lab is to the north east and this offered up the potential to reward me with new weapons, in exchange for Guardian parts. A trip to get the blue flame needed to fuel the manufacturing process proved more eventful than expected – quite a few bad guys – Moblins mostly – were keen to interfere with my journey.

Once I’d successful run this particular gauntlet, I was able to acquire a new shield, a new sword, and some Ancient arrows (which would prove very useful later). After this, it was time to return to the volcano.

Armed with elixirs that would offer resistance to the intense heat, I moved more deeply into the lava-filled region and my Sheikah Sensor began alerting me to a nearby Shrine – a Shrine that just so happened to be right by the Goron village. Wasting no time, I found the Goron leader and he asked me to go to the mines and find a descendant of Daruk, the Goron Champion. This kid had been sent to the mines to get some pain killers for the boss – and hadn’t returned.

This is where I discovered several cannons, that you can arm with remote bombs. Aside from randomly blasting things, this proved most helpful in blowing away a blockage that kept this descendant from me. From there, we took a trip to Death Mountain, and faced the final Divine Beast. This one took the form of a giant lizard with flaming feet, and the idea was drive it up the mountain, by using the Goron as a cannon ball (don’t worry, he had a protective shield!) to pummel the Beast. I only found this out by accident – at first I’d climbed as high as I could, and along the way destroyed or avoided sentries deployed by the Beast (you would whistle to get the Goron to either move or freeze). This is where the Ancient arrows came in handy!

Once I realised how to drive the Beast higher, I kept shooting at it until it finally broke down. Now it was time to Enter the Dragon! Err, lizard…

To begin with the area was pitch black, save for a blue flame, which quickly became the source of light for my torch. A couple of pesky little Guardian fights and a few lit torches later, I’d found the map terminal and turned the lights on. As with previous Beasts, I had to seek out five terminals, and as before, this involved manipulating the Beast. On this occasion it would either be laying flat on its belly or tipped to one side, as though against the wall. A few well-timed jumps whilst repositioning the Beast, a few arrow tips set on fire and shot through holes, and the use of flame to reveal objects of use (such as giant metal blocks), and I had this dungeon figured out. It was time to head to the master terminal and awaken whatever nasty critter Ganon had left there.

Fireblight Ganon was easy once I figured out how to beat him. His first attack was pretty basic – swiping with a giant sword. Easy to avoid, and the Master Sword took chunks out of him. At the halfway point he started to draw in the superheated air and shoot easily-dodged fireballs at me, but was unreachable and seemingly immune to the handful of ice arrows I had. At first I had zero clue how I was going to kill this thing, but Daruk offered up some advice – bombs. At first I took this to mean bomb arrows, but these detonated in my face due to the heat. Common sense eventually prevailed and I used my remote bombs, which got sucked in along with the air. Setting these off brought Fireblight to his knees. With the Master Sword in hand, I smote Fireblight and consigned his ruin to the ether.

With all four Divine Beasts back under control, I had some choices to make. Initially I set out on a memory quest – and gave serious consideration to seeking out the other dragons. There was though, the temptation to go back to Hyrule Castle, and confront the Calamity. Which path would I take?

To Chapter 10

Back to Breath of the Wild

I struggled to name this chapter. I couldn’t think of a coherent title that would fit the nature of it. In the end, I sort of kinda came up with something that vaguely makes sense. Bear with me here, as this chapter is somewhat disjointed.

I’d previously taken back two Divine Beasts and claimed the Master Sword. A brief foray toward the volcano proved fruitless, and a trip west yielded more, err, fruit. I managed to get to another couple of Towers and pick off a few more Shrines – including the Thunderball (not its real name) Shrine, which involved placing colour-coded balls into pedestals. A raft voyage to a distant island also took place – and I dare say this is where the game draws upon Survivor for this bit! The spirit of the Shrine stripped me bear of all my equipment – to complete the trial, I would have to place three orbs into three recepticles – my first attempt at this did not go too great. A great big Hinox (the giant Oblins dotted around) held one of the orbs – I actually managed to kill this one, but the orb seemingly vanished – so I was unable to proceed!

Returning to the mainland, I took off for the mountains near Hateno. I wanted to see about the spring of the Goddess that was meant to be up there. What I found was a corrupted dragon, and a spring. The dragon had been infected by the malice of Ganon, but a few choice moments spent gliding and shooting cleared this malady from this beautiful creature, and the spring was cleared – paving the way to a Shrine.

I also found yet another Shrine by slaying three Hinox within a small set of ponds – each one held an orb, and they were reasonably fun fights. From there, I headed west.

What was west? Well, this is where I finished off the Thunderball Shrine, and made it to the top of another Tower – and from there, I continued west. The Rito were in sight, as was their Divine Beast. This place was amazing. It is unsurprising, given their avian nature, that the Rito built their village in an upward spiral. Nor was it surprising to learn that the glider comes in handy here.

A young Rito had tried, in vain, to stop their Divine Beast from shooting Rito out of the sky. Reluctantly, he took my offer of help, and here began what has so far been the easiest of the Beasts so far. Using the glider and switching to the bow meant shooting out cannons with bomb arrows – and this managed to be pretty straight forward, proving to be the means of knocking out the Beast’s shields. Once aboard, the dungeon was once again pretty straight forward, with some puzzles involving freezing time, opening up wind tunnels, and the clever use of bombs and balls to unlock doors. Some platforms could be moved by angling the wings of this Beast to tip the main structure – as with the previous Beasts, this was key to getting everywhere.

Windblight Ganon was also pretty easy – the first attack involved blasting at me with a large energy cannon, which were easy to avoid. Once he’d fired off a few rounds, he’d tire, and a combo of bomb arrows and sword slashes weakend him, until his health was depleted and he’d unleash round two. This involved mini cannons that were pretty inaccurate – a few more arrows and sword strikes and this thing was toast.

The Rito Champion’s power? The ability to create an updraft anywhere, allowing for easier air travel. The Rito also gifted me a fine bow. Afterward I spoke to a few Rito, and discovered a new Shrine quest that I will go back to at some point (as I will with a few of them).

My next big mission was to head to the cold snowy peak that was just to the north of the Rito village. I’d purchased snow-weather clothing from the Rito, so I could freely traverse this otherwise treacherous mountain, and in the process uncovered (literally, for it was buried in ice) a Shrine. I was quietly pleased with myself for using flint and my firewood to melt the ice. Unfortunately this was a major test of combat, and I didn’t have the weapons to defeat this particular Guardian – I’ll have to go back to it eventually.

My Sheikah Sensor alerted me to the presence of another Shrine or two but I couldn’t actually find them. Leaving the snowy mountain, I quickly travelled to more familiar territory to the east of the peaks, and learned from an old man in a stable of a great canyon where a friend of his had likely perished. The map revealed a point of interest within the canyon – ruins of some kind – so I glided down to check it out. What waited for me was one of the more intense challenges I’ve faced so far.

By now, if you are also playing this game, you’ll be  familiar with the Guardians and how powerful they are. Well, imagine running a gauntlet of these things. With several of them (thankfully they were all immobile) targeting me and trying to blast me, there was nowhere to go where I was safe from all of them at once. My only option for proceeding deeper was to ride air currents, and to do so quickly. Rapidly gliding and falling appeared to upset their aim, and I only got hit once on my way through! Yay! At the end? A Shrine and a Goddess statue. I never want to do that again.

What was next? Well, the volcano remained a place I had yet to visit, and would have to visit if I were to find the final Divine Beast. Another exploratory venture into the region once again saw me forced back, so instead I went north, creeping around  the edge of the volcano and picking off a few bad guys here and there. What I found has potentially given me an ‘in’ to the volcano – fire-resistant lizards, cooked with ice-tail enemy parts, has yielded a new elixir that should get me closer. I haven’t put this to the test yet. Another few Shrines were also polished off – including a Goron challenge involving climbing a rock face within a time limit whilst gathering 100 rupees, and a Shrine perched on the top of a rather tall rock.

I pushed as far east as I could, which led me back to forests and grasslands, that reminded me of an autumn day. Another Shrine, a stable, and a curious spiralling arrangement in the water were all points of interest – the spiral ended with a receptacle for an orb, but no sign of an orb – a bit frustrating after the battles I had to go through to get there! Afterward, I headed up to an ancient and decrepit castle, surrounded by the purple goo that Ganon had spewed forth at some stage. A couple of aerial Guardians also floated around – so I had to be sneaky to get to the Tower above it. The sheer presence of the goo seemed to be a block at first, but the updraft power took me to the top, nice and easily.

This chapter ends with me stuck in a Shrine involving giant balls – more on that next time!

To Chapter 9

Back to Breath of the Wild

Chapter 6 recounted some ongoing frustrations with the lack of outright progress, but a bit of resolve and a few tense moments later, I’ve managed to make three major leaps forward.

I’d just entered Ruta, the Divine Beast of the Zora. As before, you have to activate five terminals in order to unlock the final control terminal. Also as before, there are elements of the Beast you can control – specifically the trunk, which can be raised or lowered. The consequence of this is to direct water at different locations and spin a large waterwheel. The cryo power comes in handy here too – I used it to great effect to stop one particular wheel, which allowed me to access one of the terminals.

Within the larger wheel was another terminal, but this one was barred off. A ball on a slide rail would move up and down and when it made contact with the cage holding the terminal, the bars would raise – here, the stasis power was needed to hold the door open, quickly activate  the terminal, and get out again. It took me a little while to suss this one out.

Climbing the wheel (especially when rotating) allowed access to other levels of Ruta, and subsequently, other terminals – standing on the trunk as you raise and lower it made other areas accessible too – albeit I was rather cautious about raising it whilst on it – great care was needed to avoid falling!

Once all the terminals were activated, it was time to head to the central chamber – and awake the monster controlling the Beast. This time, it was Waterblight Ganon – and his attacks were two-fold. Up first, he would lunge at me with a giant spear – this was easily dodged or deflected, and I hacked at him until his health dropped to about half. At this point, things got tougher. The water level rose, save for four platforms, and he started hurling giant ice blocks at me. Once I had cleared these I got in a few more hits, and was then…

Well, then, I actually beat him. I had a few fire arrows, and despite questioning the wisdom of using them, they actually proved effective. Whether this was because he was weakened already, or because they were actually very powerful, but either way, I had slain Waterblight Ganon and claimed back a Divine Beast! The Zora Champion (I am hopeless with the names of these characters) rewarded me with a heart container, and a healing power. Upon returning to the Zora King, I was further rewarded with a trident. I do like freebies!

The Divine Beast then fired a beam into Hyrule Castle – a means of helping to subdue or weaken Calamity Ganon.

Buoyed by my success, I decided to pit my renewed confidence against Thunderblight Ganon – the fast electrical menace holding the Gerudo Divine Beast. Attempt number 3 to kill this thing… went much better than the previous two.

Maintaining a target lock and keeping my shield up meant his quick attack faltered, and he was momentarily drained by his effort – I broke his own shield and slashed at him until his health dipped to 50%, at which point, as with Waterblight Ganon, his attack changed. He flew into the air and dropped metal rods at me, which would become electrified and would them crumble. This was easy to avoid but I had no means of fighting back – until I realised I could use the magnet to hurl these rods back at him, which sent him crashing to the floor. From that point on the battle was a repeat of the earlier stage, and Thunderblight Ganon fell before me.

Urbosa (the Gerudo Champion) rewarded me – yet another heart container and the power to bring lightening down upon my enemies. Her Divine Beast also fired a beam at the Castle – and the Gerudo gave me a new shiny shield and scythe.

A brief trip north toward the volcano proved fruitless – you can only get so far before the air becomes hot enough to set you on fire. I will have to venture there eventually (the Goron Divine Beast lurks up there), but how to get there? With that particular path currently off limits, I headed west, first travelling to a Shrine – and from there, finding a new Shrine in the cold wilderness of the mountainous region to the north west. I think the Rito are here somewhere, and, to begin with at least, they might be easier to find than the Gorons.

A new travel point unlocked as a result of the latest Shrine, I headed back into more familiar territory, for a very specific reason…

The most rewarding event of this latest stage? That was still to come. I had been to enough Shrines to gain yet another heart container, which took me to 13. Feeling emboldened, I went back to Korok Forest, back to the Deku Tree, and back to the Master Sword. Would 13 hearts be the lucky number?

It was close. It was very close, but just as I thought I would fail, out came the Sword from its stone. It was mine.

However, as already alluded to more than once during this blog, things aren’t that simple. They are never that simple, not in a Zelda game. I took off on a brief adventure to the south-west (trying to reach another Tower – more on that in a mo), and whilst the Master Sword is pretty powerful, and appears to be unbreakable, it needs  recharge time if used too much. I don’t know if there’s a way to extend its maximum use time, but it needs to be used sparingly for the moment.

The Tower in question proved challenging to get to. The cliff face that greets you from the Gerudo Desert would have required more stamina than I had to scale, whilst going around the other way meant skirting with dangerous enemies – a great big Hinox (a giant Bokoblin) and a Yiga warrior. I managed to kill both – and a host of other baddies – on my way up to a snowy peak.

Poor ol’ Link was frozen stiff but eventually, the Gerudo Tower was reached – and wow – this was a big one. If I’d had to climb this from ground level… well, it would have been impossible. Fortunately, when I first reached it, I was high up, and was able to jump upon it from a great height. The accordion-playing Rito was up there, who played a song about arrows, the north-west light and a prize – I’ve yet to put any of his ideas to the test, but at some point would like to.

From there, I headed back to a lonely Shrine in the middle of the water near Hateno village, where I took on a beefed up Guardian and won – I’ve now completed around 40 or so Shrines.

So, where to go next? The volcano is currently unreachable, unless I find someone or something to help me survive the heat. It therefore seems like some exploring is in order, followed by the Rito?

On to Chapter 8

Back to Breath of the Wild

At this point, I am presently somewhat stymied by a few ‘barriers’, and am currently seeking the means to overcome them in the only way I know – but I’ll explain that shortly. At the conclusion of the last chapter I’d found the Zora domain, and as I began the latest installment of my quest, I was granted another memory, and given Zora armour that would allow me to scale waterfalls. I discovered that the Divine Beast giving the Zora so much trouble is a giant mechanical elephant that’s threatening to flood Hyrule, but before I can gain access to it, I’m going to need shock arrows – 20 of them.

This is where the first barrier comes in. I had to take on a monstrous centaur-type creature (that bears a resemblance to Ganon’s final form in The Ocarina of Time), and this thing is not going to go down easy. I tried several times to fight it, but between shock arrows and fast attacks, I just couldn’t beat it. Annoyed at this, I set about tracking down Shrines, so I could increase my heart containers, and claim the Master Sword. I figured that ten hearts would be a good point to try again.

Among the more interesting Shrines, there was one which involved using magnetism to turn a door into a ramp, and I went back and finally conquered another Shrine that involved metal boxes. A pair of fascinating Shrines sat upon either one of the Duelling Peaks – to solve one, you had to know the pattern from the other.

I took a stroll to the south, crossing Hyrule Bridge and discovering a glowing dragon in the process. I tamed a horse and stabled it – going with the name Shadowfax (a cookie if you get the reference). I also ventured into a jungle, and found a large dragon’s head statue, behind which was a Goddess statue that requested I bring a scale to her, in exchange for a prize.

What else happened? I bought some armour. I gave 10 crickets to the guy who needed them to impress a lady, and I took care of some sheep rustlers. I dealt with enough Shrines to get ten hearts, return to the Master Sword and… failed. It seems the requirement to lay your hands on it is quite a tough one.

Several travellers had told me of hidden riches inside Hyrule Castle, and of a hidden entrance to the north, so one of my exploratory forays took me here. The place hums with evil power, and my progress was somewhat muted – there were a few bits and pieces of note but nothing especially exciting.

An intriguing discovery was of a thunderstorm and a series of orbs – it’s hard to explain, but I’ll go back to it – eventually – and explain it then.

More exploring, more Shrines – including a labyrinth in the desert, and a beautiful challenge involving orbs and giant statues of Knights. This had a Lord of the Rings feel to it – the statues were huge, imposing and each one had a symbol on it. Basically, you had to match the symbol on the ball to the symbol on the statue. I also followed the swords of the Gerudo to another Shrine.

This is another reminder of the importance of exploration in this game. I happened upon the second labyrinth and the knights purely by looking for points of interest on the map.

Another discovery was of a seaside village, where I was able to buy enough shock arrows to go and confront Ruta – the elephant-shaped Divine Beast that’s been tormenting the Zora. Riding on the back of the Prince, I had to scale waterfalls to then take aim with shock arrows at four orbs on the things back, in order to disable it. From there, I would have to unravel the mystery of Ruta.

To Chapter 7

Back to Breath of the Wild

At this point, we’re starting to sink our teeth into the game – memories still linger of the earliest previews and the narrow window into Breath of the Wild we got last year – now that world has truly opened up. Be warned –  this is a mammoth post!

In chapter 4 we’d been set the task of finding an heirloom of the Gerudo, a headdress that can deflect electrical attacks from the Divine Beast that’s roaming the desert. In order to find this headdress, I had to seek out the Yiga clan (whom I had mistakenly referred to as the Riga earlier, and who are a corrupted band of Sheikah), at their hidden camp. This meant a sandseal ride up there, followed by a steady ascent up a hill into the heart of their territory, and engaging a few archers who kept using their powers to jump about the place – though they were ultimately dispatched without too much difficulty.

Once in the Yiga lair, I had to first uncover a hidden passage in a chamber filled with drapes that I had to burn down. After that, it was a simple matter of going in, and grabbing this headdress – right? Right?!

No. This is a Zelda game, and Zelda games are rarely as straight-forward as this. Cue one of the elements of gaming I tend to loathe – the ‘sneaky bit’. I spoke with a Gerudo prisoner (oddly, rescuing her didn’t seem to be an option) and was advised there were far too many guards to fight – but that I could use bananas (yes, seriously) to distract them. I got caught a couple of times and swiftly learned there was no way to fight my way out of this one. On the third attempt I successfully managed to use a combination of stealth and bananas(!) to bypass the guards and ended up in what looked like the personal chamber of one of the guards.

This is where the game once again showed off clever subtly. A pair of chests were embedded in the sandy floor – using my magnetism, I pulled them up and discovered that one of the walls of this chamber was also metallic – and could be swung open. Off I went, and encountered a boss fight – with the leader of the Yiga clan.

I expected this to be a lot tougher to be honest. Or maybe years spent playing Zelda games prepared me. Either way, big boss Yiga went down hard. His first attack involved throwing spiky balls at you – whilst he summoned them, he was protected behind a shield, but as he prepared to throw them, the shield vanished. Shooting him with an arrow led to the ball falling on him, and he was briefly vulnerable to hacking and slashing. Next, he floated into the middle of the arena (a giant pit that reminded me of the Sarlaac pit from Return of the Jedi) and created two balls, which span around him slowly, before throwing them too. I waited for one to be above him, then shot him again, and once again the ball landed on him, which had the effect of bouncing him back onto the sands, where more sword attacks weakened him.

His final move? A bigger ball, that he would wave at me in a manner akin to my magnetic power, so I used that, and sure enough, swung the ball back into him. Defeated, the boss proceeded to create an even bigger ball, as part of his bluster about how he would crush me – only for the ball to roll into him and send him down the pit. Heirloom retrieved, it was time to face my first Divine Beast.

First, a sandseal trip to reach it, and the young Gerudo chief accompanying me. She wore the headdress and this created a shield to prevent powerful electrical strikes from killing me – provided I stayed under the shield. She also handed over bomb arrows, which were vital in disabling the Beast’s feet and briefly stopping it. On my first effort, I slipped out from the shield just as the Beast attacked and was instantly killed. On attempt two, I was successful, and climbed aboard, into the belly of the Beast.

I guess you might say that this is the first dungeon I’ve encountered in the game, though it’s unlike any dungeon I’ve previously faced in a Zelda game. Once you reach a particular console you can rotate three interior sections of the Beast, and it’s through doing this that you eventually unlock new areas as you try to reach and activate several terminals. The purpose is to regain control over the Beast, and there’s not a particularly large quantity of enemies here – it’s more the level design that’s the challenge. I don’t mind admitting to a fair degree of trial and error here, but eventually I got through and activated all the terminals, before returning to the central chamber – where the master terminal rested.

Of course, it’s never that simple. Activating the main terminal released a powerful creature – a creation of Ganon’s, Thundershock Ganon (I think that was its name). I tried to fight this thing a couple of times, but its speed and power overwhelmed me every time. Thanks to the nature of this game, I can return to it later on (and I plan to), but first, I need upgrades, and to that end, set off scouring Hyrule for that very purpose.

I took a wander to the north of Hyrule Castle, trying to find a way into the Lost Woods (which you can’t paraglide into, sadly), which I learned from a stable is the home of the Master Sword (want!). I wound up going a lot further north than I’d planned, and found a fascinating Shrine in the guise of a maze, filled with powerful lizard creatures. Completing the maze allows you to enter the Shrine, and you get a prize for doing so, without having to deal with any further fun and games. I also had an encounter with another giant Bokoblin – and nearly killed the thing before a stray strike killed me! In what felt like a developing theme, I once again decided to deny this thing battle, instead seeking to strengthen myself.

The stable from earlier had also revealed something else – a man there told of great treasures inside Hyrule Castle, and a means of entering via a dock to the north. From elsewhere (I forget where) I’d heard of a secret passage to the east of the Castle – I don’t plan on fighting Ganon any time soon, but if there are weapons and items in the Castle that can be of use, then might it be worth a raid?

Another little bit to add – I inadvertently unlocked some more memories during my travels – it seems that Zelda felt like a failure, especially compared to Link and his own achievements with the Master Sword – and even more so once Ganon struck down Hyrule.

It has to be said that the Lost Woods in Breath of the Wild are a brilliant, atmospheric and slightly creepy take on a classic bit of Zelda lore. Take a wrong turn and a mysterious mist will quickly envelope you and send you back to the start of the forest – which is filled with trees with monstrous faces by the way. After more than one failed attempt to navigate the Woods, I did in the end find myself in Korok Forest – and there, nestled by the roots of the Great Deku Tree (yes, the Deku Tree), was it – the Master Sword!

Could I have it? No, no I couldn’t – the Sword requires a great deal of strength to wield, and I don’t have that – yet. Attempting to pull the Sword from its stone saps hearts – it’s apparent you need to complete more Shrines and build up your power before drawing the Sword. I did complete four Shrines within the Woods – and another on my way eastward, and then another – in Zora’s Domain.

Hang on – what was I  doing there? Well, during my trip east, I was accosted by a Zora – the first time I’ve met one up close – who got me to seek out the Zora Prince, who in turn asked me to journey to Zora’s Domain. This trip involved several enemies of various types, and this is also where this chapter ends – next time, will I be able to help the Zora? When will I return to the desert to deal with the Divine Beast there? And how many Shrines will it take to wield the Master Sword?

On to Chapter 6

Back to Breath of the Wild

 

Last time around I’d just headed south from the Great Plateau, having decided to do a bit of exploring. My overall direction – dictated by the landscape as much as anything else – took me south-west, but first, there was the Shrine I’d found – did I successfully complete it? Yes.

Freezing time, shooting orbs and opening doors was how the trial started – doing the same thing whilst Guardians took pot shots at me wasn’t so easy but I managed in the end, whilst next up came the challenge of carrying an orb whilst avoiding or stopping consistent laser beams and trying to run over treadmills. The trial had warned that timing was crucial – after a couple of goes and stopping time a few, err, times, I was able to tackle the trial.

I also had my first encounter with a Rigo – to start with, I spoke with a ‘traveller’ who, upon learning who I was, transformed into a masked figure that attacked me and used some sort of magical skill to teleport here and there – however, a few good hits from my halberd took him down without much effort.

In the trailers there were areas involving several rickety wooden platforms that been erected on the side of a rock face – this is what I now navigated, determined to get to the top. Along the way I killed a couple of Bokoblins (including one in its sleep – aren’t I evil?) and scaled my way up the rocks, avoiding several very large Bokoblins, though I did slay a couple of weird, floating/dancing enemies that were very similar to the ones I found dancing over the water in chapter 3 -the difference being that these guys were throwing fireballs rather than wielding electrical weapons. I had a few ice arrows so these things were easily dispatched, and before long I was arriving at a Tower.


Once again the depth to this game shone through. The mechanics are genius – the Tower was in the middle of a deadly bog, but there were several metal boxes lying around, so I was able to carefully build a path for myself. In front of the tower were large stone… well, tablets, except when I accidently flung a box into one, they fell like dominos – I had inadvertently made an easier path for myself. Reaching the top of the Tower, I unlocked a map of the desert – I was heading into Gerudo territory.

The beauty of this game knows no bounds. From the grassy plains and forests to the rock faces and beaches, and now the desert and its sands – Breath of the Wild may not have the raw performance of a PS4 or X-Box One behind it, but Nintendo have done magnificent things with the Switch (and I’m pretty sure the Wii U version looks very similar), and every now and then I have to pause and look at the scenery, admiring what I see.

As I drew nearer to the desert, I gazed out over the landscape and could see in the distance a city – and something else. Something terrifying. One of the four Divine Beasts, a huge mechanical creation that was surrounded by sandstorms. My wife remarked that it looked a lot like an AT-AT from Star Wars – sadly I don’t have a snowspeeder and can’t tie its legs together!

A bit of toing and froing took place next. I made my way from a trading post (where I bought several hydromelons – cooked up to form cooling food in the harsh sun) and marched over the sands to Gerudo Town. The Gerudo don’t let men (or voes as they call them) into their town, so I was turned away, but spoke to a guy who was on the look out for a man who had successfully disguised himself as a vai – or woman.

There was also another Shrine, right outside the walls of the city, which has already served as a useful travel point. This one was a test of mental attributes – using metal blocks and barrels to complete an electrical grid and open up doors, which led me to get an electric blade (which in turn was needed to complete the Shrine).

After learning that this mystery man was a merchant, I eventually tracked him down and purchased clothing to disguise myself – at the cost of 600(!) rupees. From there it was back to Gerudo Town and a brief exploration of the city, which contained a number of interesting foodstuffs and will be worth a more detailed examination later. To begin with though, I met with the chief, who swiftly saw through my disguise but recognised that the Sheikah Slate symbolises who I really am. She has asked me to retrieve an artefact that would allow me to get around the dangerous lightening bolts the Beast uses to keep people at bay – so this chapter ends with me preparing to head off and find this thing. From there, on to the Beast?



Chapter 5

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