I like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; but, I sort of don’t in a weird way at the same time. It’s an intoxicating adventure, one that constantly challenges and offers rewards for exploration and trial routinely. It’s one of the best games ever made, and it’s an achievement for Nintendo.
It’s also selling absurdly well. In its first month at retail, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sold more than 1.3 million copies over the Nintendo Switch and Wii U. That was enough to make it both the fastest-selling launch title in Nintendo’s history (for the Switch version) and the fastest-selling Zelda game in franchise history.
Given how first-party Nintendo titles sell over time, it will continue to do well at retail. Games like Zelda and Mario enjoy some of the best tails in the industry; that is, they continue strong sales momentum years after release. That’s also why Nintendo games rarely drop in price in a meaningful way before they get tossed into that “Select” pile for $19.99.
Great sales, so what’s the problem?
Breath of the Wild, though, isn’t a Zelda game in the traditional sense. That’s what bums me out. It’s not that I don’t like the departure from the norm. I do, and I like that Nintendo took a risk here. I am absolutely one of those people who thought they needed to shake things up a bit with the series.
What’s missing? So much of the formulaic stuff that the series became known for over time. The traditional dungeons are gone. Getting items one at a time and using them to gain access to areas of the map and solve super specific puzzles? That’s gone. Truly tight storytelling that follows a preset path? Gone. Finding heart containers scattered around the landscape? Gone.
What makes Zelda games Zelda games was, by and large, dropped from Breath of the Wild. Sure, Link, the Master Sword, Ganon, Zelda, Hearts and Hyrule are here. But the really conventional stuff like finding the Hookshot, using a single bow and, say, weapons that don’t break, that’s all missing.
And I get why they did it! I love that Nintendo decided to completely start from scratch with Breath of the Wild, and they’ve been rewarded both with high critical praise and tremendous retail success ever since. I’m not saying it was a bad call or that I think the adventure suffered because of this decisions.
It’s just, well, I think this is going to be the new standard.
The new “normal” for Zelda
This runaway success sort of dictates the future of Zelda. The extremely traditional dungeons, heart containers, item collection and other Zelda-like conventions are likely a thing of the past for main entries.
After all, how could Nintendo go back to the tight, routine-based design of something like Wind Waker or Ocarina of Time following Breath of the Wild? For a 3DS or Switch eShop title? Sure, I could see them sticking to tradition. For the big, banner, marquee Zelda‘s? We have our new standard thanks to Breath of the Wild.
Series Producer Eiji Aonuma essentially said as much in an interview with Famitsu back in April, too. When asked what’s next, he suggested that this open-air style will be the new standard moving forward.
Honestly, I’m cool with more adventures that follow a similar style in light of Breath of the Wild. Nintendo would be stupid to turn back on that winning formula now, so I get it.
Part of me, though, loves those classic Zelda experiences, and I’m sort of upset that Breath of the Wild‘s rampant success will make them even harder to come by in the future. I know I’ll miss them, how about you?